In 2016, my husband and I had a non-traditional wedding in the sense that we were first married in a small ceremony before moving halfway across the country. We followed up our little wedding with a large reception 8 months later.
After our big wedding reception, we decided to meander our way back home on a fun road trip through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. On the way, we stopped by Mackinac Island. If you haven't been, go! It's such a unique experience. The only way to get around on the island is either by foot, bike or horse. No cars are allowed, so plan to walk. A lot.
One neat thing about Lake Michigan is how clear and blue the water is. It almost has a Caribbean aqua/turquoise color to it. I wouldn't recommend swimming though, as the water temp was a frigid 57° while we were visiting.
If you're planning a trip or just genuinely curious about what the island has to offer, I hope you find this list helpful!
Hike To Arch Rock
Probably the most notable and photographed place on the island is Arch Rock. It's a bit of a hike to get to the rock, but so worth it. There are 207 stairs to the top, and it's about 2.2 miles from the city center to the Rock. So put your walking shoes on 😉. Our dog was even able to do it...although she was pretty tired by the end of the day.
Visit Fort Mackinac
Fort Mackinac was founded during the American Revolution and moved to Mackinac Island in 1780 by the British to defend themselves against the Americans. The British held onto the fort until 1796, when they finally gave the reigns over to the US.
There's a lot of history and things we learned while we there, like the significance it held during the War of 1812 (the British took it back, there was a lot of blood).
The fort has been restored to look like it did when it was last occupied, and many of the stones and canons are original. I personally enjoyed standing in the same place that so many stood and fought before us.
St. Anne's Catholic Church
I love churches, specifically old churches. There's something majestic about them, similar to castles. St. Anne's definitely has that kind of majesty about it when you see it. Built in the 1800's and renovated in 1990, the church has a museum and hosts many weddings every year. I can see why! It's simply stunning.
As I mentioned earlier, horses are also a means of transportation around the island. A horse-drawn carriage ride is on the top of everyone's bucket list when they visit Mackinac.
Stay, See or Have Afternoon Tea at the Grand Hotel
The Grand Hotel first opened its doors in 1887 as a summer retreat for vacationers who traveled to Michigan by train, and came to Mackinac Island via steamer and boat (per their website: http://www.grandhotel.com/). It's the world's largest summer hotel, and is a National Historic Landmark.
They boast an amazing dining room where dressing up for dinner is the event, their ice cream parlor will satisfy every sweet tooth, and their Grand Coffee is something to talk about. Stay here, eat here, or just see it! It's a hike to get there from the main town, but worth it whether you're staying here, or eating here.
Visit The Lighthouses
There are a few lighthouses in and around Mackinac Island - Round Island Lighthouse, Round Island Passage Light, and Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse. We didn't end up visiting any of them, but we did snap a picture of the Passage Light as we were hiking up to Arch Rock.
Most of them were built in the late 1800's, early 1900's and they all have an otherworldly charm about them.
Mackinac Island Mansions
Just walking down the main street you get the feeling that you've stepped back in time and at any moment, a woman with a parasol will walk out of her home. That's the kind of glamour that the Victorian style mansions on Mackinac Island possess, and you can feel it when you walk by them.
Many of the mansions and homes are original from the 1700 and 1800's. Quite a few of them have been restored to Bed & Breakfasts' so not only can you see the world of old, you can experience it overnight too.
Hike Mackinac Island State Park
The hike to Arch Rock is one of the easiest and prettiest hikes I think I've ever done. Maybe not including the stunning hikes I've done around Mount Rainier and the Rocky Mountains. But those weren't exactly easy, this one is! It is a bit of a climb, and there are stairs as I mentioned earlier, but the view is amazing and for a hike, it's really short.
That opinion might depend on what you're used to, but my parents used to take us to Washington State and we would end up on 7+ mile hikes uphill both ways (kidding!). Just uphill one way and sometimes both ways 😉.
I definitely recommend taking time to hike around the State Park. It can get crowded, so plan to be around others. But like I said, worth it for the views.
Mackinac Island is one of those destinations that you'll never forget, but it's not exactly easy to get to. It's a summer place, and not much is open or available during the winter. Plan to visit between Memorial weekend and Labor Day weekend, and expect the crowds.
We went over Labor Day weekend, so it was busier than we would have liked. If we end up there again, I would go mid-week in June or late August when the weather isn't too warm for the amount of walking we did. We probably walked 11+ miles our first day there, so put on those comfy shoes. You'll regret it if you don't (and no one likes to live with regrets...)
It might be an out of the way vacation spot, but don't let that detour you. It's an absolutely charming place with a lot to offer. Spend a weekend exploring or a day touring. Either way, you won't regret seeing the island!