Summer jobs on Mackinac Island: Why college students love them

Published on March 29th, 2018

Last updated on November 26th, 2022

You could work this summer as a golf shop attendant anywhere. Or you could work as a golf shop attendant at a 120-year-old course built on a battleground where British and American soldiers fought during the War of 1812.

You could work this summer as a retail associate. Or you could work as a retail associate in a unique island shop visited by people from all over the world.

You could work this summer as a driver. Or you could work as a driver who pilots a horse-drawn carriage down the country’s only state highway that doesn’t allow motor vehicles.

There’s a lot of jobs you could do this summer. But there’s only one place you can have a summer job while living on an island where there’s an amazing view of the Mackinac Straits, where you can meet peers from around the world and where after hours you can play as hard as you work.

“Working on the island is such a unique experience because you get to live where other people vacation,” said Elizabeth Swift, a University of Michigan student who has worked on Mackinac the past couple summers at a fudge shop and as a barista. “Sure, while you’re on the clock it doesn’t feel like a vacation, but you’re working with all of your friends that you live with, too, which makes it feel a lot less like work.

“Once you’re off work, you’re on an island! It’s so beautiful during the summer time. One of my favorite pastimes was hammocking in the woods or along the beach with my friends, and the bar scene is super fun if you’re over 21. It’s impossible not to make friends. You’ll find yourself growing into who you are as you fall into friend groups that you didn’t see coming.”

A summer job on Mackinac Island is less about what you’re doing than where you’re doing it. Christina Eckrich could have worked at a Starbucks anywhere last summer. But working at a Starbucks on Mackinac Island was like living in a paradise full of fudge, flowers and adventure.

The University of Akron student loved sitting by the water after work and watching the boats with friends.

“Mackinac Island is the best place to live and work because there is a wide variety of jobs and over 100 miles of trails to explore,” said Christina, who plans to return to the island this summer as a manager. “You can never do enough adventuring while on Mackinac.”

Now is the time to apply for summer jobs on the island, since many restaurants, hotels, shops and attractions are hiring. Here’s a partial list of jobs that are now open:

  • Wait staff
  • Bartenders
  • Front desk attendants
  • Housekeepers
  • Retail store associates
  • Baristas
  • Livery drivers
  • Ferry deck hands
  • Fudge shop staff
  • Historic interpreters at Fort Mackinac

Seasonal jobs on Mackinac run from April through the end of the tourist season the last week of October, with college students filling many of them during the months they’re on summer break from school. In many cases, employers make shared dorm-style housing available and some also offer meal plans.

Every job is different, but they all come with the unique opportunity to experience summer on Mackinac Island: the sound of boat horns and horse hooves, naps in a hammock, hassle-free commutes. Seasonal jobs are full-time work, but there’s still plenty of time to explore the island and you get to meet tons of people about the same age. Island workers also get discounts at many places including butterfly houses, ghost tours and carriage rides.

After graduating from college, Hazel Foster went to Mackinac with plans to work on the island until she found a “real job.” But she liked it so much that she stayed through the end of the season and now is heading back this summer as a bartender.

“Even if you’re alone there’s usually people you can strike up a conversation with and it’s always fun to learn about all the different people that find their way to the island,” Foster said. “No two nights are ever alike.”

Although some jobs on Mackinac Island don’t start until the tourist season ramps up in May, if you wait until then to apply it’s probably too late. Explore job openings here and get your application in today.