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We are fresh off the ferry with fantastic tips for the optimal vacation at Mackinac Island. It was our first time visiting the island and we tried our best to plan as much as possible, knowing our time was short. The great thing about Mackinac Island is it really does have something for everyone! Whether you prefer a low-key vacation to enjoy fresh food and craft beers with breaks of shopping and napping. Or, if being outdoors is your mojo, there are over 70 miles of hiking and biking to fill your time! To help you figure out your own itinerary, here is how we were able to maximize 3 days at Mackinac Island.
We took the ferry over from Mackinac City and arrived on the island by 10:30 am. We paid a porter to take our large suitcase (we’ll talk about what to pack below – we ended up NOT wearing 90% of what we packed). It was too early to check into our Bed & Breakfast, but they did store our luggage for us and allowed us to lock up our bikes.
With island maps in hand, we found the Pancake House and had the most delicious breakfast. Breakfast food is my favorite type of meal (when I’m not the one cooking it). While we waited on our meal, we studied the island maps and decided on our plan to next take the Carriage Tour to learn about the island.
I had bought the Carriage Tour tickets as a bundle deal when I purchased the ferry and bike passes online. It wasn’t necessary to do it this way, but, being a planner, I preferred it. We found the Carriage Tour office and turned in our online tickets for our scheduled tour time, which luckily, was only minutes away!
The Carriage Tour was a fantastic way to see the sites and take mental notes of where to eat and shop. It was on this tour we found the only sushi restaurant on the island, which we ended up eating at that night.
Maximizing the Mackinac Island Day!
Our tour driver shared tons of historical information as well as about the horses. We also saw some sites such as Skull Cave and the 3 known cemeteries. Did you know there was a cemetery for unknown American soldiers on this island? It is the Fort Mackinac Post Cemetery for the soldiers, their families, and local officials.
Soon after, the carriage next stopped at Arch Rock where we stood in awe at the most beautiful view of the lake through the arch of the rocks.
Before the Carriage tour ended, it stopped at Fort Mackinac and offered to drop off anyone who wanted to begin their fort tour. After the tour, if you wanted, you could hop back onto a Carriage Tour for a ride down, assuming there are available seats. I will mention, the fort is at the top of a very large hill! Since Fort Mackinac was on our agenda for one of these 3 days, we decided it was as good a time as ever. We hopped off and paid the entrance for the Fort.
Fort Mackinac is a step back in time. I love seeing how people lived in the 1800s and this place did not disappoint. For history buffs, this is the place to be! I learned so much I never knew before! They also do live rifle and cannon firing demonstrations. Throughout the day, if you are walking downtown, you can hear the bugle playing. Our Bed & Breakfast was at the bottom of the hill of the fort, and every night, we heard the most beautiful bugle playing of taps. It was almost chilling.
Day 1 still in action
After our leisurely tour of the Fort, we walked down the long, steep hill to our lodging and grabbed our bikes. The island perimeter is only 8.2 miles and has the only highway not permitting cars. It was a great way to spend the late afternoon. It was a tad windy and we did have to bike through frequent swarms of midge flies, which we were not expecting. Apparently, midge flies love the waterfront and they annoyingly travel in swarms. They don’t bite or sting, they just annoy. The halfway mark on the ride was at British Landing, the location where, well, the British landed. The best part of this ride was I was able to stare out at the deep blue water the entire time!
Our ride finally came to an end and we worked up a great appetite. We found that sushi restaurant and enjoyed a delightful light supper. We then biked back to our lodging, showered, and went through all the pictures we took of the day. Saying we slept great that night is an understatement! Day 1 in the books!
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Staying at a Bed & Breakfast is highly recommended, as breakfast is included. One can easily spend $70. and more for 2 adults for meals on this island. Our breakfast included a hot egg creation, cold cereal, baked goods, cold and hot drinks, and fruit. We enjoyed all our breakfasts on the balcony, despite the off-season early Spring temperature of only 38 degrees. After breakfast, we headed to Biddle House and the Benjamin Blacksmith shop. These historical places are located on Market Street, which was the hot spot of the fur trade in the 1800s.
After walking the fur trade route, we walked back to our lodging and collected our bikes. We biked to the Mackinac Island Art Museum for a little more culture, then hopped back on our bikes. We walked them up the steep hill to Fort Mackinac, then rode the hilly paths onward. When we reached the cemeteries this time, we were able to walk around and pay our respects.
