July 27, 2016

mackinac island travel guide

** Updated July 2017! **
Before I get started, the city is spelled with a “w” (Mackinaw) and the island is spelled with a “c” (Mackinac). 

I’ve been to the island a ton over the last couple years so I put together a guide for vacationing on Mackinac Island. Get some popcorn because this is a long one!
BREAKFAST >>>
1. Chuckwagon. A small breakfast and lunch diner with good food, service, and prices. Just like all the other restaurants, they close their breakfast doors at 11am to flip for lunch. So get there early! Also note that they are closed on Mondays.

2. Seabiscuit. A little nicer than Chuckwagon and more expensive. Good food and drinks for breakfast! And they are always playing the movie Seabiscuit on the TV :)

LUNCH/DINNER >>>
1. Pink Pony. I love this place. Cute logo and good food. My favorite is the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich with sweet potato fries. They also have some great mixed drinks and it’s tradition for us to get rum runners either with dinner or for late night. They have 3 seating sections- outdoor (upper deck + patio), dining room, and bar. 

2. Yankee Rebel Tavern. A little more expensive depending on what you order but it’s a nice place for dinner. Really good food and great service from the waiters. They have their own house made root beer but make sure to catch your waiter before they automatically refill for you. The refills are not free and they don’t always tell you that.

3. Goodfellow's. The menu is a bit smaller this year but the food is still great. The patio seating is super cute! I usually get a flatbread pizza. Last summer they had a special Michigan sangria that was really good. 

4. Round Island Bar & Grill at Mission Point. You do not have to be a hotel guest to go to the restaurant. The space is large with plenty of seating and has a big circle window overlooking the famous Mission Point lawn along the water. It is a beautiful view! But note that the tables along the big window are two-seaters only. My favorite thing to get here is the Michigan cherry salad with raspberry dressing! It is so delicious, and a decent portion to split if you want to. They

DRINKS >>>
1. Cupola Bar at The Grand Hotel. Besides all the restaurants listed above, the Cupola Bar at The Grand Hotel offers cocktails, great views, and nightly entertainment. Plus, the dress code is casual!

2. Bars: Pink Pony, Huron St Pub, Mustang, Round Island
          
ICE CREAM >>>
1. Joann’s Fudge. I always go to Joanns for my ice cream. No good reason other than I had a coupon for Joann’s the first time I visited the island. They have great ice cream and lots of chocolate treats. I’m sure ice cream is good at the other places too, just don’t go to Mr. B’s. 

2. Moomers. This place opened during the 2017 season so it is brand new. The ice cream is sooo good and I always get the coffee toffee flavor. Get it in a cup, the waffle cones are nothing special. It's a small space and always crowded so get your ice cream to-go. Find a bench by the Harbor or sit in Marquette Park. 

3. Sadie's Ice Cream Parlor at The Grand Hotel. It's connected to The Grand Hotel but doesn't require hotel admission fee! It's open to the public. They carry 24 flavors of michigan-based Hudsonville Ice Cream. I like to get 1/2 toasted coconut and 1/2 coffee lover. 
            
FUDGE >>>
I have never gotten fudge on Mackinac Island. Might sound crazy but it’s just not that practical for me. There’s no way I could eat all of it and I would hate to have to travel with a block of fudge.  However, if you watch them long enough while they're making it on the long tables, they will usually give you a sample :)
1. Mission Point Resort. I've never actually stayed at this resort but it's one of the two big ones on the island. I explore and hang out on their property all the time and it's one of the best in my opinion. They have a lot to offer and a great location.

2. The Grand Hotel. A beautiful site and icon to the island but a little overrated in my opinion. It's expensive and snoody. You can look from a distance but they'll charge you if you want a closer look. The garden and porch are absolutely stunning, and it is a really fun building to explore if you do get inside. But the fact that they charge you just to walk on their sidewalk really annoys me. Definitely go see it, but don't feel like you have to stay here to get the Mackinac experience. 

