Recently, we decided to take the kids on a last minute trip to a place we’ve been to many times before. This place is super special to us. It has many elements that each one of us loves independently. There are horses, peddle bikes, beautiful views, and (mom’s favorite) FUDGE! Can you guess where this magical place is? We’re talking about Mackinac Island, a place which exists between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan and today we’re going to share with you what makes it so special as a “must experience” family getaway spot. Plus, we will share our ideas of how to make the most of the island when the kids are part of the fun.
Mackinac Island, MI: A Family Destination
One of the things I love about Mackinac Island is that it is very versatile. Because of the many downtown pubs and rolling picturesque landscape, the island makes a wonderful couples getaway location. However, at the same time, the restriction of motorized vehicles and vast learning opportunities also make it a great family-centered destination. It really is the best of both worlds!
This time, we decided to get away for a quick, end of summer trip as a family. Our plan was to stay for two days and one night on the island. And just to give you an idea of how this worked, two days was just enough time to experience everything we wanted. Although, I wouldn’t have turned away a few extra days had they been given to me!
2-Day Itinerary: What to Do on Mackinac Island with Kids
Mackinac Island has a vast variety of activities to explore depending on the personal interests of your family. This, however, is how we spent our weekend away with two kids ages 7 and 11.
– Arrive at Shepler’s Dock for transportation to the island.
There are a few options when it comes to getting over to the island, although, they pretty much all include getting on a ferry. We always choose Sheplers because they offer a tour of the Mackinac Bridge from the underbelly. It is an amazing sight and one that helps the kids (and adults) understand the pure magnitude of this structure.
If you’re hoping to get a tour of the bridge on the ride over to the island, be sure to check ahead on which ferries include this. Not all trips include this extra tour.
– Explore the island by bike.
One of our favorite things about Mackinac Island is that it is completely motor free! The main mode of transportation around the island is either bike, horseback, or horse-drawn carriage. For my kids who love to ride their bikes, this was a dream come true. So naturally, the first thing we did was jump on the “highway” to ride the 8.2 miles around the entire island.
How do I get my bike on the island? Either bring your own across on the ferry (extra charge) or rent one once on the island. Since we planned on using our bikes frequently for two days, we found that bringing our own was cheaper than renting four bikes by the hour. However, if the plan is to only spend one day, it may be cheaper to rent.
– Stop to enjoy the natural beauty.
While riding the island, there are many opportunities to stop and enjoy the natural beauty of the island. One of our favorite places to stop along our bike ride is at Arch Rock. Just be aware that after riding 2 miles to this point, you’ll find yourself standing at the bottom of 207 steps up (and back down) to the viewing area for the rock.
There are also a few other things to keep an eye out for around the island such as skull cave, a natural spring, and many other views of the lake, wildlife, and trees.
– Grab a bite to eat.
Once we made it around the island and back to the main strip, it was time for refueling. Since the island is motor free, we needed to refuel our own energy after biking the island (which takes about 2 hours – more for younger riders).
There are many options for food on the island. A few of our favorites are Seabiscuit’s, Goodfellow’s, and The Pink Pony.
– Relax in the park or tour the fort.
After grabbing a bite to eat (and as the repercussions of our bike ride started to set it), we decided to take it easy with a stroll around the harbor, park, and fort. These all offer beautiful views, options for learning, and a casual stroll.
– See the bridge after dark.
As the sun began to set, we headed down to the waterfront to watch the light begin to appear along the Mackinac Bridge.
– Enjoyed the downtown area before the ferries started to roll in with Starbucks and breakfast at one of the many downtown breakfast shops.
– Explored the shops and taste tested fresh fudge from the many fudge shops on the island. Which fudge shop is best is a HUGE debate but I will tell you that our favorite is Murdicks. 🙂
– Head back to Mackinaw City on the Ferry. Here you can find even more shopping and a not-to-miss opportunity to tour a retired icebreaker ship!
Need a few more options? A few other things the island offers are carriage rides, a butterfly house, spa services, golfing, kayaking, museums, and much, much more. Need personalized help planning your trip? Mackinac Island tourism is a great place to go for questions on what to do.
Make It a Weekend Trip: Where to Spend the Night
Usually, we opt for a hotel on the mainland in Mackinaw City. However, since this time we wanted to spend two days on the island, it made sense to stay directly on the island. There are many options for staying on the island and lodging comes in forms of hotels, resorts, bed & breakfasts, and condos.
After researching our options, we settled in at the Lake View Hotel. This downtown hotel was perfect for our family because they had an indoor pool and complimentary breakfast. They were also running a deal at the time of our stay which included our ferry passes! Always check around for deals on the tourism website and the hotel website before booking.
Have you ever spent the weekend on Mackinac Island? I know that we only skimmed the surface on what there is to do, what are your favorite things to do, eat, or experience on Mackinac Island? Tell us in the comments.