There are so many fun and interesting things to do in Mackinac Island, Michigan!
It is no wonder why this idyllic place is one of the most popular weekend getaways in the Midwest.
There are no cars allowed on the island, so the only sound is of horse hooves clopping down the street and the cheerful chatter of tourists as they walk the charming streets.
Whether you ride the ferry over for a day trip or stay for a romantic weekend, Mackinac Island will delight you with its cool history, lush nature, and overall quaintness. There are so many historic buildings to photograph, hiking trails to explore, and resorts to relax at.
Let’s sail away to Mackinac Island!
18 Things To Do in Mackinac Island, MI
Photograph Arch Rock
Arch Rock is an iconic sight in Mackinac Island State Park. This coastal rock formation stands 146 feet above Lake Huron and is a must-photograph spot on the island.
To get to the viewpoint to see this natural feature, take either the Arch Rock Bicycle Trail or Arch Rock Road. The walk or bike ride there from downtown is a little over a mile one way. You can also take one of the horse-drawn carriages.
Enjoy the arch from the viewing platform on its level before taking the stairs down to the lake to see it from below. You cannot miss out on one of the best things to do on Mackinac Island.
Learn History at Fort Mackinac
Fort Mackinac dates back to 1782 and is one of the best places to visit on Mackinac Island. History buffs especially will love exploring some of the oldest buildings in Michigan.
There are fourteen restored buildings that allow visitors to step back in time. There are different exhibits where you can learn about the history of the island and what it was like in the military.
You will love taking pictures of the historic demonstrations and people dressed in period clothing. You will even have the chance to fire a historic cannon. This unique Mackinac Island activity is only available to one person each day so make sure to reserve your spot in advance.
Explore Fort Holmes
If you want to see another cool fort, head to Fort Holmes. Found on the island’s highest point, this attraction is a reconstruction of a British fort from the War of 1812.
Recreated in the 1930s, this wood and earth fort is a cool place to visit and has great views of the rest of the island and lake. It is about a mile walk from downtown to the fort.
This is one of the best free things to do in Mackinac Island. It is open to the public from May to October. Check out Skull Cave nearby, which used to be a Native American burial site.
Find Beautiful Butterflies
If you love butterflies, then Mackinac Island is for you! There are two different butterfly conservatories on the island where you can get up close and personal with these beautiful insects.
The Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House & Insect World is the oldest butterfly house in Michigan and the third oldest live butterfly exhibit in the country. The Butterfly Garden here is a place of beauty with hundreds of butterflies from around the world.
Their Insect World features large bugs such as beetles, walking sticks, centipedes, and more. This is a great place to learn more about creepy crawlies.
Another place to visit on Mackinac Island for butterflies is the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory. The greenhouse and surrounding area are home to butterflies, moths, finches, a scarlet macaw, a chameleon, a turtle, and goats. This is one of the most fun things to do in Mackinac Island for kids.
Stroll the Historic Downtown
The beautiful, historic downtown is one of the biggest draws to Mackinac Island. Admire the old buildings as you shop and dine. There are also museums to check out.
The downtown shopping district is one of the best places to spend your money on the island. There are art galleries, jewelry shops, specialty stores, and places to find the perfect souvenir.
After the last ferry of the day leaves, you can enjoy the nightlife of the island downtown. Many of the restaurants and pubs have live music.
Absorb Culture at Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum
Art lovers will want to check out the Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum. This museum houses an awesome collection of art and photography related to Mackinac Island.
As you peruse the art, you will be able to learn about the region. You will find Native American art, maps of the Great Lakes from the 17th and 18th centuries, and art from the Victorian era.
The hand-tinted photographs from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century are a great way to look into the past and see what Mackinac Island was like back in the day.
Enjoy a Kayak Tour
Rent a kayak and get out on the water to see Mackinac Island from a different perspective. Great Turtle Kayak Tours offers many guided tours of the island.
There are different routes of varying lengths so there is something for all skill levels. There are options for single and tandem kayaks as well as standup paddleboards.
The sunrise and sunset tours are great for beginners and offer amazing views in a two-hour session. If you want more of a challenge, then reserve a spot on the tour that goes all around the island. This journey takes close to six hours to complete.
