A Guest Post from Allyson

If you’re looking for an island getaway to a place that’s escaped the changes of time- look no further than Mackinac Island.

Without a doubt, this quickly became a family-favorite destination!

First, it’s important learn how to pronounce the name of this quaint little island. Mackinac is derived from Native American and French names and pronounced “Mack-i-NAW.” Nothing says tourist quite like mispronouncing the name!

Secondly, you may want to know a little information prior to visiting. Mackinac Island is surrounded by Lake Huron between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas.

The entire island is listed as a National Historic Landmark!

Motorized vehicles have not been allowed on Mackinac Island since 1898. Forms of acceptable transportation are by foot, bicycles, or horse-drawn carriages. You can even rent your own horse and buggy for a day!

There is no bridge that connects Mackinac Island to the mainland–although there is a Mackinac Bridge (aka “The Mighty Mac”) that connects Mackinaw City to St. Ignace. These are the two cities to choose from when looking for a ferry to cross from the mainland across Lake Huron to Mackinac Island.

The ferries, Shepler’s and Starline are comparable in price, departure times, and location. We chose to leave from St. Ignace on a Shepler’s Ferry for the 20-minute boat ride to the island. Other options are private boat, small aircraft, and in the winter, by snowmobile over an ice bridge! (I may need to go back in the Winter to experience this!)

Arriving on the island, the amount of bicycles in “parking lots” is so different than anything you’ve ever seen!

Many tourists stay on Main Street. My suggestion to you—DO NOT STAY ON MAIN STREET! 80% of people DO NOT leave Main Street our tour guide said.

How sad!

There is so much beauty on the island that most people miss. With our ferry ticket purchase, we bought a combination ticket with ferry ride+carriage tour. We wanted a tour guide to be able to give us interesting facts about the island, and that’s exactly what we got!

The 2-hour carriage tour takes you past Fort Mackinac, the Butterfly House (tickets available to purchase but we chose not to), and the Mackinac Island State Park (which covers over 80% of the island!). This was my favorite part! Many families were hiking on foot as we leisurely strolled through the gorgeous State Park, lined with rare yellow Lady Slipper wildflowers and gorgeous greenery.

The last stop is a short (7 minute) stop at Arch Rock. You cannot experience this view from the road, so this view from the top is by far the best! And one of the many reasons I’m so glad we did the carriage tour!

Fun fact from our island tour: There are 500 residents and 1 doctor. But there are 600 horses and 3 vets!

My horse-loving-8-year-old ADORED seeing all the variety of horses across the island!

We got off the tour on Main Street, grabbed a bite to eat for lunch (TONS of restaurants to choose from), and decided we hadn’t seen enough of the island yet. We chose one of the many bike rental places on Main Street to rent bikes for our entire family for 2 hours. It was a perfect amount of time to ride on the paved road wrapping around the island for 8.2 miles.

The bike rental we chose had a “Wee Hoo” which was perfect for our 4-year-old! Tandem attachments and options for any family were available to rent. You can bring your own bikes over on the ferry but it does cost money to do so (about $10 per bike.) We found it easier to just rent them on the island and not have to worry about locking them up while at lunch or on the carriage tour.

We turned right on Main Street and followed the bike path signs.

The views were absolutely breathtaking. And I don’t take that word lightly—the landscape literally took my breath away with each turn!

Lake Huron beyond the beautiful conifer trees with no sounds of traffic are memories I will never forget!

It was eerily quiet on the backside of the island. Only bicycle tires and the clip-clopping of horse’s hooves. Seriously something everyone should experience!! My husband said it was like a step back in time. It took us 1.5 hours for our family of 5 to leisurely ride around the island.

The 8-mile loop ends with the quaint town and back to Main Street. Numerous hotels (including the famous Grand Hotel) and Bed & Breakfasts are available to stay overnight, which would be amazing to hear the quietness of the island after all tourists have left! A totally different experience than the hustle and bustle of Main Street.

One thing I wish I had known is that some stores close earlier than others on Main Street.

I fell in love with a bicycle souvenir and planned to get it after our bike ride. The shop had JUST closed. With tears in my eyes, my sweet husband suggested my 4-year-old-boat-lover and I go back for a 2nd ferry ride the next day to get my souvenir. We did just that!

There is SO MUCH to do in Michigan. And Mackinac island is definitely at the top of my list! This was our favorite stop of our 2-week Michigan Camping Trip. Many people conclude their Michigan trip here, but we continued on to The UP (Upper Peninsula) to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (…but that’s a post for another day!)

If you enjoyed Allyson’s tips- check out some of her other Guest Posts on Mom With A Map:

Camping With Kids

Extended Camping With Kids

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You may also enjoy reading:

Daufuskie Island: You Don’t Want To Miss This

Maintaining A Healthy Lifestyle While Traveling

Travel Route 66: The Iconic Main Street of America 

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