When does Mackinac Island open?

For nearly half the year, Mackinac Island goes into hibernation – or so it may seem to people who visit the beautiful and historic Michigan travel destination in the spring, summer or fall.

For sure, winter is a quieter time, when the 500-some people who live year round on Mackinac Island refuel after a busy season of serving tourists. Yet, winter on Mackinac Island is also a time of preparation for the new season of hospitality that’s on the way. As soon as the last ferry boat departs at the end of October, work begins to make sure everything is ready for the arrival of the first ferry boat the following April.

As the home of Mackinac Island State Park, Mackinac Island never really closes. You can come and explore year-round. But late April and early May is when Mackinac Island really “opens” by rolling out the welcome mat to visitors.

Until then, here are just some of the ways that residents, shop owners, innkeepers and others get Mackinac Island ready for your arrival:

Mackinac Island at the tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula makes for a nice road trip from much of the eastern United States.

How Mackinac Island Places to Stay Prepare for Spring

One of the most charming things about Mackinac Island is the historic character of the hotels, resorts, cottages and homes. The Victorian architecture transports you back in time to another era, a simpler time of life. Of course, buildings that date to the 1800s need regular maintenance, so each winter brings a variety of improvement projects to Mackinac Island places to stay.

The work list often includes updates to guest rooms, remodeling of common spaces and lots of painting. Beyond any special projects that may be planned in a given winter, virtually every place to stay on Mackinac Island has an ongoing list of repairs in the works to preserve and protect the beautiful personality of the historic buildings.

How Mackinac Island Restaurants Prepare for Spring

While there are restaurants on Mackinac Island that stay open all year, most close their doors for the winter. It’s during this time that restaurants install new equipment or redo the layouts of their dining rooms. It’s also not uncommon for a new restaurant or two to debut each spring, and winter provides a window of time for those new ventures to get ready for a seamless opening. For existing restaurants, winter is when chefs experiment with new recipes and devise new menus for the enjoyment and delight of visitors come spring.  

Mackinac Island’s shops, restaurants, places to stay and attractions all spend winter preparing to open in the spring.

What Mackinac Island Fudge Shops Do in the Winter

When your fudge is world-famous, there’s no time for a break – not even in winter. Although foot traffic slows and the storefronts close, Mackinac Island’s many fudge shops keep busy making the delicious treat and shipping it around the world. Everyone wants a slice of Mackinac Island fudge during the offseason!

How Mackinac Island became fudge capital of the world

What Mackinac Island’s Historic Attractions Do in the Winter

The most historic visitor attractions on Mackinac Island are hundreds or even thousands of years old. It’s part of what makes Mackinac Island so special. An interesting thing about history is that there’s always more to explore. Winter provides Mackinac State Historic Parks staff time to do just that. They research and write new programs for Mackinac Island’s historic sites, update or remodel exhibits and publish new books that offer fresh glimpses into the past. And, as with Mackinac Island’s places to stay, general maintenance of Mackinac Island’s historic visitor attractions and grounds is a never-ending process.

A look at Mackinac Island through the centuries

Winter on Mackinac Island is a time for residents to recharge and prepare for a new tourist season to open in the spring.

How Mackinac Island Bike Shops Prepare for Spring

Based on its year-round population of about 500 people, Mackinac Island has more bicycles per capita than anywhere else in the world. Of course, the population grows by the thousands each day during peak travel season. But, however you count them, it’s still a lot of bikes. And winter is the time to take care of them, to make any needed repairs and to get them polished and pretty for the new season. That way, the Mackinac Island bikes are ready to rent when visitors return in the spring!

Why there are so many bicycles on Mackinac Island

Visiting When Mackinac Island Opens in the Spring

Sure, some adventurous people visit Mackinac in the winter. But opening day in late April is when the ferry boats resume regular service and Mackinac Island really starts to emerge from its so-called hibernation. It’s when the horses start returning to Mackinac Island. It’s when the restaurants and stores begin reopening. It’s when the visitor attractions resume operations.

When opening day arrives, things on Mackinac Island start getting back to just how they were last year – and the year before that, and the decade before that, and the century before that. Part of the charm of Mackinac Island is that as much as the world changes, the island stays the same. Mackinac Island is a living museum, after all, and what goes on here is just what went on here 100 years ago.

Want to be among the first visitors when Mackinac Island opens for the season? Check out the Mackinac Island ferry schedules to find the first boat from the mainland, then customize your itinerary using the Mackinac Island Trip Planner. The whole island has been busy preparing for your arrival!

Scenes from opening day on Mackinac Island


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