Mackinac Island Blog

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Top things to do and see on Mackinac Island - Part 1

Mackinac Island is enjoyable for many reasons - the primary one being the relaxing atmosphere created by the absence of automobiles. But Mackinac Island has been a favorite place to visit for more than three centuries. Ever since Jean Nicolet passed through the Straits in 1634, visitors to the area have found Mackinac Island a wonder of nature.

Such a wonder of nature in fact, it was named our nation's second national park in 1875. Conservation efforts have preserved much of the island's natural splendor and rich history for visitors to enjoy today. But many visitors never leave the confines of Main Street and miss much of what the island has to offer.

One of the best guides to the island, the Historic Mackinac Island Visitors Guide, is printed by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission and is available for just one dollar from any of the ferry operators or park locations. If there is one guide I suggest you purchase, it is this one, though two other guides have been recently published.

Explore_Michigan_Mackinac The 2008 printing of 'Explore Michigan: Mackinac' describes itself as an 'insider's guide' to the island with suggestions of the areas most popular attractions, restaurants, shops and lodging. Unfortunately it lacks any maps, even of the downtown area. I found the guide practical and feel it would be useful for persons having never visited the island, though I have a hard time getting past the lack of maps. The 75-page guide is available from for $10.95.

Tourist Town Guides has just released 'Mackinac: A guide to Mackinac Island and Mackinaw City.' This 173-page guide covers the same information, but with more detail and extensive listings. While this guide includes three maps, I wouldn't try navigating with them as they are simple overviews of the region and island. It too is available from and sells for $14.95.

Both guides stick with the tried and true listings and give the casual visitor enough information to know some important historical information and decide of what to see and do during their visit.

While visiting the fort and downtown are certainly must-do's, there is so much more to Mackinac Island. Over the coming weeks, I'll be featuring some of my favorite things to do when I visit, along with suggestions from other Mackinac Island Blog members.

To get things started, here is my list for first time visitors to the island:

  • Visit Fort Mackinac and the historic downtown buildings
  • Visit one of the Butterfly Houses
  • Take a bike ride around the island
  • Relax in one of the Adirondack chairs on the lawn at Mission Point
  • Have a picnic at Marquette Park
  • Take a saddle horse ride into the island interior
  • Visit Anne's Tablet and walk past the cottages on the East Bluff
  • Visit Fort Holmes for a great view of the Straits
  • See Arch Rock from above and below
  • Play a round of golf on the Wawashkamo course, Michigan's oldest course
  • Let the kids play a game of duckpin bowling at the Woods Restaurant
  • Relax at the Public Library and enjoy the splendid view of Round Island Lighthouse
  • Stroll the porch at the Grand Hotel
Mackinac Island offers many great experiences and one could spend a lifetime of visits to the island to enjoy them all. While this list is focused on summer activities, I should mention that each season offers unique experiences and activities and I will include them in upcoming posts as well.

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Comment by Bill Wise on May 26, 2010 at 4:42pm
How about the Mackinac Island Pub Crawl? That should be a "must do" for the adventurous imbibers among us!
Comment by Mike Forrester on June 3, 2009 at 2:16pm
Stu - You're certainly an island legend worth seeing and you're not half as old as the island! Great additional suggestions as well. Thanks!
Comment by Stu Stuart on June 3, 2009 at 1:34pm
Two more things for the list: Maeve's Art on Market Street featuring original oil paintings by lifetime Mackinac summer resident Maeve Croghan ( and the Cannonball Drive-In at British Landing, home of the deep-fried pickle spears! Something for everyone...
Comment by Stu Stuart on June 3, 2009 at 1:06pm
Mike--I'd like to add my stand-up comedy show at the Lilac Tree Hotel on Mackinac Island to your list of the Best Things to Do on Mackinac. This is my 15th Anniversary Season. Visit for show dates & details. I'm offering a special stimulus package bailout self-sustaining green renewable low-carbon footprint no carb admission price for families. I hope to see you at the show! --Stu Stuart (231) 215-0173

Comment by Mike Forrester on June 1, 2009 at 9:44am
That'd be great! I'd like to get as many tips as possible. I'll be arriving on the island in 10 days, so I plan on visiting a few new locations on the island that I can add to the list! Hope we get a chance to say hi while I'm there!
Comment by Chris Ann Nelson on June 1, 2009 at 7:11am
Wow, you hit my favorites right off the bat. I can't wait to see what Bree adds :). My number one thing when our kids were little (70's) was to take a pic-nic lunch for the beach and head to the library for the best view and most fun FREE place for our family of 6 on a day trip, followed by a walk/bike ride around the island. Now our 10 old grandson thinks he knows all the "secret spots" on the island and loves to take his own bike over on the ferry and show grandpa everything in the interior. We will have to get Walker to post his spots!


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Coast Guard on Mackinac Island

Started by Robert Posar. Last reply by Robert Posar Oct 10, 2014. 7 Replies

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