Things to Do on Mackinac Island with Kids | Michigan

Sitting in Lake Huron, just off the coast of Upper Michigan, Mackinac Island is an absolute dream. It’s been the go-to summer vacation destination in Michigan since the late 1800s. There are no cars and no chain hotels on Mackinac Island, and the only way to get there is by boat or plane. If you’re looking to visit Mackinac Island with kids, KEEP READING for our favorite things to do.

things to do on Mackinac Island with kids summer vacation destination in Michigan


Since Mackinac Island does not have cars, save for a few emergency vehicles, horse-drawn carriages are the easiest way to get around town. Mackinac Island Carriage Tours offers taxi service – though you need to call 906-847-3323 to request a taxi, you cannot hail one on the side of the street. Going from downtown/ferry dock to the Grand Hotel or Mission Point Resort (where we recommend staying!) is $6/person and half-price for kids 5-12. Due to the price, we only took a taxi once.

Gough Carriages pick up at Mission Point Resort

However, we did opt to do a carriage tour. Mackinac Island Carriage Tours offers public and private tours of Mackinac Island. For the public tours, hop in the line at the downtown ticket office and wait your turn – reservations are not accepted. When we walked by, it was over an hour wait to get on the sightseeing tour.

Both MICT and Gough Carriages offer private carriage tours of Mackinac Island and both charge by the hour with a one-hour minimum. Only same-day reservations are available for MICT private tours, but for Gough Carriages, you can make your reservation well in advance, ensuring you get the exact time and date you want.

private carriage tours of Mackinac Island fall color

We booked a two-hour private tour with Gough Carriages and had our driver pick us up at Mission Point Resort. Usually, their carriage tours leave from Marquette Park downtown, but they can also do pick-ups at some of the downtown hotels. It worked really well for us since we could eat breakfast and head right out front.

horse-drawn carriage on Mackinac Island fall color

The fall colors were absolutely gorgeous when we visited in mid-October. I think we were probably about a week before peak color, but it was still breathtaking.

girl with horses things to do with kids on Mackinac Island

We stopped near Fort Holmes to check out the view of Sugarloaf (not pictured), but the kids were more interested in playing with the horses. Did you know that horses like Twizzlers?! I certainly didn’t!

Mackinac Island carriage tour Lake Huron view

Mackinac Island is filled with beautiful Victorian homes. The kids have decided that we need to pack up everything and move there; we’re just short a few million dollars for a house. In all seriousness, though, I think I would pick this one surrounded by trees with views of Lake Huron.

A carriage tour really is a can’t miss experience on Mackinac Island. Whether you do a public or private tour, make sure you do one. We found two hours to be the perfect length for our private tour. It was short enough to keep the kids engaged, including Ellie, who now wants a horse, but was long enough to see the Mackinac Island highlights.


Mackinac Island bike rentals

While a carriage tour is a great way to see the highlights, if you really want to explore the island, a bicycle is the best way. You can rent bikes from many places on the island, but we found renting at Mission Point to be the most convenient since we were staying there. Additionally, their bikes are super comfortable – they are custom-made by Detroit Bikes and are in great shape. Mission Point Resort offers bike rentals by the hour, day, or length of stay, on a first come-first served basis.


kids biking the M-185 Highway loop around Mackinac Island

M-185 is the state highway that hugs the perimeter of the island. This 8.2-mile loop is one of the most popular routes on Mackinac Island. Since there are no cars on the island, bikers and pedestrians have full reign of this highway. In fact, it’s the only highway in the country where vehicles are banned! It takes most people about 3-4 hours to walk the loop or about an hour to bike the whole circle. Make sure to add in time to stop and enjoy the view, though!

Following years of high water and wave action that led to erosion and road damage, Michigan-185 was recently repaired and repaved. The entire 8.2-mile loop is now open for visitors to enjoy.

British Landing and the Mackinac Bridge

At the northern end of Mackinac Island, you’ll find British Landing. As the name suggests, it’s where British troops landed in July 1812. Those living on Mackinac Island at the time, including the troops at Fort Mackinac, were unaware that the War of 1812 broke out.

