Things to do on Mackinac Island for families

So, what is there to do on Mackinac Island? Well, the short answer is a lot.

Deciding which of the many things to do depends on how you like to vacation and who you’re traveling with.

To help you get started planning, we’ve put together several sample itineraries. This time, we’re focused on things to do on Mackinac Island for families.

Here are some ideas and a sample 3-day itinerary to help you start putting the pieces together for a fantastic family getaway on Mackinac Island:

A grandmother holds a young child's hand on a rocky Mackinac Island beach with water behind them

3-Day Mackinac Island Itinerary for Families

A list of 19 fun family things to do on Mackinac Island

Day 1 on Mackinac Island

Board a Mackinac Island ferry boat on the mainland at either Mackinaw City or St. Ignace and shuttle over to Mackinac Island. If your family likes to ride bikes, be sure to take bikes along on the ferry. Otherwise, you can rent bikes from vendors on the island. (More Mackinac Island ferry tips here and options for getting to Mackinac Island here.) Here’s what it costs to rent bikes on Mackinac Island.

When you arrive on Mackinac Island, let dockporters take your bags to your Mackinac Island place to stay. Then, immediately look for a horse-drawn carriage tour of Mackinac Island. It is by far the most popular thing to do, and a “must do” at the start of your visit. Nothing gives you a feel for Mackinac Island’s history and geography more than a narrated carriage tour, and kids love the experience of being driven around the island by horse!

After you’ve gotten a tour of Mackinac Island and made some equine friends, then go explore on your own by bike. You can ride your bikes all the way around Mackinac Island, if you’d like. It only takes an hour or two at a leisurely pace, and it gives you a sense of the incredible natural beauty that exists in Mackinac Island State Park, which used to be known as Mackinac National Park – just the second national park in the entire country.

If you decide to circumnavigate Mackinac Island by bike on the country’s only state highway that prohibits motor vehicles, make plans to stop for a bite at the Cannonball Oasis. It’s one of several unique places to eat on Mackinac Island (there aren’t any chain restaurants except for Starbucks) and it’s located about halfway through the 8.2-mile ride at British Landing.

Back in town, every kid (and kid at heart) will love free samples of world-famous Mackinac Island fudge. There are 13 shops where you can treat your tongue and watch fudge-making demonstrations. Just walk from one shop to the next in search of your favorite fudge flavors. Downtown you can also find one-of-a-kind Mackinac Island shops and toy stores, as well as zany experiences such as the Maze of Mirrors and the Haunted Theatre.

For dinner, you can find world-class cuisine all over Mackinac Island. And there’s plenty of kid-friendly fare, too.

A family of four with two children plays on the playground in Mackinac Island's Marquette Park

Day 2 on Mackinac Island

An absolute must-do for a family trip to Mackinac Island is a tour of historic Fort Mackinac. The fort dates to the Colonial era when the British, French and the fledgling Americans fought for control of the Great Lakes. In fact, it wasn’t until the treaty of the War of 1812 – 40 years after the United States won independence in the Revolutionary War – that the Americans took hold of Fort Mackinac for good! The historic aspects of the fort are pretty cool for adults and older kids, while everybody in the family will get a kick out of the daily reenactments of life on the fort from the 1800s, including booming cannon blasts.

After touring Fort Mackinac, you can unwind with lunch at one of Mackinac Island’s many restaurants offering outdoor dining or roll out a blanket and enjoy a picnic right outside the fort in Marquette Park – named by Readers’ Digest as the best picnic spot in Michigan. Kids can burn some energy running around Marquette Park or the nearby Great Turtle Park that features a full playground.

For an adventurous afternoon, families with older children can get back on the bikes and go off the beaten path to experience the interior of Mackinac Island. There are more than 70 miles of hiking and biking trails and paths with extraordinary limestone rock formations, breathtaking lake views and beautiful wildflowers to discover along the way. You can also get into the heart of Mackinac Island on horseback with a guided tour or by exploring on your own.

In addition to hiking, biking and horseback riding, you can also charter a boat off Mackinac Island for some fabulous Great Lakes fishing or rent kayaks for some surreal Great Lakes paddling around Mackinac Island.

After dinner, you can soak in the beauty of a Mackinac Island sunset at Windermere Point where you can skip stones into the surf or fly kites on the breeze. A family round of miniature golf on the world’s most immaculate putting course, The Greens of Mackinac, is another option that comes with an incredible view. If the sky is clear, you can hike up to Fort Holmes at Mackinac Island’s highest point for the sunset and stargazing.

A father and two girls play putt putt along the water on Mackinac Island's Greens of Mackinac natural grass putting course

Day 3 on Mackinac Island

One of the coolest things about Mackinac Island is that more than 80% of the island is a state park and so many of the incredible natural attractions are free to visit. For example, you can walk right up to the iconic Arch Rock and snap a family selfie with Lake Huron in the background. Or, you can trek up to Fort Holmes, the restored military block house that sits atop Mackinac Island’s highest point. The views from there are literally priceless.

Plus, don’t forget about Mackinac Island’s amazing butterfly conservatories where you can immerse yourself in the incredibly peaceful surroundings and feel the playful tickle of butterfly wings on your arm.

Want more ideas? Here are 19 more things to do on Mackinac Island for families.



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