I have the best list of things to do on Mackinac Island! As a Michigander and future retiree of the island, I have come to not only love the island, but I even started a Mackinac Island Instagram and Facebook page to promote it. You could say one of my passions is sharing the island and its charm. The only way to get to Mackinac Island is by boat or plane, so plan ahead for your visit.
For a decade and a half I have been visiting Mackinac Island and something about the island continues to draw me back in. I don’t know if it is the calmness of having no vehicles on the island, the smell of fudge, the old-timey feel of history in tact, the sensational food, or if it’s everything in combination. Either way, Mackinac Island is a fantastic place to visit and every chance I get I am talking about the island, as if I already live there!
Surprise! I did spend many summers working on the island .. and even though I freelance full time, I would still love to spend another summer there working.
Things To Do On Mackinac Island: Where To Stay
There is a plethora of options for lodging on Mackinac Island and they really vary depending on your travel style. You’ll find bed and breakfasts, hotels and resorts. Keep in mind the island is rather seasonal and when it is open, it tends to book up. Plan in advance.
Across the island (mainly downtown) you will find all different kinds of hotels and bed and breakfasts. Then the two big resorts are located one on the west and the other on the east side of the island, both are walk-able to downtown.
One of my favorite places to stay is The Grand Hotel. Staying at the Grand is one of the top things to do on Mackinac Island and I would recommend at least 2 nights to get a real feel for the hotel and ambiance. The front porch, or the deck, is the longest porch in the country and is over 600 feet in length! No two rooms of the hotel are the same and a dress code is enforced in the evenings. Staying at the Grand is a true luxury experience on the island.
Another great option is Mission Point Resort. Located on the east end of the island and away from the downtown area, you’ll find a vast lawn with perfect sunrise views each morning. This resort is a bit back there but still very walk-able to everything on the main drag.
Things To Do On Mackinac Island: Where To Eat
Eating is my favorite and Mackinac Island has no shortage of fantastic dining options. I have 13 favorite places to eat on the island, but my absolute favorite things to eat are fudge, whitefish, pecan ball, burgers, and corned beef hash! You can read more on my dining guide for the island, but the food is pretty incredible.
You can actually smell fudge on the island because there is over 15 shops making it! Drop in and grab a taste before deciding how many blocks to buy.
There is quite the variety of dining options on the island. For being as small as it is and a lot of stuff is localized downtown, you would not guess that you could find a fantastic sushi place (Sushi Grand). But it does exist.
Things To Do On Mackinac Island: Activities
Watch the sunrise on the lawn of Mission Point Resort. Grab your coffee and an Adirondack chair on the big lawn and just wait for the sun to grace you. One of the most fun and free things to do is waking up early in the morning with the brisk air and watching the sunrise over the island.
Watch the sunset on the deck of The Grand Hotel or the west side of the island overlooking the Mackinac Bridge. As a sunset chaser, this is one of my favorite activities and have been fortunate to see many colorful sunsets over the island.
Fudge tasting. Would it be a trip to Mackinac Island if you didn’t stop in and taste all the fudge?
St Anne’s Catholic Church. This Roman Catholic church is over 300 years old! If you are arriving to the island by ferry, you will be able to see it along Main Street. It is a bit further down and on the way to Mission Point. In the basement there is a museum with all the fascinating history.
Afternoon Tea at The Grand Hotel. A time standing tradition in the Parlor of the Grand Hotel. Listen to beautiful music while dining on tea sandwiches, scones and sweets.
Wings of Mackinac. This is a stop on the Carriage Tour (while in season) and a place to see beautiful butterflies by the hundreds!
One of the coolest spots on the island, Arch Rock is a geological formation 146 feet above the Lake Huron shore line. This is a stop on the Carriage tour AND if you decide to bike/walk the island, you will see it from a different perspective down below.
There are different types of sailing options, to include sip and sail cruises and sunset sails.
Carriage Tour. One of the best ways to get good knowledge of the island and see various areas is with a carriage tour. I believe they last about 3 hours and there is a few places to get off at.
