My Mom and I go on a week long trip over her birthday every year. This year we were all set to go to Atlanta, GA but as it got closer and COVID-19 was getting worse we didn’t think that was the best idea. We still wanted to go somewhere to celebrate but we needed somewhere we could drive to that had lots of outdoor activities, so we ended up changing our trip to Mackinac Island, MI five days before we were supposed to leave.
If you haven’t heard of Mackinac Island, the best way to describe it would be a perfect summer getaway spot littered with beautiful bed and breakfasts and colorful flowers surrounded by transparent blue water. There are no cars allowed on the island (only walking, biking, and carriages) but you really don’t need one, everything is easily walk able and there are lots of bike rental places to choose from. The only way to get there is by ferry, Shepler’s is a reliable choice that also dropped off a little closer to our hotel.
My Mom and I went for a week, but a long weekend is the ideal time for a trip here. It’s cute and quaint, has activities, but often not enough to keep people busy for seven days. The island has no shortage of beautiful B&B’s and boutique hotels which I highly recommend staying in. We stayed at the Hotel Iroquois, which was stunning and the people were incredibly friendly. Not only that, the waterfront and downtown location is ideal. It’s right next to the hustle and bustle of everything and also next to a park with a rock beach. Also, throughout the week I walked by many open rooms being cleaned and I don’t think there’s a bad room in the whole place. If you are able definitely go for a water view room, but if you aren’t able to don’t worry, no matter what room you end up in they’re all great.
The other place I looked into staying was the Bayview Bed & Breakfast. Although they weren’t able to accommodate us because they had water damage, they were incredibly sweet when I corresponded with them via phone and over Facebook messenger. The Bayview is also on the water but is a short walk from the downtown hustle and bustle, so if you’d prefer that this seems like a good place to stay that also has caring staff.
Throughout our vacation we ate lots of delicious food. I’m going to highlight the not to miss places we would make a point of going to when we visit again. The Pink Pony has a great menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you want to eat there, particularly outside, be sure to get there right when the food service you’re looking for starts, since they don’t take reservations and it can get busy. My Mom and I went there for breakfast and dinner and it was one of our favorites. Another favorite of ours was Mary’s Bistro Draught House for lunch and/or dinner. If you go, you need to get the homemade chips, they are terribly addicting but incredibly delicious. Among all the mouth watering food on the island there was one meal my Mom and I had to repeat, which was lunch at The Gate House, which is a Grand Hotel Restaurant, but it’s down the hill from the hotel itself. We shared the fish and chips and beef nachos which hit the spot. Plus, there was never a wait to eat there.
If you’re looking for a less casual dinner, The Carriage House or 1852 Grill Room are great picks. The Carriage House is a beautiful restaurant inside the Hotel Iroquois where we stayed, and 1852 Grill Room is connected to the Island House Hotel. Both places have piano music in their dining room often and nice water views. I recommend getting a reservation so you don’t have to wait when you get there.
Mackinac is largely outdoors, it’s rare to even eat in a restaurant that doesn’t offer outdoor seating (which is a plus during COVID-19). Because the weather was so beautiful we took advantage of many of the outdoor activities. If your family is active and enjoys nature, be sure to spend a morning biking. The bike trail along the water is very calming, and some people take a few hours and bike the whole island. There is also a kayak tour company on the island called Great Turtle Kayak Tours with a variety of tour options to pick from.
During the week, we stopped at The Grand Hotel. It is somewhat of an icon on the island. It costs $10/per person to roam the hotel if you aren’t staying there. If you do stay at or visit the hotel, keep in mind their enforced dress code, which gets particularly strict at about 6-6:30 pm. They also have a sign about this upon entry. My family thought it seemed pretty old-fashioned, but I assume that’s what they were going for. If you’ve never been inside and really want to see it, then definitely pay the money to walk around. If not, my family usually only visits for the ice cream parlor, The Gate House Restaurant, and the secret garden none of which require payment to enter.
If you haven’t been to the secret garden I recommend you search it out. When walking up the hill to The Grand Hotel you should see a gravel walking path on your left. Take that until you see a small opening in some trees and veer off there. Don’t worry, it’s not actually very hard to find.
Downtown Mackinac Island has a large array of clothes, knick knack, and sweet shops that didn’t take us long to visit. Luckily for us when we visited masks in the state of Michigan had just become mandated when inside a public building so everyone in the stores wore a mask and was asked to sanitize their hands upon entry and exit, same rules were enforced for restaurants. If you like cute souvenirs and comfy clothes, you don’t want to skip shopping downtown, My Mom and I brought home lots of souvenirs, and not just the kind on the bottom of your shoe from all the horses.
We went on two tours during our week on the Island, a Sip N’ Sail sunset bridge cruise and a carriage tour. The Sip N’ Sail boat has plenty of tour options. We took a sunset cruise with live music which we really enjoyed, and we were able to get some beautiful photos of the Mackinac Island Bridge and the music played were classics that almost everyone knows and loves. The Carriage Tour was also nice if you want to hear some history and facts about the island, the tour also stops at Arch Rock, which is another thing you don’t want to miss.
If you have a little one, a great island attraction is the Mackinac Island Butterfly House. At the Butterfly House you get to see all kinds of beautiful butterflies up close in one spot. After you see the butterflies there are also a number of insects and reptiles in the next room. It’s a short but fun family activity.
If you’re planning to go to the island soon (we went July 11th-18th, 2020) there will be restrictions on distance and requirements about wearing your mask and sanitizing. Tours will be at a lower capacity than usual so also be sure to book those a day or so in advance if you want a spot. My Mom and I were very happy to see those safeguards put in place when we went especially because the number of tourists there was more than expected. We ended up laying low over the weekend and doing more during the weekdays.
Wondering why I didn’t mention the iconic Mackinac Island Fudge? That’s because I wrote a whole post about it! Read it by clicking here.