3. Hotels. There are a ton of great hotels other than the two big ones. A lot of them are right in town and just as beautiful as the grand hotel. 

4. Bed and Breakfasts. The island has several bed and breakfasts which make any weekend getaway 10x cuter. More of a homey touch compared to the big hotels.

5. Rentals. There are lots of cottages and homes on the island that are available for rent. Probably expensive, but this could be a good option for a large group or anyone wanting to live like a local. They also have cute condos for rent!

6. Mackinaw City. A cheaper alternative to staying the night on the island is to book a room or rent a place in the city. It's usually less expensive, and you can catch the ferry over to the island with no problem. There are several hotels right along the water next to all the ferry lines. 
1. Haunted History Tour.  A guided tour through the streets to learn about the island's haunted history. ($18)

2. Glow Golf. Fridays and Saturdays from dusk until midnight in front of mission point resort. ($15)

3. Rent Bikes. Biking around the island or even just biking around town is essential to any mackinac island vacation. There are several places to rent bikes if you can't bring your own to the island. Check out Island House Bikes, Mackinac Bike Barn, Mackinac Wheels, Mission Point Bike Rentals, and Ryba's Bike Rental. Make sure to check their websites or walk by the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau for coupons. 

4. Grand Hotel tour. Enter the hotel and explore the grounds. Guided tours may be available. ($10+)

5. Mission Point Resort. The resort has a lot to offer. Prices will vary depending on the activity. Check out their Lakeside Spa & Salon, gift shops, bike rentals, greens of mackinac (18 hole putting course), wawashkamo golf club, and arcade. They have additional activities available to resort guests. 

6. Ride Horses. A fun and unique way to explore the island is to rent a horse and go riding. Check out Cindy's Riding Stable ($45/hour).

7. Carriage Tours. These are a popular option on the island. They offer guided carriage tours ($28.50) that show guests all over the island and drive yourself horse and buggy ($70/hour) that lets you explore on your own.

8. Great Turtle Kayak Tours. Guided tours and rentals are available for kayaks, tandem kayaks, and paddleboards. Choose from several different tours (sunset/sunrise, yoga, round island, marina, etc.) to explore the waters around the island and see natural rock formations, wildlife, lighthouses, etc. ($40/hour)

9. Sunset Cruise. Many of the ferry lines offer special event cruises like a sunset cruise, fireworks cruise, live music cruise, sip n' sail cruise, craft beer cruise, lighthouse cruise, etc. Check out Starline (~$24), Ugly Anne ($24), and Shepler's ($26+).

10. Parasailing. Mackinaw Parasailing has locations in Mackinaw City, St. Ignace, Mackinac Island. Get a great view of the Straits of Mackinac. They offer single and tandem parasailing. ($75-189)

11. Butterfly House. Walk through the butterfly garden greenhouse to learn about and see butterfly species from all over the world. There is a second butterfly conservatory located further outside of town. ($5-9/person)
1. Explore Mission Point Resort. I know I've said this plenty already but the resort has a very large property with lots to do. Explore it! You can walk all over the property as well as inside through the hotel. It’s really cool and they take great care of their landscaping and appearance.


2. Lakefront lawn + Adirondack chairs at Mission Point Resort. The iconic huge front lawn and white chairs you see on postcards. This is open to anyone so bring your group and pull some chairs together. Pack some drinks and snacks and hang out for an hour (there is a small grocery store in town if you need stuff!). The area is right on the water so you can watch the waves, fly a kite, or catch some sun.

3. Marquette Park in front of Fort Mackinac. Another lawn area closer to town. No chairs, so bring a picnic blanket with your food and drinks. There are some really pretty, huge lilac bushes and as well as a small playground area in the corner. Great place to take a break and relax!

