Why a Vacation on Mackinac Island Should be on Your Bucket List

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I absolutely LOVE traveling and discovering the beauty our world has to offer. The beaches of Ensenada, mountains of Yosemite, and the urban diversity of New York City each offer rich and vibrant experiences that are so amazing to soak up. One destination that never fails to fill my bucket is a Vacation on Mackinac Island, Michigan. 

Mackinac Island Harbor

Every summer of his childhood, my husband Jorden, would travel from his Grand Rapids’ home to vacation on Mackinac Island with his family. I heard stories about biking around the island to all of their PPS (Prime Perching Spots), square dancing on the deck of St. Ann’s Church, playing in Brown’s Brook, and sunset bike rides.

My husband would tell me about the magic of the island, but it took seeing it in person to fully GET IT. Mackinac truly is a magical place, stepping back Somewhere in Time. I have been to the island 6 times now and each time brings familiar activities and new adventures.

What is Mackinac Island?

Mackinac Island is a small island, 3.8 square miles, located in the Straits of Mackinac in Lake Huron, Michigan. It has a small highway, the M185, that runs around the edge of the island and through the downtown area. It is approximately 8 miles long; however, unlike most highways, cars are NOT allowed. (Fun Fact: the M185 was the only highway without a car accident until 2005, when the island’s ambulance and police cruiser had a crash.)

In lieu of cars, tourists and residents alike get around using horses, carriages, and bicycles. This is a major part of the island’s unique appeal. 

Why Vacation on Mackinac Island?

Mackinac Island offers such diverse vacation options. Your vacation on Mackinac Island can have more of an all-inclusive resort style vacation by staying at the Victorian-built Grand Hotel. You can enjoy the island’s nightlife by staying in one of the downtown hotels. Or by staying at one of the many bed & breakfasts, you can have a more traditional island experience.

Vacation home on Mackinac Island

For those who live nearby or are a bit more budget conscious, you can stay in Mackinaw City and take a day trip to the island. The island is great if you are looking for a couples getaway, family vacation, girls weekend, or just to unplug and unwind. 

St. Ann's Church Mackinac Island beautiful stained glass

I would likely never have known about the island if I had not married a Michigander. I took my first trip to the island a month after we got married. We did day trips, taking bikes with us across the ferry and riding around the island to enjoy the nature sights.

I quickly fell in love with the pace of the island, the calm of doing a tour loop around, and sitting on the back porch of the library reading a book looking out over the Great Lakes.

View of the Great Lakes from Mackinac Island

Each time that I’ve been back has been different. Three years later, I was 10 weeks pregnant, trying to manage morning sickness while keeping up with a large group of in-laws. Two years after that, I was able to enjoy watching my 17-month-old son, Oliver, joyfully take his first ferry ride, run around the island, and continue the island tradition with the next generation of Nashes.

This year, we braved the island as a new family of four, with our now 3 year old, Oliver, and a 3 month old infant, Cameron. I’ve had to adjust what activities I do; changing some, foregoing on others, and adding in new. 

Vacationing on Mackinac Island with Kids

How to Get to Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island is located in between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. You can travel from Mackinaw City on the lower peninsula or St. Ignace in the upper peninsula.

If you’re traveling from out of state, there are a variety of airports to travel into: Flint, Petosky, Lansing, Traverse City, with Grand Rapids and Detroit being the largest. Always keep in mind: the smaller the airport, the higher the cost. From there you need to arrange for transportation to Mackinaw City. We have usually have driven up from Grand Rapids airport or Muskegon.

Once at Mackinaw City, there are two companies, Star Line and Sheplers, that have ferries to take you to the island. I have always used Star Line and had great experiences. We unloaded our items (boppy, bags… it takes a lot to travel with an infant).l. A great bonus to taking the Star Line ferry is watching your 3 year-old get excited watching the hydro-jets!

family vacation to Mackinac Island

What to Pack for Mackinac Island

Just like airports and Disneyland, things are more expensive on the island. Pack what you need, toiletries, snacks, and such. You can buy what you need or forget on the island, but it will cost more. There is a grocery store, restaurants a plenty, and your choice of fudge shops.  Stay tuned for a post all about dining on Mackinac Island. 

It’s also important to pack smart. I know that I am going to be doing bike riding and might want a change of clothes midday. Also, Michigan evenings get cool, so pants and a sweatshirt are a must.

From experience, I’ve learned I am going to want sunscreen for the daytime and bug spray for dusk. I’m used to my husband, Jorden, hauling everything in a cargo trailer to our B&B,  so I try to pack compact. This trip, we had a porter bring our luggage to and from Pine Cottage. 

Biking on Mackinac Island

If bike riding is your thing, you will be in good company. The most cost effective way to bike around the island is to bring your own bike across with you on the ferry. Star Line ferry charges $12 per bike in addition to the ferry ticket and Shepler’s charges $11. If you live too far away, there are many places to rent a bike on the island. Some offer rentals by the hour, ½ day, all day, or 24 hours. The average cost looks to be around $65 for a full day and $80 for 24 hours.

If you do choose to get around on a bike, consider getting a basket (often complementary), backpack, or using the back of a burley to carry your water bottle and such around during the day. There are a variety of bike rental options: cruisers, mountain bikes, Bria easy overs, tandem, adult tricycles, kid bikes, Burleys, and Tagalongs. 

Biking on Mackinac Island

How to Get Around the Island without a Bike

One of my girlfriends wants to plan a momcation to the island for a Somewhere in Time weekend. This would be such a blast to experience the island with such amazing friends. However, there is one hiccup: one person doesn’t ride a bike*. After thinking about it, I realized that this is still totally manageable. There are many hotels that are within walking distance of downtown and other attractions. Other ways to see the island are horse drawn taxis, carriage tours around the interior, and horseback riding. (*Note: mobility scooters can also be rented for those with disabilities.)

Whichever way you choose to do it, Mackinac Island is an amazing place for your next trip. Due to the level of conservation done on the island, it really can be a step back in time. You might just find yourself recharged with some amazing memories to take home.

Why a Vacation on Mackinac Island Should be on Your Bucket List
About Amy @ Oh So Savvy Mom

Amy is mom to three, wife to one, and a sister and aunt to many. Her family is a former military family now settled in Lehi, Utah. Oh So Savvy Mom began as a way for Amy to share parenting and product advice with others. Just as she has evolved, Oh So Savvy Mom has evolved into a resource for Healthy Living for Families, Food, Parenting, and Family Travel.