While small, Mackinac Island is full of attractions and activities that can fill an entire weekend’s vacation with sight-seeing, relaxation and fun. We’ve posted what to do if you have one day to spend on Mackinac Island, but one additional day allows for a lot more time to explore some of the smaller nooks and crannies on the island. Here’s what to do on Mackinac Island in a weekend:
The perimeter of Mackinac Island is only 8 miles in length, which means that the island can be circumnavigated within an hour at a moderate clip. Yet there are so many sights to see along the way that you could spend all day on a bike exploring Mackinac’s exterior and interior. Here are a few near-the-beaten path attractions that are within a bike ride’s distance from downtown Mackinac Island:
- Geo-formations: Arch Rock, Devil’s Kitchen and Sugar Loaf — Arch Rock is a 150 foot-tall arch visible from the eastern shoreline of the island, but can also be seen from above by riding up Arch Rock Rd, where a viewing deck near the arch provides a great perspective of the monstrous formation. Devil’s Kitchen is a cave carved away by centuries of waves battering the shoreline. As the name suggests, evil spirits were once thought to call the cave home; Devil’s Kitchen can be seen along the southwestern shore. Lastly, Sugar Loaf is a 75-foot tall cathedral spire-like formation protruding from the island’s interior: find it on the big bend of Sugar Loaf Rd, 1.5 miles north of downtown.
- Lunch: There are a few spots outside of downtown that make for marvelous midday pit stops. The Cannonball Inn is located on the western shore, and offers sandwiches a view dominated by the Mackinac Bridge and…wait for it…fried pickles. Another option is The Woods, a restaurant operated by the Grand Hotel. This casual dining spot is nestled in a Tudor-style mansion on Stonecliff Rd. Reservations recommended; check out their website for more details.
- Wings of Mackinac & Grand Hotel Stables →: The horses hauling the Grand Hotel’s carriages have a luxurious home on Carriage Rd, just across the street from the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory. Tour the working stables and see a fleet of antique carriages from Mackinac’s past, and then visit Wings of Mackinac, whose peaceful greenhouse is home to thousands of fluttering butterflies.
- Dinner: Head downtown for specialty seafood dishes, like locally caught whitefish or perch from Lake Superior. Many taverns operate in the same buildings that historic eateries once occupied; check out Horn’s Gaslight Bar or Cawthorne’s Village Inn for some authentically vintage dining experiences. Find more at MyNorth’s Mackinac Island Restaurant Directory.
Now that you’ve combed the island on two wheels, strap on your walking shoes to learn about the history and heritage of Mackinac Island’s most iconic attractions.
- Fort Mackinac: This gleaming white fortress overlooks the Straits of Mackinac with unwavering poise and joyfully gratuitous cannon firings. Fall into lockstep with the soldiers patrolling the walls and learn what life was like as a colonial soldier at this living museum. Sandwiches and snacks can be purchased at the Fort Mackinac Tea Room. Fort entrance fee: $12 for adults, $7 for ages 5–17.
- The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum: Below Fort Mackinac on Main St., this small museum is devoted to sharing the history of Mackinac Island through its collection of fine art and historical artifacts. A quick stop in will inform travelers of the legacy of the Native Americans who once inhabited the island, the island’s Victorian-era heyday, and every time period in between. Check the museum’s schedule for kids art clinics that take place in the museum’s basement.
- Tea at the Grand Hotel: It’s a bit pricey (per person: $10 entrance fee plus $30 food fee), but you’re not paying for just lunch—you get a life-long memory, too. Sip and snack in the Grand’s Parlor between 3:30 and 5 to curb your appetite before dinner or an evening ferry ride home.
- Souvenir’s and Fudge!: While you could purchase fudge at any point of your stay on Mackinac Island (and nobody would blame you for doing so), the confection is best served as a sweet reminder of your time on the island. Before stealing away on a ferry, peruse the displays of the many downtown fudge shops and pick your poison: Maple Pecan, Rocky Road, Pistachio…just don’t smudge the fudge on your new Mackinac T-shirt. Before shipping out on a twilight ferry to the mainland.
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