4. Bike the island. Biking the island is totally free and totally worth it (at least once). And you might think that 8 miles is crazy especially if you’re not a biker, but you can do it! It’s really not bad and you won’t even notice since you’re riding next to the pretty lake the whole way. They key is to take breaks and make fun stops. First stop, climb up to arch rock and get a great view. Next stop, a quarter-way stop to skip some rocks and dip your toes in the water. At the halfway point, stop at british landing to pose with the canon on the beach and get a slushy from the Cannonball Shack. Next, stop to get a picture of your group with the bridge in the background around the last corner. Pull over anytime you see something cool or just want to wade in the water!

5. British Landing. This spot is a halfway point for biking around the island. If you’re not biking, you can walk straight through the island. There is a paved road directly to the area. Take some sunscreen and explore. It’s about an hour walk but there is lots to see on the way. When you arrive, there is a shack with a small menu of food, drinks, and slushies. Also a new nature center and a large pretty white rock beach area. This might be the most open “beach” area so get your toes wet! There is also a cannon statue and great water views.

6. Arch Rock. Just on the other side of mission point, this is a great view and free activity within walking distance or the first stop on a bike ride. Climb up 200 stairs and walk to the edge of the cliff to see 180º of perfectly blue waters and get your picture in front of the arched rock.

7. Hike/Bike. There are trails everywhere! Go explore through the woods or the middle of the island. Walk along the pretty, big houses with views and find old cemeteries or campfire set ups. The bike shops in town have brochures with trail maps!

8. Shops. Window shopping is always on my list. I’ve seen all the shops but I still love just walking up and down Main Street at least once during my visit. Don’t forget to walk along Market Street too. It’s parallel behind main street and has additional shopping as well as service buildings like the post office and police station. The island does have a small grocery store called Doud's if you need anything!

9. Fort Holmes stargazing. Fort Holmes is a small hike away but also the highest point on the island. The fort is new and has an interesting view but there’s not a lot to see inside. However, there are picnic benches and lots of grass areas that are perfect for stargazing.  Go during the day for some great views or go at night for the stars.

10. Boardwalk sunset + bridge. The boardwalk along Lake Shore Dr by the library is another favorite spot. It’s a really peaceful walk with a nice view of the Mackinac bridge. Plus there are some great houses to see along the way. You can only see half a sunset from here but it still makes for an amazing sky & bridge picture. Check out the library too!

11. Geocaching. If you've never gone geocaching on vacation, you're missing out. Geocaching is a real world, treasure hunting game that uses GPS coordinates to locate a hidden object. A great way to spend an afternoon and explore the island. Click the link to learn more and find geocache locations!

13. Sugar Loaf rock. I haven't been here, but I have heard it is a cool spot to explore in the middle of the island.

14. Mackinac Island Cemetery. Some people might be into this and others might not care. It is cool to see even if you are just riding by on a bike.

15. Square Dancing on the deck at Ste. Anne's Church. Every Tuesday at 7pm there is a free square dancing lesson on the deck. They teach you everything you need to know, and sometimes there is free ice cream! Even if you don't want to participate, I recommend stopping by because it is really fun to watch.

16. West Bluff Rd + Pontiac Trail. There is a great lookout spot between West Bluff Rd and Pontiac Trail. Definitely get a picture here. Soak up all the beautiful houses and stunning water views! To the right of the landing is Pontiac Trail. This is a really cool path along the bluff that is high above the shoreline. To the left of the landing is West Bluff Rd that leads straight to The Grand Hotel.

