1 Day Family Itinerary for Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island has always been a part of me. I grew up an hour away, visited historic Fort Mackinac on an eighth-grade class trip and even worked on Mackinac Island. So, when I learned my father-in-law had never been to Mackinac Island, I knew I needed to take my family there.

My parents-in-law drove from Mt. Pleasant to our Cheboygan, Mich. home the night before our visit. Early the next morning, my husband, three-year-old daughter (who only wanted to see the “horsies”), my parents-in-law and I packed into our truck to catch an early ferry boat across the Straits of Mackinac to Mackinac Island.

Plan your own trip to Mackinac Island

A boy points toward the Mackinac Bridge while riding a Mackinac Island ferry boat on a sunny day

Horse-Drawn Carriage Tour of Mackinac Island

Once we arrived, after we stared a while at the “horsies,” we walked to the Mackinac Island Carriage Tour ticket booth and got on a horse-drawn carriage. For the next hour and forty-five minutes, we enjoyed a carriage tour with my daughter’s constant jibber-jabbering and the carriage tour driver’s amusing Mackinac Island facts.

During the tour, we stopped at Mackinac Island’s Arch Rock, a beautiful limestone formation on the east shoreline, which offers a truly majestic view of Lake Huron. We also stopped at the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory, where my daughter chased butterflies while we chased her.

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A young girl stands by a white picket fence at Fort Mackinac overlooking Marquette Park and the Mackinac Island marina

Fort Mackinac Visit

Finally, the carriage tour stopped at our premier destination – Fort Mackinac – built 150 feet above the Straits of Mackinac during the American Revolution. We checked out the Kids’ Quarters in the Officers’ Stone Quarters (Michigan’s oldest public building), which was filled with uniforms just my daughter’s size, a giant, playable fife and a half-sized cannon with a pull-string for that original cannon blast sound.

While my husband and parents-in-law explored other buildings, my daughter and I danced on the parade ground to live fife music and marched like the soldiers. I can never really find the rhythm, but it didn’t matter right then. There’s something about Mackinac Island that lets a person relax and dance.

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Two people dine under a yellow umbrella at the Fort Mackinac Tea Room overlooking the gorgeous Mackinac Island waterfront

Lunch on Mackinac Island

Lunch at the Tea Room Restaurant within Fort Mackinac was a special treat. We watched Great Lakes freighters move slowly through the Straits while we leaned against the white picket fence, the scent of fresh water on the cool September breeze.

As the time for the last carriage departure of the day neared, I stood guard at the fort exit like the soldiers before me. My parents-in-law had decided to tour one last exhibit – “An Island Famous in These Regions” – in the Soldiers’ Barracks. As the carriage pulled up, I saw that only a couple seats were left open. I quickly called my mother-in-law while pleading for the carriage driver to wait just a couple minutes longer. He did. They finally came rushing out, both wishing for an entire day at the fort, and boarded the carriage. They got the last two seats.

Outdoor dining on Mackinac Island

A young woman samples fudge inside Joann's Fudge shop on Mackinac Island

Fudge Sampling on Mackinac Island

My husband, daughter and I walked back, but that was for the best. We held hands and took our final stroll down Fort Hill Road to meet my parents-in-law downtown. And, of course, to buy some world-famous Mackinac Island fudge.

How to get free fudge on Mackinac Island

(Originally written by Jolene Priest and published on June 3, 2017)


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