One of the most popular tours combines paddling and snorkeling. This is a great way to see the coast from above and below the water. You will snorkel in the water under Arch Rock, a great place for underwater photography.
Admire Sainte Anne’s Catholic Church
The current Sainte Anne’s Church dates back to 1874 and is one of the oldest churches in Michigan. It is a beautiful, white, Victorian building that stands tall over the town.
You can come to a service or one of the summer concerts. Admire the elegant architecture and photograph this charming church.
In the basement of the church, you will find the “Images of Faith” museum with displays and artifacts that cover the island’s religious history.
Eat All of the Fudge
Mackinac Island is known for its delectable fudge and even claims to be the fudge capital of the world. There are over a dozen fudge shops on the island and it’s your job to decide which is the best at their craft!
Foodies come from all over to try the yummy fudge hand-crafted here. During the tourist high season, over 10,000 pounds of fudge is made across all the shops.
One of the oldest fudge shops is Murdick’s Fudge, which dates back to 1887. Today, they use old-fashioned fudge-making techniques to create over a dozen different flavors.
Discover Round Island Lighthouse
If you love a good lighthouse, make sure to take a look at the Round Island Lighthouse. This attraction is not on Mackinac Island but on a small outcropping on the nearby Round Island.
When you take the ferry to Mackinac Island, you will have a great view of the lighthouse. If you want a closer look at the lighthouse, Great Turtle Kayak Tours offers a kayak tour to the island. It is a challenging route across the Straits of Mackinac for experienced paddlers.
Built in 1895, this cute, white, and red lighthouse has been preserved though it is no longer in use. It is the only building on the island, which is part of Hiawatha National Forest.
Learn the Island’s History at Stuart House City Museum
The Robert Stuart House was built in 1817 and was used by the American Fur Company. The historic building went through many uses before becoming a museum.
A trip through the museum will help you learn all about the island’s long and interesting history. There are many old photographs, models of historic buildings, and artifacts from the fur trade. There is also information about Cubbie, the famous black bear that lived on the island in the 1940s.
The Stuart House City Museum is found downtown nestled among many other historic buildings. It is right next door to Mackinac Island City Hall.
Rent a Bike and Explore the Island
One of the best things to do in Mackinac Island is rent a bike to explore the island. This is one of the most popular Mackinac Island activities for tourists since the bikes allow you to easily journey far and wide.
You can bring your own bike on the ferry or rent one for a few dollars per hour. There are different bikes available, including tandem and mountain bikes. Since there are no cars on the island, riding bikes is easy and safe with the many extensive trails.
If you want to circle the island, the route is just over two miles. It will provide amazing views of the lake and bring you to Mackinac Island beaches, caves, and woods.
Tour the Grand Hotel
Whether you stay there or not, taking a tour of the Grand Hotel is a fun thing to do on Mackinac Island. This amazing hotel opened in 1887 and is still a top retreat for tourists.
The hotel is gorgeous inside and out. Explore the grounds, visit the horses at the stables, or play a game on the golf course. You can eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner in the dining room. Watch the sunset from a rocking chair on the world’s largest porch.
Non-guests have to pay a $10 fee to enter the hotel and grounds. This is a great activity for your Mackinac Island vacation.
Play a Round of Golf
There are three great golf courses on Mackinac Island perfect for a relaxing game or a little competition. Your choices are the Wawashkamo Golf Club, the Jewel Golf Course at the Grand Hotel, or the Greens Of Mackinac at Mission Point Resort.
Each course is beautifully manicured with great views. Even if you are not an avid golfer, you will appreciate these pretty and historic greens.
There are golfing opportunities for all ages and skill levels.
See the Devil’s Kitchen
Devil’s Kitchen might sound like a strange name for a cave, but it links to a legend that claims the area was used by cannibal spirits. The cave is where they lit their cooking fires. Despite the scary myth, this is a cool rock formation to explore on Mackinac Island.
This small cave was formed about 350 million years ago with the help of the lake’s waves. This is a great example of erosion and the power of nature. Though the cave is very shallow, it is still an interesting rock formation to check out.
