The quaint Mackinac Island sits on Lake Huron off the Michigan coast. See what to explore in this ultimate guide to 2 days on Mackinac Island.
Certain places evoke strong memories. For me, it’s childhood visits to Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw). In the movie Somewhere in Time, a photo in the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island sent Christopher Reeves in pursuit of a woman from a previous era. Situated in Lake Huron, this small island is a showplace of Victorian-era architecture. The downtown area where ferries arrive from Mackinaw City and St. Ignace immediately immerses visitors (Fudgies) into another time.
During the high summer season, from Memorial Day until Labor Day, the main street pulsates with bicycles, pedestrians, and horse-drawn carriages. Motorized vehicles, except for emergency vehicles, are prohibited. While you might long for more than two days, this ultimate guide to 2 days on Mackinac Island will give you a taste of what to expect when you visit.
Mission Point Resort
After exiting Shepler’s Ferry, we walked to Mission Point Resort. Preferring quieter places, we knew that getting away from the hustle and bustle of the downtown area would make this a perfect base for us.
The tulip gardens welcomed us as we approached the lobby. Recently renovated, the lobby area retains original timbers that meet 51 feet above the floor level. Replicating a 16-sided teepee, it reminds guests that the Anishinaabek People lived here, calling this island The Great Turtle.
The adjoining library contains books, games, and puzzles. It’s where to discuss the day’s events or enjoy a drink with fellow guests.
Dining at Mission Point Resort
With just a few days on the island and at the far end of the main road, we found it quite convenient to dine at the restaurants at Mission Point Resort.
With views of the lake, Round House Kitchen serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The generous portions satisfy even the heartiest appetites. When the weather is fine, there’s nothing better than dining at Al Fresco Bistro on the Greens.
What a delectable experience it was to dine at Chianti. The prix fixe meals may be paired with wines, which I chose. The photo-forward dishes made us hesitate to plunge a fork into them.
The descriptions of the menu items required multiple readings. We deliberated for a while before making a final choice, as everything appealed to us! Lion’s mane mushrooms, fiddleheads, fresh walleye—so many tempting offerings. Ultimately, we were delighted with our choices and shared tastes of our selections.
We appreciated the farm-to-ferry philosophy of Mission Point Resort, where the menus are always seasonal.
History, Nature, and Activity on Mackinac Island
After heading up East Bluff, where the views required us to take photos, we eventually reached Fort Mackinac, which is part of the Michigan State Park system, as is 80% of the island.
Overlooking the Straits of Mackinac, this spot was a fur trading post where the first land engagement of the War of 1812 occurred.
With many restored buildings, Fort Mackinac rates a visit. Costumed soldiers share the story of the fort and offer demonstrations, including rifle and cannon firing. It’s worth spending a few hours here.
After leaving the fort, we saw a sign pointing to the “Somewhere in Time” gazebo. Hidden just off the Anne’s Tablet trail in the woods, the gazebo is often used for weddings.
Sunrise at Mackinac Island
Not being a morning person, I rarely catch a sunrise. Mission Point Resort has a schedule of activities, with some like this one, guide-led. We rolled out of bed, wondering if this short hike would be worth the trouble.
As many times as we have visited Mackinac Island, Robinson’s Folly viewpoint was new to us. Arriving there just before the sun rose, we felt grateful for a clear day and crisp air to enjoy this yellow ball rising over Lake Huron.
Sunset at Mackinac Island
The sun sets on the opposite side of the island, where a boardwalk follows the water’s edge.
In the distance, we saw the illuminated Mackinac Bridge connecting the Lower Peninsula to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
A Carriage Tour of Mackinac Island
We had walked a considerable distance on the first day and changed our method of transportation for the second day. After recovering from our early sunrise hike—or more like our lack of sleep—we enthusiastically climbed into a horse-drawn carriage for a relaxed tour of Mackinac Island.
Our knowledgeable driver pointed out the island’s high points and history. When it meshed with what we heard on our tour of Fort Mackinac, skeptical me decided that his facts and stories were to be trusted. We passed through the downtown area and then past the Grand Hotel.
This hotel claims the largest porch of any hotel in the world. Like Mission Point Resort, it was also used in filming Somewhere in Time.
Shortly after passing the Grand Hotel, we climbed higher into the island’s interior, a part not always discovered by tourists. Three cemeteries and a forest with trillium in bloom were just part of what we saw on the way to the iconic Arch Rock.
Along the way, we were stopped by several tourists asking for directions. Our carriage driver pointed out that tourists often forget to bring maps. It’s easy to find your way on the ring road on the island. The interior has many smaller roads and paths, so it is easy to lose your bearings.
Bicycling Adventures on Mackinac Island
The agenda for the afternoon included cycling around the rim road, a distance of just a bit over eight miles. There are thousands of bicycles for rent on the island. Mission Point Resort has its own bicycles, so we headed over to find a tandem bicycle. After ensuring that our tandem was in good condition and adjusting our seats, we walked back to the road and began our circumnavigation. Fortunately, the road was not too crowded because it was early in the season. However, the number of cyclists on the road who have no clue how to ride a bicycle or the rules of the road caused us some stress.
On our journey, we saw Arch Rock from below and watched passing freighters. Once we burned a few calories, we stopped at one of the picnic tables, grabbing the cookies we had picked up at the hotel. We could have grabbed all the trimmings for a full picnic from Boxwood Coffeeshop & Café at the resort, but our bicycles did not have a basket. At least we did have a small backpack for snacks and water.
The Final Stretch
With the water always in view for most of the ride, we eventually said goodbye to the lake and hello to the downtown commercial area. Recalling past experiences alerted us that this would be a stressful part of the ride. We watched out for people and poop. Pedestrians step into the road without looking for traffic, cyclists ride unpredictably, and horses leave their calling cards. The hazards lessened as we approached Mission Point Resort. We complimented ourselves on arriving unscathed.
We walked up past the multitude of tulips that surrounded the resort. Mission Point Resort makes sure that flowers bloom throughout the season. When the tulip season approaches its end, the bulbs are dug out and replaced with another plant. If you are there at the right time, you might find some bulbs available for the taking. I will plant some as a souvenir of our days on Mackinac Island Island.
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A Fond Farewell to Mackinac Island
Heading back to the Shepler’s Ferry terminal, we refrained from stopping at the many shops but did watch one of the fudge makers doing their job. Can we still be considered Fudgies the next time we return to Mackinac Island?
Although Mackinac Island is small, it offers plenty to do. Check out Mackinac Island Tourism or read 100 Things to Do on Mackinac Island Before You Die. Let Wander With Wonder be your guide for other historic towns or 2-Day destinations.