While Mackinac Island is commonly known as a summer destination, Fall is the perfect time to get whisked away to this charming setting. Located on Lake Huron between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, Mackinac Island is only a short boat ride away for tourists and locals alike to experience this famously car-free, Victorian inspired island.
As soon as Labor Day passes, the crowds start to trickle, making it an excellent time to enjoy a last minute getaway to the island before the ferry stops running October 31st for the season. Not only will you get to revel in the Fall color, but you’ll also find shorter ferry lines, lakeside restaurant tables available, bargain hotel rooms, and plenty of private hiking trails.
Believe it or not, getting to Mackinac Island is fairly easy. You can access the island by ferry, personal boat or plane. Ferries are the most popular, economical and the easiest mode of transportation to the island. If you’ve never been on a boat, you’re going to enjoy the adventure of traveling across the waters to the island. Along the way you’ll find incredible views of the Bridge, the island and the surrounding waters of the Straits. You may even get a little mist of water from the waves crashing against the boat. All you have to do to catch the ferry is drive to Mackinaw City, and pick between one of the two main passenger ferry services to deport you to and from the island. Check out Shepler’s and Star Line for more information.
If you’re lucky enough to own your own boat, then I highly suggest embarking on the boaters experience of boating yourself to the island. The Mackinac Island State Harbor is an excellent marina that consists of 76 slips, and is open from mid-May to mid-October. With only a short walk from downtown, the marina puts you right in the middle of all the action! You can’t get a better overnight accommodation than sleeping in the harbor itself. There’s nothing more Pure Michigan than waking up to the sight and sounds of Lake Huron and Mackinac Island. Some of my fondest boating memories have been trips from Traverse City to Mackinac Island. Click here for slip rental information.
Don’t cut yourself short! There’s so much to see on the Island, and if you wan’t to even attempt to see half of it, you have to spend the night. Plus, if you’re like me, you’re going to want to enjoy a cocktail or two without having to worry about catching the last ferry or driving home after a full day of festivities.
There’s so many great hotel accommodations to choose from, but here are a few of my favorites that I like to recommend:
Biking around Mackinac Island is one of the island’s best attractions. With plenty of paved trails, there’s a bike route to satisfy any biker. If you’re looking for an easy and enjoyable ride with a view, take the shoreline path known as Lake Shore Boulevard. This eight-mile paved trail will take you around the island with Lake Huron as your riding companion. Once you’ve completed the shoreline loop, adventure inland and you’ll be astonished with how much there is to see.
You can either bring your own bike over on the ferry, or rent a bike on the Island. I always opt in to renting a bike when I get to the Island because it’s fairly economical and easy to do, plus there’s plenty of rental shops on the Island to choose from.
Don’t forget your walking shoes, because Mackinac Island is full of unique and noteworthy stores calling your name. From souvenir shops, to clothing boutiques and stationary gift shops, there’s a store to satisfy any shopper’s needs. If you’re looking for a new outfit to wear on the Island, you must hit up Nephew’s Of Mackinac. You also can’t leave without stopping in Poppins – I’m kinda obsessed, and could buy the whole store!
The Grand Hotel’s Tea Room at Fort Mackinac is one of my favorite scenic settings on Mackinac Island to enjoy a late afternoon snack. Tour the historic Fort and relax afterwards with a delicious small plate and exceptional view of downtown and the harbor.
Horseback riding is a fun way to see the sights of this historic island. Cindy’s Riding Stable works with you to find a horse suitable for any skill level so that the whole family can enjoy the beautiful trails. You can opt in for individual riding or take a guided trail ride. Don’t be nervous about going without a guide, because the horses are pretty much programmed to know the way and they can do the route with their eyes close.
Full of pink, good views and good vibes, the Pink Pony is by far my favorite bar on the island. You can enjoy drinks on their outdoor patio during the day or indulge in a little dancing and live music at night.
Your trip to Mackinac Island is never complete with out a taste of the island’s most popular souvenir. You’ll find about seven different fudge shops on the island to cure your cravings. Try one or all seven, you won’t regret it!
