This year has been a doozy, and my family and I have been desperate to go somewhere that wasn’t our own back yard. We knew we wanted to visit someplace that was drivable in one day, as well as someplace where we could continue to practice social distancing. Mackinac Island — a 7-hour drive from Indianapolis — checked all the boxes for us. With trails, woods, limestone beaches and plenty of opportunities for biking, swimming and exploring in the great outdoors, this historic island in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was the perfect place for our family’s mini vacation.
Getting to Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island is, well … an island! So, the best way to get to the island is by ferry. The ferry from the mainland to the island was a fun experience in itself. If you sit on the top deck, not only will you get some fresh air (and a good opportunity to social distance!), but you’ll be able to see the beautiful landscape of the island as you get closer to your destination.
Where to Stay
We stayed at Mission Point Resort, which spans 18 acres and sits right off the shores of Lake Huron. We loved staying at this hotel for many reasons, but mostly because:
1. Mission Point Resort is Family-friendly
Mission Point offers family suites in their Straights Lodge area, which include two bedrooms — one bedroom with a king-sized bed for the adults, and one bedroom with two twin beds for the kids.
Kids ages 12 and younger eat free every day at the two restaurants on Mission Point grounds: Round Island Bar & Grill and Bistro on the Greens. Children can select a kid’s meal off the kid’s menu when an adult purchases their own meal off the regular menu.
The resort also has an arcade on site, as well as a complimentary kid’s activities, so parents can get a break while the kids are being entertained.
2. Mission Point Resort is Dog-friendly
Dogs are allowed almost everywhere their humans go, including restaurants, certain hotel rooms and more. You can even bike with your dog, and Mission Point rents bikes with special pet trailers attached, so you can cruise around the island while your dog enjoys the view!
Mission Point Resort is so dog friendly that the resort even has its own doggie mascot, Nick. You’ll see this friendly dog at the concierge desk, just waiting for the next opportunity to chase geese from the front lawn of the hotel.
3. There Are So Many Things to Do Just Within the Resort
Within the grounds of Mission Point Resort is an 18-hole putt-putt golf course, which turns into a glow golf course on certain evenings at dusk. You’ll also find a tennis court, bocce ball court, a movie theatre that shows movies on Tuesday and Sunday evenings, and a large lawn where you can fly a kite in the island breeze. You can do a lot without going too far from your hotel room!
What to Do on Mackinac Island
Yes, you can probably spend your whole time on Mackinac Island just enjoying the beautiful view from the Adirondack chairs outside of Mission Point Resort’s expansive grass lawn. But there are lots of things to do and see here, including:
It is totally doable to bike around the entirety of Mackinac Island! The perimeter of the island is 8.3 miles long, which will take you past stunning views of the Great Lakes and soaring hills on the island. You can bike the whole island in about an hour or so, but I recommend stopping along the way to take a dip in the refreshing lake or learn about the history of the island (there are educational signs all along the paved path). You can bring your own bike from home, or rent a bike from one of the many bicycle renting places around the island.
Swimming and Wading
One thing I will have to remember for our next trip to Mackinac Island: Bring water shoes! You will definitely want to get into the water — it’s so clean and clear that you can see the rocks beneath your feet. But the entire coastline is rocky — there are no sandy beaches — so water shoes are a great thing to have!
Carriage Tours and Horseback Riding
Because motor vehicles are not allowed on Mackinac Island, you can get around the island by foot, by bike … or by horse! We booked a carriage ride that took us around the island, and our tour guide pointed out so many important and historical spots that it was like a mini history lesson by horse. It was a nice way to rest our feet, explore the island and learn something in the process.
If you prefer, you can also rent your own horse and buggy to travel around the island, or hop on a horse to traverse through the island’s wooded areas. Afterward, visit with the horses in the barn and make a new friend!
Visiting Historical Sites
There is so much history on this little island, and it’s all within walking and biking distance. Probably the most famous historical site is Fort Mackinac, where the trek up to one of the highest spots on the island will treat you to the most beautiful views. Costumed interpreters roam the grounds of Fort Mackinac, where you can interact with real cannons and learn about the oldest building in Michigan.
One word: FUDGE. Mackinac Island is known for this sweet treat, and for good reason — it’s delicious! There are more than 14 shops on the island where you can sample fudge, watch fudge being made and buy fudge to take home.
Vacationing in the Time of COVID-19
As a family, we are very conscientious about where and how we spend our time out in public, considering that we’re living in a time of a pandemic. Fortunately, it is very easy to socially distance on Mackinac Island, and there are lots of things to do that are outdoors and in the fresh air. Plus, all of the places we visited — including Mission Point Resort, where we stayed — had numerous safety procedures in place, including requiring masks when indoors, increased cleanliness everywhere and providing take-out options at restaurants.
We had a wonderful time making memories on Mackinac Island — it was just what we needed to unwind as a family despite this crazy and unpredictable summer. We can’t wait to go back!