The tourist season on Mackinac Island may come to a close at the end of October when the regular schedule of ferry service from St. Ignace and Mackinaw City ends. But the island never closes.
Not only do about 500 people live here year-round, but Mackinac Island also remains open to visitors through the winter. While you won’t want to lounge on an island porch wearing shorts and a T-shirt like you can in the summer, there are island experiences you can enjoy November through March that are unique from the rest of the year.
Here are a few things to know about the off-season on Mackinac Island (if you’re adventurous enough to visit after the island “closes”):
- Ferry service to Mackinac Island scales back come November, but you can still catch a ride from St. Ignace (on the U.P. side of the Mackinac Bridge) almost every day, at least until the water freezes over. Check with Mackinac Island ferry operators for schedules.
- Because Mackinac Island is much less crowded through the winter, there’s less going on and only a handful of lodging facilities and restaurants remain open. If you’re looking for a summer-style Mackinac Island party, it might be hard to find. If you’re looking for a quiet, peaceful visit to one of America’s natural treasures, winter is a great time to come over. Mackinac Island’s historic churches still hold services and some Mackinac Island shops stay open all winter, while many other stores keep hours on select days during the holiday shopping season.
- Mackinac Island isn’t quiet all winter. In fact, there’s are some big winter events on Mackinac Island. Festivities include the Mackinac Island Tree Lighting and Christmas Bazaar in early December. HGTV even named Mackinac Island “One of the Top Ten Christmas Towns in America.” Come New Year’s Eve, there will be parties downtown and the iconic Great Turtle Drop to ring in the new year.
- The great outdoors that you can enjoy on Mackinac Island in the summer is still great in the offseason. It’s just colder and snowier. Some of the hiking and biking paths become fantastic Mackinac Island cross-country ski trails, and you can also rent fat-tire bikes for a two-wheeled tour of wintry Mackinac. On tap this winter is the Mackinac Island Twilight Turtle Trek, a unique lantern-lit cross-country ski and snowshoeing event on 2 miles of groomed trails.
Plan a special Michigan experience this year and visit Mackinac after the island “closes.”