Step Back in Time at Mackinac Island Michigan

This summer we took a road trip around Lake Michigan. I never like driving the same way twice, so I'm a fan of loops! We were trying to get from Hoover's Presidential Library and Museum to Ford's Presidential Museum, and I thought going around the north side of the lake would be pretty fun. As I was looking for places to stop, I stumbled across Mackinac Island. Back in the day, this island was the center of the fur trade and the hot place to be. It's still quite the attraction, and it is definitely worth seeing.

Mackinac Island Travel

So there is only one way on and off the island: ferry...and you can't bring your car. So if you want to get around on the island, you either need a horse, a boat, or a bike. Actually since the late 1890s when cars were banned from the island, the only cars allowed are emergency vehicles. This keeps the island peaceful and quaint.

We took Shepler's Ferry to get to the island. From the island you get an excellent view of the Mackinac suspension bridge which connects the northern peninsula to mainland Michigan. There are a couple of ferry departures that take tourists under the bridge for no additional charge. We took an earlier departure so we could get to the island, but it would have been fun to see up close!

Carriage Tours

When we arrived on the island, we got in line for our carriage tour. It was a short wait and we were introduced to our tour guide and her horses. These horses are pretty amazing, and the people that take care of them really love them. The tour took us through the main shopping area, by the Grand Hotel, and over to Wings of Mackinac, a butterfly conservatory.

From there we switched over to a three horse carriage and rode through Mackinac State park to see Arch Rock. Since we arrived so early, the fog was still covering the water and the view from arch rock was very limited!

Later in the day we rode bikes back over to Arch Rock and climbed the 207 steps to see the view. It was totally worth it!

Mackinac Island Arch Rock

The water is so clear and beautiful. It is really hard to believe that Lake Huron can look so much like the Caribbean.

Historical Fort Mackinac

The next stop on the carriage tour is Historical Fort Mackinac. This Fort played an active part in the Revolutionary War when occupied by the British. Americans took control of the Fort in 1796. Even though it changed hands again during the War of 1812, it was returned to the US after the war. It remained an active fort until 1895 and became the center of the active fur trade and a popular summer retreat.

We ate lunch at the Fort which offered an incredible view of the harbor. This was probably our favorite location on the island!

There are so many historical features at the Fort. You can look at an old school house, bath house, and our favorite—the mercantile. If you make it to Mackinac Island, you have to check out the Fort!

Other Exciting Features at Mackinac Island

When you finish at the Fort, your carriage tour is pretty much over. You can take it back to the Grand Hotel, but we opted to just walk back down the road to the shopping. My husband was dying to try the bikes, so he rented one tandem bike and took the kids around while my mom and I chilled with the other kids at one of the many fudge shops on the main shopping street.

Renting a bike is really a great way to get around town! I even rode for a little while with my husband (when he took me back to Arch Rock and the 207 steps), and I did better than I thought. After our bike adventure, we strolled down the main street and enjoyed browsing the stores. There were some really fascinating shops.

We hopped back on the ferry in the afternoon and were completely satisfied with our day. It definitely is an incredible place to experience even if you don't stay on the island at the Grand Hotel!


  1. Elizabeth Hafferty on April 10, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    This sounds like a great trip. Any money saving tips?

    • Betsy on April 22, 2019 at 5:00 pm

      Just like any tourist attraction, everything on the island is going to be more expensive than off the island. Some ways to save money are (1) stay in a hotel off the island, (2) bring a picnic lunch, (3) bring refillable water bottles. The island is really beautiful, and some things like the carriage tour are totally worth the expense. We only rented one bike and took turns with it to save a little money. It was really beautiful! Hope you get to see it some day.

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