Mackinac Island is one of the jewels of the Midwest, and I’m sharing my must-do Mackinac Island guide today on the blog: from where to stay and eat to what to do on the island, it’s all here!
When I was younger, my family used to travel to Mackinac Island for several summers while my dad raced in the Bayview Mackinac Race. We would send him off from Port Huron as one of the crew on our old neighbor’s sailboat, and then we would drive up to the island and meet him at the end (for the party!). It has been over 15 years since I last visited Mackinac Island, and so I was super excited to visit with my husband and his family recently!
So in honor of our recent trip, today I’m sharing my “must-do” Mackinac Island guide, covering everything you need to know about where to stay, what to pack, where to eat, and what to do!
Where to Stay
- Grand Hotel and Mission Point, which are the two major resorts on the island. These accommodations are larger in size than the other hotels on the island, and often offer different packages. Mission Point is where we used to stay when we were younger, and has the benefit of being right on the edge of the downtown area of Mackinac Island. It has a beautiful sprawling lawn that goes right down to the water, which also makes it an attractive option. However, I’d have to say that the Grand Hotel is my new favorite! The decor and ambiance make it feel as if you’re living in a Great Gatsby movie, and the included breakfast and dinner make the price tag a little more
enticing, not to mention the meals are delicious!
- If you’re looking for something a little more quaint, one of the smaller hotels such as The Island House or the Inn at Stonecliffe Lodge may be a good choice for you. There are a lot of different options when it comes to these smaller hotels, from a busier waterfront hotel downtown, to smaller hotels on the outskirts of town.
- If you’re looking for a super-quaint experience, a bed and breakfast may be for you! If this is your preferred way to travel, then you can find a list of bed and breakfasts available on the island by clicking here. They range from four to 20 rooms per establishment.
What to Pack
This can depend on when you are planning to visit, but most hotels on the island close for the winter season (for a list of the hotels that are still open in the winter, visit the official Mackinac Island website here). So generally speaking, I would recommend making sure you pack the following:
- Layered outfits. As it’s a fairly small island surrounded by water on all sides, the temperatures can sometimes drop at night, especially in the spring or fall. So I would recommend planning your outfits to have several layers so you can stay cool in the daytime and warm at night.
- A bathing suit and coverup. This is a given! There are a number of hotels with pools (including the Grand Hotel, which boasts a whopping 220-foot-long pool), and lots of beaches and access to the water all over the island, so I would definitely recommend bringing a suit and a cute coverup if you plan on splashing around!
- Sunglasses and sunblock! A lot of the activities on the island involve spending time outside, and so it’s essential to pack appropriate sun protection. Sunblock with at least SPF 30 to 45 and some stylish sunglasses are a must for everything from poolside lounging to biking the roughly eight miles around the island.
Here are some of my favorite items I packed for this trip:
And be sure to check out my featured outfits from the trip:
Where to Eat
- First up, I absolutely recommend the Grand Hotel’s dining room for any meal! If you are staying at the Grand Hotel, you can eat breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner there. But even if you are lodging elsewhere on the island, you can still experience the old-world charm of the Grand Hotel (breakfast and dinner are simply meals that are included for guests of the hotel, but you can opt to dine there and pay their non-hotel guest rates).
- The Seabiscuit Cafe is not to be missed! It’s a small joint, but big on flavor – expect to wait a while to eat here during the busy summer months. Their pulled-pork grilled cheese it not to be missed, and their soups get rave reviews!
- You can’t come to Mackinac Island and not have fudge, the only question that remains is which fudge shop to choose! There is a plethora of fudge shops to choose from, and the best part? They all give free samples! So shop around, find one with your favorite taste and your favorite flavors and buy away (almost all of them give you some sort of buy 3, get one free” or “buy 4, get one free” deal!). Pro Tip: Our favorite? Ryba’s!
What to Do
Besides the obvious eating and drinking followed by fudge consumption, there are a ton of activities to do on the island. This place is the nature lover’s best friend! Our favorite activities from the trip included:
- Biking around the island. It would be cliché to call the 8.2 mile journey “scenic,” but it’s just that: breathtaking! If you plan to drive to Mackinac Island, I recommend bringing your own bike (if you are staying in one of the bigger hotels, they typically take care of all your luggage after you board the ferry, making it easy for you to hop on your bike when you get off the boat and go exploring!). There is usually a small fee (for example, we paid $11 round trip per bike on the Shepler’s Ferry line), that ends up being much more cost effective than renting a bike on the island. However, if you are flying in and then heading to Mackinac Island (or don’t want to worry about carting your own bikes there), there are plenty of places to rent bikes! Pro Tip: Rent in advance to save time and ensure your rental is ready when you arrive, especially in the peak summer season!
- Visiting the butterfly house. The Mackinac Island Butterfly House has been open since 1991, and it’s a fascinating place to visit! It includes both a butterfly garden and an insect room, and the staff is very knowledgeable and can answer any questions you might have about the creatures they house there. This is an ideal rainy day activity, but regardless of the weather on your trip I recommend a visit to the Butterfly House!
- Spend an afternoon walking (and shopping!) your way around town. The downtown area of Mackinac Island houses not only a plethora of delicious restaurants and fudge shops but some great shopping. Pop into the Mackinac Island outlet shop for some serious discounts on merchandise and apparel, and be sure to visit the clothing shops such as Nephew’s of Mackinac (which often has great sales), and the home decor stores (Canvas & Paddle is just too cute for words!).
Overall, Mackinac Island is the kind of place that you’ve got to visit more than once to fully appreciate all it has to offer. On our next visit, we hope to kayak to nearby Round Island (an uninhabited island nearby which is almost entirely taken up by a national state park), and to bike through the interior of the island, which has some of it’s own interesting secrets!
Now it’s your turn: if you’ve been to Mackinac Island before, what was your “must-do” activity? If you haven’t yet visited, what are you most looking forward to? Share with me in the comments below!