Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

What to Do on Mackinac Island in a Single Day


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Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

What to Do on Mackinac Island in a Single Day


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Are you wondering what to do on Mackinac Island in just one day?

Michigan’s popular vacation destination draws crowds from all over with its historic sites, world-renowned fudge, and notable absence of cars.

After attending Tulip Time in Holland, my husband and I left mainland Michigan to explore this “Jewel of the Great Lakes.”

While the island was admittedly different than what I’d anticipated, it was nice to be outside soaking up Michigan’s extended daylight hours.

Here’s a customizable itinerary of what to do on Mackinac Island in a single day.

In a rush? Pin this post for later!

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

Important Things to Know About Mackinac Island

Before we dive into this Mackinac Island itinerary, I first wanted to share some of the travel logistics, as it can be a bit confusing.

How to Get to Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island is only accessible by ferry, private plane, or a charter flight.

Most visitors travel via ferry for the convenience and reasonable cost.

There are two docks where you can catch the ferry to Mackinac island – one in St. Ignace and one in Mackinaw City.

In addition, there are two ferry lines that provide service to Mackinac Island: Star Line and Shepler’s.

We took Shepler’s Ferry from Mackinaw City, as we received a discount from our hotel for booking with them. The ferry was a quick and breezy 15-minute ride.

Where to Park Your Car

The amount of time you plan to spend on Mackinac Island will dictate your parking situation.

For instance, if you’re doing a day trip to Mackinac Island from Mackinaw City (traveling on Shepler’s Ferry), you can park for free. In this case, you’d use the designated lot across from exit 338 off of I-75 N.

Otherwise, you can opt for premium parking in the on-site lot for $30. You can read more about the parking options here.

Alternatively, if you’re spending one or more nights on the island and you’re taking Shepler’s Ferry, you’ll have the option of parking in a standard lot or a premium lot.

You can read more about these lot options and the pricing here.

How Luggage Is Handled

If you’re going to be staying on Mackinac Island overnight, you can enjoy the convenience of luggage transport.

Some hotels work directly with the ferry companies to arrange a luggage delivery straight to your room. Alternatively, others have porters who will transport your bags after you claim them upon arrival to the dock.

Be sure to read your individual hotel’s luggage policies once you book.

How to Get Around On the Island

While you may assume you can simply rent a car on the island, you’d be wrong!

In fact, automobiles have been banned on Mackinac Island for over a century.

Instead, the main modes of transportation are walking, biking, and hopping aboard a horse-drawn carriage.

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

While the limited transportation may sound a bit daunting, rest assured that you won’t be traveling too far. That’s because the entire island is just over four square miles (and eight miles in circumference)!

Personally, I’d advise against renting a bike on the island. While this mode of transportation is quite popular, a rental will cost you a pretty penny.

The cheapest bike rental we could find was $50 for the day or $20 for the hour.

For a point of reference, that’s more costly than renting a bike in Central Park in one of the most expensive cities in the world!  (For that price, I better be taking one of the wheels home with me!)

However, if you’re fixated on riding while on the island, I’d suggest bringing one of your own bikes along with you.

While you’ll need to pay $13 (per bike) to transport it over on the ferry, it’s still a better value than the rental rip-offs!

Alternatively, my husband and I walked everywhere and never felt the need for wheels or hooves to help us along.

That said, the horse-drawn carriages are definitely a novelty!

Best Time to Travel Here

Although the tourist season technically runs from late April through October, I’d suggest waiting until mid-May to visit the island.

That way, you can ensure that all businesses will be open and the weather will likely be in your favor.

We made the mistake of traveling here during the first week of May and were greeted with grim temperatures in the low 40’s!

In addition, most restaurants and businesses were closed, meaning there were slim pickings in terms of food. (We later discovered that the island typically opens at full capacity at the end of the first week of May.)

A 1-Day Itinerary of What to Do on Mackinac Island

Begin Your Day with a Hearty Breakfast

Before venturing out to see all the island has to offer, I recommend fueling up with a hearty breakfast.

We enjoyed biscuits and gravy from The Broken Spoke, located in the heart of town along Main Street.

