Before there were horse-drawn carriage tours, ferry boats, charming hotels and delicious restaurants, there was Fort Mackinac. The historic stronghold atop the bluffs of Mackinac Island is the reason the surrounding town developed and eventually became one of the world’s most beloved travel destinations.
Still today, one of the most popular things for visitors to do on Mackinac Island is tour the old fort. Exploring Fort Mackinac makes for a memorable Mackinac Island experience, even if you’re not a history buff.
Yes, there’s lots of history to appreciate at Fort Mackinac. But a visit to the fort involves so much more.
Take a look at these eight things to do on a visit to Mackinac Island’s historic Fort Mackinac
- Fire the Cannon at Fort Mackinac – Each day at Fort Mackinac begins with cannon fire from the Gun Platform 150 feet above Marquette Park and the Mackinac Island harbor. It’s a treat for all ages to watch (and hear!) a blast from the historic artillery. Fort Mackinac visitors at least 13 years old can even sign up to fire the cannon themselves.
- Tour the Exhibits at Fort Mackinac – As you’d expect, Fort Mackinac covers some fascinating military history with an exhibit on Mackinac Island’s role in the War of 1812. Exhibits at Fort Mackinac offer a look at other aspects of military life, too, including 19th-century medical practices and an 1880s reading room full of newspapers and magazines from that time. Fort Mackinac also has an exhibit covering the history of Mackinac Island, going back long before the British ever built the fort.
- Watch a demonstration at Fort Mackinac – Each season brings a new schedule of live demonstrations and tours at Fort Mackinac led by costumed historical interpreters. The demonstrations and tours are a great way to get an interactive experience of Fort Mackinac and learn from interpreters dedicated to sharing the incredible history of Mackinac Island.
Q&A with an interpretive soldier at Fort Mackinac
- Explore some of Michigan’s oldest buildings at Fort Mackinac – Fort Mackinac features 14 original buildings that have been restored and furnished with period settings to give you the look and feel of the fort as it was hundreds of years ago. In the guardhouse, for example, you can see the original “Black Hole” dungeon where Fort Mackinac prisoners were held. The fort is even home to the oldest building in all of Michigan, the Officers’ Stone Quarters that dates to 1780.
- Have fun in the Kids’ Quarters at Fort Mackinac – Located within the Officers’ Stone Quarters, the Kids’ Quarters at Fort Mackinac offers hands-on displays and interactive games including a dress-up area where visitors can try on uniforms from all eras of the fort’s history and a military music area where guests can learn about the music of Fort Mackinac.
- Watch the Heritage of Mackinac movie at Fort Mackinac – A nice way to get a good overview of Mackinac Island history is to watch the “Heritage of Mackinac,” a short movie that repeats every 20 minutes inside the Soldiers’ Barracks.
- Have lunch at the Fort Mackinac Tea Room – No visit to Fort Mackinac is complete without grabbing a bite at the Fort Mackinac Tea Room. Overlooking Marquette Park right in front of the Officers’ Stone Quarters, the café offers magnificent views of the Mackinac Island harbor. You can only get a table at the Tea Room with admission to Fort Mackinac. The fort also offers a food cart on the parade ground serving hot dogs, snacks and drinks.
- Go shopping at Fort Mackinac – Sutler’s Museum Store at Fort Mackinac stocks a range of clothing, souvenirs and publications about the fort and the history of Mackinac Island.
In addition to all of the things to do at Fort Mackinac, an admission ticket also gets you access to other Mackinac State Historic Parks attractions on Mackinac Island including the Biddle House Mackinac Island Native American Museum, the Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum, Benjamin Blacksmith Shop, the American Fur Co. Store & Dr. Beaumont Museum and the McGulpin House.
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