Oh, Mackinac Island. Is it wrong if I call you a step back in time? I’m sure many travel writers would cringe at that phrase, but seriously, where else do you see Clydesdales clopping down the street, not a car in sight?
Like many Michiganders, I have fond memories of visiting Mackinac Island as a child. It’s a special little island where you feel like you’ve time-traveled back to 1910. Somehow the island doesn’t feel kitsch, but rather nostalgic and chock-full of Americana.
And flags. So many flags.
I had a lovely time visiting with my family in August. While on most of visits we stay at least two or three days, on this visit we stayed just one. Which honestly, was plenty- the island’s tiny after all.
But I did want to share the five things I really, really hope you do while visiting Mackinac if you only have one day.
1. Ride in a horse taxi
I always love seeing the horse carriages jingle by on Main Street.
If you’re a serious horse lover, you can ride at several stables around the island. But for everyone else, I’d recommend hopping in a horse taxi at least once to get the full Mackinac experience.
2. Stay at (or visit) The Grand Hotel
The Grand Hotel is an enormous, historic hotel with the longest porch in America. You may remember it from Somewhere in Time, a mediocre 80’s movie I was forced to watch in my youth.
Like the rest of Mackinac Island, The Grand Hotel is a time warp. I stayed there several times as a kid and remember the dining room feeling like Titanic with a dizzying amount of silverware.
If you have time, I’d highly recommend staying at the Grand Hotel. It’s a unique experience unlike any other hotel I’ve stayed in.
If you just want to visit the hotel, it costs $10 to enter and has a dress code. But walking the grounds is free and provides beautiful views of the façade.
3. Try Mackinac Island fudge
I’m not sure if Mackinac Island fudge is well-known throughout the country, but I’ll tell you one thing- it’s beloved in Michigan. As far as I know, every ice cream shop in Michigan carries Mackinac Island fudge ice cream, which is my FAVORITE ice cream flavor in the world. (Sadly, I’ve never found it anywhere else.)
And there’s a reason everyone loves Mackinac Island fudge- it’s delicious. On Mackinac Island, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a fudge shop, but my favorite is Ryba’s. And my favorite flavors at Ryba’s are peanut butter and maple nut.
4. Rent a bike and ride around the whole island
If you’ve over-indulged on fudge (no judgment whatsoever), go for a bike ride around the island! The trail is pancake-flat- we’re in Michigan, remember- and water is shockingly blue.
The trail that circles the island is eight miles long and very easy for riders of any age. One thing to note- bike rentals on Mackinac are expensive, so try not to dawdle.
5. Hike up to Arch Rock
While you’re biking around the island, make sure to stop at Arch Rock! A natural limestone arch Native Americans believed to have divine power, it really highlights the absolutely beautiful Michigan water. (What can I say? I’m proud of my home state.)
The staircase to the arch is steep, but take breaks for photos if you need a breather.
When it was time to leave the island, I didn’t feel sad- more-so grateful to feel such fondness for a place. And grateful to be from Michigan- I really had forgotten how naturally beautiful my state is. Thanks, Mackinac, for reminding me.
If you’ve never been to Mackinac Island before, I’d recommend staying at least two nights. Definitely visit in summer; the population is 492 in the off-season so there’s not much to do!
Most people get to the island by taking the Star Line Hydro Jet Ferry. It costs $24 for adults and $13 for children (round-trip).
Airbnb is also available – This will give you a $40 Airbnb coupon code for your next stay.