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

While the biscuits admittedly took a backseat to the ones we ate during our three-day trip to Savannah, they were still decent!

Although the majority of restaurants were closed when we were here, you’ll have your pick provided you’re here after the first week of May.

Uncover the Island’s Best Views

When it comes to what to do on Mackinac Island, you simply can’t miss hiking to the best viewpoints.

So once you’ve digested breakfast, it’s time for some exercise.

(It’s nothing too strenuous, I promise!) 

While many claim the best view on the island is looking directly down on Saint Anne’s Church, this point wasn’t quite photo-ready yet with the leafless trees.

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

Personally, we unexpectedly found an even better view overlooking Trinity Church, located just outside the Michigan governor’s summer residence.

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

This was actually our favorite viewpoint of the trip.

After stopping for a photo here, you’ll also come across another beautiful vantage point as you head down the hill to Fort Mackinac.

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

How to Get Here:

At the northeast end of Main Street, you’ll find Marquette Park to your left. Head up Fort Street (to the left of the park) until you reach the carriage gate at the top. You’ll find the first view of Trinity Church just beyond the gate and the following one down the hill.

Visit Fort Mackinac

One of the most popular sites on the island is undoubtedly Fort Mackinac.

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

This former British and American military outpost was once used to control the Straits of Mackinac during the American Revolutionary War.

Today, Fort Mackinac stands proudly as the oldest building in Michigan. It welcomes tourists with costumed demonstrations and even offers visitors a chance to fire a cannon!

You can read more about visiting Fort Mackinac and admission costs here.

Take a Carriage Tour

A horse-drawn carriage tour is one of the best ways to explore the island.

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

These tours typically run for one hour and forty-five minutes, but there aren’t set departure times. Instead, you’ll gain access to the next available carriage upon purchasing a ticket.

You can read more about what to expect on a carriage tour and the rates here.

Alternatively, if you require “taxi” service, you can enjoy the cutest ride in town aboard a horse-drawn cab.

While you can’t “hail” a cab in the traditional way, you can call the taxi dispatch office to request a ride.

FUN FACT: During the months of November – April, horse-drawn cabs are available by appointment only.

You can read more about booking a horse-drawn taxi and view the rates here.

Shop for Souvenirs Along Main Street

Main Street is easily the busiest and most energetic area you’ll find in Mackinac.

This stretch of road provides the pulse of the island and is bursting with eateries, boutiques, bike rentals, and souvenir shops.

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

Whether you’re window shopping or browsing for a fun souvenir to take back home, there’s plenty here to keep you busy and stimulated.

PRO TIP: Since this street is the main thoroughfare through the island, it’s typically the busiest area. Get here early if you want to enjoy it without crowds.

Treat Yourself to Some Fudge

If you’re a fudge lover, than Mackinac Island will be a real treat – no pun intended!

In fact, you’ll find fudge shops galore along the main street, so the toughest decision will be where to stop first!

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

Personally, I’m not a big fan of fudge, but I did love smelling the wonderfully sweet aroma as we strolled along here.

Wander Off the Beaten Path & Admire the Round Island Lighthouse

As fun as buzzing Main Street can be, I personally preferred wandering beyond it for some peaceful waterside views.

As you walk through Main Street heading east, you’ll eventually hit Lakeshore Drive. Here, you’ll find some lovely homes as well as the Mackinac Island Library.

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

As you make your way past the library, keep an eye out for the Round Island Lighthouse to your left.

Although you won’t be able to access it without a boat, you can snap a photo of it from afar.

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

PHOTO TIP: Since the lighthouse is far off in the distance, it will appear quite small in photographs. Therefore, I recommend shooting with a telephoto lens (70mm – 300mm) to pull it in closer.

FUN FACT: If you do wish to explore Round Island, you can do so via a public boat launch from either St. Ignace, Hessel, or Mackinac City.

As you continue down the pathway past the lighthouse, you’ll also come across a beautiful beachside clearing with a spectacular view.

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

Check Out Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel is definitely one of the island’s biggest calling cards. Between afternoon tea, croque in the Tea Garden, and the Grand Hotel Orchestra, the property is an experience unto itself.

