A taste of island life! Hop the ferry and visit Mackinac Island’s first craft brewery and distillery this summer in Northern Michigan.

This article first appeared in Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine. Find this article and more when you explore our digital issue library. Want Traverse Magazine delivered to your door or inbox monthly? View our print subscription and digital subscription options.

At Great Turtle Brewery & Distillery, the 2022 Red Hot Best brewery “Above the Bridge,” each beer reflects the magic of Mackinac Island with names like Pedal Fast IPA, No Cars Allowed Cream Ale and Hoban Street Stout. Opened in June 2020, Great Turtle teamed up with Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City and Les Cheneaux Distillers in nearby Cedarville to produce signature beers and spirits (because of the island’s infrastructure, brewing on-site wasn’t an option). “We partnered with individuals who are proud of their craft and are very local in their perspective as well,” says co-owner Melanie Libby.

One such example: Jason Bohn, owner of Les Cheneaux Distillers, finishes all of the spirits with water from the Straits of Mackinac. And, of course, the kegs and bottles travel to the island just like the rest of us—by ferry. “That touch of authenticity was paramount to us,” Melanie says. “Being able to say this is authentic to Michigan. This is authentic to Mackinac Island.”

Great Turtle Brewing & Distillery turtle toy

Photo by Great Turtle Brewing & Distillery

Great Turtle Brewing & Distillery indoor seating

Photo by Great Turtle Brewing & Distillery

Great Turtle Brewing & Distillery hats

Photo by Great Turtle Brewing & Distillery

The 250-seat establishment with a full food menu has indoor and outdoor seating with views of Main Street, a sports bar and a pet-friendly patio along Hoban Street. There’s often live music and it’s welcoming for all ages.

What to Order at Great Turtle | A flight! The board is shaped like a turtle. (The Anishinaabek people thought the island was shaped like a turtle and named it Mitchimakinak or “place of the great turtle.”) Pair it with the brisket tacos or, new on the menu this year (and fitting for this issue), the Red Hot Cheetos meatloaf.

Great Turtle Brewery & Distillery
7452 Main St., Mackinac Island | Great Turtle Brewing Website

Great Turtle Brewing & Distillery pack of beer

Photo by Great Turtle Brewing & Distillery

Photo(s) by Great Turtle Brewing & Distillery