Mackinac Island Travel Guide
Mackinac Island, Michigan, is a small island near the strategically important Straits of Mackinac, which separate Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. It has a population of only around 500 people, yet its historic interest and natural beauty swell the town with thousands of tourists and workers during the peak summer tourism months.
Mackinac Island once had its own Native American people group inhabiting it, called the Mishinemacki-nawgo, but they were virtually wiped out by an Iroquois raiding party. Later, French missionaries and fur traders began to arrive in the 1650’s, and the town of Mackinac Island was founded by the French in 1671. The island became a major center of the fur trade for many years. It was lost to the British after the French and Indian War and to the U.S. after the War of 1812. By the late 1800’s, it had become a major resort town.
Things to see and do on and around Mackinac Island
The adventure begins with the ferry ride to the island, and once arrived, you will find that automobiles are banned on the island. You can walk, bike, horseback ride, and in the winter, snowmobile, however.
On nearby Round Island, you can see Round Island Light and enjoy a portion of the Hiawatha National Forest. On the main island lies Mackinac Island State Park, which takes up 80 percent of its terrain, and Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse. Both islands are mostly covered by a pristine, wooded wilderness.
See historic Fort Mackinac, which was built in 1780 by the British but later served as an American fort. Besides the structure itself, you will find reenactments, live cannon and rifle fire, marching columns of soldiers, old-time medical instruments, and much more inside the fort.
See the replica version of Fort Holmes, which the British built during the War of 1812 to protect the larger Fort Mackinac. You may also wish to visit British Landing, where indeed the invading British once landed, though the land is now occupied by a golf course. And the 1814 Battlefield marks the spot where U.S. forces attempted but failed to retake the island. It was transferred to American control at war’s end nonetheless.
Don’t neglect to visit some of the many fudge shops on Mackinac Island. Fudge is a specialty of the islanders. They have numerous local varieties, and “Mackinac Fudge” is a prized treat throughout the state of Michigan and beyond.
Mackinac Island had mildly warm summers, with the July high averaging 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and cold winters, with the January high averaging 14 degrees. Much precipitation falls throughout the entire year, and it is normally humid. The island receives 27 inches of rain and 60 inches of snow per year, and there is no true dry season.