When I was younger I gleamed over the thought of exploring Mackinaw Island and I still do today. Between the delicious fudge and rich history, it’s hard not to. No wonder it’s one of Michigan’s best attractions and brings in swarms of visitors every year.
Mackinaw Island has an amazing history, dating as far as 11,000 years ago to when aboriginal natives would bury their dead in one of the many island caves. Later on it was known for being one of the most important trade sites for the French and their fur in 1671.
And after the war of 1812, the Americans gained the nearby straits by treaty, which originally belonged to the British. Quickly afterwards the British attacked the island and caused the Americans to surrender Fort Mackinac. A few years later in 1815, the Americans ended up getting the island back due to another treaty.
Now that you have a bit of background on the island, you can see why it’s such of an intriguing place to go. If you are planning on visiting the island anytime soon, here are few of my favorite things to do:
Renting a bike in Mackinaw is easy since there are rental places everywhere. They don’t allow cars on the island so everything is either horse drawn or people ride bikes to get around.
They have scenic bike trail that skirts the outer edge of the island and covers a distance of around eight miles. There are also wide paths throughout the island to get around to the different historical centers. With a 15 USD deposit, you can use their bikes for 4 USD per hour.
Visit The Fort:
The fort on the island is the best part about the trip. At set times every day there are old military demonstrations that give you a grasp on how differently wars were fought back then. There are also demonstrations in marriage proceedings and lawn games not to count the dozens of old buildings that have been reconstructed that you can tour and you may even catch them doing an archaeological dig where another building had been.
It’s nearly a sin to visit the island without getting any fudge. You can’t go anywhere without seeing a fudge shop or tourists eating it. Pro tip: the peanut butter chocolate fudge is the best!
The Grand Hotel:
Sadly I was never able to stay in the hotel while I was there, but from what I’ve seen in passing it looks to be an amazing experience. The hotel opened up in 1887 and has since kept up with the times, while keeping it’s antiquity, it’s even been known to have the governor’s stay there every summer. I will add though that the hotel is a bit pricey and if you’re looking to save money, it’s smart to stay off the island for the night.
Take The Tour:
The island has a horse drawn tour that they run every few minutes on the island. They’ll take you around the best places, including look out points, where you can stand on the edge of the many cliffs to marvel over Lake Huron below.
Getting to the island is pretty straightforward. All you have to do is purchase a ticket from one of the many ferry lines and you’ll get there in around 20 minutes on average. Some people choose to take the slower boat rides over the faster ones because they can be quite fun.
I also suggest planning in an extra day or two to look around Mackinaw city. The city is also a massive tourist destination in and of its self and also has an old military fort from the same time period along with Mackinaw Crossings where they have a wide array of shops from medieval armor to spices.
I’ve been going to the city every few months over the past year and there are always awesome demonstrations going on in their main square from concerts to medieval sword fights!