Mackinac Island, MI

Mackinac Island: A Water Enthusiast’s Escape

Ancient Native Americans christened Mackinac Island the “Great Turtle,” and to this day it remains a peaceful place to relax and bask in the sun, as if perched on a log. It’s also a fine spot to stick your head out of your shell and explore the water all around, either with your own boat or through one of Mackinac Island’s many water attractions. Starting with the ferry boat from the mainland, there are lots of ways to get out on the water when visiting Mackinac Island – from paddling tours and boat trips to fishing the depths and parasailing the heights.

Paddling tours around Mackinac Island are available with single kayaks, tandem kayaks and standup paddleboards.

Island Experiences You Will Love

Bring Your Own Boat

While you can’t drive to Mackinac Island, you can motor your own personal boat right up to the shore. There are places to dock your boat in the harbor, both in the public marina and in private slips. Come for the day or stay the night. Boat slip reservations are strongly recommended.

Go Paddling

A guided kayak or paddleboarding trip with Great Turtle Kayak Tours can take you east of downtown to Arch Rock for sunrise, west of downtown to Devil’s Kitchen for sunset, or even all the way around Mackinac Island! You can also snorkel the Rock Maze or cross the Straits of Mackinac to Round Island.

Charter a Fishing Boat

Experience the thrill of deep water trolling in the Great Lakes when you fish off Mackinac Island for lake trout, salmon, carp and more. When you book a charter, they’ll come pick you up, clean the fish you catch and even freeze them for you to take home at the end of your vacation.

Parasail the Straits

Strap yourself in for a parasailing adventure that floats you high above the Mackinac Island landscape as a speedboat pulls you along for incredibly scenic views, then dips you down toward the water where you can even splash into the surf, if you’d like.

Board a Sip ‘n Sail Cruise

Join the party for a 90-minute sunset cruise out to the Mackinac Bridge and back with live entertainment and a full-service cash bar on the Isle Royale Queen III. Sip ‘n Sail cruises are popular for happy hours, wedding parties and private charters, too.

Take a Boat Tour

Get a fascinating tour of Mackinac Island aboard the Ugly Anne and hear some remarkable anecdotes along the way in a group of up to 30, or enjoy more intimate sightseeing with up to six passengers in a powerboat with Brown Eyed Girl Charters.

Watch a Yacht Race

Mackinac Island is the finish line for two epic sailboat races each summer: the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, which navigates Lake Michigan, and the Bayview Mackinac Race, which starts in Port Huron and traverses Lake Huron. The reward in each race is a well-deserved stay on Mackinac

Anchors Aweigh!

Many visitors catch a glimpse of the surrounding waters while coming over from the mainland on a ferry boat. You can get an even deeper appreciation for why Mackinac Island is known as the Crown Jewel of the Great Lakes by spending a little time in that water, whether in your own personal boat or as a guest on one of Mackinac Island’s many prized vessels. From paddling and fishing to the exhilaration of parasailing and the stunning beauty of sunset cruises under the Mackinac Bridge, the waters around the Great Turtle are worthy of your exploration. Come embark on the adventure of a lifetime!


Deciding which water excursions to enjoy is just one part of planning an unforgettable trip to Mackinac Island. For help choosing a place to stay and finding everything else there is to see and do on and around the Crown Jewel of the Great Lakes, click the links below.

Other experiences you might like:

Of course, Mackinac Island offers a lot of things to do on shore, too. From biking around the island to hiking through the forest to playing some of the world’s most extraordinary golf courses, see what else you might enjoy when you visit!

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