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

Although we weren’t hotel guests, we did swing by the property to see what the talk was all about. I’d recommend checking it out (even from afar) if you’re not a guest.

FUN FACT: To enter the hotel and explore the grounds as a non-hotel guest, you’ll need to pay a $10 admission fee. In addition, a dress code is enforced on the property after 6:30 PM.

Even if you’re not a hotel guest, you can still dine at the property. You can read more about the non-hotel guest dining options here.

Do a Sunset Hike to Arch Rock

One of the perks of visiting Mackinac Island during the summer is the extended daylight hours. When we were here during the first week of May, the sun didn’t set until about 9PM!

This gives you plenty of time to walk off those dinner calories and do the comfortable hike to Arch Rock.

I intentionally left dinner off this itinerary, as many restaurants were closed when we were here. However, if you’re here after the first week of May, you’ll have your pick along Main Street or at one of the hotels. We ate at the restaurant at Mission Point Resort.

Arch Rock is made of natural limestone and located on the southeast side of the island. This landmark is the popular subject of many Mackinac photos.

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

The hike to Arch Rock is about two miles (depending on where you’re coming from) and appropriate for all skill levels. Along the way, you’ll enjoy the peaceful solitude of a forest setting.

After climbing the stairs to the top of Arch Rock, you’ll be greeted with sweeping views of Lake Huron and Canada, which are particularly pretty at sunset.

PHOTO TIP: My one gripe about Arch Rock from a photographer standpoint is the unsightly guard rail surrounding the steps. Although it’s obviously here for safety reasons, it’s not exactly Instagram-friendly (if you’re looking to be in the photo). My suggestion is to embrace it or put your Photoshop skills to the test post-shoot!

How to Get Here:

Arch Rock is located at 6131 Arch Rock Road.

Where to Stay on Mackinac Island

Although many recommend staying at the famous Grand Hotel, we personally enjoyed our stay at Mission Point Resort.

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

I love that the property was removed from the main action, yet only a 15-20 minute walk to Main Street.

The rustic atmosphere of the lobby gave us Stephen King vibes (which is a plus in my book)!

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

Technically, however, we stayed in the lodge off of the resort. Here, we enjoyed a comfortable room with seaside views.

We paid out of pocket for our stay; this is not a sponsored post.

My Honest Thoughts on Mackinac Island

While I’m glad we had the opportunity to experience Mackinac Island, I’d be amiss in omitting my honest thoughts.

I was originally inspired to visit this allegedly charming island because it was advertised as a place to “step back in time.”

As such, I mistakenly pictured it to be more like Nantucket, my favorite New England gem.

However, between overinflated prices (such as exorbitant bike rental fees and the Starbucks cash-grab in the center of town), I never once felt like I was experiencing history. In contrast, I was always painfully aware of modern times.

Granted, the lack of chain hotels was certainly a plus, but that’s about where the “local feel” ended for me.

Frankly, I’m curious as to whether Mackinac once felt more authentically historic and then became increasingly more touristy over time.

In any case, I don’t think any of my observations are a reason not to come here, necessarily. That said, the island may not be the storybook picture you envision.

While I thought it had merit for what it was, it was ultimately the “Disney” version of what I’d anticipated, somewhat like Lake George.

However, I’d hate to end this post on a negative note. Fortunately, I do think Mackinac Island can make for a pleasant family or couples vacation.

While it can be challenging to escape the touristy aspect, if you’re prepared to splurge and escape mainland Michigan, it could be the spot for you.

Additionally, the island is ideal for those looking to spend time on the water and take advantage of long daylight hours.

I hope this guide has helped you decide what to do on Mackinac Island in one day. While you could spend several days here, the island’s small size makes it conducive to a quick day adventure or a single overnight stay.

Have you ever been to Mackinac Island? What were your first impressions? Let me know in the comments below!

Did you find this post useful? Pin it to your boards!

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

Are you wondering what to do on Mackinac Island in just one day?

Michigan’s popular vacation destination draws crowds from all over with its historic sites, world-renowned fudge, and notable absence of cars.