Bar crawl of the island. This has been around for as long as I can remember. A store called “Spanky’s Cafe” that is no longer in business used to sell t-shirts for this. Not sure if someone else carries them now, but the idea is that you pick a shelf number and a bottle number and at each bar get a drink made with that liquor. The bartender will then sign off on your shirt. If you like to drink, this is one of the best things to do on Mackinac Island.
Pro-tip: Riding a bike while intoxicated on the island is a DUI. Please take a taxi or walk.
Somewhere In Time Weekend: visit the island and stay at the Grand Hotel for the yearly anniversary of the famous “Somewhere in Time” film. One of the best weekends at the hotel, you’ll see guests dressed up from the time period.
Hiking. This small island that the circumference is only 8.2 miles around, offers its guests over 140 miles of roads and trails! You could explore for days on this gorgeous island and never get bored.
Fort Holmes. Part of the war history of 1812, Fort Holmes was formerly Fort George, a name given by the British. It was renamed after the American Major Andrew Hunter Holmes, when he passed after trying to retake the fort.
Walk/Bike around the island.
8.2 miles around the island and you can walk or bike it. Most people rent a bike downtown and ride because its easier and faster. If you do bike it, you should expect the ride to take 1-3 hours, and that variation is dependent on the number of stops you make along the way.
Kayaking/Stand Up Paddle Boarding. This is a fun way to see the island from a different view.
Haunts of Mackinac. This nightly walking tour is about the haunted history of the island.
Fort Mackinac. Former military outpost. The 14 buildings as part of the fort are restored and open.
Spa. What a nice way to spend the day relaxing and recharging. There are a few spas on the island (which means you should definitely book in advance). Both the Grand Hotel and Mission Point have a spa on property in addition to a few others downtown.
The streets of the island are lined with boutique shops where you can find an array of goods. Some of the more common things you can find are: Michigan and Mackinac Island branded gear, lilac scented everything, books, and clothing.
Parasailing. If you love to be out on the water and want to see the island from new heights, this is the activity for you!
Golf. The Grand Hotel has an 18 hole golf course, The Jewel. Which is made up of two 9 hole courses, where 9 holes are up by the Woods and 9 holes across from the hotel. Mission Point has an 18 hole putting course, the Greens of Mackinac. In addition, The Wawashkamo Golf Club has a 9 hole golf option as well.
The Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum. This three-level museum offers fine and decorative arts throughout time. You will find interactive displays, hands on exhibits and a kids art studio inside.
Take a walking photo tour. Every part of the island is so photogenic. You could walk the island and come back with 1000 photos, easily. This is an activity you would have to design yourself, but its a great way to get acquainted with the island and find all those beautiful spots.
Get Married! I would be lying if I said I didn’t consider it! When I was first engaged, Mackinac Island was the first place I looked. Once you visit the island, you can feel the magic that keeps pulling you in and it makes you want to keep returning. There are a lot of options for weddings on the island if you are interested. I would imagine since the island is very seasonal that booking well in advance is how that would be handled.
Catch a Movie. Mission Point Resort has a movie theater that offers various movies throughout the season.
Things To Do On Mackinac Island: 2019 Calendar
Each year the line up of things to do on Mackinac Island tends to stay the same. It’s tradition for the yacht races and Lilac Festival, among other events.
Pro-tip: These events fill up the island and if you plan to attend, book lodging early! Last minute lodging is near impossible.
Here is the 2019 list of events:
- Fort to Fort 5 mile challenge, May 11, 2019
- Mackinac Island Lilac Festival, June 7-16, 2019
- Lilac 10K walk/run, June 8, 2019
- Taste of Mackinac, June 13, 2019
- Lilac Festival Grand Parade, June 16, 2019
- W.T. Rabe Stone Skipping Contest, July 4, 2019
- Mackinac Island Fireworks, July 4, 2019
- Chicago Yacht Club race to Mackinac, July 13, 2019
- Bell;s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race, July 20, 2019
- Mackinac Island Fudge Festival, August 23-25, 2019
- Mackinac Island Halloween trick-or-treat, October 26, 2019
- Great turtle trail run and half marathon, October 26, 2019