Seven Hidden Gems on Mackinac Island

Published on January 18th, 2017

Last updated on December 3rd, 2022

Finding a Michigander who can’t rattle off something about Mackinac Island is a difficult task. The Island is a prominent destination in the Mitten State, and many residents have at least visited once and know the Island’s highlights: horses, biking, fudge, Arch Rock, et al.

Mackinac packs much more than the obvious, however. In fact, fully indulging the Island requires multiple visits, as it features numerous hidden gems and activities that even long-time Michigan residents might not know about. Below are seven that you need to be aware of for your next visit.

1. Anne’s Tablet

Fort Mackinac is hard to miss. The majestic fort greets visitors upon its bluff, and many will certainly file through it. What some might not realize is the fort’s surrounding area offers some gems. For instance, Marquette Park, which rests directly below the fort, provides a wooden staircase that leads up into the woods on the fort’s right side. Follow some markers and you’ll arrive at a dell that contains a shrine to 19th century writer Constance Fenimore Woolson and a can’t-miss view of the Mackinac Straits. It’s a beautiful spot that compels you to pause and admire. This is an ideal “hidden gem” that’s not too difficult nor far from downtown.

2. That Other Fort

You know Fort Mackinac, but do you know Fort Holmes? British forces constructed the fort in 1814 atop the highest point on the Island. It served as protection for the British against an anticipated U.S. attack. The fort recently underwent a complete restoration, featuring reconstructed wooden walls and a blockhouse. Checking out the restoration is definitely worth the uphill climb to the fort, but that’s not the only reward that dwells. Here you’ll find breathtaking 360-degree sweeping views of the Island and its surrounding waters. It doesn’t take long to realize why the British used it as a lookout. Have that iPhone on its panoramic setting while you are up there. Visiting Fort Holmes also provides a unique, towering view of the Mighty Mackinac Bridge.

3. Crack-in-the-Island

Mackinac features more than 70 miles of natural and unpaved trails that weave and bring you to copious spots within the Island’s exterior and interior. It’s pretty exciting thinking about what gem you might amble across if you set aside some time for exploration. One such gem is the Crack-in-the-Island. Geological formations are aplenty on the Island, and while this one might not be an A-Lister like Arch Rock, it’s still worthy of discovery. Traversing through the crack or pretending like you are stuck in it always makes for an amusing photo. If you want some help finding it, stop by the Island’s Information Booth for directions or ask a local!

4. Ferries Aren’t Solely For Transport to the Island

The Ferryboats are an essential aspect to the Mackinac Island experience, as it serves as the main arrival vessel for the heavy majority of visitors. However, they can add to your overall experience beyond solely being your method of transport to Mackinac. Mackinac’s Ferry providers offer special trips under the Mackinac Bridge, sunset cruises and more. It’s not just Mackinac Island you should explore, but the surrounding waters as well.

5. Seeing Arch Rock…Via Kayak

This hidden gem involves an Island staple but with a twist. Kayaking is growing in prominence on the Island, as you’re able to rent them or go out on tours. While there are countless trails to explore on the Island, perhaps the most exciting “trail” is the water. Paddle over to the Island’s east bluff and admire Arch Rock from a whole new perspective.

6. Sugar Loaf Point Lookout

Arch Rock may be the king of geological formations on Mackinac Island, but make no mistake about it: Sugar Loaf is a worthy adversary. While you’re able to get up close to Sugar Loaf – unlike Arch Rock, you can touch it – the true “hidden gem” aspect of the rock is the nearby Point Lookout. It’s one of the higher points on the Island and provides a spectacular view of the sprouting rock, suffused by trees in the foreground of miles and miles of gorgeous blue water. The color contrast is striking, and you’ll find yourself not wanting to look away. It’s a view that will become embedded into your mind for years to come.

7. The Morning Before The Ferries Arrive

This last hidden gem isn’t so much a thing, but a moment in time. If you visited the Island, but never stayed overnight, you are missing out on what might be the best gem of them all: the Island waking up. When staying overnight it’s definitely worth it to set that alarm a little early and enjoy a tranquil Mackinac before the ferries start docking. See the sunrise, go for a run, get a cup of coffee and just rest – embrace the morning. It’s a different Mackinac, a more dispersed, relaxed Mackinac.