Mackinac Island is often called Michigan's crown jewel and for good reason. The island has been named the friendliest island, hottest U.S. travel destination, and the most romantic getaway. When you step foot on the island's shores, you'll get the sense that you're stepping back in time. You'll quickly notice some of the unique differences from other island getaways including the fact that cars are replaced by bikes and horse and carriages. Charming and historic hotels and bed and breakfasts take the place of towering resorts and life seems to move just a bit slower.
While Mackinac Island is a quick ferry ride from the mainland and a great day trip destination, the best way to truly see all that the island has to offer is by planning an overnight getaway. There is plenty of relaxation and adventure to be had and a long weekend is the perfect amount of time to experience it all. Find out how we spent four beautiful days on Mackinac Island as I break down our full itinerary below.
Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Mission Point Resort. The itinerary was created by me based on personal research and all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Getting to the Island
Mackinac Island can only be accessed by a short ferry ride across the Straits of Mackinac. Boats depart daily from both Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. If you're leaving from Mackinaw City, plan to arrive a few hours before your scheduled departure to wander around through the shops in Mackinaw Crossings and grab lunch at one of the city's restaurants. There are a few different ferry companies for passengers to choose from, but we love riding on Shepler's Ferry. If you're staying overnight, drive directly up to the Shepler's docks to unload your luggage which is tagged accordingly. If you're staying at Mission Point Resort and Hotel like we were they will transport your luggage directly to your hotel room making your arrival on the island that much smoother. Once you've dropped off your luggage, you'll drive your car to the overnight lot a few blocks away ($5/night) and ride the shuttle bus back. If you're buying round trip ferry tickets, you'll have to hang on to your tickets for the way back so be sure to put them somewhere safe.
Ferries typically depart every half hour during the peak months but be sure to check the schedule online ahead of time. Tickets can be purchased online or at the ticket window on the dock. The ferry ride takes around 15 minutes, unless you decide to ride on one of the Mighty Mac departures which take 25 minutes and travel under the bridge on the way to the island at no extra charge.
Where to Stay
We had the pleasure of staying at Mission Point Resort and Hotel - a lakeside retreat on 18 acres of the island's sunrise coast. The resort is home to five unique restaurants, the island's only full-service health and wellness retreat, a marketplace, and two distinct lodging areas, all
within walking distance to downtown. Once we got off the ferry downtown, it was only a 15 minute walk to the resort to check in. Since we didn't have to worry about our luggage we could take our time enjoying the historic homes and gorgeous gardens along the way. If you're not in the mood to walk, you can also arrange for a horse and carriage taxi to the hotel for $5.50/per person.
Our guest room was located in the Main Lodge which was perfectly situated near all resort activities, restaurants and shops and is also in the same building as the main lobby with it's log beam construction overhead and cozy fireplaces throughout. The Straights Lodge is a short walk from the Main Lodge and features both family suites and dog-friendly rooms. For the 2019 season, all guest rooms and suites in the Main and Straits Lodges have been recently renovated. The service from every person we encountered throughout the weekend was incredible and they were able to answer any questions we had, recommend activities, and help arrange for our horse and carriage taxi.
The resort was recently voted a Proven Winner's Signature Garden and you'll have no trouble realizing why. The grounds of Mission Point are seriously impeccable and we dedicated the first couple hours of our stay to simply wandering around getting acquainted with the facility and admiring the various gardens. If you're interested in learning more about the grounds or the resort's gardening process you can join a complimentary Garden Tour which are scheduled Saturdays at 10:30 am and Wednesdays at 5:30 pm.
We arrived in Mackinaw City around 11:00 a.m. and stopped at Shepler's Ferry to drop off our luggage and our car in the overnight parking lot. The parking shuttle took us back to the dock where we picked up our ferry tickets and then headed into town to do some shopping and grab lunch before our boat left. Once we boarded the ferry we set sail for the shores of the island. If the weather allows, be sure to get the full ferry experience by sitting on the upper deck. Another tip, if it's your first time seeing the Mackinac Bridge, be sure to sit on the left side of the boat for the best views on your way there. Once we landed on the island we made our way to Mission Point Resort to check in to our room. We spent some time exploring the resort's grounds and rented a bocce ball set to play on the manicured lawn area. Mission Point also offers guests complimentary access to corn hole, croquet, tennis equipment and kites.
