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When is the best time to visit Mackinac Island?

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.

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?

A Mackinac Island ferry boat welcomes passengers aboard at the dock

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.

See what’s unique about all four seasons on Mackinac Island

When is the best time to visit Mackinac Island? Visitors enjoy the charming destination in summer, spring, fall and winter.

After a winter hiatus while the Straits of Mackinac are frozen over, the Mackinac Island ferry boats that shuttle visitors back and forth from the mainland resume a regular schedule of trips in late April. Visitors will notice the landscape coming back to life as the island comes out of hibernation and spring wildflowers emerge in Mackinac Island State Park.

Crowds on Mackinac Island are generally much smaller in the spring, before schools let out for the summer. That also means Mackinac Island lodging deals and special package rates are available, giving you even more value in the spring.

More about spring on Mackinac Island:

 

The best time to visit Mackinac Island may be in the summer when the lilac bushes bloom, but each season has its own joys.

Memorial Day is the beginning of 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 hours, providing ample opportunity for things to do outdoors on Mackinac Island from early morning until late in the evening. It’s the most active time for hiking, biking, horseback riding, kayaking, golfing, boat charters, fishing and more in the refreshing lake breezes that give Mackinac Island the country’s best summer weather.

Summer also brings special events including the annual Mackinac Island 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:

 

Fall is the best time to visit Mackinac Island and see stunning fall colors downtown and all over Mackinac Island State Park.

Fall on Mackinac Island is similar to spring in many ways, from smaller crowds and lower 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 changing 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 at the end of October, there’s one last hurrah for the tourism season with Mackinac Island’s Halloween Weekend including the annual Great Turtle Marathon and Half-Marathon, which is one of four unique Run Mackinac events held on Mackinac Island each year.

More about fall on Mackinac Island:

 

A cross-country skier cruises over the frozen water along Mackinac Island, with the Mackinac Bridge on the horizon

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 Mackinac Island hotels and restaurants stay open in the winter to accommodate visitors for the annual Christmas tree lighting and New Year’s Eve turtle drop. And since Mackinac Island State Park makes up more than 80% of the island, there’s plenty of room to roam in the winter. Cross-country skiing Mackinac Island trails 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:

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!

 

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