Mackinac Island is an iconic part of Northern Michigan. Its scenic views, historical way of life and friendly locals all make it a really fun place to spend time during a Northern Michigan vacation. Where else would you want to spend a Labor Day weekend? End your summer on a nostalgic note by making the road (and boat) trip to Mackinac. Check out our list below to see our best ideas on how to spend a Mackinac Island Labor Day weekend.
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Ferry Over to the Historic Mackinac Island
Three ferry lines service Mackinac Island from Mackinaw City in the Lower Peninsula and St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula, making it a breeze to get from the mainland for your Mackinac Island Labor Day Weekend. A quick 20-minute trip, the ferry to Mackinac Island glides on the fresh waters of Lake Huron and the Straits of Mackinac, running parallel to the awe-inspiring Mackinac Bridge for a one-of-a-kind photo op of the Mighty Mac. Keep your eyes open as you near Mackinac Island for glimpses of the Grand Hotel and neighboring Round Island’s lighthouse. We recommend: Shepler’s Mackinac Island Ferry.
Take a Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride
With over 400 working horses, Mackinac Island boasts the world’s largest fleet of commercial horses. An asset to commuting on the famously car-prohibited Mackinac Island, beginning your Mackinac Island Labor Day weekend with a horse-drawn carriage ride is the best way to get your island bearings. A carriage drawn by two horses and a story-telling tour guide lead you through the historical Victorian buildings lining Main and Market Streets in town, before taking you up past the Grand Hotel to Surrey Hills. Riders can get out to stretch their legs before continuing the journey in a carriage with a little more horsepower (that’s three horses instead of two!) through Mackinac Island forest and past historical points of interest including Arch Rock, Skull Cave, and centuries-old cemeteries, before ending at the impressive Fort Mackinac. Want to try your hand at the reins? At Jack’s Livery Stable, horsemen of all skill and experience levels may take out a buggy solo, guided by “horse professionals” Mackinac Island horses that could show visitors the island with their eyes closed, as they’ve taken the trip so many times before. A truly Victorian experience you simply can’t pass up.
Only eight miles in circumference and surrounded by the crystalline waters of Lake Huron, Mackinac Island celebrates its heritage through its unique style and preserved, antiquated culture. From the history-rich 18th-century Fort Mackinac to remarkable Victorian cottages, your weekend on Mackinac will be full of sight-seeing opportunities. Get lost in time as you walk the Island’s Market Street, home to Victorian cottages and buildings for mini-museum experiences and historical demonstrations (black-smithing, anyone?). At the end of Market Street, on the edges of town, looms the famous Fort Mackinac. A day trip in itself, Fort Mackinac boasts historical accounts and reenactments that will engage all ages.
Hit a Few Rounds at Wawashkamo
Named “one of America’s Historic Golf Landmarks” by Golf Digest in 1996, Wawashkamo is Michigan’s oldest golf course. Package deals with various Victorian-style hotels make it easy to stay and play Michigan’s oldest continuously operating links. Rounds can be purchased à la carte; golfers can rent either traditional hickory or modern clubs. Stay at the Chippewa Hotel which includes a few options for overnight packages.
Ride Around on a Bicycle Built for Two (or One!)
As a no-car town, Mackinac Island boasts a bicyclists’ culture that resembles the rich culture for bicycling in places like Paris and Amsterdam. Mackinac Island residents and visitors love getting around by bike because, as photographer and summer island resident Andrejka Hirschbegger puts it, “On Mackinac Island, a bike is not just a bike. It’s a mobile expression of self, a pet, a friend, a piece of art, a truck.” On Mackinac Island, bicycling is a way of life. And we love the life. Mackinac Island Bike Shop is conveniently located next to Shepler’s Ferry Service on Main Street, across the street from Lake View Hotel. The bike shop offers single and tandem bikes for rent, and maps and information on free, self-guided attraction tours of Mackinac Island that guarantee “an immersive island adventure unlike any other.” Begin your adventure at bikemackinac.com. Click here to read one visitor’s take on Mackinac Island biking.
A Walk and a Stroll at State Park and Surrey Hills
Take a stroll through Surrey Hills Shops for a lazy picnic on the lawn or a quick lunch at The Feed Bag, a little boutique shop browsing and some Mackinac Island souvenirs. Afterward, at the Mackinac Island State Park, take in the ancient legends of the island: According to Native American tribes of the Odawa and Ojibwa, Mackinac Island is the place where all life began. Here, the earth grew into being from a small mound of mud from the bottom of Lake Michigan, placed safely on the shell of the first turtle. Today, you can visit this legendary, mythical space in the Mackinac Island State Park. Free of charge and open all year round, the park covers over 80 percent of Mackinac Island and is characterized by stunning views of the Mackinac Straits, towering limestone bluffs and geological formations, and deep, quiet woods. Discover the park by foot, rented bicycle or horse — and remember to bring a camera, sketchpad or notebook to capture your trip to where the world began. To learn more about the Mackinac Island State Park, visit mackinacparks.com. Plan your Surrey Hills visit.
Dine on Mackinac Island’s Top-Notch Cuisine
Order hors d’oeuvres at Mary’s Bistro, a round of drinks at the Pink Pony, a best-thing-I-ever-ate entrée at the Yankee Rebel Tavern — and hum your taste buds to sleep with a delectable dessert from Mission Point Resort. If you can find room to manage it the next morning, try a stack of heart-melting chocolate-chip or deliciously tart blueberry pancakes from the Pancake House. (Are you drooling yet?). Mackinac Island is a foodie’s paradise.
Tea Time at the Grand Hotel
Boasting the longest covered porch in the world, the Grand Hotel just celebrated its 127th birthday on July 10, 2014. If you can’t remember where you were during the turn of the century, the Grand Hotel exudes the essence of the era to a tee. Whether or not you have the budget for a stellar room at the Grand, sitting down for afternoon tea on the porch will infuse the charm of a bygone era into your Labor Day weekend. Sip on tea and snack on finger foods as you relax in white rocking chairs, while taking in the breathtaking views of the Straits of Mackinac.
Become a Mackinac Island Fudgie
Be sure to stock up on the best fudge ever at Mackinac Island’s first fudge shop, Murdick’s Fudge before you leave for the mainland. Celebrating more than a century, Murdick’s has become a Michigan legacy. While not responsible for creating fudge, many say it was Jerome Murdick’s marble table — supposedly responsible for the delicious fudge’s creamy consistency — and showman’s flair that launched the island-wide fudge traditions. While Murdick’s may be the first fudge shop on Mackinac Island, it certainly isn’t the only one. 17 fudge shops line the streets of Mackinac Island, and with each one giving out a one-ounce sample, you’ll become a fudgie before you know it (in the best sense of the word, of course!).
Bridge Walk the Mighty Mac
Labor Day is the only day of the year walking the Mackinac Bridge is allowed, so grab your most comfortable shoes and head to St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula for the Annual Labor Day Bridge Walk from St. Ignace to Mackinac City. Join thousands of pedestrians as they participate in this long standing tradition. The 5-mile walk begins at 7 am in St. Ignace and concludes at 3 pm in Mackinaw City. It’s your only chance to see the Mighty Mac this up-close and personal, and with views of the Mackinac Straits and Mackinac Island, it’s the perfect way to say farewell to your Mackinac Island Labor Day Weekend, and another remarkable summer Up North.