After attending Tulip Time in Holland, my husband and I left mainland Michigan to explore this “Jewel of the Great Lakes.”

While the island was admittedly different than what I’d anticipated, it was nice to be outside soaking up Michigan’s extended daylight hours.

Here’s a customizable itinerary of what to do on Mackinac Island in a single day.

In a rush? Pin this post for later!

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

Important Things to Know About Mackinac Island

Before we dive into this Mackinac Island itinerary, I first wanted to share some of the travel logistics, as it can be a bit confusing.

How to Get to Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island is only accessible by ferry, private plane, or a charter flight.

Most visitors travel via ferry for the convenience and reasonable cost.

There are two docks where you can catch the ferry to Mackinac island – one in St. Ignace and one in Mackinaw City.

In addition, there are two ferry lines that provide service to Mackinac Island: Star Line and Shepler’s.

We took Shepler’s Ferry from Mackinaw City, as we received a discount from our hotel for booking with them. The ferry was a quick and breezy 15-minute ride.

Where to Park Your Car

The amount of time you plan to spend on Mackinac Island will dictate your parking situation.

For instance, if you’re doing a day trip to Mackinac Island from Mackinaw City (traveling on Shepler’s Ferry), you can park for free. In this case, you’d use the designated lot across from exit 338 off of I-75 N.

Otherwise, you can opt for premium parking in the on-site lot for $30. You can read more about the parking options here.

Alternatively, if you’re spending one or more nights on the island and you’re taking Shepler’s Ferry, you’ll have the option of parking in a standard lot or a premium lot.

You can read more about these lot options and the pricing here.

How Luggage Is Handled

If you’re going to be staying on Mackinac Island overnight, you can enjoy the convenience of luggage transport.

Some hotels work directly with the ferry companies to arrange a luggage delivery straight to your room. Alternatively, others have porters who will transport your bags after you claim them upon arrival to the dock.

Be sure to read your individual hotel’s luggage policies once you book.

How to Get Around On the Island

While you may assume you can simply rent a car on the island, you’d be wrong!

In fact, automobiles have been banned on Mackinac Island for over a century.

Instead, the main modes of transportation are walking, biking, and hopping aboard a horse-drawn carriage.

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

While the limited transportation may sound a bit daunting, rest assured that you won’t be traveling too far. That’s because the entire island is just over four square miles (and eight miles in circumference)!

Personally, I’d advise against renting a bike on the island. While this mode of transportation is quite popular, a rental will cost you a pretty penny.

The cheapest bike rental we could find was $50 for the day or $20 for the hour.

For a point of reference, that’s more costly than renting a bike in Central Park in one of the most expensive cities in the world!  (For that price, I better be taking one of the wheels home with me!)

However, if you’re fixated on riding while on the island, I’d suggest bringing one of your own bikes along with you.

While you’ll need to pay $13 (per bike) to transport it over on the ferry, it’s still a better value than the rental rip-offs!

Alternatively, my husband and I walked everywhere and never felt the need for wheels or hooves to help us along.

That said, the horse-drawn carriages are definitely a novelty!

Best Time to Travel Here

Although the tourist season technically runs from late April through October, I’d suggest waiting until mid-May to visit the island.

That way, you can ensure that all businesses will be open and the weather will likely be in your favor.

We made the mistake of traveling here during the first week of May and were greeted with grim temperatures in the low 40’s!

In addition, most restaurants and businesses were closed, meaning there were slim pickings in terms of food. (We later discovered that the island typically opens at full capacity at the end of the first week of May.)

A 1-Day Itinerary of What to Do on Mackinac Island

Begin Your Day with a Hearty Breakfast

Before venturing out to see all the island has to offer, I recommend fueling up with a hearty breakfast.

We enjoyed biscuits and gravy from The Broken Spoke, located in the heart of town along Main Street.

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

While the biscuits admittedly took a backseat to the ones we ate during our three-day trip to Savannah, they were still decent!

Although the majority of restaurants were closed when we were here, you’ll have your pick provided you’re here after the first week of May.