The cave is found on the south coast of the island on Lake Shore Drive. It is right on the road and easy to find overlooking the lake.
Visit During the Lilac Festival
The Mackinac Island Lilac Festival has been happening for over 70 years. This annual flower celebration takes place in early June for ten days.
The bright, purple lilacs bloom like crazy all over the island and create a magical atmosphere paired with the Victorian houses. Some of the trees are 40 feet tall and over 100 years old! Walk around and take in the sights as you breathe the fragrant air.
During the festival, there are a variety of fun events and activities. You can enjoy walking tours, kite flying, a parade, sunset cruises, and much more. You can even plant some lilacs yourself!
Check Out Somewhere in Time Filming Locations
The 1980 romantic classic Somewhere in Time was filmed on Mackinac Island. The movie stars Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. If you are a fan of the movie, you will have fun visiting some of the filming locations around the island.
The main filming location was the Grand Hotel. You can also visit the Somewhere in Time Tree and the Somewhere In Time Gazebo. The cast and crew stayed at the Mission Island Resort where some scenes were filmed as well.
Each year, people come to Mackinac Island in October for the annual Somewhere in Time Weekend. This is one of the best things to do at Mackinac Island in the fall. There is even a special package available at the Grand Hotel for guests who want to become immersed in the movie.
People dress in period costumes, enjoy a high tea, have discussions about the movie, and watch a special screening. Some cast and crew even come, including Jane Seymore in 2019.
End the Day at Sunset Rock
If you are looking for a beautiful and romantic place on Mackinac Island to watch the sunset, then you should head to the aptly named Sunset Rock. Found on the western side of the island, this area is known as the best sunset vantage point on Mackinac Island.
To get to the rock, start at the historic Stonecliffe Inn. Walk across the back lawn and follow the trail to the stone stairs that lead to the top of Sunset Rock.
At the top, you will find a stone overlook with great views of the Straits of Mackinac and the Mackinac Bridge. Make sure to arrive with plenty of time to fully enjoy the sunset. This is also a popular place for marriage proposals!
Packing List When Exploring Things To Do In Mackinac Island
If you are searching, here are some tips on how to pack lightly when packing for your Mackinac Island vacation.
A concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring along when visiting Mackinac Island. It is always important to protect your personal information. Identity thieves are everywhere.
This unisex RFID blocking concealed travel pouch is lightweight and comes in several colors. It has lots of organization to give you peace of mind. You can place it under your hiking clothes next to your body to carry your ID safely.
If you have a pouch already that does not come with the RFID protection, as I do, these RFID sleeves are the perfect solution.
If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an external charging battery. This Anker high-speed phone charging battery is the exact one I carry with me on all of my trips.
I like that it holds its charging capabilities for several uses so I do not have to worry about it while out and about, and if I forget to recharge it at night, it will still be good to go the next day.
My daughter gifted me with this FugeTek selfie stick and tripod setup for my birthday. I absolutely love it! It is made of lightweight aluminum and is so easy to use.
It has Bluetooth connectivity and is a breeze to use for taking Insta-worthy selfies while discovering Michigan hiking trails.
I never much believed in using packing cubes when traveling. That is until I tried them. Now I am hooked. These are the exact cubes I use to stay organized when I pack for a trip!
You will want to bring your own refillable water bottle with you.
I never leave home on a trip without my Bobble filtration bottle. The 18.5-ounce size is perfect for your adventures and it fits nicely in the pocket of a backpack.
Perhaps you are traveling a long distance and packing space is a premium in your suitcase, or in your car. Then this set of collapsible silicone foldable water bottles would work well for you. Would not take up much space at all.
You will want a backpack or daypack with you to store snacks, your water bottle, phone, extra clothes, etc.. during long hours of visiting the cities in the Midwest. No matter the time of day or evening.
This foldable water-resistant backpack would be great. And it comes in many different colors.
There are so many cool things to do in Mackinac Island, MI. It is the perfect Midwest weekend getaway for couples and families alike. Take the ferry back in time to this island full of Victorian homes and not a car in sight.
If you wanted to know what to do on Mackinac Island, now you can plan the perfect itinerary!