The Best Things to Do on Mackinac Island
Nestled in the straits between Michigan's Lower and Upper Peninsulas, Mackinac Island is like a postcard from the Victorian era, replete with turn-of-the-century pastel mansions, horse-drawn carriages, and the conspicuous absence of cars—they've been banned since 1898. In fact, 80% of the island is designated as a state park, which means there's an abundance of natural beauty to match the plentiful small-town charm. It's the quintessential Midwestern weekend getaway, so check out our list of the top things to do on Mackinac Island and start planning your next trip.
Shop Main Street
Along Main Street, souvenir and T-shirt shops compete for real estate with artsy boutiques, restaurants, and bicycle liveries. The scent of warm chocolate hangs thick in the air thanks to more than 15 fudgeries situated along the street. Murdick's is the original—first opening in 1887—but Joann's with its selection of 29 flavors is a fan favorite.
Pro Tip: Ask for a sample of fudge to help you decide; you can't go wrong with turtle, chocolate-peanut butter, and double dark cherry–walnut.
Bike the Island's Lake Shore Boulevard
Rent a bike (or bring your own on the ferry for a fee) and cruise the 8-mile paved path known as Lake Shore Boulevard that circumnavigates the island. The ride is flat, easy, and incredibly scenic as it runs mostly through Mackinac Island State Park. The bike trail hugs the impossibly turquoise water of the Straits of Mackinac, just make sure to stop for a photo op by Arch Rock on the southeast corner of the island.
Tour Fort Mackinac
The only sounds that occasionally interrupt the quietude on Mackinac are the booms and blasts of cannons and rifles. Those are the sounds of historical reenactments at nearby
Fort Mackinac, a military outpost for British and then American soldiers in the late 18th and 19th centuries, regularly puts on historical reenactments, complete with cannon and rifle fire. It's one of the only sites in the US that saw action during the War of 1812. You can tour the historic fort buildings, including the Soldiers' Barracks, Post Schoolhouse, and Post Commissary.
Pro Tip: Grab a seat near the Parade Ground, a large open field in the center of the fort, to see soldiers in period garb march in formation and fire their rifles.
The Grand Hotel
The island's pièce de résistance is the circa-1887 Grand Hotel, which sits high atop a bluff at the north end of town. Its porch, lined with sturdy columns, enjoys a reputation as one of the longest in the world. The hotel has welcomed five US presidents—Clinton, Bush, Ford, Kennedy, and Truman—but these days the penthouse bar is the real draw. Grab a drink at the penthouse bar and admire a 270-degree view of the island, or park yourself on a wicker rocking chair on the front porch to enjoy the blustery breeze.
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This was originally posted by staff writer Jorie Larsen and since updated by our editors. Photos also by Jorie Larsen.