Things to do on Mackinac Island for outdoor adventurers

Mackinac Island has lots of fudge, yes. It has a hoppin’ downtown, unique bars and restaurants full of character, extraordinary butterfly houses, and one-of-a-kind hotels, cottages, B&Bs and resorts.

All of that plus the charming car-free atmosphere of Mackinac Island makes it a great place to come and take refuge from the world for a few days.

But guess what? Mackinac Island also is a great place to get out and explore the world.

If you enjoy outdoor adventure, then Mackinac Island belongs high on your list of places to visit. To help you get started planning, here’s a sample 3-day itinerary for a whirlwind experience of the island that once was the country’s second national park.

Woman with Bike Smiling for Camera Overlooking View of Waters Around Mackinac

Mackinac Island Itinerary for Outdoor Adventure

Day 1 for Outdoor Adventurers on Mackinac Island

You can’t get to Mackinac Island in a car. (In case you’re wondering, the mighty Mackinac Bridge connects Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas. It’s visible from Mackinac Island, but you can’t get to the island on the bridge.)

Most people get to Mackinac Island on the deck of a ferry boat, which is a bit of an adventure in itself. Board the Mackinac Island ferry boat either in Mackinaw City at the southern end of the Mackinac Bridge or in St. Ignace at the northern end of the bridge and enjoy the brief ride to the Mackinac Island docks.

Of course, if you have your own boat (or your own plane), then you can take that to Mackinac Island.

Once you’re on Mackinac Island, a popular way to get around is by bicycle. You can rent a bike on Mackinac Island or bring your own bike on the Mackinac Island ferry. Ride your bike to wherever you’re staying, ride it out to eat or ride it just to ride it.

A lot of people like to ride a bike around Mackinac Island, which is 8.2 miles. It takes an hour or so, depending on your pace and how often you stop to admire the incredible views.

Avid adventurers will take their bike into the interior of Mackinac Island, where there are more than 70 miles of paved and unpaved trails that pass by must-see landmarks including Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf.

The kids might love a visit to Cedar Grove Bike Track hidden amongst the grounds of Grand Hotel. The bike track includes 400 feet of aggregated chip seal meant for fun and adventure!

Man Sitting by Tree Enjoying View of Waters Surrounding Mackinac Island

Day 2 for Outdoor Adventurers on Mackinac Island

Those 70-plus miles of trails are great for biking, and they’re beautiful for hiking, too. Lace up your hiking boots and see if you can find the Crack-in-the-Island or Skull Cave. Hoof it up to Fort Holmes, the island’s highest point where the panoramic view is worth every bead of sweat, or challenge your stamina on the rugged Tranquil Bluff Trail atop the cliffs above Lake Huron.

If water adventure is more your thing, then rent a kayak and get into the beautiful blue waters of the Straits of Mackinac. You can go your own way on a single kayak, tandem kayak or paddleboard, or take a tour of the best Mackinac Island sights to see from sea level.

Mackinac Island also is home to charter boats that will help you experience fishing the Great Lakes, the largest system of freshwater lakes in the world!

A group of three people ride horseback up a hill on Mackinac Island with the marina in the background

Day 3 for Outdoor Adventurers on Mackinac Island

No outdoor adventure on Mackinac Island is complete without getting up close and personal with one of the horses that powers transportation on the island. A great way to do that is by taking a narrated horse-drawn carriage tour of Mackinac Island sights. A carriage tour gives you a good overview of the island including the state park and landmarks such as Arch Rock, Grand Hotel and historic Fort Mackinac.

You can also pony up for a Mackinac Island horseback ride alongside the bicycles and carriages in town. Or head out of town and find yourself off the beaten path on wooded trails in a matter of minutes.

Want more ideas for outdoor adventure on Mackinac Island? Discover all there is to Eat, See and Do on Mackinac Island and find a place to stay, too.

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