The Getaway
15 Things to Do on Mackinac Island:  A Unique Vacay

Tucked away in the heart of Lake Huron, Mackinac Island is a fantastic spot if you're looking to escape the daily grind or fancy a peaceful retreat for a short vacation. This island rolls out the welcome mat to all its visitors, showing off a range of sporting activities, historic buildings, and cool rock formations. The one thing you won't find on Mackinac Island? Cars. They've been banned on the island since 1898, making it a haven if you're into a slower pace of life. Instead, you can explore the island on foot, rent a bike, or soak up the charm of a horse-drawn carriage ride.

The island's unique no-cars policy really adds to its serene and peaceful vibe. No cars mean the air's free of exhaust, and the sounds of nature aren't drowned out by the noise of engines. Instead, you've got the clip-clop of horse hooves, the rustle of leaves in the wind, and the gentle lapping of waves against the shore providing the soundtrack to your visit. The island's rich history is everywhere, with well-preserved architecture and landmarks that transport you back in time. From the grandeur of the Victorian-era Grand Hotel to the historical significance of Fort Mackinac, there's a story to discover around every corner. The island's also a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering opportunities for hiking, cycling, and water sports. The breathtaking views of Lake Huron, the lush green landscapes, and the vibrant wildflowers and butterflies create a picturesque setting for these activities. Whether you're up for adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, Mackinac Island promises an unforgettable experience.

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01 Immerse yourself in history at Fort Mackinac

Take a journey back in time as you explore Fort Mackinac. This historic building, dating back to the American Revolution, was captured by the British in 1812. Today, it houses 14 original buildings, bugle music, interactive displays that depict the heritage, cannon salutes, and daily reenactments. The fort overlooks the Straits of Mackinac, offering breathtaking views of the lake area, a perfect backdrop for a picnic or a leisurely stroll.

Fort Mackinac Island randytate / Getty Images

02 Uncover the rich heritage at Sainte Anne's Church

Sainte Anne's Church is a treasure trove of rich religious and historical heritage, dating back 350 years from when the Jesuits first established a Roman Catholic church on Mackinac Island. The basement houses a small museum dedicated to the fascinating heritage of the settlers and traders on Mackinac Island over the last 300 years. It also chronicles how the church evolved to support the community. Sainte Anne's Church continues to serve the community today, a testament to its enduring legacy.

03 Experience the charm of a horse-drawn carriage ride

If there's one thing you must do on Mackinac Island, it's to take a leisurely horse-drawn carriage tour. The carriages are an iconic feature of Mackinac Island and provide a relaxing way to learn about the place and see the sights. Tours depart regularly and include the Grand Hotel, Fort Mackinac, and many other attractions. The guides provide insightful commentary on points of interest. And remember, if something catches your eye, you can always return after the tour for a closer look.

carriage ride corfoto / Getty Images

04 View Mackinac through the lens of art at Richard and Jane Manoogian Art Museum

Art inspired by Mackinac Island is showcased in one of the island's most iconic attractions, the Richard and Jane Manoogian Art Museum. The museum houses a unique collection of artistic displays, all inspired by the natural beauty of Mackinac Island. It's a fascinating place to explore and see how art complements the landscape and how the island's character has inspired artists over the years.

05 Tee off at the historic Wawashkamo Golf Club

Established in 1898, Wawashkamo Golf Club is the oldest continuously played course on Mackinac Island. Despite having just nine holes, it retains many of its historical features, making it the ideal place for a game of golf while on vacation. Wawashkamo Golf Club was built on the site of the 1814 Battle of Mackinac Island, adding a layer of historical significance to your game.

