The guide to family travel on Mackinac Island

Published on July 29th, 2020

Last updated on December 7th, 2022

When vacationing means not only packed suitcases, but a car packed with kids, Mackinac Island is the ideal destination. From sampling fudge to adventurous biking to exploring a historic Kid-friendly places to stay include Grand Hotel and many of Mackinac Island’s other resorts, hotels, cottages, condos and B&Bs.fort, Mackinac Island features plentiful activities and an atmosphere that provides fun for the whole family.

Since traveling with kids can keep your hands full, we want to make it easier on you and compile what you should know right here – because we know before you travel with family there are various “what abouts” that require answering.

  • What About Family Friendly Lodging?

Families rightfully seek lodging options that are not only practical but fun for an assortment of ages. Mackinac Island features distinctive hotels, resorts, and cottages perfect for not only resting your head, but providing the space your family needs. The Grand Hotel was even recognized by Jetsetter Magazine as one of 5 luxury hotels with a kid-friendly vibe. With free golf for ages 17 and younger, lawn games in the tea garden, a swimming pool, the World’s Longest Front Porch, and family-style dinner options, the historic hotel is a premier family experience. Grand Hotel even offers Family Added Value Days.

Bicycle Inn is another option, with mesmerizing views right in the heart of downtown Mackinac, suites for five or more people, and free breakfast. Meanwhile, many places including Main Street Inn have connecting rooms available; Hotel Iroquois, Lake View Hotel, and Inn at Stonecliffe have pools; and Mission Point Resort even offers complimentary kids activities and free dining for ages 12 and under.

Some places to stay offer family packages such as Mission Point’s Mackinac Family Experience which combines lodging and ferry tickets with dining and activities including bike rentals, miniature golf and admission to attractions like Fort Mackinac and the Butterfly House.

With so many unique lodging options – there are no chain hotels on the island – you and your family are bound to find something that fits your style when searching for places to stay.

  • What About Kid Friendly Dining?

    Mackinac Island offers family dining experiences for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and, of course, fudge any time of day!

Mackinac Island dining covers diverse options that can serve up families whether the kids are picky eaters or possess a more expansive palate. Establishments like Island Slice Pizzeria, Chuckwagon, Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor, and Pancake House have all your comfort food favorites covered. Many Island restaurants also feature kid menus and are accommodating of any dietary restrictions your child may possess. Consult the Mackinac Island Dining Guide for an in-depth look at menus and casual family friendly dining.

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the many fudge shops present on the Island – something for which Mackinac is renowned. Fudge shops provide not only the perfect treat for the little ones, but it can double as a family activity – watching the fudge get made is a must!

And what screams family more than a picnic? Visitors are always encouraged to stop by Doud’s Market to pick up their picnic favorites and sprawl out a picnic blanket at Marquette Park – or you can also order to-go meals at many of the restaurants.

  • What About Family Fun Activities?

There’s family fun on Mackinac Island all over, from iconic Arch Rock to historic Fort Mackinac to the famous butterfly houses.

More than 80% of Mackinac Island is the Mackinac Island State Park – so it’s essentially one large

playground begging for adventurers! You’ll find more than 70 miles of trails, some paved, some shared by horses and bikes, and others only for hiking. You can get in the water and explore by kayak, too! There’s a lot for families to see by foot, pedal, paddle or horseback. It can really be a choose-your-own-adventure – who knows what the day may bring within the Mackinac wilderness.

Scattered throughout the Island are also various fascinating geological formations like Arch Rock, Sugar Loaf, and Crack-in-the-Island. While out exploring, stumbling across these eye-popping formations creates good opportunities for the kiddos to practice their selfie skills!

Mackinac Island is also home to two butterfly houses, Wings of Mackinac and The Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House and Insect World. Kids can learn about the life cycles of butterflies, different kind of species, what they eat and more. (Wings of Mackinac is closed for the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

A stroll through Fort Mackinac is often the pinnacle island experience for the children – because how can they not love a cannon firing demonstration?! The fort is comprised of 14 buildings, one of which is even the oldest in Michigan. You can view scheduled demonstrations, interact with costumed interpreters, and see hands-on exhibits within the fort’s walls.

Downtown, check out the incredible 3-D Maze of Mirrors that’s great for all ages and The Haunted Theatre, a vintage haunted house full of spooky fun where your imagination will run wild.

A Mackinac Island visit is truly complete with a family horse-and-carriage ride. It’s a unique way to experience the Island’s beauty and can have your children feeling like princesses and princes. There are a few different carriage tours, even ones that offer narration as you ride past island staples like Surrey Hills, Arch Rock, and Fort Mackinac. And for the kids who really want to get up close to horses, horseback riding lessons are available.

Family travel can have its challenges, but Mackinac Island makes it as easy and accessible as possible. One Mackinac Island visit creates countless lasting memories. Our friendly and helpful staff is ready to assist and answer any “what abouts” you may have – contact us today.