Mackinac Island Travel Guide
Since I focused mostly on the Grand Hotel in my post last week, I wanted to also highlight the beauty of Mackinac Island, Michigan and give a little more travel related advice.
The best time to visit Mackinac Island is from Memorial Day weekend to about mid-September. While the Grand Hotel stays open until the end of October, it looks like the temperature drops significantly in October. There are no cars on Mackinac Island so you get around by walking, biking, or horse and carriage so pack comfortable walking shoes.
The weather can also be very chilly in the morning and evenings so definitely pack layers. It rained the day we left so I was happy that I packed my J.Crew anorak with a hood. If you plan to workout, bike, or walk early or late in the day, you might want to take a sweatshirt or thin quilted jacket. We were lucky that the three full days of our trip were absolutely beautiful with bright blue skies. I saw a lot of people with sunburns so also pack sunscreen.
If you stay at the Grand Hotel, you will have to dress for dinner which means dresses, skirts, or dressy pants for women and a jacket and tie for men. Ladies will probably want to pack a wrap or dressy coat if you plan to be out late. The rest of the island is pretty casual.
As I mentioned in my other post, we took a large Delta jet from LaGuardia airport two hours to Detroit and then a commuter jet one hour to Pelston, Michigan. From there, we took the Mackinac Shuttle a half hour to Mackinac City to get the ferry. The Mackinac Shuttle will tag your bags and have them loaded onto the ferry. We took Shepler’s Ferry 15 minutes to the ferry dock on Mackinac Island where we had made arrangements for a horse and carriage from the Grand Hotel to pick us up. There is another ferry terminal at St. Ignace. Your luggage will be picked up by a separate horse and cart and delivered directly to your room at the Grand Hotel if you make arrangements with Mackinac Shuttle. If you stay at one of the other hotels in town, I assume you can make arrangements directly with them or hire a horse and carriage taxi to take you and your luggage to your hotel.
If you drive to one of the ferries, you can make arrangements for parking. There is also an airport on the island but it’s only big enough for smaller planes. If you plan to fly in on a private jet, you would have to fly to Pelston airport, park your jet there and take a smaller plane to Mackinac Island or drive or take the shuttle to the ferry dock.
I always assume that any island will be flat like Nantucket. Mackinac Island is not flat. There is a flat stretch near the harbor and on the perimeter of the island which is eight miles around. It’s great for biking and takes about an hour and a half to complete the loop. There is a snack bar halfway around the island but you might want to take water with you just in case.
The middle of the island is very hilly. We took a long walk down from the Grand Hotel to Main Street and then up a very steep hill to check out houses that overlook the harbor and see the Carriage Museum. You can also book a tour of the nearby Governor’s Summer Residence. If you are not able to climb hills, you could go on a carriage tour to see the island and spend time in the rocking chairs on the porch of the Grand Hotel enjoying the view.
Mackinac Island is referred to as “fudge island” due to the number of fudge shops. I’m glad it was fudge and not taffy which I hate. I bought some chocolate, walnut, cherry fudge from Joann’s Fudge that was delicious so definitely buy some for yourself and gifts. Main Street is the touristy part of town but Market Street was much quieter and had nicer shops.
As I mentioned in my other post, Fort Mackinac is a great place for kids and there is a cafe with a great view of the harbor. There is also The Jewel 18-hole golf course on the island where you take a horse and carriage ride 15 minutes to get to the back nine.
Mackinac Island is honestly one of the most beautiful and special places I’ve visited in a long time. It’s definitely worth the effort it can take to get there to experience it for yourself.
All photos by Heather Clawson for Habitually Chic