Mackinac Island - Mackinac Bridge ovidiuhrubaru / Getty Images

06 Experience the island from the waters of Lake Huron

Lake Huron offers several excellent spots for water activities, and some of the best views of Mackinac Island are from the coast. You can try stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, or parasailing along the coastline. Dawn kayaking tours offer a unique opportunity to witness the incredible beauty of the sunrise. Fishing charters are popular on Mackinac Island, especially for lake trout, adding another dimension to your island adventure.

harbor view of Mackinac Island from Lake Huron Michael Deemer / Getty Images

07 Experience playful frights at the Haunted Theater

Families will find the Haunted Theater on Mackinac Island a delightful attraction. This spooky house is filled with 3D monsters, reflecting some of the legends about Mackinac and providing an interesting diversion on a rainy day. It's a great place to let your imagination run wild and to have a little fun on vacation.

08 Take a moment to reflect at the Little Stone Church

The Little Stone Church has been serving the community of Mackinac Island for over 100 years. This charming building is a popular venue for weddings, especially vow renewals. The church holds regular services and is an interesting place to spot on tours of the island or when cycling in the area.

Mackinac Island place of prayer egsuperiorcorpnet / Getty Images

09 Enjoy the great outdoors at Great Turtle Park

Great Turtle Park is one of the best open spaces on Mackinac Island. It offers a sand volleyball court, soccer field, basketball, golf course, and more. There are also walking trails and seating areas for relaxing. Why not pack a picnic from one of the local delis and enjoy a day outdoors in Great Turtle Park?

10 Discover the magic at the Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House

The Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House is world-renowned and the first of its kind in Michigan. It's a magical place with 1800 square feet filled with hundreds of butterflies from around the world. There are also displays of insects, providing an important educational resource for adults and children. It's one of Mackinac Island's most popular attractions.

Mackinac Island, Michigan, Butterfly House. Top view of Doris longwing butterfly, (Laparus doris, Heliconius doris) Getty Images

11 Cross the straits to the Round Island Lighthouse

Round Island Lighthouse is a popular stop during expert kayaking tours. Cross the Mackinac Straits for a peaceful day watching wildlife or swimming. Although no camping is allowed overnight on Mackinac Island, there's nothing to stop you from staying over on Round Island with the picturesque lighthouse in a tranquil setting. Guided tours are recommended due to the currents in this Great Lake.

coastal lighthouse pyzata / Getty Images

12 Indulge in relaxation at Lakeside Spa and Salon

Mission Point Resort is home to the Lakeside Spa and Salon, where you can unwind with some pampering treats for a day. There's a couples treatment room, a wide range of spa treatments, and sauna and steam rooms. It's the kind of place where you can be as active or as relaxed as you want and enjoy the facilities in this popular spa on Mackinac Island.

Relax, spa and zen woman with candles for beauty, physical therapy or skincare. Female client on table with candle in ambient room for cosmetics or luxury treatment for skin, health and wellness Adene Sanchez / Getty Images

13 Embrace the sweet life as a "fudgie" on Mackinac Island

If you taste one thing on Mackinac Island, make it the fudge. It's a specialty, and each season an incredible 10,000 pounds of fudge are made on the island. You'll also find lots of shops selling local candy, and there are demonstrations of fudge making. Try the Murray Hotel Fudge Company or Ryba's Fudge Shops, where the aromas will entice you inside. There are many flavors to taste, and it's almost impossible to resist a sample or two.

14 Unleash your creativity at Mackinac Arts Council

Mackinac Arts Council has a gallery and artistic center at Mission Point Resort, making it ideal for vacationers in the area. There are exhibitions throughout the year and free concerts in the summer at nearby Marquette Park. The theater was a major location in the 1980 movie Somewhere in Time. Today it has a rich cultural program of performances and events.

15 Explore the Native American Cultural History Trail

You can bike, walk, or run the Native American Cultural History Trail, which circles Mackinac Island. Located on the M-185 perimeter road, it's full of interesting historical details about the importance of the Native American people in the Great Lakes region. It's an excellent way to learn about the area, and it's free to explore.

Mackinac Island Bicycle Path John Bakkila / Getty Images
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