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An Island History

Because of its strategic location, Mackinac Island was of particular interest to French fur traders and, later, British soldiers, who built Fort Mackinac in 1780. The beautifully preserved fort is Michigan’s oldest structure and one of Mackinac’s most popular attractions. Interpreters in period costumes offer tours and historical re-enactments, complete with live cannon firings. Fort Holmes, a smaller outpost built in 1814, sits atop the island’s highest elevation. Climb the Point Lookout trail for phenomenal views. Be sure to get a photo of the cannon on the beach at British Landing, site of a British invasion in 1812. Other interesting historical tidbits: Mackinac Island is home to Michigan’s oldest golf course (Wawashkamo Golf Club, 1898), the oldest grocery store in the USA (Doud’s Market, 1884) and Michigan’s oldest Catholic Church (Sainte Anne’s, original mission dating to 1670).

 

Mackinac Nature and Outdoors

More than 80 percent of the island’s 10 square kilometers is designated Mackinac Island State Park. Its surprisingly diverse terrain, including forests, limestone rock formations and sea caves, provides photo opportunities galore. Take a selfie at Arch Rock, a natural limestone arch that offers a glimpse of Lake Huron through its archway, and other ancient limestone formations with intriguing names like Skull Cave, Devil’s Kitchen, Sugar Loaf and Eagle Point. Inhale the scent of blooming lilac trees in the spring, walk amid hundreds of butterflies at the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservancy, go hiking along more than 110 kilometers of trails and enjoy water activities like fishing, kayaking, parasailing, boating and scenic cruises. The best way to see it all is with a guided walking, bicycle or carriage tour.

 

Shopping, Dining and Accommodations

The aroma of homemade fudge wafts through downtown Mackinac, where 14 candy shops churn out enough of the treat to earn Mackinac Island the name of America’s Fudge Capital. Watch the chocolate goodness being made at Murdick’s, Joann’s and Ryba’s. If you visit in August, plan to attend the annual Fudge Festival. At 40 downtown retailers, find the perfect souvenirs, including funky gifts at Caddywampus, Michigan specialties at Loonfeather and Balsam Shop, and handmade bath products at Little Luxuries of Mackinac Island. After dark, check out the Pink Pony for dinner and waterside cocktails. Mission Point Resort, a Condé Nast reader favorite on the shores of Lake Huron, and the Grand Hotel, a National Historic Landmark built in 1887, are two popular options for accommodations.

Fun Fact

View of the iconic front porch of Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel
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At more than 200 meters, the front porch at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel is the world’s longest.

Bird’s-eye view of Mackinac Island, where cars are not permitted
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M-185, which makes a 25-kilometer loop around the island, is the only highway in the USA that prohibits motorized vehicles.

The historic Main Street at night on Mackinac Island
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The entirety of Mackinac Island is on the National Register of Historic Places.

View of the serene Mackinac Island shoreline
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Nearby Experiences

Official Mackinac Island Travel Site