If it’s your first trip to Mackinac Island or you’ve been there a hundred times, there is always something new to experience and explore. We know the small island is one of the last car free islands in the country, but what else does it offer? It’s time to get off the main street and explore parts of the island you’ve never seen before. So stop in, grab your fudge and then start hiking and exploring the island! Most of these items on our list are free, easily accessible and places that you’ll want to head back for a second look.
Most of these attractions can be reached by foot but if you’re not up to hiking carriage rides will get you near them.
Arch Rock – Head Here Early!
This may be one site we stop at every time we’re on Mackinac Island. It’s iconic, and larger than any picture would lead you to imagine. The geological formation is made out of natural limestone arch formed during the Nipissing post-glacial period, a period of high Lake Huron levels following the end of the Wisconsin glaciation. You can walk right up to the arch and see the view of the lake through it. A small stair case allows you to get to the top and see the area around it with an view finder.
Carriage tours will bring tourists to Arch Rock throughout the day and you will find it hard to get good pictures with a lot of people pushing up against the guard rail. We had the best view early in the morning (we actually went at sun rise) and enjoyed the natural beauty without too many other people around.
The park area around Arch Rock does offer bathrooms, picnic tables and even a staircase that takes you down to the beach below where you can get a stunning view of this huge natural beauty.
Step Into Living History at Fort Mackinac
Fort Mackinac allows tourists to visit over 14 accurately restored buildings at one of the oldest forts in the nation. With cannons firing, rifle demonstrations and the ability to dine in the oldest building in the state – Fort Mackinac offers tourists more than you’d expect for the cost of admission. See how soldiers worked, lived and protected their strong hold – and don’t miss the military displays.
You can take a carraige ride to the fort, or climb the hill on your way up. Admission Adult: $13/Online: $12 Youth (5-12): $7.50/Online: $6.75
Find out more about Fort Mackinac Here
Anne’s Tablet – A Dedication to An Author’s Love of the Island
Just off the path next to Fort Mackinac and on your way to Arch Rock is Anne’s Tablet. An Art Nouveau tablet with an amazing view of the island and the water below. The tablet is named after the novel Anne, written by Costance Fenimore Woolson who set the first half of the novel on the island she loved. A quote from the book is inscribed on the tablet and shows her love for the place she visited in her childhood.
She loved the island and the island trees; she loved the wild larches the tall spires of the spruces bossed with lighter green, the gray pines and the rings of the juniper. Hear the rustling and the laughing of the forest and the waves of the waters on the pebbly shores.
You have to hike down the path to get to Anne’s Tablet, but the view of the dedication and from there is worth the journey.
Somewhere in Time Gazebo – A Destination for Weddings and More!
Down the same path to Anne’s Tablet you’ll also find the Somewhere in Time Gazebo. The iconic gazebo gained fame in the 1980’s film that was shot completely on Mackinac Island. Set in a beautiful clearing and surrounded by trees you can visit the gazebo any time for free. If you want to have a wedding at the scenic location they are one of the most affordable venues on the island. Add in the beautiful views for photos – this is a great place to consider for events!
This is right off the path following the sign to Anne’s Tablet and near the fort. You will have to walk here since the carriage rides will not be able to take you back on the path.
The Grand Hotel Stables – A Working Museum
We all may not be able to afford to stay in The Grand Hotel but we can visit their stables for free! The Grand Hotel Stables use the same color scheme as the hotel and even has multiple chandeliers inside. But a quick walk or carriage ride to the stables means you can see the horses that are working for the property as well as multiple historic carriages and sleighs. Learn their history and how they’ve been used throughout the years on the island. This is a working museum, so at any point some items may be out on the road.
Find out More about The Grand Hotel Stables Here