What’s a summer in Northern Michigan without a visit Mackinac Island? Most visitors only get a few days on the island, so here is our list of must-dos to make sure you get the most out of your trip.
Bike the Island
The island’s original 1898 ban on cars was looking out for the livelihood of carriage drivers—but it opened the door for bicycle culture to flourish, too. Biking Mackinac’s eight-mile perimeter is a sweet way to explore the landmarks, all with the sparkling Straits at your side. Find the bike rental shops near the ferry docks downtown. MACKINACISLAND.ORG.
Tour the Governor’s summer home
Originally built as a private summer cottage, this pristine Victorian mansion was sold to the State in the 1940s and converted to be used as the governor’s summer residence. The home is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is open for free public tours every Wednesday throughout the summer. mackinacparks.com.
Candymakers here have been whipping up this sweet confection since the late 1800s. Most of today’s fudge vendors still use the time-honored, labor-intensive technique of paddling the warm, liquid fudge on marble slabs until it cools. A slice or two is the ultimate souvenir.
Afternoon Tea at Grand Hotel
Experience the renowned elegance of the historic Grand Hotel by partaking in afternoon tea—a century-old Grand Hotel tradition. Tea, sherry, Champagne, finger sandwiches, scones and other delights, all set to live chamber music; open to non-hotel guests with $10 admission fee. grandhotel.com.
Stay overnight to experience a different side of the island, where historic saloons buzz with energy and music after sunset. Be sure to start the barhopping at the Pink Pony, a legendary watering hole for sailors, or Horn’s Gaslight Bar, allegedly the first Michigan establishment to gain a liquor license post-Prohibition.
An 1,800-square-foot enclosed tropical garden where you can meander or sit back while hundreds of butterflies flutter peacefully around you. It’s not only magical, but a great educational trip for small ones, too—stop by the interactive Insect World exhibit for some hands-on learning after your butterfly tour. originalbutterflyhouse.com.
A horse-drawn buggy tour is a quintessential Mackinac experience—and a fitting way to view the island’s gingerbread Victorian homes. Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, the oldest and largest continuously operating horse-and-buggy livery in the world, offers narrated tours of landmarks and historical points of interest. mict.com.
The romance of Mackinac Island is arguably at its peak during this 10-day festival, a tradition that began with a horse-drawn parade more than 60 years ago on “Lilac Sunday.” Music, walking tours, wine tastings and more, all set to the backdrop of thousands of lilac trees in bloom. June 7-6 mackinacislandlilacfestival.org.
Check out more Northern Michigan videos.
Mackinac’s unique geologic history created dramatic limestone landmarks, the most famous of which is Arch Rock, a rare formation rising 150 feet out of the pristine waters on the island’s southeast shores. A must-stop photo op. MACKINACISLAND.ORG.
More Mackinac Island