Mackinac Island: Bicycle capital of the world

The Netherlands is the so-called bicycle capital of the world, with upwards of 20 million bicycles for a population of 17 million. That’s more than one bike for every person. By comparison, there’s only one bike for every three people in the United States.

But there are some places in the USA, like Michigan’s Mackinac Island, where bikes are a bigger deal. In fact, on Mackinac Island there are more than 170 bikes for every year-round resident!

A line of bikes stands parked at Mission Point Resort on Michigan's Mackinac Island

Why there are so many bicycles on Mackinac Island

That’s right. Mackinac Island has a population of less than 500 and yet licenses 85,000 bicycles each year.

The vast majority of those bike licenses are for visitors who flock to Mackinac Island in droves from April through October. They rent bicycles from vendors or bring their own bicycles because cars are not allowed on Mackinac Island.

And even if cars were allowed, many people would ride bikes anyway because Mackinac Island has more than 70 miles of natural and paved trails. That’s the equivalent of more than 1,200 football fields placed end to end.

A man and a young girl ride bicycles down the street on Mackinac Island in front of historic Fort Mackinac

Where people ride bikes on Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island has so many bikes because it’s just an awesome place to go for a ride. More than 80% of the island is state park land that’s free for you to roam, with terrain ranging from flat to steep, 300-foot bluff climbs. Mackinac Island is small enough to pedal around at a leisurely pace in an hour and a half. Yet, it’s big enough that you can take several rides during your stay and explore something different every time.

On a single half-day adventure, you can ride by iconic Mackinac Island sites including the Grand Hotel, Michigan Governor’s Summer Residence, Skull Cave, Arch Rock, Sugar Loaf, the island’s old cemeteries, Fort Mackinac and more. Along the way you’ll come across many incredible vantage points for stunning photos of the island and the water around it.

Two guys riding bikes on the road around Mackinac Island look back to the camera and wave

How to get a bike on Mackinac Island

Since you can’t drive on the roads, almost everybody gets to Mackinac Island on a ferry boat. You can bring your own bike on the ferry for a small fee in addition to the regular ticket price. (You can get a discount on ferry tickets by buying them online through either Mackinac Island Ferry Company or Shepler’s.)

Even if you don’t bring your own bike, you can still pedal around Mackinac Island by renting any of nearly 1,500 commercially-licensed bicycles that are available. You can get a single-speed bike, a 10-speed bike or something in between, a mountain bike or a beach cruiser, a fat-tire bike or a tandem. There are bikes available for kids, too, as well as Burley carts, tagalongs and child carriers for little tykes.

There are several bike rental shops on Mackinac Island, and each one has its own rates and rules. You can even go on a bicycle tour of Mackinac Island that combines a bike rental with a guided ride around the perimeter of the island or through the middle of it.

Here’s what it costs to rent a bike on Mackinac Island.

A man stands with his bicycle in front of Sugar Loaf after riding through the wooded trails of Mackinac Island State Park

Mackinac Island bicycle riding tips

Whether you’re bringing your own bike or renting one on Mackinac Island, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Stay to the right when riding a bike on Mackinac Island – Just as if you were driving a car, you should pedal your bike on the right side of the road.


  • Watch for horses on Mackinac Island – Don’t worry about cars. But be prepared for busy downtown streets full of bikers, pedestrians and horses. Horses don’t stop quickly, so be cautious!


  • Park your bike in the right place on Mackinac Island – If you park your bike on the street, keep it within the white line. Otherwise, look for designated off-street parking areas. Burleys, tandems or bikes without kick stands must use off-street parking, and bikes should never be parked on a sidewalk or locked to a fixed object.

Rent a bike on Mackinac Island or bring your own?

How much does it cost to rent bikes on Mackinac Island?

Date night: Sneak away on Mackinac Island with a tandem bike

Why e-Bikes are not allowed on Mackinac Island


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