How to tour Mackinac Island by kayak

You may have heard stories about people bicycling all the way around Mackinac Island. Maybe you’ve even done it yourself. It’s an inspiring experience to pedal 8.2 miles with one of the Great Lakes by your side, passing through town and by unique Mackinac Island landmarks such as Arch Rock and Devil’s Kitchen along the way.

Far fewer visitors circumnavigate Mackinac Island another way: by kayak. Yet, it’s just as inspiring as biking around!

One of the joys of biking around Mackinac Island is feeling the breeze on your face on a warm day as you cruise past the water. Now, imagine yourself being in the water!  Propelling your kayak forward one quiet paddle at a time. Dipping your hands in the cool, clear water. Seeing Mackinac Island from a fresh perspective!

Some of the best views on Mackinac Island are from the water. Take a look!

A Mackinac Island kayak tour to Arch Rock presents a unique perspective on the iconic rock formation high above Lake Huron.

Seeing Arch Rock on a kayak trip around Mackinac Island

Seeing Arch Rock from land, either during a stop on one of Mackinac Island’s horse-drawn carriage tours or on a hike up to the viewing platform, is a pretty cool experience. Seeing the ageless limestone arch from the water offers another amazing vantage point! Arch Rock is one of the many incredible photo ops on a kayak tour around Mackinac Island. Paddling all the way around Mackinac Island is an 8-mile voyage that takes four to six hours with a professional guide from Great Turtle Kayak Tours.

Mackinac Island’s historic Ste. Anne’s Church is one of many landmarks to see on a trip with Great Turtle Kayak Tours.

Paddling to Arch Rock and back on a Mackinac Island kayak tour

Great Turtle Kayak Tours also offers a shorter Arch Rock Excursion that takes you directly to the famous rock formation and back to the Mackinac Island harbor. The 3-mile trip takes about two hours and is great for beginners. It’s also a fun voyage in a shared 2-person tandem kayak or on a standup paddleboard. Along the way, you’ll pass by the parts of town east of the ferry docks including Mackinac Island’s historic Fort Mackinac, Mission Point Resort and historic Ste. Anne’s Church.

Snorkeling is one of the activities that Great Turtle Kayaks offers on Mackinac Island.

Snorkeling off Mackinac Island on a kayak tour to Arch Rock

You can even add a snorkeling component to your Mackinac Island Arch Rock kayak tour and explore the beautiful underwater caves of the Rock Maze just offshore.

A paddler takes a kayak on an early morning trip toward the sunrise off Mackinac Island

Sunrise and sunset kayak trips off Mackinac Island

If you go to Arch Rock on a Mackinac Island kayak trip in the early morning, you’ll be able to see a gorgeous sunrise to the east. At the end of the day, you can paddle the other direction on a Mackinac Island kayak trip at sunset and see the sun dip into the water behind the Mackinac Bridge! The westward route heads out of the Mackinac Island harbor past Windermere Point and Grand Hotel to Devil’s Kitchen, another of Mackinac Island’s famous rock formations. The 3- to 4-mile journey takes about two hours and offers sights of Mackinac Island’s West Bluff, the bridge and Round Island Lighthouse.

Round Island Lighthouse is a popular destination for paddlers on kayak tours around Mackinac Island.

Kayaking from Mackinac Island to Round Island

Speaking of Round Island Lighthouse, you can take a Great Turtle Kayak Tour trip across the Straits of Mackinac on a Round Island Retreat. The nearby uninhabited island features a picturesque lighthouse once featured in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue shoot on Mackinac Island. Round Island offers a peaceful escape for the day – or even the night. There’s no overnight camping allowed on Mackinac Island, but go ahead and pack a tent for a sleepover on Round Island! Great Turtle Kayak Tours on Mackinac Island also offers a Bois Blanc Getaway that takes you across the Straits of Mackinac to the secluded shores of Bois Blanc Island.

(While there are many kayaking opportunities around Mackinac Island, paddling to Mackinac Island from the mainland in Mackinaw City or St. Ignace is not recommended due to hazards posed by currents, waves and giant lake freighters. The same holds for crossing the Mackinac Island harbor to Round Island or Bois Blanc Island without a professional guide from Great Turtle Kayak Tours.)

The professional guides with Great Turtle Kayak Tours know how to keep guests safe while paddling around Mackinac Island.

Paddling on Mackinac Island with Great Turtle Kayak Tours

The professional guides at Great Turtle Kayak Tours have the expertise and experience to keep paddlers safe as they navigate the Mackinac Island harbor, which attracts not only ferry boats bringing visitors to the island but also a variety of commercial and recreational traffic. The guides also have a lot of knowledge about Mackinac Island landmarks and it’s great to hear their stories about the island’s legendary features.

The next time you visit Mackinac Island, get out on the water with Great Turtle Kayak Tours and celebrate your one-of-a-kind paddling achievement!

Mackinac Island kayak routes with Great Turtle Kayak Tours include a four- to six-hour trip around the entire island.


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