After being a lifelong Michigander, I finally made it to Mackinac Island! For those of you who don’t know, Mackinac Island is an island that spans less than 4 square miles, located in Lake Huron, between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. The majority of the island is preserved as Mackinac Island State Park and the entire island is listed as a National Historic Landmark.
So, what makes this place a must see destination? For me, it’s the natural beauty. Yes, there’s a ton of history, but the gorgeous landscape is what drew me in to want to visit for so many years. If you have the chance to check it out, here are a few tips on what to do.
Firsts things, first. How do you get to the island? Because the only forms of transportation allowed on the island are horses and bikes – yup, motor vehicles are banned – you must take a ferry from Mackinaw City or St. Ignace.
We opted for the quick and friendly Shepler’s Ferry service. The ride itself was about 15 minutes, with departures about every 30 minutes. You can sit on top or below, in an enclosed cabin. We left out on the first ferry of the morning, so it was still a bit chilly, but my nieces and I wanted the full ferry experience so we decided to stick it out on the top deck.
Tip #1 – Arrive early to the island to avoid the crowds! We arrived on the island just before 9:00 on a Saturday morning and were able to take in all the beautiful architecture before the masses ascended.
There is a lot to see in town, but one of our favorite stops was the Butterfly House. Talk about combining beauty and education! The girls were in awe of this place, as was I. Butterflies are everywhere! The staff is highly educated and will answer any of your questions. To be completely honest, it’s not exactly a whole house of butterflies, but rather one room – but you will not be disappointed by the array of species, colors, and overall calming effect of this place.
Tip #2 – Don’t buy your ticket to the Butterfly House at the Butterfly House. Discounted tickets can be purchased through the ferry lines or other small shops along the main street in town – just ask!
Tip # 3 – If you wear bright clothing they will land on you. Unfortunately I was wearing a black tee shirt so I didn’t experience this firsthand, but I thought I’d pass along the information.
Explore the Island
Don’t just stay in town. Explore the whole island! Luckily, this is pretty easy to do thanks to the readily available maps that show a variety of roads and trails. Your options for exploration are by horse drawn carriage, bicycles, or on foot. We decided to bike the entire perimeter of the island (about 8.5 miles). Including all our stops for photo opportunities – which there are PLENTY – the entire ride took us just over 2 hours.
Tip #4 rent a bicycle with a basket and bring plenty of water. Most rental shops will provide a complimentary bottle of water, but when you’re biking over 8 miles, a few extra bottles will do your body good.
My #1 reason for wanting to visit Mackinac Island. I am obsessed with natural architecture and Arch Rock did not disappoint. It’s a 209 stair claim to a beautiful rock formation that frames the clear blue waters of Lake Huron in natural perfection. at 146 feet above the island below, the views were well worth the hike.
Biking around the entire island works up quite the appetite. We decided to lunch at Goodfellow’s Italian Chop House. We all ordered something different, but my mother-in-law and I split our plates and each enjoyed half of the salmon BLT and the white fish. DELISH!
Last, but never least, you can’t go to Mackinac Island and not indulge in some fudge. There is basically a fudge shop on every corner so if sweets are your weakness, I’m telling you now, just give in. There’s no will power strong enough to avoid the amazingness of these shops. The aromas literally take over the streets. Just plan on grabbing a few – okay, maybe more than a few – slices for the road.
Tip #5 – Fudge makes a great gift! Bring home some fudge for your friends and family who couldn’t make the trip with you.
Is Mackinac Island on your must visit short list? Share below the top places on your Bucket List Travels checklist!