2021 Construction Update: High water levels caused extensive damage to M-185 in 2020, narrowing some sections of the road down to one lane and leaving other stretches temporarily re-surfaced with gravel. Lake levels are lower this year and an asphalt re-paving is planned. While construction dates are not yet finalized, visitors can expect M-185 to be closed for much of the summer on the north side of Mackinac Island between Arch Rock and British Landing. Get the latest M-185 Alert here.
Completing the 8.2 miles around Mackinac Island is a must-do for many visitors traveling to Mackinac Island.
It’s easy to understand why when you see the vastness of Lake Huron, listen to the waves crash against the rocks, and have one of the world’s longest suspension bridges, the Mackinac Bridge, as a backdrop.
There are many historical and natural sights to see along State Highway M-185. Included in this blog post is what you can expect when you make your way around Mackinac Island.
GENERAL INFORMATION ON GOING AROUND MACKINAC ISLAND
Don’t worry about vehicles. You’ll be accompanied by horses and bicycles instead! Highway M-185, also known as Lake Shore Boulevard, is the only highway in the nation where vehicles are prohibited (except for emergency vehicles of course).
If you decide to make your way around the coast of Mackinac Island, walking will take approximately 2.5-4 hours without stopping. You can also bring your own bicycle or rent one from one of the many bicycle shops located on Mackinac Island. It will take you approximately 1 hour to bike without stopping.
However, Mackinac Island is best enjoyed when you’re able to slow down and take it all in. Be sure to add some buffer time for stops along the way.
DOWNTOWN MACKINAC ISLAND
As you begin your ride around Mackinac Island, imagine downtown Mackinac 100 years ago. You would have heard the clip-clop of horses, cannons firing from Fort Mackinac, and the bustle of people both walking and on bicycles as they make their way from one place to another. That’s exactly what you’ll hear when you visit Mackinac Island today!
Enjoy the views as you pass the quaint shops, historical lodging and beautiful homes that make up Mackinac Island.
“Mile Marker 0” is across from Marquette Park and the State Park Visitor’s Center. Look for these mile markers along your journey around the Island.
NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURAL HISTORY TRAIL
There are 6 informative signs along M-185. Here you can stop and learn more about the impact and history of Native Americans on Mackinac Island and the Great Lakes. Most of these signs have seating options nearby if you need a moment to rest.
Ascend 207 steps to the top of Mackinac Island to see the stunning Arch Rock. You will see a pull-off area with bicycle racks and benches on the east side of M-185. The climb is steep but the views are worth it!
There are 24-hour restrooms located at the top of Arch Rock, water fountains, and picnic tables. As you get back on the highway, don’t forget to look back and see just how massive Arch Rock is from below.
With the ever-changing wind, water, and weather, no day is ever the same on Mackinac Island. Enjoy the blues and teals of the second largest Great Lake. Listen to the sounds of the gulls and water splashing against the rocks. Pass kayakers, sailboats, ferries and paddle boarders. And if you want, dip your toes in the water and enjoy the stillness of Mackinac Island.
Don’t turn around now! You’re about halfway around the 8.2 miles when you get to British Landing. This historical location is where the British and Native American allies landed in 1812, hence the name British Landing. They took over the highest point on Mackinac Island (current-day Fort Holmes) and eventually Fort Mackinac. There are historical markers, benches and a cannon at British Landing.
MACKINAC BRIDGE VIEWS AT BRITISH LANDING
If you are going counter-clockwise around Mackinac Island, British Landing is where you’ll start to see the world’s 5th largest suspension bridge! The 5-mile long Mackinac Bridge connects Michigan’s lower and upper peninsula. Learn more about this iconic structure and enjoy its beauty for the rest of your ride around Mackinac Island.
This is also the point where you’ll see people enjoying drive-it-yourself horse carriages from Jack’s Livery.
BRITISH LANDING NATURE CENTER
Experience the wildlife, plants and geology on Mackinac Island in this interactive nature center. Inside you will find a large cedar tree trunk, native animals on display, and more information about the natural history of Mackinac Island. There are 24-hour accessible restrooms, a water fountain, tables, benches and a bike repair station if needed.
Grab some famous fried pickles, hotdogs, ice cream and more at the Cannonball Inn. Located at British Landing, this is a great half-way point to take a break, have a snack, enjoy the water and skip some rocks!
Cross another Mackinac Island formation off your bucket list. This small cave is along the western shores of Mackinac Island.
Why Devil’s Kitchen? Legend says it’s a place where evil spirits capture and eat people who get too close. The blackened limestone is residue from fires built by the evil spirits. So perhaps you don’t want to stop and visit?
Discover this hidden trail that runs along Mackinac Island’s West Bluff. Up here you have a bird’s eye view of the Mackinac Bridge and if you’re in luck, a freighter passing through the Straits of Mackinac. Pontiac Trail is accessible by stairs on the west side of M-185.
MACKINAC ISLAND PUBLIC SCHOOL AND BOARDWALK
As you make your way back to town, you’ll pass by the Mackinac Island Public School, home of the Lakers. There are about 80 students enrolled year-round. The boardwalk in front of the school extends to Hotel Iroquois and is a great place to enjoy a sunset at the end of the day!