After Jose, Cope, and I visited Mackinac Island a week ago or so, we asked on Instagram what are some questions people have about visiting the island. Because we truly-truly believe everyone can find the wonderful relaxing magic the island has to offer. We compiled and answer a list of the most frequent questions that were asked. I hope this post helps those wanting to visit the island & helps you see why we love the island so much as well…
Best time of year to visit?
For us, it is the fall. This past month was the first time we visited the island in peak season. Before this we visited the island late spring and early fall. I will say out of all the times we visited, spring was not our favorite. The water surrounding the island is just coming off of being frozen, so typically the weather is a lot cooler, and with a good portion of the tree not fully back from the winter, the wind gusts are a lot more. Given that all travel is required to be outdoors, it makes it tough to navigate the entire island.
We typically visit in the last few days of September to early October. For Jose and I, this is perfect. There are only a few weeks left in the “season” of Mackinac Island. This is wonderful because the tourist volume is tapering off and for shopping you start seeing discounts pop-up around the whole island. The weather is cooler in the morning but typically warms up by mid day. Also, on those cool days, we enjoyed taking advantage of the weather and bike on these days…
While most attractions and shops are open as normal, you do start seeing some seasonal hours, so if you go during this time make sure you take a look at all the hours for things you may be interested in.
When is the weather the best?
This is all personal preference. For those of you that love the warm weather, and beach sitting… Summer is your jam. The spring is really popular because it’s not too hot and they are famous for their lilac festival on the island so that is a great time to visit. For me, the fall has the best weather. I love the idea of a thick sweater and cozy cup of coffee. We did notice that the fall does have some late night showers pop up, but have had great weather on each of our four day visits over the years. When we visited the island in July, a lot of the locals mentioned how fast the weather can change, with storms riding along the lakes. But they mentioned that storms typically don’t last and according to the average weather from NOAA all in season is about 5-7 days of rain throughout the month.
Places to eat? (Gluten Free)
Oh the food! If you don’t know –Jose and I love food! I really have to take a moment to thank all those restaurants that have began providing GF options on their menu. Three years ago, there were very-very limited GF options outside of food that naturally is gluten free, I call it your meat and potatoes meals (sans appetizer buns). Every year we go back, I feel like the GF movement is infiltrating more restaurants, and the new restaurants are opening their doors with GF symbols all over their menu. Here are a list of our mostly visited restaurants.
A locally owned coffeehouse on Market Street. This cute little coffeehouse has full menu of Coffee, Espresso, and Smoothie drinks… A great stop to get the morning going or a pickup me up mid day.
This restaurant usually captures a lot of the breakfast crowd and rightfully so. They have a great hearty breakfast menu but currently don’t have gluten free bread options to substitute in. The menu does have a lot of egg based basics so you can create a sound breakfast without the need for bread.
This is a brand new restaurant and it is the perfect stop mid day. If you are starting your biking trip and want to pickup a sandwich to have mid adventure, or are coming back from arch rock and want to snag a bite before you get back to the city… Watercolor cafe is the spot! It has a little deli vibe with only handful of options on their menu and of course GF bread. The restaurant sits right off a private dock and they do watercolor classes at night so the environment is very art-filled! Also, with this being newer not a lot of people know about it as of yet, so we found we could walk right in and snag a seat with a great view, but I bet this won’t last.
Another restaurant under The Grand Hotel umbrella. This is just a fun restaurant. It is a hike to get to, but it is nested up off the main road in the woods (go figure). It has an old fashioned single lane bowling alley that is unique and fun to play on. We have only had lunch here, but have GF options to substitute on their dishes.
Not necessarily apart of the GF movement yet, but this is a good old fashion meat and potatoes type of restaurant. This is one of our favorite restaurants for late night dinners, it has a casual vibe with hearty home cook type of food on the menu!
