5 reasons to visit Mackinac Island before you’re 40

Published on June 5th, 2019

Last updated on December 3rd, 2022

Like to hike? Or mountain bike? How about slice through the water in a kayak?

If outdoor recreation is your jam, then Mackinac Island is a destination you don’t want to miss.Two Friends Stopping to Pose for Photo During Bike on Forested Hiking Trail on Mackinac Island

Yes, Mackinac Island. That place with the world-famous fudge, fancy hotels and historic fort. That…and so much more.

Did you know more than 80 percent of Mackinac is state parkland? That there’s more than 70 miles of trails crisscrossing the island? Or that it’s a natural vacation destination for Millennials?

Just ask Gabi Bowditch, a 25-year-old who has spent summers on the island for the past decade working as a videographer, gardener and musician.

“People don’t realize Mackinac has it going on for getting out on the trails and the water,” she says. “I’m pretty active outdoors and that’s always a big draw for me.”

Yet, Mackinac’s natural outdoor playground is just one reason to visit the island sooner in life rather than later. Here are four more ways to have fun on Mackinac before you’re 40:

Live it up at night – Gabi’s a singer/songwriter who plays acoustic guitar at some of Musician on Stage Playing Guitar and Singing Into Microphone During Concert on Mackinac Islandthe island’s unique bars and restaurants. She’d love for you to come see her play, but if rock is more your style, or hip hop, or orchestra music at the Grand Hotel, that’s cool, too. Anyone can find their vibe on Mackinac. And the best part is all the venues are close together, within walking distance (which is good, because there are no cars on the island!). There’s such a wide variety of music in such a concentrated area that it’s easy to go from one place to the next and get the full experience of Mackinac nightlife.

Browse the boutiques – You can find a souvenir T-shirt on Mackinac if that’s what you want. There’s also lots of super cute downtown boutiques. Some of Gabi’s favorites include Little Luxuries Artist Market, Young Woman Carrying Shopping Bag Posing For Photo in Front of Shops on Mackinac IslandCaddywampus, Poppins and the Lucky Bean Coffeehouse. There are no retail chains on Mackinac. Everything is unique to the island (except Starbucks, but that’s a good thing!). While you’re downtown shopping, you can check out one of Mackinac’s many extraordinary bars and restaurants for a drink and a bite to eat. New to the mix in 2019 are Kingston Kitchen at The Village Inn, which features Jamaican fusion cuisine, and the Watercolor Café on the water behind Bay View B&B that’s a coffee shop by day and an art studio by night.

Board a carriage, or sailboat – A horse-drawn carriage ride around Mackinac is the most popular activity for families, and it’s a good something-to-do for Millennials, too. The tour takes you over a lot of the island and whets your appetite for what you’d like to explore more. For a different kind of Mackinac tour, book a Sip ‘n Sail Cruise that gets you out on the water around the island. The cruise is about the same price and takes about the same amount of time as a carriage tour, but there’s live entertainment on board, a cash bar and you get to go Woman Leaping Joyfully Off Small Cliff and Diving Into Waters Surrounding Mackinac Islandright under the incredible Mackinac Bridge.

Go ahead and jump in! – So, Coastal Living named Mackinac one of the country’s Best Little Beach Towns, yet the island really doesn’t have a swimmable beach. At least, not officially. You’ll see locals jumping off docks downtown, and all around the island are places to get in the water and cool off on a hot summer day. Gabi suggests taking a dip at British Landing, halfway around the island. It’s a great stop on a bike ride around the outer rim of Mackinac where you can take a break, grab some food at Cannonball Drive Inn and splash in the Great Lakes waves.

Now that you know what to do on Mackinac, when should you visit? The main tourist season runs from late April through the end of October, although you can visit the island throughout the winter as well. The opening weeks in May can be a great time to visit before the season’s peak in summer. The atmosphere is electric on the Fourth of July and during the Labor Day Jazz Weekend. You can also build a trip around one of the island’s four road races held in May, June, September and October.

But whenever you visit Mackinac, you can enjoy really accessible outdoor recreation. And maybe the best part is that there’s outdoor recreation for all levels, whether you want to bring your mountain bike and really do it up or just take a walk along the waterfront to Mission Point Resort or relax with a picnic in Marquette Park.

“There’s opportunity to chill in whatever way chill means for you,” Gabi says.