The Best Things to Do on Mackinac Island in One Day

Making the most of a day-long vacation on Mackinac Island requires a precise plan of action. Despite the island’s small footprint (not even 4 square miles!), the sheer concentration of unique attractions and activities means that thoughtful prioritization is in order. The following travel ideas—all of which can fit into one whirlwind day on Mackinac Island—will give visitors a fun and educational sampling of the island’s history, cuisine and natural beauty. The following are among the best things to do on Mackinac Island in one day.  (And first things first: here’s a guide to getting to the island.)

See the Sights on a Bicycle or Carriage Ride

Required time: 2 hours 

Without cars cramming the roadways of Mackinac Island—autos were banned in the late 1800’s—the preferred modes of transportation are bicycles and horses. For an active family of four, bikes are the best way to explore the entirety of the island. Bring your bikes on the ferry for an additional fee ($8 to $10 a bike) or rent from one of the many bike shops on Main Street—large groups may be able to negotiate a discount. At a good clip, a ride around the 8-mile perimeter of the island takes about an hour—but tack on a few minutes to enjoy the views of the Mackinac Bridge and Arch Rock.

See what it’s like to bike Mackinac Island:

While a bike offers freedom to move about the island at will, a carriage ride is a relaxing and efficient way to see Mackinac Island’s most iconic landmarks. After landing at the docks, cross the street to Mackinac Island Carriage Tours ticket stall and hop on their 2-hour, horse-drawn tour of the island, which visits several stops including a butterfly house, Arch Rock (150-foot tall limestone arch) and the Grand Hotel.

Learn about more Mackinac Island attractions.

Lunch and a Round of Putt-Putt at Mission Point Resort

Required time: 2 hours

Mission Point Resort’s 18-hole putting course and the adjacent Bistro on the Greens make for a relaxing post-bike ride break. Enjoy a tapas-inspired menu and a view worth a thousand pictures. Then get swinging on the all-grass putting course that’s carefully manicured. Mission Point Resort is a 10-minute walk east of downtown Mackinac Island.

Plug Your Ears at Fort Mackinac

Required time: 1 hour

With cannon and rifle firing demonstrations just about every half hour, Fort Mackinac is not a place for the faint of heart. This Revolutionary War-era fort is a beautiful white bastion above downtown Mackinac Island. Take the walking tour to learn about the fort’s role in the War of 1812.

Afternoon Tea at the Grand Hotel

Required time: 1 hour

Mackinac Island’s landmark hotel hosts afternoon tea from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Guests enjoy freshly-baked pastries, champagne and sherry, finger sandwiches and a spot of Earl Grey (or any other tea you could dream up).  A bit pricey at first glance ($30 per person, plus a fee for non-guests), but the experience is priceless.

Dinner Downtown

Required time: 1 to 2 hours

The historic restaurants in downtown Mackinac Island are bustling at suppertime.  Between Yankee Rebel TavernPick Pony and Seabiscuit Cafe, you’ll get all the historic Mackinac Island charm you can handle. Check out MyNorth’s Restaurant Guide for Mackinac Island for a full listing of Mackinac Island eateries.

Raid the Fudge Shops

Required time: 15 minutes

Fudge and Mackinac Island are virtually synonymous; you can’t really have one without the other. The Daily Meal even voted a Mackinac Island fudge shop the best in America. Stock up at one of the downtown sweet shops before boarding the last boat off Mackinac Island.

Tempt yourself with more Mackinac Island fudge.

Best Things to Do on Mackinac Island

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