Located alongside the Bistro on the Greens at Mission Point Hotel, The Greens of Mackinac is an 18 hole putting course. Not only is this putting course located directly on the water, but they also allow you to take your drinks around the course with you. It’s a win-win!
Even Fall has a few nice days where lounging at the Grand Hotel Pool with a piña colada is still acceptable. You don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy these gorgeous amenities.
The Original Mackinac Island Butterfly House is the 1st of its kind in Michigan, and the 3rd oldest live butterfly exhibit in the United States. During your trip you’re going to want to explore this 1800 sq ft tropical garden that’s filled with hundreds of live butterflies from four different continents
The most authentic way to see the island is by a horse and carriage. The Mackinac Island Carriage Tours will guide you through the ins and outs of the island. I personally wouldn’t have seen or learned as much about the island if it wasn’t for this tour. Sit back, relax and take in the fall colors on this inland tour of the island.
The award winning Carriage House is by far the finest waterfront dining on the Island. With views looking directly over the Straits of Mackinac, you’ll get to enjoy fine classic American cuisine featuring local seafood selections. The Carriage House also has a pretty extensive wine list that I find myself obsessing over every visit.
There’s no shortage of 4th of July festivities when it comes to celebrating in Traverse City! With the summer’s biggest holiday around the corner, it’s time to enjoy all the activities that salute the nation and honor its history. From spectacular fireworks over West Bay, to lakefront concerts, beach parties and more, there’s no better place to celebrate the country’s independence in Michigan than Traverse City.
Grab your friends, family, and sparklers, and turn up your USA-themed playlist, then head to one of these Northern Michigan 4th of July celebrations!
Yeah, it’s a party in the U.S.A
Enjoy the Traverse City Boom Boom Club’s spectacular 4th of July firework display shot over West Bay beginning at dark! You’ll find great viewing from anywhere along the West Bay shoreline in Traverse City. Click here for more information.
The best part about Northern Michigan is its beaches. No salt, no sharks, and nothing but fresh water! If you’re looking for the biggest 4th of July gathering, head down to West End Beach or Clinch Park along the shores of Traverse City’s Open Space. Locals and visitors alike will claim their space on the beach, with boaters anchored nearby, creating a fun boat-to-shore social scene.
Each summer since 1968, Traverse City has celebrated one of its most famous and delicious goods: the cherry. The 2017 National Cherry Festival takes place July 1 through July 8, and it’s full of all sorts of fun – concerts along the bay, good eats, local wine and beer, athletic events, a spectacular air show and of course lots and lots of cherries. I highly suggest hitting up a concert, walking the midway, and topping of your evening at the beer tent.
Happy Birthday America! Let’s raise a glass and toast to our history and accomplishments, and if you’re a wine drinker like myself, you’re going to be sipping on that TC local good stuff. Situated on the 45th parallel – just like France’s Bordeaux region, and Italy’s Piedmont region – Traverse City has quickly become a notable wine destination, boasting a variety of cool-climate wines that pair entirely well with the booming cuisine scene. Combine all of that with the beauty of Old Mission Peninsula, Leelanau County, Lake Michigan and the Sleeping Bear Dunes, the region’s wine scene will have you craving for more!
Let’s be honest, are we even in Michigan? Named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC’s Good Morning America, the Sleeping Bear Dunes encompass 65 miles of sandy beaches along Lake Michigan’s Eastern Coastline, with bluffs that tower over 450 feet, luscious forests, clear blue inland lakes, and breathtaking views. Escape the town and crowds, and enjoy the scenic ride and experience out to the area’s most beautiful spot.
Here in Northern Michigan, we get to take our beer outside and enjoy it in cool places such as my favorite, Hop Lot Brewing in Suttons Bay. There’s something enticing about getting to enjoy Northern Michigan’s charm with a good beer in hand, surrounded by your friends and family. Hop Lot’s Beer Garden has established itself as the ultimate Northern Michigan destination to embrace the local beer culture, while taking in the breathtaking outdoors.
With a venue like this, how can you pass up a Cherry Festival Concert. The 90’s Dance Party 2.0 featuring Vanilla Ice, All-4-One, and C & C Music Factory will be taking the stage along the Bay this 4th of July. Last year I was able to attend this one-of-a-kind dance party, and I can promise you that it’s a great time. Get your tickets here!