We didn't have to travel far for dinner our first night and decided to try out one of Mission Point's four on-site restaurants. Round Island Bar & Grill is a family-friendly culinary hub serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. With both indoor and outdoor seating options, you can sip on a signature drink from their cocktail garden while overlooking the Lake Huron shoreline. For dinner that night I had the scallops with a coconut-curry sauce and asparagus tips on a bed of edamame and cilantro-lime rice and my husband chose the pasta that was on special for the Run Mackinac eight mile race happening the following morning. We also split the Michigan cheesecake with a side of berry sorbet. It was a great introduction to the island's culinary scene.
After dinner we walked back downtown for a sunset cruise with Sip n Sail Cruises. Even during the summer months, evenings on the island can be cooler and windy so be sure to pack a light jacket. Once downtown, we climbed aboard the Isle Royale Queen III and set sail through the Straits of Mackinac. The boat offers a number of seating areas and we decided to head to the upper deck to get the full experience. It was a bit chillier than night and I was so grateful for the complimentary blankets that were provided. During the cruise you'll enjoy live music, sunset views, and your favorite beverages with a full service bar on board. Unfortunately, the night of our cruise was cloudy so we didn't get to see much of a sunset but we still got to sail under the Mackinac Bridge and experience stunning and up close views of the architectural masterpiece. This was such a beautiful night on the water and the live music on the way back made for a great first night on the island.
Our second day on the island started before the sun rose for an unforgettable experience on the water. Mission Point partners with Great Turtle Kayak Tours to provide a number of different tour options by kayak or paddle board. We booked the sunrise tour which begins in the harbor downtown and paddles back toward Mission Point along the shoreline. We paused on the way to watch the sun peak over the horizon and then paddled a bit farther to see Arch Rock from a different (and less crowded) perspective. On our way back we took in the crystal clear turquoise waters and paddled over the large rock shelves left behind from glaciers thousands of years ago.
Our kayak tour ended around 8:15 a.m. and we walked back to Mission Point for a well deserved breakfast at Round Island Bar and Grill. The restaurant serves up a delicious breakfast buffet each morning offering both hot and cold options and a create your own omelette bar. After our stomachs were full we headed back to our room to relax a bit before our next adventure. If you happen to be visiting in the peak summer months be sure to take advantage of the downtime relaxing at the outdoor heated pool located in the center of the resort grounds.
Boxwood Coffeeshop and Cafe is the perfect grab-and-go stop before heading to your next adventure on Mackinac island and that afternoon we decided to stop and grab a boxed lunch to enjoy on the picturesque Mission Point lawn while sitting in one of the resort's 81 white Adirondack chairs.
Our next adventure of the day was on two wheels. Mission Point offers single speed, multi-speed, and tandem bike rentals by the hour or by the day. Rentals are on a first come-first served basis and can be picked up across from Lakeside Spa & Salon. After picking out your bike at Mission Point, head left to start your 8.2 mile ride around the island's perimeter. This road is paved and mostly flat so it's a great way to get accumulated with the island. Depending on your pace, expect to take around two hours for the ride if you plan at stopping along the way. If you ride counter clockwise around the island you'll end up passing through downtown which is the perfect place to park your bike and do some shopping at the many boutiques lining both sides of the road or grab a Moomer's homemade ice cream cone from Good Day Cafe.
After burning a few calories on our half day bike ride we came back to the resort ready for dinner. Bistro on the Greens offers stunning views on their outdoor patio (open weather permitting) along with delicious summer pub-themed dishes. The restaurant overlooks the Greens of Mackinac, Mission Point's picturesque 18-hole putting course which is a great after-dinner activity. Be sure to grab a cocktail and take it out on the course with you. I had to try the signature lavender hibiscus lemonade which was almost too pretty to drink and my husband started the night with a New Day IPA which is brewed specially for Mission Point. We started our meal with an appetizer of fried calamari followed by the chicken salad and fried perch sandwiches.
My husband and I love to golf (him more than me) so any time we travel somewhere new, we try to incorporate the sport into our itinerary at some point. Since I was dying to experience the Grand Hotel grounds and my husband wanted to golf we started our morning with a taxi ride from Mission Point to The Jewel golf course. Because of our early morning start we grabbed a quick breakfast to go from the Boxwood Coffee Shop and were able to enjoy it on our 15 minute horse and carriage ride. You'll start your round at the Grand nine which is located across the street from the hotel and features views of the front porch and Mackinaw Bridge in the backdrop. You'll then take a 15-minute horse and carriage ride a mile and half to the Woods nine located in the interior of the island offering views not many visitors get to experience. Each course offers stunning views at every hole and it was such a fun way to start the morning.
