Where is Mackinac Island State Park?
It’s true that there’s no place in the world quite like Mackinac Island. You can’t compare it to anything else because the park is totally original and unique. The only way to get to Mackinac Island is by taking a ferry from the northernmost city in Michigan’s mainland, Mackinaw City. Mackinac Island is only a quick boat ride north, and it sits on Lake Huron, just off the eastern coast of Michigan’s upper peninsula.
How Big is Mackinac Island State Park?
Mackinac Island is about 8 miles in circumference and has a total area of 4 square miles. It’s a small, quaint island, but don’t let that fool you. Visitors can easily spend an entire summer on Mackinac Island State Park thanks to the amount of activities and natural landscape that’s available for endless exploration.
Mackinac Island State Park Weather
Michigan is pretty famous for having some of the most beautiful summers around; the state may have some brutal winters, but their ideal mid-70s summers totally make up for it. Mackinac Island is no different; some summer nights may dip below 50, due to its northern location and gusty winds from Lake Huron, but on a clear day, Mackinac Island can see some pretty warm days, ranging from the mid 80s to the high 90s.
When Did Mackinac Island Become a State Park?
Mackinac Island is Michigan’s very first state park and the second national park to be established in the United States. Established in 1895, Mackinac Island State Park takes up 80 percent of the island’s space, providing visitors with most of the natural landscape and outdoor activities. Thanks to the Park Service, Mackinac Island State Park has been maintained well all these decades, and the natural resources like waterfalls, trails, forests, and rock formations are just as beautiful as they were in the late 1800s.
Things to Do in Mackinac Island State Park
After learning about all the things that visitors can do in Mackinac Island State Park, you’ll see why staying for an entire summer is totally reasonable.
Outside the Park
Perhaps the most exciting part of Mackinac Island is the downtown area, located just outside the park’s boundaries. From the world-famous Mackinac Island Grand Hotel to cobblestone streets, and the quaint downtown area filled with shops, restaurants, and bars, spending a few days outside of the park’s boundaries is a great option.
From spectacular rock formations, waterfalls, and rare botanical trails, nature lovers will find their paradise in Mackinac Island State Park. In fact, the entirety of Mackinac Island can be considered a natural wonder; the lake around it combined with evidence of Ice Age glaciers dates the island as far back as 10,000 years!
Historical Monuments and Trails
Being the first state park ever established in Michigan and only the second one ever in the United States, you can expect to find plenty of historically significant spots all around Mackinac Island. For example, Fort Mackinac was a heavily trafficked military fort by both the British and American militaries throughout the 1800s. The fort, as well as cannons and bunkers from the early 19th century, are still fully intact today.
Mackinac Island was also populated by Native American tribes that established themselves around the Great Lakes. Visitors can learn all about these early settlers on the Native American Cultural History Trail.
When your brain needs a break from learning, you can transition to Mackinac Island’s nature trails. Heavily forested trails, botanical paths, and hiking roads weave throughout Mackinac Island’s most remote locations, so visitors have plenty of opportunities to get away from the hustle and bustle of the downtown area.
When to Go to Mackinac Island State Park
You’ll definitely want to avoid a trip to Mackinac Island during the winter months. Snow and ice combined with the frigid Great Lakes wind won’t make for a very nice trip. Try to plan your trip to Mackinac during the spring and summer months to ensure sunny days and cool breezes!
Must-Have Things to Bring to Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island has an array of activities and environments, so before you leave, you’ll want to make sure you pack a few essentials that will make your trip even better.
You won’t find a single automobile on Mackinac Island, so you can leave your car at home! Other than that, if you’re an avid bicyclist, you’ll want to bring your bikes because that’s the preferred mode of transportation on the island, aside from walking. There are just about 3,000 bikes on the island at all times, so don’t forget your bike lock so someone doesn’t accidentally take yours!
You’ll also want to bring some extra cash; there are a few ATM’s on the island, but if you want to avoid those annoying ATM fees, your best bet is planning ahead.
Lastly, make sure you leave extra room in your suitcase because you’ll be leaving Mackinac Island with a lot of memorabilia and fudge. It’s an unspoken rule on Mackinac Island: if you didn’t bring back home some of their famous fudge, you didn’t really go.
While a lot of your activity options on Mackinac Island revolve around the outdoors, some of your restaurant options are pretty classy, so be sure to pack a couple of nice outfits. To give you a good example, The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island is a five-star resort and the restaurant is only accessible to guests with reservations. Of course, you’re more than welcome to try the smaller, family-owned eateries around the island when you need a break from hiking, but try to plan at least one or two nice dinners to enjoy while watching the sunset over Lake Huron.
Where to Stay in Mackinac Island State Park
Camping is prohibited within the state park. Luckily, Mackinac Island has eight lovely hotels to choose from:
- The Inn at Stonecliffe
- The Grand Hotel
- Bicycle Street Inn
- Lake View Hotel
- Pine Cottage
- Island House Hotel
- Harbour View Inn
- Mission Point Resort
Also, Mackinaw City has countless hotels if you’re up for a nice ferry ride to the island everyday!
Food Nearby Mackinac Island
There are two grocery stores on Mackinac Island for all your food needs, as well as several restaurants ranging in style and cuisine.
Airports Near Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island State Park has one airport, although the most preferred way of getting to the island is by ferry. The airport’s small size only allows it to service small propeller plans and private jets. If you’re not arriving by air, several private ferry companies in Mackinaw City provide hourly transportation to the island.