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Traveling to Mackinac Island with Kids just Got Easier

Exploring Mackinac Island with the family

Each summer we travel as a family to Mackinac Island.  The island provides relief from the sounds of motor vehicles and allows you to slow down a bit.  The views from the island are breathtaking.  If you are visiting Michigan, Mackinac Island is a must see destination.

I love visiting this gem. You feel as though you've stepped back in time. It's as if time stands still while on the island.

 I married my husband on the island and now years following we are traveling with our little ones in hand. It's our hope that one day our children will return to the island and have rich memories of all the fun times spent there as a child.

I remember carrying my wedding gown off the boat and down main street to our hotel.  I also remember our first stay on the island with our son when he was learning to walk. Both experiences were unique and special.  These rich experiences have inspired me to share these suggestions.

Explore off Main Street

The island is small but there is so much to see and do.  Some people can satisfy their visit during a day trip to and from the island, while others prefer to stay a few days.   Either way, the the "click clack" from the horses is sure to add to your lasting memories.

If you're a history buff you are in the right place.  The island is rich in history. A guided horse carriage tour of the island is well worth your money.  Your guide will have a lot to share with you as you enjoy the views from the carriage.

Depending on your child's age, you could check out Fort Mackinac or the Governor's Summer Residence.   Both places are a short walking distance apart and are worth the small fee.

My children are too young to appreciate any of the islands historical grounds.  To meet their high energy levels, we prefer to get off Main Street and let the kids explore.  We always start where we were married, The Somewhere in Time Gazebo ,which is nestled away east of Fort Mackinac.  From there, we simply roam around and enjoy all the beauty the island has to offer.  There is no need to rush.  You are on island time.

Bike Rental:  Bring or Rent?

The entire island is about horses and biking.  Oh and fudge of course.  Bikes are everywhere. There are no motor vehicles on the island.    Some like to bring their own bikes and bike the island.  There is a fee to bring your bike on the ferry. One thing to keep in mind is bike rental is always an option. You can rent bicycles by the hour, day, and even night.  

If your children are old enough to peddle on their own, you are up for a great time.  I would suggest bringing your own bikes.  This way you can cruise around leisurely and not worry about time.  But if you are in tow with little ones you may find it almost impossible to bike the island. You can rent bike trailers for your little ones.  This may be a great option for those wanting to bike for a few hours with those little ones.  Last year we traveled with my 8 week old which canceled out the biking option entirely. 

One year we traveled with our bikes and our bike trailer.  This had its perks.  We were able to disconnect the trailer and use it as a stroller.  The down fall to this is the trailer is big and not side walk friendly.  But it served it purpose and came in real handy when it rained.  We were able to use the plastic shield to keep the baby dry and our fudge!

 Pack A Lot of Healthy Snacks 

If you've traveled to the island, you know that once you are on the island you are fairly limited with resources.  You will not find a Rite Aid or super market.  Doud Market is the one grocery store on the Island and it is equipped with all you need but limited on certain items such as Annie's Bunny Snacks.  Since we stay on the island for a few nights, I like to pack all our favorite snacks and bring them to the island.  This allows us to get settled before having to pick up items from the market.  Plus it's peace to the mind knowing we packed all kinds of snacks the kids love.  Oh and I also bring quick mac n cheese and oatmeal packets for those moments when you're in your room and the kids are starving.  It's saved me a couple of times!

Order Carry Out

Nothing stresses me out more than trying to enjoy my dinner while trying to keep two toddlers entertained at a restaurant. The entire dining experience becomes a blur and I never thoroughly enjoyed my meal.  

To make meals more enjoyable while traveling try ordering carry out and have a quiet picnic anywhere on the island.  One option is Whitefish Point.  It has picnic tables and a beautiful view. We truly enjoy our picnic lunches and dinners on the island.  It is a win win for all.  The kids get to set free and parents can sit back and relax a bit.  

Plan ahead and bring a blanket to eat on. Preferably one that is waterproof and folds up easy.  This way you can picnic after wet weather. We have this one and it works great.  

Quick Tips

  1. Order your ferry tickets online.  It's cheaper and saves a little time.
  2. Dress in layers.  The island is usually always cooler than mainland.  
  3. If you have two strollers, possibly consider bringing your older one.  Your stroller will smell like horse waste days after leaving the island, even after washing. This goes for shoes also.  
  4. Make your hotel reservation months in advance.  It books up fast. 
  5. Check into your hotel before purchasing your fudge.  Many times you will receive a discount coupon for a local fudge shop.  Every little saving counts.  It all adds up.  
  6. Check out this website for all your travel information.  
  7. One thing to keep in mind is not every Bed & Breakfast is child friendly.  Some Inn's do not accommodate well with little children.  Call ahead and speak with the host.  They will be more than happy to help you find the perfect place for you and your little ones. 

Have you traveled to the island? I would love to add your tips to my Quick Tips list.  Please share your secrets.

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  1. I have only been to Mackinac once but it was really nice, I'd love to go back some day. That's awesome that you got married there!

    1. The island is waiting for your return! When you go, eat lots of fudge!

  2. I have been there quite a few times. I usually go when it's close to closing for the season. You will find great prices in the stores and the fall colors are beautiful.

  3. I've never been during the fall but I can only imagine how beautiful it looks!

  4. we took our 6 month old son along with us to Mackinac Island in 1985 for Memorial Weekend. Needless to say we needed our winter coats! Traveling in the Northern states we always took clothes that we could layer. We never left with out seasonal clothes like boots in fall or spring if we were still getting cold rains


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