One of a few restaurants under The Grand Hotel umbrella. This restaurant is a great option for lunch or dinner if you like a good burger or sports bar like menu. They have GF options for their burgers and sandwiches and a fun drink menu. It sits just at the base of the hill leading up to The Grand Hotel, but doesn’t fall into The Grand Hotel evening dress requirement. We enjoy having a little too much to eat here, and then take a stroll through The Grand Hotel nature trails to walk it off… Also, there is a secret garden there!
Where do you leave your car?
So this is truly an island. You have to take a ferry to get from the mainland to Mackinac Island or fly in if you have the means. There are two areas they have commercial ferries, St. Ignace and Mackinac City. St. Ignace is on the north side of the Mackinac bridge and the one we usually take, ports out of Mackinac City. The Ferry company we always use is Schepler’s. They provide parking near the dock as well as off-lot parking and a shuttle to the dock. The ferry usually takes about 25 minutes, dependent on weather and water. I am one that easily gets motion sickness, but all the boats they provide provide topside seating and hull seating. Unless the weather is super bad we always sit on top, and I have yet to feel motion sick during the trips.
After going for years we have become good friends with some of the shop owners, and cannot attest how wonderful they all are. Our favorite shops are on the main strip and cannot tell how much we love Poppins and Little Luxuries. The both have sister stores like CaddyWampus, Canvas and Paddle, and Artist Market, all very fun to visit.
We have never flown in because its about a 3 1/2 hour drive, but a quick search it looks like Pellston Regional Airport.
Stay at a hotel or bed and breakfast?
This is completely a personal preference. Needless to say, you cannot go wrong with where you stay here on the island. We have met so many different people who frequent the island all with different, “must-stay” hotels and Inns. Our frequent stays, are The Muray Inn, The Lilac Tree, and the newly built Mackinac House. The Mackinac House admittedly was our first ever “B&B” situation and I was a little nervous, but it was very much a hybrid between a hotel and B&B. There was so much privacy yet there was always someone there to meet all of our needs & wants.
Would you recommend for families?
Yes absolutely. There are so many fun family activities. From a simple bike around the island, hikes around the center of the island. You can bring your little ones through Fort Mackinac, filled with history and role playing actors and a beautiful view of the port. The Grand Hotel grounds have a cool natural walk and a secret garden. Also, up a ways from the main street, is a butterfly sanctuary and carriage museum.
Would you recommend for honeymoon?
Yes-Yes! One of the more adult based attractions of the island is all the pubs/bars and live music along the Main Street of the island. With no personal vehicles on the island, people take advantage of not worrying about a designated driver. Personally we find the island really romantic with all of the privacy and being cut off from the main land. Here are a few ideas of things to do on the island…
- private carriage tours around the island
- rent bikes to take around the island
- rent kayaks
- wine & sunset tours
- paint classes at the watercolor cafe
- historic tours
- ghost tours
- so much more…
How many days would you suggest staying there?
If you are very active and don’t want any relaxing room breaks… two full days on the island would go far. For us, we usually spend 4 days on the island because we want to do all the things, but we want to rest in between all the things.
What activities do you recommend?
I think you need to bike around the island while you are there. I also recommend paying the little extra for the private carriage tour. The tour has a much smaller volume of people on the carriage and the tour guide locals or residents of the island. You learn a lot more of the not unknown and can ask fun questions they would only know.
Can you go year round?
There are seasonal times all the shops are open to tourist… but yes you can get to the island all year around and a very small select hotels and inns are open during certain times during the winter season. Jose and I are planning a December trip this year
Is there a swimming beach on the island?
There are few areas you can swim… we have never taken a dip, as the water or weather has been a little too cool for us, but there are many places you can hop in the water for a swim around the island.
Is that where the movie Somewhere In Time was filmed?
Yes! There are a few areas on the island that reference the film and their place in the movie. Also, we just found this out, there is a dedicated channel to that only plays that movie.
I hope this post helps you in so many ways whether you dream of visiting the island, know the island well & just love seeing another perspective, or if you are busy planning a trip to the island… thank you guys as always for stopping by the blog today & every single day to see what we are up to! xx