One of the most frustrating things about living in Chicago is feeling as though you don’t have many options for weekend trips. Coming from the East Coast and the South where there’s no shortage of weekend getaway spots, the Midwest can feel pretty confining. Enter Mackinac Island! This gem up in northern Michigan is the perfect place to escape the city and feel completely “vacation-ized”. Full of Revolutionary War era history, Victorian architecture, and nature trails, this quaint island has something for everyone! Keep reading to see some of my recommendations!
If you’re coming from a neighboring state, driving is probably your most economical option. To give you an idea, it is a 6-7 hour drive from Chicago, so plan accordingly. If you don’t want to make the full trip in one day, feel free to pick another little lake front town to stop off in on your way! You won’t be disappointed!
Cars aren’t allowed on Mackinac Island – part of what makes it so incredibly quaint and unique – so you’ll end up parking your car in Mackinaw City or St. Ignace and taking a ferry over to the island. I recommend purchasing your tickets ahead of time from Star Line Ferry to save a couple bucks.
If you decide to fly, you can check to see what deals you can find for Traverse City, but your cheapest options will most likely be to fly into Grand Rapids or Detroit (both about 4 hours away) and rent a car to get you the rest of the way.
Mackinac Island has tons options when it comes to lodging, with plenty of choices between hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, and AirBnb’s. I personally recommend finding a Bed & Breakfast close to “downtown” so you’re near most of the action. My favorite is Metivier Inn; they are sweet as pie there! 🙂 I find that the quaint, small-town feel of those B&B’s really encompasses the vibe of the island.
If you’ve got some extra money to spend, and would prefer a more luxurious experience, you could look into the Grand Hotel. Host to celebrities and political elite for years, this historic hotel will make you feel like royalty. Plus, let’s be real, their porch is to die for.
This is not a place to come in the middle of a diet. There’s a fudge shop about every 30 seconds apart on Main Street. And you can’t go to Mackinac without trying at least one of those fudge shops! I haven’t yet met one I don’t enjoy, so just take your pick!
If you’re sick of fudge by the end, you also can’t go wrong with the ice cream there 🙂
For a unique Bavarian dinner experience, be sure to book a reservation in advance at Woods. And FYI you’ll need to ask your hotel or B&B to book you a carriage to get over there, because it’s a long haul to walk there from the main part of town.
The good news is, you can burn off all that fudge with TONS of outdoor activities. If you’re physically able to, I highly recommend renting bikes and riding them around the entire perimeter of the island. The views are absolutely gorgeous and you’ll get a great tour of the island. If you have extra time, you can take the bikes inland a bit to explore some of the inner views. Definitely park your bikes for a few minutes when you get to Arch Rock. If you’re on the path that circles the island, you’ll need to hike up some stairs to get there, but it’s worth the trek!
Another fun activity is renting horses for a few hours. There’s a couple of options here: You can rent a chauffeured horse and buggy to give you a tour of the island, you can rent a horse and buggy to drive yourself around the island, you can rent a horse and ride horseback, or you can join a horseback tour of the island. For do it yourself buggies or horseback rides, check out Jack’s Livery. For a narrated carriage tour of the island, check out Mackinac Island Carriage Tours. Whichever you choose, I definitely recommend doing something with horses while you’re on the island! It’s such a unique part of the culture there!
If the weather is cooperative and you’re not too afraid of some chilly lake water, you can hop on a kayak or paddleboard! Check out these different routes and excursions through Great Turtle Kayak Tours.
Are you a fellow hiker? There’s tons of options for you! Plan your trek with this map from the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau. Tranquil Bluff trail is a good one, and you can access it after checking out Arch Rock – two birds!
And if you’re a history buff, be sure to check out Fort Mackinac.
That’s all I got for ya today! Go explore!
Questions? Feel free to reach out! I’d love to talk to you more about this beautiful island!
If you liked this post, be sure to check out some of my other travel posts!
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