Nine Insider Tips for a Great Trip to Mackinac Island
I have been travelling to Mackinac Island for about forty years now. When I was a child, I visited the Island with my parents and sister and stayed in a Bed and Breakfast Inn right on the Lake near the Mackinac Island State Harbor. I remember watching the sailboats from the front porch of the Inn and being amazed by the vast lake views. I loved waking up to the smell of fudge and hearing the unforgettable clip clop of horses. Now, forty years later, I visit with my own family every year and stay at The Grand Hotel. Through the years, I have tried many activities on the island and I am sharing my eight favorite tips in this blog post.
The Pontiac Trail
After the multi-course dinners at The Grand Hotel, we often change into comfortable clothes and set out on our evening walk. Just a short hike up the bluff is the turnstile leading to the Pontiac Trail. It is a little overgrown and we have seen some snakes but it is worth it. The view is amazing and it is the best way to add some steps to your evening.
The Woods Restaurant
The Woods is an historic Tudor mansion styled as a gingerbread house in the woods. The restaurant is accessible only by horse drawn carriage. When we stay at the Grand Hotel, we like to include one evening at the Woods Restaurant. The food has a German influence and the ambiance is cozy and unique. My kids love the duck pin bowling. Be sure and grab an apple for your horse on the way out.
Tea at the Grand Hotel
If you are a tea person, you won’t want to miss Tea at the Grand Hotel. Tea is served daily between 3:30 and 5:00 pm in the lobby. While you sip champagne and nosh on tea and sweets, a harpist plays in the background. We usually take tea on the Fourth July during our trip. Since our vacation package includes dinner at the Fort that evening, we like to have a relaxing snack at 3:30 that day and then walk to the Fort for the evening festivities, cookout and picnic.
The Lilac Tree Spa
The Lilac Tree Spa is tucked away underneath the Lilac Tree Hotel downtown. Because I love spas and wellness, I have tried many of the services and my recommendation is the Chippewa Special. This package gives you the one hour massage and the one hour facial. When I need a little me time, I sneak away to the serenity of the Lilac Three Spa.
Lunch at The Hotel Iroquois
After shopping in town, you will want a retreat from the crowds and fudgies. Make a reservation to dine on the veranda for lunch at The Hotel Iroquois. The hotel has remarkable waterfront views and a sophisticated menu. I like the Shrimp and Asparagus Salad.
Fourth of July at Fort Mackinac
A little known secret is that you can dine on the grounds at Fort Mackinac in the evening after the Fort closes to the public. The Grand Hotel Fourth of July Package includes a cookout and picnic at the Fort on the Fourth of July. It’s annual tradition for us to celebrate our country’s Independence with sweeping views of the Straits and a glass of wine. When the kids were younger, they would visit all the historic buildings and listen to stories by the costumed interpreters. But now we just enjoy the family time together.
The Greens of Mackinac
I admit, my kids get a little competitive with their cousins on The Greens of Mackinac. Located at Mission Point Resort, this 18-hole putting green is big on fun and boasts some amazing water views. The best part of Mackinac Island is being outdoors and playing miniature golf is a great way to enjoy the fresh lake air and be active. I have lost track who is ahead in the family golf challenge but we sure have had some good laughs here. If you need a drink on the 19th hole, don’t worry, there is bar nearby.
A short walk up the hill from Grand Hotel on Carriage Road, Surrey Hills boats several attractions. As someone who has worked in the auto industry, I am fascinated by both the Surrey Hills Carriage Museum
and the Grand Hotel Carriage House. Reading about the history of the carriages and the people who owned them takes me back in time and also makes me think about the early pioneers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Of course, I also like to walk through the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory.
Ugly Ann Boat Cruise
Booking a trip on the Ugly Ann is the best way to see the Island from the water while learning about the history and taking in some fantastic views. We took the sunset cruise and really enjoyed it but they also offer a History Cruise. Reservations are required and can be made by visiting the Ugly Ann Website.
People often ask me what we do for five days on Mackinac Island every year, but we never are bored. I hope you share some of your favorite activities in the comments section.