17. Dennis O. Cawthorne Shoreline Trail. This trail goes all along the water between Mission Point's Bistro on the Green and just before Arch Rock. There is a secluded spot near the Arch Rock end that has a wide cement landing. Perfect for sitting right by the lake.
All the shops are pretty tourist-focused so you can't really go wrong. If you're looking for a souvenir or t-shirt, there are about 10 stores on main street all selling the same kind. Mixed in are some little boutique shops with a lot of cute stuff. My favorite stores are Poppins and Little Luxuries. For a great place to get some super cheap stuff (especially if you forgot something like sunglasses, a hat, sling backpack) be sure to stop by The Big Store. If you're looking for a good store to take kids or just a fun store to browse, stop by Caddywampus. They have a ton of fun toys and random but entertaining stuff. Doud's Market is the island grocery store if you need anything!
1. Lakefront lawn & Adirondack chairs. This set up has been used for wedding pictures a million times. The white chairs make for a great picture with the beautiful resort and flowers in the background.  Great for group shots. (map)

2. Mission Point sidewalk. The road & sidewalk in front of the resort is a great spot for a variety of pictures. At the front entrance, they have a beautiful display of flowers. At another part, the road is lined with great, big shady trees that would frame a subject perfectly. Further down, the cobblestone sidewalk is lined with a 3 foot brick wall holding up a dense garden of bright flowers. These spots get great golden hour lighting. (map)

3. Gazebo. Next to the lawn area, the resort has some really nice landscaping surrounding their gazebo, tennis courts, and stone reception area. The gazebo is so pretty! Sit on the steps or lean against the railing or just take a picture of all the flowers! (map)

4. Promenade deck. This area of the resort houses bike rentals and wedding receptions. It also home to the arcade, movie theater, and spa. The promenade deck is mostly bright white and the balcony and a nice view of the front lawn and lake. (map)

5. Mission Point restaurant balconies. The resort has a couple food spots and most of them have balcony seating. They are easy to get to without actually having to dine in or walk through the restaurant. Find some stairs and walk around till you find one. (map)

6. Side walk hedge. As a lover of instagram and blogs, I saw this sidewalk hedge and immediately thought how perfect it is for an ootd background. Show off that cute vacation dress or hairstyle. (map)

7. Pink bench. There is the cutest bright pink bench in front of Little Luxuries. Would be a cute pop of color for a picture. (map)

8. Harbor. The harbor makes a great background for pictures. Whether you just sit on the stone walls or go out and sit on the docks, it’s cute. (map)

9. Fort Mackinac Tea Room. This requires that you pay to get in to the fort. The restaurant is located on the side facing the water. Sit on the patio and get a picture of the iconic yellow umbrellas or the town and water down below. The restaurant is hosted by The Grand Hotel and they make some amazing "off the menu" milkshakes. (map)

10. Boardwalk along Lake Shore Dr. There is a nice boardwalk right long the water across from the school. Great for taking a walk or getting great views of the bridge. There are some cool houses along this road that could add a unique prop for a picture! Use the fences or entryways to frame your shot. (map)

11. Pontiac Trail Head. A cool look-out point with different elements. Some parts are open to the water view, others are a dirt trail, boardwalk, stone, etc. Lots of different photo opportunities here! (map)
1. Bring a bike. If you have a bike rack on the car, definitely bring your own bike. It is the easiest way to get around the island. The ferries usually charge around $10 to bring a bike over to the island.

2. Rent bikes. See the above section on "to do" for all the bike rental info!

3. Taxi. This kind of taxi is a horse and carriage. For your initial arrival on the island or departure, a taxi can be the best option to transport groups with a lot of luggage. You must call the taxi office to request the taxi service. Fares are $5 per person with a minimum of 2 fares. Call about an hour before you need the taxi and have cash ready.

4. Ferry. Choose from 2 ferry services departing from either Mackinac City or St. Ignace: Shepler's and Star Line. Always check their websites for online deals! 
            
5. Walk. You could walk to everything you want to see on the island. Easily get in your 10,000 steps without even thinking about it. 
By now all of these have been referenced in previous sections of the guide. These are all great views and would make great picture spots too.

1. Arch Rock
2. Fort Mackinac Tea Room
3. Fort Holmes
4. British Landing
5. Boardwalk by the library
6. Harbor
7. Pontiac Trail head             
Always check the events calendar to see what festivals or activities are happening! Maybe you want to attend them or maybe you want to avoid them and their crowds. Either way, it's always better to be informed!
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