A Traverse City 4th of July isn’t complete without a big slice of cherry pie from the Grand Traverse Pie Co. With two Traverse City locations, they make it easy for you to indulge on their cherry deliciousness.
With a prime location, incredible views, and good drinks, The Hotel Indigo is a must-visit! The rooftop view lines up perfectly with the main stage of the Traverse City Cherry Festival, and the Lake in the background doesn’t hurt either. It’s the perfect destination to kick back and enjoy a nice sunset over the bay, while listening to the sights and sounds of the Cherry Festival.
Now that I’ve provided you with a fun-filled 4th of July, it’s your turn to get out and enjoy what Northern Michigan has to offer! Cheers and Happy Birthday America!
Are we in Michigan? A question I simultaneously ask myself every time I visit Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Pierce Stocking Drive is no different. With world class views, there’s no argument to why the scenic drive fits within our National Park System. Positioned between Glen Arbor and Empire, Pierce Stocking Drive consists of 7.4 miles of forrest and beach, and can be found along the rolling hills of Lake Michigan’s shoreline.
As you weave your way throughout the densely wooded forrest, you will come along 12 stops that builder, Pierce Stocking created to showcase the beauty of the area. Pierce Stocking once operated the scenic drive until his death in 1976, which then was purchased by the National Parks Service.
As you enter the park, and are greeted by the kind Park Rangers, you will be given a listed brochure of the 12 stops. My recommendation is read over all the information and Park history as you travel throughout the drive, because it will make the experience that much better.
Below I will take you on a journey through the 12 stops of Pierce Stocking Drive. These photos won’t do the National Park justice, so I highly suggest taking the drive out to Pierce Stocking, and the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes before the snow hits. So sit back, and enjoy one of the prettiest drives Michigan has to offer.
The first stop along the drive is the covered bridge. The covered bridge was one of Pierce Stocking’s favorite features of the scenic drive. It was originally created to protect the wooden bridge from rain and snow, however, Pierce Stocking hoped that it would be used by visitors as a unique location along the drive for photos.
Two for the price of one! Famous for its beauty, Glen lake is known for its glittering blue waters. In the distance you can see the glorious view of where Little Glen meets Big Glen, divided by the M-22 “narrows” bridge. The two lakes used to be connected until glacial erosion caved out the two lakes during the Ice Age.
Yes, views like this do exist! Here you are standing right in the middle of approximately 2,600 acres of what is called the Sleeping Bear Dunes, consisting of high plateaus, and gentle dips along the lake shore. At this stop you will have a panoramic view of the North and South Manitou Islands, Pyramid Point, Sleeping Bear Bay, the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Glen Lake and the surrounding hills, and the historic privately owned D.H. Day farm with the huge white barn.
6748 South Dune Highway, Glen Arbor, MI 49636
Named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC’s Good Morning America, the Sleeping Bear Dunes encompass 65 miles of sandy beaches along Lake Michigan’s Eastern Coastline, bluffs that tower over 450 feet, luscious forests, clear blue inland lakes, and breathtaking views. With multiple activities available throughout the National Park, the Dune Climb is one of the more popular activities that everybody enjoys.
Traverse City is surrounded by fresh water full of unlimited possibilities, fun activities, and new experiences. A favored water sport among locals in this Great Lakes state is paddle boarding. The passion behind the sport is huge in Northern Michigan. Much like surfing, stand up paddle boarding offers a whole new lifestyle of exploring new places with new people.
Hello and welcome to Lakes and Grapes, a place for me to share my passions in life. I started this blog as an outlet to capture all things lakes, grapes, travel, and Northern Michigan living. I am fortunate enough to call Traverse City my home, a town that is blessed with miles of Lake Michigan coastline, surrounded by a countryside full of vineyards and orchards.
It has been a longtime dream of mine to start a blog that is my own, and I’m excited to finally share it with you all. I could not be more thrilled to see what the future holds as I embark on this new journey!
Thanks for stopping by Lakes and Grapes!