Over the last few years, many friends have recommended vacationing to Mackinac Island. We decided this was the summer to explore Northern Michigan. Our destination for the long 4th of July holiday weekend was Mackinaw City which, would be our home base for a weekend of fun.
Since we prefer to camp during the summer months, it is convenient to set up in one central location and explore the area for a few days. The Mackinaw City/ Mackinaw Island KOA was our campground choice. This KOA was clean and followed all recommended Covid-19 precautions so we felt safe staying there with our family.
Mike & I were looking to have an active family vacation with lots of hiking, biking, and sightseeing. This itinerary is full of activity, so each night we dropped into bed exhausted. The satisfying kind of exhausted; we explored each area and saw everything we wanted.
Day 1: Travel & Explore Mackinaw City
Our family was so ready to head out on our first summer vacation. The girls were vying for a 5 am start but we decided to get on the road at 7 am. After loading the camper and bikes, we were ready for our 7-hour road trip to Mackinaw City.
When we arrived at our campground, we set up our camper and decided to explore the quaint downtown. There is an excellent bike path just down the road from the campsite. It is 1.5 miles on the bike path to town. Since we traveled on a holiday weekend, it was convenient to bike into town and not deal with parking.
We walked around the shoreline of Lake Huron. Colonial Michilimackinac and the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse are in the Fort Michilimackinac State Park. This is a beautiful area to view the Mackinac Bridge.
The downtown area is built up with lots of touristy shops, restaurants, and of course, fudge shops. We had to indulge in some fudge in Mackinaw City so we could compare it to the island’s fudge. Marshall’s Fudge caught our eye since their recipe has been the same since 1923. The girls chose mint chocolate and peanut butter chocolate fudge to taste. They were both delicious, but the mint chocolate was the family’s favorite. Now it was official; we were “fudgies.” The locals call the tourists “fudgies” since they consume so much fudge during their time in the Mackinaw area.
These few hours in the area, made us so excited to explore Mackinac Island the next day. We enjoyed roasting marshmallows over our campfire that night and went to bed on the early side since we had a full day 2.
Day 2: Mackinac Island
After eating a hearty breakfast, I packed a backpack with water, snacks, and sunscreen. Our KOA arranged a shuttle pickup with Shepler’s Ferry for us and our bikes. It was advantageous to take the shuttle since they dropped us off right at the dock and we didn’t have to deal with parking.
We purchased our tickets online the night before and they just scanned the QR Code right off my phone. The tickets are not for a particular time, and the day we were traveling, they had a 7:30 am, 8:30 am, and then every half hour departure after that. We caught the 9 am departure to Mackinac Island with very little wait time.
Each of us was able to manage our bikes. As we were loading the ferry, the crew would take the bikes and load them for us. This was a seamless process and very helpful. When we disembarked, the crew had all the bikes on the dock for us so it was just as easy on arrival.
We were on a Mighty Mac Departure which gave us an up-close look at Mackinac Bridge. The captain drove under the bridge and gave us a bit of history and bridge facts before heading to Mackinac Island. This ride took about 20 minutes and was well worth it.
Biking Mackinac Island
The ferries dock right in the middle of the main street. We walked our bikes off the pier and jumped on. Our goal was to bike the perimeter of the island, but we found out on the ferry ride that a portion of the trail was closed due to flooding.
The girls loved that they did not have to watch out for cars while they biked in the right lane on the road. On the Mackinac Island horses, other bikes, and pedestrians are the only obstacles on the road. No cars are allowed on the island.
We started in a clockwise direction and followed the older two girls’ lead. There are beautiful landforms on the path so it was a leisurely ride as we looked for points of interest on the shoreline for pictures. Devil’s Kitchen was our first stop and then we continued on to the British Landing.
At British Landing, the M-185 Road was closed, so we took the British Landing Road up to Fort Holmes. This portion of the bike ride was a bit of a climb but we all managed without having to walk the bikes. At times, going around large horse-drawn carriages was a bit tedious but we didn’t have any problems. We stopped at a lookout over Sugarloaf Rock for a snack break.
Before lunch we coasted down to the Arch Rock area. This was by far the busiest stop on our ride. Many people rent bikes by the hour on the island and this is a quick, beautiful place to view rock formations. Personally, the crowds were a bit much but it is a must see area. We decided not to stand in line for the perfect picture but grabbed a shot and headed for downtown to eat lunch.
This street was hopping! Weaving through horses, bicyclists, and pedestrians required attention and patience as we found a place to park our bikes. We grabbed the first table we could get for lunch. The Pink Pony was recommended to us but we were on the edge of hangry so we went for a no-wait establishment.
Heidi’s favorite part of our day was exploring Market Street. There was one charming shop after the next. Heidi found a cute magnet to remember the trip and Elyse bought a visor. Every block seemed to have a fudge shop. We were really impressed when we saw that Murdick’s Fudge shop opened in 1887. Their chocolate mint got our vote.
This street was so packed that it was challenging to window shop. We decided it would be relaxing to eat our fudge out on the shoreline away from all the hustle and bustle. We all dipped our feet in the water, which was refreshing. At about 4 pm, we headed for the ferry back to Mackinaw City.
Dreaming of a Couples getaway
As we wrapped up our day, Mike and I dreamed about what we would do on a relaxing getaway:
- Fort Mackinac
- The Jewel Golf Course
- Grand Hotel
- Hike Mackinac Island
- Lakeside Spa
- Private Horse-Drawn Carriage Tour
Mackinac Island would be a perfect destination to celebrate an anniversary or have a romantic vacation. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the island without biking the entire day.
Day 3: Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Just a quick 90-minute drive away is the gorgeous Tahquamenon Falls State Park located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Read all of the details of our morning at Tahquamenon Falls.
A few months before our trip, I purchased tickets from Shepler’s for a 4th of July Fireworks Cruise. This was the perfect way to end our time in Mackinaw City. We boarded the ferry at 9:15 pm. There was food + drinks for purchase. We were able to bring our own snacks on board as well. The ferry toured us around the Straits of Mackinac where we saw stunning views of the sunset and Mackinac Bridge.
Just after 10:30 pm, the fireworks started. Watching the fireworks over the water, brought me back to my childhood. As a teenager growing up in Onalaska, Wisconsin, we would view fireworks from our boat on the Mississippi River each 4th of July. It was really enjoyable to experience this with Mike and the girls.
During these extraordinary times dealing with Covid-19, our family needed a get-a-way. Mackinac Island was the best place for us to reconnect, enjoy each other’s company, and stay active. We made a lot of family memories there and got a taste of all that the area has to offer.
On the way home, it was meaningful to hear all the girls’ favorite activities and dreams for our next visit.
What would you recommend in Mackinac Island for kids?
Simply Cultivate is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.