7 Hidden Gems on Mackinac Island

Finding a Michigander who can’t rattle off something about Mackinac Island is a difficult task. The highlights of USA Today’s Best Summer Travel Destination are well known, from horse-drawn carriage tours that visit the spectacular Arch Rock to bike rides all the way around Mackinac Island, and from historic Fort Mackinac to world-famous Mackinac Island fudge.

Yet, Mackinac Island offers much more than just these popular activities. It’s also full of hidden gems and experiences that even long-time Michiganders might not know about. Consider this your secret guide to some of Mackinac Island’s lesser known sights and things to do.

Here are 7 places to visit off the beaten path on Mackinac Island

Anne’s Tablet overlooks the Mackinac Island harbor and memorializes Constance Fenimore Woolson, author of the novel, “Anne.”

1. Anne’s Tablet on Mackinac Island

Fort Mackinac is hard to miss. The majestic fort greets visitors from high upon Mackinac Island’s bluff, and it’s a worthwhile endeavor to explore it. What some might not realize is that the fort’s surrounding area offers some gems. For instance, Mackinac Island’s Marquette Park, which sits directly below the fort, provides a wooden staircase that leads up into the woods on the fort’s east side. Follow some markers and you’ll arrive at a dell that contains Anne’s Tablet, a shrine to 19th-century writer Constance Fenimore Woolson and a can’t-miss view of the Mackinac Straits. It’s a beautiful spot that compels you to pause and admire. This is an ideal “hidden gem” that’s not too difficult nor far from downtown.

Sights to See on Mackinac Island: The story behind Anne’s Tablet

2. That Other Fort on Mackinac Island

Maybe you know Fort Mackinac, but do you know Fort Holmes? British forces constructed the fort in 1814 atop the highest point on Mackinac Island. It served as protection for the British against an anticipated U.S. attack. The fort recently underwent a complete restoration, featuring reconstructed wooden walls and a blockhouse.

Checking out the restoration is definitely worth the uphill climb to the fort, but that’s not the only reward there. You’ll also find breathtaking, 360-degree sweeping views of Mackinac Island and its surrounding waters. It doesn’t take long to realize why the British used it as a lookout. Have that iPhone on its panoramic setting while you are up there. Visiting Fort Holmes also provides a unique, towering view of the Mighty Mackinac Bridge.

How to reach Fort Holmes, the highest point on Mackinac Island

Walking through Crack in the Island in the woods of Michigan’s Mackinac Island is a tight fit

3. Mackinac Island’s Crack-in-the-Island

Mackinac Island features more than 70 miles of natural and unpaved trails that weave and bring you to copious spots within the Island’s exterior and interior. It’s pretty exciting thinking about what gem you might amble across if you set aside some time for exploration. One such gem is the Crack-in-the-Island. Geological formations are aplenty on Mackinac Island, and while this one might not be an A-Lister like Arch Rock, it’s still worthy of discovery. Traversing through the crack or pretending like you are stuck in it always makes for an amusing photo. If you want some help finding it, stop by the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau’s information booth for directions or ask a local!

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A Mackinac Island ferry boat full of passengers travels over the water near sunset

4. Ferries Aren’t Only for Getting to Mackinac Island

Ferry boats are an essential aspect of the Mackinac Island experience, serving as the main arrival vessel for the heavy majority of visitors. However, they can add to your overall experience beyond solely being your method of transport. Mackinac Island ferry providers offer special experiences such as trips under the Mackinac Bridge, sunset cruises and more. It’s not just Mackinac Island you should explore, but the surrounding waters as well.

6 extraordinary boat tours around Mackinac Island

A flotilla of kayaks pauses in the water beneath Mackinac Island's iconic Arch Rock

5. Seeing Mackinac Island’s Arch Rock…From a Kayak

This hidden gem involves a Mackinac Island staple, but with a twist. Kayaking off Mackinac Island is growing in prominence, as you’re able to rent them and paddle around with Great Turtle Kayak Tours. While there are countless trails to explore on Mackinac Island, perhaps the most exciting “trail” is the water. Paddle over to the east bluff and admire Arch Rock from a whole new perspective.

Where to kayak around Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island's Sugar Loaf is framed by the forest of Mackinac Island State Park and the Great Lakes beyond

6. Point Lookout high above Mackinac Island’s Sugar Loaf

Arch Rock may be the king of geological formations on Mackinac Island, but make no mistake about it: Sugar Loaf is a worthy adversary. While you’re able to get up close to Sugar Loaf – unlike Arch Rock, you can touch it – the true “hidden gem” aspect of the rock is the nearby Point Lookout. It’s one of the higher points on Mackinac Island and provides a spectacular view of the sprouting rock, suffused by trees in the foreground of miles and miles of gorgeous blue water. The color contrast is striking, and you’ll find yourself not wanting to look away. It’s a view that will become embedded into your mind for years to come.

Legends of Mackinac Island: Sugar Loaf

The sun rises over the Mackinac Island harbor and Marquette Park

7. The Morning, Before Mackinac Island Ferries Arrive

This last hidden gem isn’t so much a thing, but a moment in time. If you have visited Mackinac Island but never stayed overnight, you are missing out on what might be the best gem of them all: Mackinac Island waking up. When staying overnight it’s definitely worth it to set that alarm a little early and enjoy a tranquil Mackinac Island before the ferries start docking. See the sunrise, go for a run, get a cup of coffee and just rest – embrace the morning. It’s a different, even more relaxed Mackinac Island.

11 reasons to spend the night on Mackinac Island


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