Mackinac Island experiences four distinct seasons, each with its own unique personality. For the 500-some people who make Mackinac Island their year-round home, the different seasons provide a structure and rhythm to life. They mark Mackinac Island’s transitions from peak tourism season to shoulder season to offseason and back again.
But for visitors, the fact that Mackinac Island changes so much throughout the year poses an intriguing question:
When is the best time to visit Mackinac Island?
Well, for starters, there’s no bad time to visit. The historic charm and natural beauty of Mackinac Island shines through 12 months a year. You can’t go wrong visiting Mackinac Island in spring, summer, fall or – if you’re especially adventurous – even in winter.
That said, your experience of Mackinac Island will be different depending on when you visit. Each season offers its own special attractions.
Let’s take a look at what’s exceptional about each of the four seasons on Mackinac Island:
Spring on Mackinac Island
After a winter hiatus while the Straits of Mackinac are frozen over, the ferry boats that shuttle visitors back and forth from the mainland to Mackinac Island resume a regular schedule of trips in late April. Visitors will notice the landscape coming back to life as Mackinac Island comes out of hibernation and spring wildflowers emerge.
Crowds on Mackinac Island are generally much smaller in the spring, before schools let out for the summer. That also means lodging rates at the variety of places to stay on Mackinac Island are lower than in the summer, giving you even more value in the spring.
More about spring on Mackinac Island: How spring on Mackinac makes for a unique island experience
Summer on Mackinac Island
Memorial Day is the beginning of the peak tourism season on Mackinac Island. From the end of May through the beginning of September, there’s a buzz and excitement as visitors from around the world flock to enjoy the distinctive traits of Mackinac Island.
Summer brings the most daylight to Mackinac Island, providing ample opportunity for outdoor recreation from early morning until late in the evening. It’s the most active time for hiking, biking, horseback riding, kayaking, golfing, sailing, fishing and more in the refreshing lake breezes that give Mackinac Island the country’s best summer weather.
Summer also brings special events to Mackinac Island including the annual Lilac Festival that celebrates the gorgeous June bloom, Fourth of July festivities including fireworks over the water and the prestigious W.T. Rabe Stone Skipping Contest, and the Fudge Festival in August that honors Mackinac Island’s world-famous treat.
More about summer on Mackinac Island: 20 incredible summer views from Mackinac Island
Fall on Mackinac Island
Fall on Mackinac Island is similar to spring in many ways, from smaller crowds and lower lodging prices to cool nights and earlier sunsets. But instead of Mackinac Island bursting forth in colorful flowers as it does in the spring, it’s the colors of leaves that give Mackinac Island a striking appearance in the fall.
Fall is also a great time to take advantage of year-end deals on clothing, gifts and other items as Mackinac Island shops clear out their inventory at the end of the season. Just before the ferry boats stop making regular trips to Mackinac Island at the end of October, the entire island enjoys one last hurrah for the tourism season with Halloween festivities including the annual Great Turtle Marathon and Half-Marathon.
More about fall on Mackinac Island: Why October is a great time to visit Mackinac Island
Winter on Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island doesn’t go out of its way to attract visitors from November through late April. After all, it’s time for the year-round residents to catch their breath. Still, it’s not as though Mackinac Island closes for the winter.
Sure, the ferry schedule is limited and at times the only way to reach Mackinac Island is by plane. But if you can make it to Mackinac Island in the winter, it’s sure to be a memorable adventure.
A few hotels and restaurants stay open to accommodate visitors for the annual Christmas tree lighting, New Year’s Eve turtle drop and Mackinac Island Winter Festival. And since Mackinac Island State Park makes up more than 80 percent of the island, there’s plenty of room to roam in the winter. Cross-country skiing and fat-tire biking are some of the ways to enjoy the park, which is just as beautiful in the winter as it is during the rest of the year.
More about winter on Mackinac Island: Winter on Mackinac Island: 4 reasons to visit
So, when is the best time to visit Mackinac Island? Only you can decide. You might just want to visit Mackinac Island during each of the four seasons to see which time of year is your favorite!