Mackinaw City Travel Guide

Mackinaw City, Michigan, is a small village of around 800 people that is located at the northern tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It lies on the southern shore of the Straits of Mackinac and at the entrance to Mackinac Bridge. Mackinaw City is also the main departure point for ferry rides over to Mackinac Island. For its historic sites and scenic beauty, Mackinaw City is a major tourist destination, and its population swells to thousands during the summer months.

History

Three Algonquian Indian peoples, the Potawatomi, Ottawa, and Chippewa, long lived in the area and were united as the “Council of Three Fires.” French traders and explorers made contact with them in the 1600’s, and the site of present-day Mackinaw City became a huge fur trade hub. In 1715, Fort Michilimackinac was constructed by the French, but it was lost to the British in 1763. In 1783, the fort was abandoned. In 1857, the town of Mackinaw City was founded. The town later became the stop-off point for train and automobile ferries to the Upper Peninsula, until the construction of Mackinac Bridge in 1957.

Things to see and do in Mackinaw City

Visit the Straits State Park, just north of Mackinaw City on the other side of the Mackinac Bridge. The park is in the town of Saint Ignace and offers 250 campsites, hiking trails, panoramic views of the Mackinac Bridge, picnicking areas, three playgrounds, and more.

Old Mackinac Lighthouse – Mackinaw City, Michigan

The seal of Michilimackinac state park at the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse with people and Mackinac Bridge in the background.

See McGulpin Point Light in Mackinaw City. It is one of the oldest lighthouses still standing in the region. Also see Old Mackinac Point Light Station, which stands at the convergence of Lakes Huron and Michigan.

Visit Fort Michilimackinac State Park, right in Mackinaw City, where you can see a replica of historic Fort Michilimackinac. There are also reenactments that take place in and near the fort.

Visit the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum, which is inside of a decommissioned cutter ship and permanently located at SS Chief Wawatam Dock.

Michilimackinac State Park – Mackinaw City, Michigan

A sign welcoming visitors to Michilimackinac state park with people and traffic on Mackinac Bridge in the background.

If visiting on Labor Day, take part in the annual Mackinac Bridge Walk. Thousands walk over Mackinac Bridge, being led by the Governor of Michigan, on a five mile walk.

Tour Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park, a nature reserve five miles south of Mackinaw City. The park also has an old sawmill and, during the summer, there are demonstrations on woodworking and other skills common in the early 1800’s. A professional naturalist will also be on site to explain about the park’s wildlife and plant species.

Climate conditions

Mackinaw City has hot, humid summers and very cold winters. July highs average 81 degrees Fahrenheit, while January highs average 27 degrees. The seasonal differences are very stark, and tourists take note and flood in during the summer months.