Mackinac Island is an idyllic family vacation destination full of natural beauty, historical sites, and numerous entertainment options on Lake Huron in the state of Michigan. The island’s rocky beaches yield to deep blue water along the shores while cozy old cottages and charming storefronts make you feel as if you’ve traveled back in time. As no motor vehicles are allowed, your Mackinac Island vacation rental allows your family to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life and get closer to nature, and there are a variety of can’t-miss tourist attractions. Use this list of the top things to do in Mackinac Island with kids to plan a dream vacation the entire family is sure to love.
1. Visit the Fort
Fort Mackinac sits perched high on a bluff, visible from a distance as you approach the island. A total of 14 buildings makes up the fort compound, including one structure that claims the title of Michigan’s oldest building. Give your kids a taste of life in the 1800s as you interact with the costumed staff and wander through the fort. Watch demonstrations, including rifle and cannon firing, and explore a host of interactive exhibits throughout the fort. The Kids’ Quarters area immerses children of all ages into history with hands-on displays and the opportunity to dress up like a soldier. Older kids can appreciate the overall history of this stop more than younger kids, but there’s something for everyone. Conversations about Fort Mackinac are sure to continue long after you return to your vacation rental.
2. Tour Via Carriage
Since motor vehicles aren’t used on the island, horses and bikes become the go-to mode of transportation. Cover lots of ground with a horse-drawn carriage tour of the island. Kids get a kick out of the unique vehicle, which makes the tour more interesting. Stops at points of interest give you a good overview of the island and make for great photo opportunities. Tours often last close to two hours, so younger kids may lose interest before you return to the beginning.
3. Visit Arch Rock
Mackinac Island features many natural rock formations, of which Arch Rock is one of the most popular. Only a short distance from the downtown area, Arch Rock is easily accessible, and it offers views of the water that is well worth the trek. The natural archway perfectly frames the blue waters below for a picturesque view that wows visitors of all ages. Snap a photo of your kids at Arch Rock for the vacation album. Skull Cave is another geological highlight, as is Crack in the Island, which is spacious enough for you to climb in.
4. Go Hiking
Explore remote areas of the island with a family hike. Hiking trails crisscross the island, giving you varied views, from wooded areas to sweeping views of the water from above. The terrain varies depending on the path, with some steep and rugged paths that are best for older kids. Plan your trek based on the ages and physical abilities of your kids. Start with trails near your vacation rental, so you can return easily if little ones get tired.
5. See Butterflies
Mackinac Island is home to two butterfly conservatories. The Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House and Insect World receives hundreds of new butterflies each week, so kids can spot many different types no matter when you visit. Wings of Mackinac surrounds you with hundreds of butterflies in a relaxing setting. Find a spot on a bench to observe the butterflies while enjoying the relaxing sounds of the fountain in the background. Kids can also see finches and a scarlet macaw at this stop.
6. Check Out Lighthouses
Visit lighthouses to learn more about the nautical side of Mackinac Island. A boat tour of lighthouses gives you an overview of the structures in the area, many of which are surrounded by water with no access to the general public. If you prefer to tour the inside of a lighthouse, stop at Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse. Built in 1889, this lighthouse features interactive exhibits on the history of the structure. Kids at least 4-feet tall can climb to the top of the four-story tower for a gorgeous look at the surrounding area.
7. Taste Fudge
Home to a number of fudge shops, Mackinac Island satisfies your sweet tooth with the sweet confection. Kids enjoy sampling various fudge flavors. Many of the shops let you watch the candy makers hard at work, magically transforming the sweet ingredients into the treats you see in the counter display. Choose your favorite flavors to bring back to your vacation rental for dessert. If you need a break from the sweetness overload, check out the other quaint shops on the island. A popular stop for kids is Great Turtle Toys. You can find plenty of gift shops with souvenir options to commemorate your trip.
8. Go for a Bike Ride
Travel the island freely on two wheels. Bring your own bikes on the ferry, or rent kids’ and adults’ bikes once you arrive. You can also rent bike trailers for the youngest family members. The total trek around the island is about 8 miles, which is attainable for older kids. Stick to the edges of the island to bike relatively flat paths that make the journey easier. You get amazing views of Lake Huron, and the path around the island’s perimeter includes lots of stop options when the kids (or adults) need a break. Venture along interior paths with older kids who can handle the challenge of various elevations. Check out vacation rentals with garages to store bikes if you pack your own.
9. Go Kayaking
Venture away from dry land with a kayak tour. Kids 5 and up can join you on a kayak tour of the island. Choose a single kayak for each family member, or pair up in tandem kayaks if your kids are young. Tours start at as short as 30 minutes for young kids who may lose interest. Longer tours lasting up to two hours allow older kids to see more of Mackinac Island from the water.
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