A little rougher terrain
Then we continued biking past Skull Cave, Point Lookout, Sugar Loaf Rock and eventually found our destination of Fort Holmes. After taking the obligatory photos, we jumped back on our bikes and did end up getting a little lost. But, we were told, as long as the roads take you down, you know you are headed in the right direction. Are you keeping track of how to fantastically maximize 3 days at Mackinac Island?
But wait, there’s more!
After all the biking we were pretty spent, so we parked them and had a late lunch or an early dinner, at the Pink Pony. It was so relaxing and delicious, and certainly well earned! After indulging, we had to walk it all off. This was when we walked all through downtown. In and out of shops, boutiques, and fudge stores. We watched fudge being made and of course bought some for the road. At some point, we shared an ice cream cone as it just seemed like the thing to do. We were finally feeling a bit exhausted, so we stopped at Doud’s Market and picked up a bottle of wine to bring back to the B&B. Our day ended on the balcony, enjoying our wine, watching people walk up and down the street, and watching the horses go by. It was another fantastic, action-packed day!
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We enjoyed another cold morning with breakfast on the balcony. Afterward, we biked to the Original Butterfly House & Insect World. You sit in a greenhouse-like environment and are immersed with the butterflies all around you. It was an absolutely beautiful and calming experience! It is definitely a MUST SEE! Once we were all butterflied out, we hopped back on our bikes and continued on the highway. It was our last full day and had seen all we had wanted to see, so we decided to keep on biking and enjoying the views. We stopped at the Mission Point Resort as there was a roadside café. After we enjoyed a baked good and a cup of coffee before continuing on our journey. Seeing how we DID all this, you too can fantastically maximize 3 days at Mackinac island!
The ride to British Landing was a little tougher thanks to the wind so we rested longer than we had the day before. Afterward, we decided to double back the same way as we noticed a hiking trail we wanted to explore. It was well worth the stop, as we were surprised by a marshland, just feet away from the highway! It was a hidden gem. We then hopped back on our bikes and ended up riding the rest of the perimeter on the other side. The bottom line, we ended up riding the island perimeter once again. It was such a beautiful ride!
Last call on Mackinac Island
Being our last night on the island, after our ride we cleaned up and walked back downtown for dinner. Dinner was at Horns restaurant, which surprisingly served delicious Mexican food! We had a lovely supper, then for a final time, walked downtown, and toured the Haunted Theater. We also went back into some shops for a second look, bought some more fudge and one more bottle of wine for our balcony routine.
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Our last day consisted of breakfast on the balcony one last time, then packed up our goods and walked it all down to the ferry. At any time, if a porter was needed to handle the bags, it could have been easily arranged. We knew we could handle it ourselves, so, we did. We walked to the port, checked in our bikes and suitcase, and waited for our ride across the lake. As you can see in my picture below, the sun was bright, but the temperature was not even 40 degrees! It was a cold, cold ride! Please visit the official Mackinac Island Tourism site for more information.
Extra Mackinac Island Tips:
1. Bring your own bikes – AND bike locks
2. When you buy a ticket to the Fort, they tend to bundle it so you also get admittance to the Biddle House, the Blacksmith, and the art museum. Take note, they have to all be used on the same day. We made that mistake and had to buy new tickets the next day. Bummer.
3. How to pack: GO LIGHT! We packed for biking/hiking clothes, casual wear for downtown shopping, and evening wear. What did we end up wearing? Our biking/hiking clothes all day. We didn’t end up eating or going anywhere that had a dress code. If you plan on going to the Grand Hotel, you will need to follow a dress code. We ended up bringing waaaay too much clothing. Pack for rain, just in case, we were hit while biking with some sleet and rain on our bike trip up to Fort Holmes.
4. Pack for the weather. We were there late Spring, which is early Spring for being that far north. It was in the 30s at night and only 40s in the day. We dressed in layers.
5. Sea of people? If you don’t want to walk amongst a sea of people closely, plan on visiting the island in the off-season. We were there one week after the island “opened”. Some restaurants, sites, and horseback riding weren’t yet open, so there are some things you will miss out on when you go so early.
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As you can see, we sure fit in a ton in a short amount of time! This was an adult itinerary, kids could do it all as well, but you might need a few extra breaks and ice cream trips. I hope you too will be able to fantastically maximize 3 days at Mackinac Island! Now that traveling is back on in the world, subscribe to my blog for more adventures and tips! Road trips are back with a vengeance, and I have some tips and tricks coming soon!
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