Tips for a First-Time Visit to Mackinac Island

You’ve done it! You’ve started to plan your first visit to Mackinac Island! We know how exciting of a time this is. As you begin to explore how you’re going to get to Mackinac Island, where you’re going to stay on Mackinac Island, all the things to do on Mackinac Island, and the must-try fudge shop on Mackinac Island (ahem…ALL of them), we want to share some tips for your first visit.

You probably know that Mackinac Island is a place like no other. Because Mackinac Island is car free, getting around is a bit different than most places. Horses are king on Mackinac Island, bikes are abundant on Mackinac Island, and history comes to life on Mackinac Island. Get ready for a slower pace, friendly faces around every corner and a vacation filled with fun!

Here is everything you need to know as you begin making your plans:

Graphic shows a travel tip to wear comfortable shoes on Mackinac Island, where visitors walk lots because cars are prohibited

BRING COMFORTABLE SHOES TO MACKINAC ISLAND

You’ll find yourself doing an above-average amount of walking while on Mackinac Island. The main ways of getting around on Mackinac Island are walking, biking, wheelchair or mobility scooter, and horse-drawn carriages. Make sure you have comfortable shoes so your visit is enjoyable.

Tips for visiting Mackinac Island with limited mobility

SAFETY ON MACKINAC ISLAND

It’s easy to be mesmerized by the hustle and bustle of downtown Mackinac Island but remember the streets are working streets. Don’t stop in the middle of the road, always be aware of bikers, and watch out for horses. Use the sidewalk if you are walking, pull off to the side if you need to stop on your bike, and always remember that on the roads horses and bikes have the right of way.

How to Mackinac: A guide to visiting Mackinac Island

Graphic shows a travel tip to pack layers of clothing for Mackinac Island weather, which is variable in the fall

BRING LAYERS OF CLOTHES FOR MACKINAC ISLAND WEATHER

The weather can change quickly on Mackinac Island. Even in the summer, temperatures can drop quite a lot in the evenings and early mornings. Mackinac Island always seems to be a bit cooler than its mainland counterparts. Be sure to bring layers of clothes so you’ll be comfortable your entire visit.

What to pack for a trip to Mackinac Island

BRING CASH FOR TIPS AND TAXIS ON MACKINAC ISLAND

Bring cash for tips and horse-drawn taxis on Mackinac Island. There are ATMs located on Mackinac Island, but it’s a good idea to have cash on you from the beginning.

When to tip on Mackinac Island and how much

Graphic shows a travel tip to bring cash for tips and taxis while visiting Mackinac Island, where customer service excels

BICYCLES AREN’T UP FOR GRABS ON MACKINAC ISLAND

There isn’t a community-wide bike share program on Mackinac Island. Each bike you see is someone’s personal bike or is being rented from one of our Mackinac Island Bike Shops. Oh! And many bikes look alike so whether you are renting a bike or bringing your own make sure it’s your bike you take with you each time you hop back on.

Bringing your own bike vs. renting a bike on Mackinac Island

PARK YOUR BIKE IN APPROVED BIKE AREAS ON MACKINAC ISLAND

Just like a vehicle, be sure to park your bike in approved bike areas. If you park your bike along a yellow curb, it might get moved without you knowing it!

Check out bicycle safety rules on Mackinac Island

Graphic shows a travel tip to bring a bike lock to Mackinac Island to keep your transportation safe and secure

BRING A BIKE LOCK TO MACKINAC ISLAND

If you’re bringing your bike, we recommend bringing a bike lock to keep it safe.

GET TO HORSE ACTIVITIES AS EARLY AS YOU CAN ON MACKINAC ISLAND

If you’re going to do something with horses on Mackinac Island, we recommend doing them as early in the day as you can. Horse attractions on Mackinac Island sometimes sell out by mid-day so make sure you plan ahead. Gough Livery Carriages on Mackinac Island and Mackinac Island Carriage Tour Private Carriages both take reservations for private tours in advance.

Mackinac Island: A Horse Lover’s Dream

Graphic shows a travel tip to pack sunscreen and a hat for a trip to Mackinac Island, where skies are often sunny

SUN PROTECTION ON MACKINAC ISLAND

While you’re having fun in the sun, don’t forget to protect yourself to prevent burning and getting burnt out. Bring sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen for everyone.

3 reasons Mackinac Island’s summer weather is so perfect

GIVE MACKINAC ISLAND TAXIS TIME

Mackinac Island taxis are all horse-drawn and run on a dispatch system. You call their number, tell them where you are, where you want to go, and they will send someone your way on their next available carriage. We recommend calling at least a half-hour ahead of when you’ll want a taxi. Be patient, and enjoy the views.

Everything you need to know about Mackinac Island taxis

Horse-drawn carriages are a popular way of getting around Mackinac Island where cars are prohibited.

PUDDLES ON MACKINAC ISLAND

Just remember that puddles on Mackinac Island are never just puddles of water. Puddle jump with caution.

What happens to all the horse manure on Mackinac Island?

BRING A BIKE WITH A FENDER TO MACKINAC ISLAND

Without a fender on your bike, you might end up with a “fudge stripe” up your back from water, dirt, and a mix of other things getting sprayed up your back. Most bikes available for rent on Mackinac Island will have fenders to prevent this. However, if you bring your bike without a fender, fear not! We suggest wearing a rain jacket or some sort of outer shirt to protect the clothes you want to keep clean.

Tips for renting bikes on Mackinac Island

In addition to delicious dining options on Mackinac Island, there are several greenspaces perfect for a relaxing picnic.

BRING A BLANKET FOR THE PARK ON MACKINAC ISLAND

If you plan on enjoying some downtime on your visit, be sure to bring a blanket or something similar to sit on. There are a variety of different green spaces, parks, and viewpoints and it’s always nice to have something to sit on.

Mackinac Island Picnic Spots: Marquette Park

WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR LUGGAGE ON MACKINAC ISLAND

If you ride the ferry, you’ll put your Mackinac Island luggage on a cart at the ferry dock on the mainland. They’ll put a tag on it and a Mackinac Island Dockporter will assist in getting your luggage to the place you are staying. Call the place you are staying as they will be able to provide more specific details on this.

Why Mackinac Island dockporters are your friends

Excerpt of a map of Michigan’s Mackinac Island showing roads, trails and landmarks including Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf

GET YOURSELF A GOOD MAP OF MACKINAC ISLAND

Stop by our Mackinac Island Visitors Center for a free, detailed map of Mackinac Island! You’ll be ready to explore the 70+ miles of trails and we’ll be ready to answer any questions you might have. There also are maps of Mackinac Island also available online if you want to plan ahead.

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