So you are unsure if you want to make the big purge and stay on the island. You also could be worried you might not like it (I doubt it but good to wonder) So I recommend a day trip to explore the island. If you are more than 2 hours away I highly recommend that you at least get lodging to stay in Mackinaw City or St Ignace. Why those places? They are where the ferries leave to go to the island.
So you decided to go for the day. What time is best? Honestly get over there as early as possible. True some shopping might not be open but that doesn’t mean other stuff isn’t. If you are wanting to I encourage you to start with a carriage tour as soon as they open. This allows you to possibly not having to wait. With waiting though they do give you a time to come back so you can at least explore if it is a long one. Now the carriage tour can take as long as you want. Once you get to the Surrey Hill Museum you are on your own to explore around there. When you have finished then you will grab another carriage to finish the tour. I would plan at least 3 hours for this.
So now it could be lunchtime. Expect some waiting at some places. Or you can venture into Doud’s Market and get some great on the go meals and either do a picnic next in Marquette Park or rent a bike (if you don’t have any) place in basket and whisk away to explore the island. You can then stop and eat anywhere around M-185 JUST BE SURE TO GET OFF THE ROAD. Too many times people stop in the middle of the road for pics or to drink water. Be aware this is an active road so look behind you.
I recommend stopping at British Landing on the bike around the island. Here you can get snacks at the Cannonball Drive Inn for their fried pickles or even just water. This is where you can venture inland if you have the curiosity. Everything is marked extremely well that you can’t get confused too much. Be sure to either have a map on you from the visitors bureau guide or a saved photo on your phone. Inland you will find the cemeteries, local residents housing, forts and lots of trials leading you to gorgeous views.
If you decide to just do the 8.2 mile ride after that would be a great time to head to the Grand Hotel. It does cost 10.00 if you are not a guest to go inside and explore the gardens. I feel they do this to keep the hotel guests from feeling overwhelmed with too many people. If you don’t want to do the porch or gardens- hit up Sadie’s Ice Cream Shoppe at the end of the Hotel. It is not charged to go in and from there you can eat and venture over to the Gate House which is part of the Grand but not as many dress restrictions.
Shopping downtown and on Market Street is a must. The shops are full of everything from Mackinac memorabilia to Michigan local artists. Social media has been a huge way I have stayed in connection with a lot of these shops. Why? They tell hours, sales and what they sell. I truly like to walk in and out of all the shops to stock up on goodies to remind me of the trip and island.
Afternoon cocktail time is always a good idea in my opinion. Kingston Kitchen boasts a bloody Mary that is a mini meal. My friend got one and shared the pic – yes please. I also like to find a place that either has a view of Main Street while sitting and drinking outside -think Great Turtle Brewery or of the lake- Pink Pony outdoor patio. Mission Point and Island House have great options for this too.
After this It is fun to see if you can venture in to any of the hotels to see what they look like. This also gives you an idea of where you might want to stay. They are all very open to you coming in and checking it out and asking questions about times and deals or packages.
Dinner could be coming up and if you know you are gonna be here for this I would for sure check in earlier in the day to see if you can make a reservation. The ferries stop running at a certain time and you don’t want to miss that. This also gives you a chance to try one of the many fabulous restaurants on the island.
This is just a simple day trip recommendation. I had a client who went and she said she would definitely do a day trip again but stay in Mackinaw City or St Ignace. If you get there anytime after 11 and only have till the last ferry at 8 it can go really fast. So try to utilize your time as much as you can. Because I am not kidding. The place sucks you in and you don’t want to go.