Uncover the Island’s Best Views

When it comes to what to do on Mackinac Island, you simply can’t miss hiking to the best viewpoints.

So once you’ve digested breakfast, it’s time for some exercise.

(It’s nothing too strenuous, I promise!) 

While many claim the best view on the island is looking directly down on Saint Anne’s Church, this point wasn’t quite photo-ready yet with the leafless trees.

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Personally, we unexpectedly found an even better view overlooking Trinity Church, located just outside the Michigan governor’s summer residence.

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This was actually our favorite viewpoint of the trip.

After stopping for a photo here, you’ll also come across another beautiful vantage point as you head down the hill to Fort Mackinac.

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How to Get Here:

At the northeast end of Main Street, you’ll find Marquette Park to your left. Head up Fort Street (to the left of the park) until you reach the carriage gate at the top. You’ll find the first view of Trinity Church just beyond the gate and the following one down the hill.

Visit Fort Mackinac

One of the most popular sites on the island is undoubtedly Fort Mackinac.

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This former British and American military outpost was once used to control the Straits of Mackinac during the American Revolutionary War.

Today, Fort Mackinac stands proudly as the oldest building in Michigan. It welcomes tourists with costumed demonstrations and even offers visitors a chance to fire a cannon!

You can read more about visiting Fort Mackinac and admission costs here.

Take a Carriage Tour

A horse-drawn carriage tour is one of the best ways to explore the island.

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These tours typically run for one hour and forty-five minutes, but there aren’t set departure times. Instead, you’ll gain access to the next available carriage upon purchasing a ticket.

You can read more about what to expect on a carriage tour and the rates here.

Alternatively, if you require “taxi” service, you can enjoy the cutest ride in town aboard a horse-drawn cab.

While you can’t “hail” a cab in the traditional way, you can call the taxi dispatch office to request a ride.

FUN FACT: During the months of November – April, horse-drawn cabs are available by appointment only.

You can read more about booking a horse-drawn taxi and view the rates here.

Shop for Souvenirs Along Main Street

Main Street is easily the busiest and most energetic area you’ll find in Mackinac.

This stretch of road provides the pulse of the island and is bursting with eateries, boutiques, bike rentals, and souvenir shops.

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Whether you’re window shopping or browsing for a fun souvenir to take back home, there’s plenty here to keep you busy and stimulated.

PRO TIP: Since this street is the main thoroughfare through the island, it’s typically the busiest area. Get here early if you want to enjoy it without crowds.

Treat Yourself to Some Fudge

If you’re a fudge lover, than Mackinac Island will be a real treat – no pun intended!

In fact, you’ll find fudge shops galore along the main street, so the toughest decision will be where to stop first!

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Personally, I’m not a big fan of fudge, but I did love smelling the wonderfully sweet aroma as we strolled along here.

Wander Off the Beaten Path & Admire the Round Island Lighthouse

As fun as buzzing Main Street can be, I personally preferred wandering beyond it for some peaceful waterside views.

As you walk through Main Street heading east, you’ll eventually hit Lakeshore Drive. Here, you’ll find some lovely homes as well as the Mackinac Island Library.

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As you make your way past the library, keep an eye out for the Round Island Lighthouse to your left.

Although you won’t be able to access it without a boat, you can snap a photo of it from afar.

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PHOTO TIP: Since the lighthouse is far off in the distance, it will appear quite small in photographs. Therefore, I recommend shooting with a telephoto lens (70mm – 300mm) to pull it in closer.

FUN FACT: If you do wish to explore Round Island, you can do so via a public boat launch from either St. Ignace, Hessel, or Mackinac City.

As you continue down the pathway past the lighthouse, you’ll also come across a beautiful beachside clearing with a spectacular view.

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Check Out Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel is definitely one of the island’s biggest calling cards. Between afternoon tea, croque in the Tea Garden, and the Grand Hotel Orchestra, the property is an experience unto itself.

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Although we weren’t hotel guests, we did swing by the property to see what the talk was all about. I’d recommend checking it out (even from afar) if you’re not a guest.