Under cover of night, British troops arrived on Mackinac Island with a few cannons, made their way inland to the high ground above Fort Mackinac, and demanded the US troops to surrender. Woefully outnumbered, the US troops surrendered without a fight.

Devil's Kitchen Mackinac Island with kids

Devil’s Kitchen is a limestone cave on the southwestern side of Mackinac Island. Legend has it that cannibalistic spirits cooked humans inside the caves leading to the sooty texture on the cave walls. There’s nowhere to really go inside, but it’s a fun place to stop and snap a picture!

girl biking down Main Street Mackinac Island

The M-185 loop also includes Main Street. Technically the loop starts and ends on Main Street at mile marker zero, though you can get on or off at many points around the island. There are over 70 miles of trails on Mackinac Island, so you’re not limited to just M-185. The big kids biked the whole loop with no problems – and wanted to do it again as soon as they made the entire loop. Ellie and I only did a couple of miles and then stopped for an ice cream cone on Main Street, and I think she probably could have made the whole loop if we packed some snacks and took a couple of breaks.


Arch Rock Mackinac Island turquoise water

Arch Rock is one of the most popular stops on M-185 and the one that I would make sure to make time to visit. The natural limestone arch stands 146 feet above the water and is over 50 feet wide. You can see Arch Rock from above if you do the MICT public carriage tour or either the MICT or Gough Carriages private tours.

kids biking in front of Arch Rock Mackinac Island

If you’re riding the M-185 loop, you can see Arch Rock from the highway as you’re traveling by but make sure to stop at the pull-off to take in the view.

207 stairs up to Arch Rock

And while you’re stopped, if you missed Arch Rock on the carriage tour, do yourself a favor and climb the 207 steps to the top and see it from above, with Lake Huron glistening behind.

Kids biking Arch Rock Mackinac Island with Kids

For a fun photo op, have your kids ride their bikes back and forth so that you can snap a picture of them biking as they pass Arch Rock!


Main Street Mackinac Island horse-drawn carriage

Downtown Mackinac Island is kind of like walking onto Main Street USA with its quintessential charm. There are no cars, just horse-drawn carriages and people riding up and down the street on bicycles. Even without vehicles, there is still a bit of traffic, and it seems most people abide by the drive on the right side of the road philosophy of the United States. The streets are lined with shops selling touristy knickknacks and trinkets, restaurants serving everything from burgers to fine dining, and most commonly, fudge!


smiling girl with Mackinac Island fudge

Fudge is a Mackinac Island staple. There are 14 different shops where you can purchase your fill of that sweet, chocolatey goodness that Mackinac Island is known for. In fact, fudge is the MOST POPULAR souvenir on Mackinac Island – and they produce more than 10,000 pounds EACH DAY during peak season!

Though fudge was invented in Baltimore, it was perfected on Mackinac Island. In the late 1800s, the Murdick family moved to the island and opened Murdick’s Candy Kitchen. Owner Rome Murdick was the first to make fudge on marble slabs on Mackinac Island, and the tradition stuck. Other fudge shops popped up, and watching fudgemakers became a public event, often drawing crowds.

But World War I and the Great Depression negatively affected the fudge-making industry with sugar rations and declining tourism. Murdick and his son used fans in their shop to blow the sweet scent of fudge onto the street, enticing people to come inside. Murdick’s Candy Kitchen was the only fudge shop to survive the Great Depression. However, after World War II, the economy took off, and so did Mackinac fudge, and the rest is history.

guy making fudge on marble slab Mackinac Island

Since fudge is the food that Mackinac Island is best known for, you better believe we tried as many fudge shops as we could while we were in town. The kids really enjoyed watching the fudge-making process at all of the shops and commented that fudgemakers must have powerful arms to work and fold the fudge on the marble slabs.

smiling kids Mackinac Island fudge

With four shops on the island and a 60+ year history, Ryba’s Fudge Shops is a solid choice. Their fudge is smooth and creamy and comes in a variety of fun flavors. JoAnn’s Fudge, with 2 Mackinac Island shops, was another good option. We found their fudge to be a little bit softer/meltier than other shops around, which wasn’t much of an issue on a cool October day but could be more of a problem in the summer.

