Mackinac Island is one of our happy places. We absolutely love it there and we make a point to visit at least once every year. We also celebrate special occasions there such as birthdays and wedding anniversaries. And we have spent time there during different times of year so we have a pretty good handle on what will make or break your trip to the island.
There’s nothing worse than hearing that someone didn’t enjoy their trip simply because they were unaware of some easy tweaks they could have made to transform their experience. So we decided to compile these simple tips to try to help other new visitors to get the absolute most out of their next Mackinac Island Adventure.
Here are 5 Essential Mackinac Island Travel Tips for Newbies:
1 – Bring bikes over on the ferry
One of the best ways to explore Mackinac Island is on a bike. The island has an 8.1 mile road which goes along the entire outer edge of the island and there are many hiking and biking trails in the island’s interior as well. While you can rent bikes either by the hour or by the day, it’s pricey. It’s much more cost effective to pay to bring your own bike over on the ferry so that you’ll have access to it the entire time you’re there.
The ride around the island is a blast but don’t neglect the interior. Yes, it’s a steep climb at the beginning but don’t let that deter you. Walk your bike up the initial hill and be prepared to ride to your heart’s content. Once reaching the middle of the island, the roads are surprisingly flat. That doesn’t mean you can’t find some really fun and hilly biking trails, though. Our favorite is Scott’s Road.
2 – Bring Cold Weather Gear
The straits of Mackinac often have chilly breezes and storms can pop up when you least expect them. Definitely consult the weather forecast but don’t rely on that entirely. No matter what time of year you’re visiting, be sure to dress in layers and bring along slightly warmer clothing than you think you will need.
3 – Get out of town
Almost all visitors arrive on Mackinac Island via ferry and are dropped off in town. Unfortunately, many of these people walk up and down main street and never make it any farther than that. They explore the shops, eat the fudge, and possibly take the carriage tour. But there’s so much more to the island than Main Street. Definitely patronize the shops that are there before you end your visit.
But either before or after that, do yourself a favor and get out of town. Explore the hiking and biking trails. Head to arch rock and skull cave. Take in the sunset over Mackinac Bridge. Head out to Mission Point Resort to enjoy the beauty of their grounds. Ride around the island on your bike or on a rented horse. Much of the island is a state park and there is beauty galore to explore! Our favorite part of the island is on the back side, where there are hardly any people!
4 – Visit During the Off-Season
Our favorite time to visit Mackinac Island is in October, before the bulk of the hotels and restaurants close. Some of the attractions close after Labor Day and many of the remaining ones close in October, so you need to do your research. But if you go in that sweet spot when some things are still open but the tourists have slowed dramatically, you will get to experience a part of the island that many never see. The natural beauty, the authentic personalities of the full-time residents and workers, and the peace that can come from being on an island.
5 – Spend at least one night
There’s something magical about the island after the bulk of the visitors head back to the mainland on the ferries. The town is suddenly less congested and more nostalgic. There’s seriously nothing like it. There are several hotels and bed-and-breakfast options to choose from, and some of them are more affordable than you might think. Especially if you are visiting during the off-season.
And be sure to check Groupon as well. We spent 4 days and 3 nights on Mackinac Island over our 20th wedding anniversary and we were able to get a really great deal on a room at Mission Point resort.
Come to think of it, we also spent that same amount of time on the island over our 10th wedding anniversary.
Can you tell how much we love it there?
As you can see, with just a few small preparations, you can transform what may have been a disappointing island trip into a vacation you won’t soon forget. The island will easily become one of your favorite destinations as well, if you keep this advice in mind. And we have even more tips to share with you if you’re interested in learning even more about some of our previous Mackinac Island adventures or about some of our absolute favorite destinations on the island.
Have you ever visited Mackinac Island? Do you have any advice that you can share? Please leave a comment below.