After Nate's round we were ready for lunch so we walked down Grand Hill to the Gatehouse which serves up traditional bar fare in a casual atmosphere. You can sip a cocktail on their outdoor patio with views of the hotel from afar while dining on salads, sandwiches, and my personal favorite, the Gate House nachos. Next door is Sushi Grand offering the island's only fresh, made to order sushi bar. If you simply can't make up your mind, the Sushi Grand menu is also available to order from while dining in the bar at the Gate House. There is also no grounds admission required to eat at either restaurant.
After lunch we headed back up toward the Grand Hotel to spend the afternoon on their majestic grounds. There is a $10 admission fee to gain access, but totally worth it in my opinion. Sit in a rocking chair on the world's largest front porch, sip a Big Porch Ale brewed specially for the hotel by Bells Brewery, or play a game of croquet on the main lawn. You'll also want to leave time to simply wander around the grounds and admire all the gardens (especially the secret garden which can be found in the wooded area down the path from the pool house). You can also enjoy an ice cream cone at Sadi's Ice Cream Parlor and do some shopping throughout the hotels' numerous boutiques.
To end our afternoon downtown we walked over to Fort Mackinac to tour the historic landmark. Established in 1780 during the American Revolution, the fort now boasts the oldest public building in Michigan along with 13 other historical structures each hosting their own unique exhibit. Costumed interpreters located throughout the grounds lead walking tours and perform rifle and cannon firing demonstrations throughout the the day. Visit each of the exhibits for a unique look into military life, medical care, and life within the fort. Climb up into the West Blockhouse for a bird's eye view of downtown or grab a snack on the patio of the Tea Room, operated by the Grand Hotel.
We spent around an hour at the Fort before walking back to the hotel to relax for a bit before our dinner reservations at Chianti that evening. Chianti features traditional, house-made Italian dishes served up each night for dinner from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. in a fine dining atmosphere. All of their pastas and sauces are made in house and many of the herbs and spices used in their dishes are sourced from the ground's gardens. Begin the evening with a cocktail in the Library then enjoy a romantic meal paired with a glass of your favorite Mission Point wine on the lake-view porch with live piano entertainment playing in the background. I ordered the fettuccine a la carbonara with pancetta and am still dreaming about it to to this day. After dinner we walked back out to the main lawn to play a few rounds of croquet and simply enjoy some time together walking by the water.
Our weekend was filled with so much activity and a lot of walking so our last morning on the island was all about relaxation. Mission Point is home to the island's only full service health and wellness retreat. After eating breakfast at Round Island Bar and Grill we walked over to the Lakeside Spa & Salon which offers a wide range of services with multiple spa treatment rooms including a couples treatment room, saunas and steam rooms, and spa shop. My husband and I experienced a full body couples massage and it was the perfect way to recharge before heading back home. Experience the best of the island with two of the spa's signature treatments - the Lilac Facial and Body Treatment features an express facial, massage with lilac essential oil and a hydrating foot mask. The Great Lakes hot stone massage uses hot basalt stones from the Great Lakes to gently melt away stress.
Before we headed over to the spa we dropped our luggage off with the bell stand and they took care of getting it back to the ferry so it would be waiting for us when we arrived back on the mainland. Feeling refreshed and relaxed, we walked back toward downtown one last time to do some last minute shopping, pick up a few slices of the famous Mackinac Island fudge to take home with us, and grab lunch before hopping on the ferry.
We couldn't leave without dining at the iconic Pink Pony located within the Chippewa Hotel. This is one of the most popular bars on the island with a great nightlife scene and prime location on the water. Unfortunately they don't take reservations, so to avoid an extremely long wait I suggest going on an off day right when they open for lunch at 11:30 a.m. We only had to wait about 10 minutes and were rewarded with a seat on their upper deck overlooking the insta-worthy pink umbrellas. We decided to split the pretzel sticks and shrimp tempura tacos which came recommended by our server and they certainly didn't disappoint. Complete your meal with a signature Pink Pony Punch. They are also known for their whitefish dip and burger. Pony up!
I love creating detailed travel guides to ensure you get the most out of your time. On this blog I'll be sharing some of my past trips in hopes that it helps you plan your next adventure. Pack your suitcase you never know where I'll be heading next!
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