But the absolute best fudge on the island was from Original Murdick’s Fudge. It was creamy; it was sweet, it was a perfect consistency, and exactly how a slice of fudge should taste.


kids on the shore of Lake Huron

Exploring Lake Huron was a big draw for us Southerners. This was the kids’ first time to the Great Lakes region, and honestly, none of us realized precisely how big the Great Lakes actually are. From many spots on Mackinac Island, you cannot see land in the distance – making it feel like you’re on an island in the middle of the ocean. And it’s crazy, depending on the sky and what part of the island you’re on, the waters of Lake Huron can range from a steely blue-gray color to the bright turquoise colors of the Caribbean.

kids skipping rocks in Lake Huron

We had a great time hanging out on the Great Lawn at Mission Point Resort and just taking in the sights. The kids skipped rocks and looked for fossils, and I enjoyed my coffee on one of their many Adirondack chairs. And bonus, the Great Lawn at Mission Point Resort is open to the public! You do not need to be a resort guest to enjoy the Lake Huron and Straits of Mackinac views.

downtown Mackinac Island - Pink Pony at the Chippewa Hotel

Given that it’s an island, it’s not hard to find great waterfront views on Mackinac Island. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants with views of the water, including the Pink Pony in the Chippewa Hotel downtown. After a delicious lunch on the patio, the kids sat on the dock and watched the boats coming in and out of the harbor.

girl sitting on the rocky shore of the turquoise blue Lake Huron on Mackinac Island

On the eastern side of the island, over by Arch Rock, the water looks like it’s straight out of the Caribbean. Now, it’s quite a bit colder than the Caribbean, so don’t let the turquoise colors fool you! In the summer, the average water temperature is in the low 60s, so still quite chilly!


Fort Mackinac with kids

Fort Mackinac is an absolute must-do when you visit Mackinac Island. Boasting the oldest building in Michigan, this is where history comes alive. We only had a couple of hours to explore on our way out of town, and it was not enough time. I would allow at least 3 to 4 hours, more if you want to see all of the demonstrations or take a tour.

firing the Fort Mackinac cannon

Firing the cannon to open the fort in the morning was the highlight of our time at Fort Mackinac. This experience is open to one person over the age of 13 per day (for an additional fee), and you need to make your reservation at least 48 hours in advance. If you’re going to be there during peak season, especially on a weekend, call Fort Mackinac at 906-847-3328 as soon as possible. Reservations are open now for the 2024 season.

We learned all about the cannon and its significance during Fort Mackinac’s military history. Ben learned how to check and prep the cannon, and then our Soldier Saige loaded the cannon. After Reveille played, it was time for: ready, set, fire! and Fort Mackinac was opened for the day.


Fort Mackinac with kids rifle demonstration

We’ve been to many military museums and battlefields during our travels, but this was our first time watching a rifle demonstration. The demonstration is done with an original 1884 Springfield rifle, and after getting a brief history of the weapon, we were able to watch the firing demonstration. People were invited to hold the rifle following the demonstration – Ellie said it was REALLY heavy!

hands-on fort building exhibit at Fort Mackinac Michigan

The kids really appreciated how hands-on everything is at Fort Mackinac. This fort-building exhibit was great fun for the whole family. I’m not sure if they had more fun building their fort or knocking it down at the end!

view of Mackinac Island from Fort Mackinac

For one of the BEST views on the island, head to the Tea Room at Fort Mackinac. We sat at one of the tables with the yellow umbrellas and took in the view while we enjoyed a snack! It’s located in the historic Officers’ Stone Quarters, the oldest public building in the state.

Fort Mackinac Tea Room coffee and Grand Hotel Pecan Ball

We ordered coffee and the legendary Grand Hotel Pecan Ball (since the Grand Hotel runs the Tea Room). I highly recommend that you make time to order a Pecan Ball, either at the Tea Room or over at the Grand. It’s honestly a simple dessert – a scoop of vanilla ice cream, rolled in pecans and served over a puddle of fudge – but it’s oh, so delicious.

There’s honestly so much for families to do on Mackinac Island. We were there for two nights, and it was nowhere near long enough. The kids said that next time, we need to stay for AT LEAST a week! Have you visited before?? Let me know your Mackinac Island faves and tips in the comments!!

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