FUN FACT: To enter the hotel and explore the grounds as a non-hotel guest, you’ll need to pay a $10 admission fee. In addition, a dress code is enforced on the property after 6:30 PM.

Even if you’re not a hotel guest, you can still dine at the property. You can read more about the non-hotel guest dining options here.

Do a Sunset Hike to Arch Rock

One of the perks of visiting Mackinac Island during the summer is the extended daylight hours. When we were here during the first week of May, the sun didn’t set until about 9PM!

This gives you plenty of time to walk off those dinner calories and do the comfortable hike to Arch Rock.

I intentionally left dinner off this itinerary, as many restaurants were closed when we were here. However, if you’re here after the first week of May, you’ll have your pick along Main Street or at one of the hotels. We ate at the restaurant at Mission Point Resort.

Arch Rock is made of natural limestone and located on the southeast side of the island. This landmark is the popular subject of many Mackinac photos.

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The hike to Arch Rock is about two miles (depending on where you’re coming from) and appropriate for all skill levels. Along the way, you’ll enjoy the peaceful solitude of a forest setting.

After climbing the stairs to the top of Arch Rock, you’ll be greeted with sweeping views of Lake Huron and Canada, which are particularly pretty at sunset.

PHOTO TIP: My one gripe about Arch Rock from a photographer standpoint is the unsightly guard rail surrounding the steps. Although it’s obviously here for safety reasons, it’s not exactly Instagram-friendly (if you’re looking to be in the photo). My suggestion is to embrace it or put your Photoshop skills to the test post-shoot!

How to Get Here:

Arch Rock is located at 6131 Arch Rock Road.

Where to Stay on Mackinac Island

Although many recommend staying at the famous Grand Hotel, we personally enjoyed our stay at Mission Point Resort.

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I love that the property was removed from the main action, yet only a 15-20 minute walk to Main Street.

The rustic atmosphere of the lobby gave us Stephen King vibes (which is a plus in my book)!

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Technically, however, we stayed in the lodge off of the resort. Here, we enjoyed a comfortable room with seaside views.

We paid out of pocket for our stay; this is not a sponsored post.

My Honest Thoughts on Mackinac Island

While I’m glad we had the opportunity to experience Mackinac Island, I’d be amiss in omitting my honest thoughts.

I was originally inspired to visit this allegedly charming island because it was advertised as a place to “step back in time.”

As such, I mistakenly pictured it to be more like Nantucket, my favorite New England gem.

However, between overinflated prices (such as exorbitant bike rental fees and the Starbucks cash-grab in the center of town), I never once felt like I was experiencing history. In contrast, I was always painfully aware of modern times.

Granted, the lack of chain hotels was certainly a plus, but that’s about where the “local feel” ended for me.

Frankly, I’m curious as to whether Mackinac once felt more authentically historic and then became increasingly more touristy over time.

In any case, I don’t think any of my observations are a reason not to come here, necessarily. That said, the island may not be the storybook picture you envision.

While I thought it had merit for what it was, it was ultimately the “Disney” version of what I’d anticipated, somewhat like Lake George.

However, I’d hate to end this post on a negative note. Fortunately, I do think Mackinac Island can make for a pleasant family or couples vacation.

While it can be challenging to escape the touristy aspect, if you’re prepared to splurge and escape mainland Michigan, it could be the spot for you.

Additionally, the island is ideal for those looking to spend time on the water and take advantage of long daylight hours.

I hope this guide has helped you decide what to do on Mackinac Island in one day. While you could spend several days here, the island’s small size makes it conducive to a quick day adventure or a single overnight stay.

Have you ever been to Mackinac Island? What were your first impressions? Let me know in the comments below!

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Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit

Are you dreaming of US island vacations? Then Mackinac Island is a great stateside option to cross off your Michigan bucket list. With horse-drawn carriages, world-renowned fudge, and historic charm, it’s the perfect addition to your Michigan travel itinerary. You won’t find cars on the island, but you’ll have plenty to keep you busy! Come discover the best things to do on Mackinac Island in a day, including the best Mackinac Island Instagram spots! #michiganroadtrip #usislands #usislandstovisit