18 Best Things to Do in Mackinaw City, MI

Mackinaw City, MI
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Mackinaw City is a small village located in the northern area of Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

While it may be a village, don't let that fool you—this place has more to offer than what one might expect.

Mackinaw City covers quite a bit of land, including the meeting point of two Great Lakes: Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

This location makes Mackinaw City the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy some peace.

Mackinaw City is best known as a tourist destination, and it's no wonder why.

The city is home to many historical landmarks and tourist destinations.

Mackinaw City is also terrific for relaxing on the beach or stargazing.

If you're looking for things to do in Mackinaw City, look no further!

Here are 18 of the best things to do in town:

Board the Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry

The Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry passing two lighthouses
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An excellent alternative to Shepler's is the Start Line Mackinac Island Ferry.

It's the longest-running ferry boat company, founded in 1878.

Tourists standing in line to board the Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry
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Today, the Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry remains one of the prime options when taking a boat trip to Mackinac Island.

Some of its ferries feature glass-enclosed barrier-free cabins that will give you an immersive view of the Straits.

The Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry on the waters of Lake Michigan
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Visit Fort Michilimackinac State Park

Entrance of Fort Michilimackinac State Park
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Mackinaw City has a rich history, with many essential landmarks to explore, including Fort Michilimackinac.

The French built the original Fort Michilimackinac in the 18th century; the British later occupied the fort during the American Revolutionary War.

Exterior of houses at Fort Michilimackinac State Park
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The fort has since become a museum and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Mackinaw City.

The Fort Michilimackinac State Park covers 37 acres of land along the Great Lakes shoreline.

The park is home to many monuments, including the 1814 British Surrender Monument and the 1817 Mackinac Peace Treaty Monument.

A canon displayed on the grounds of Fort Michilimackinac State Park
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Visit a Lighthouse in Mackinaw City

Exterior of the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse
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Mackinaw City is home to six old lighthouses, which have also become one of the popular attractions in the area.

One such lighthouse is the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, built in 1889 and one of the most famous lighthouses in Mackinaw City.

Located in Mackinaw City's Colonial Michilimackinac, The Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse looks more like a castle than an actual lighthouse with its cream-brick exterior and red roof.

The inside of the lighthouse also serves as a museum as you can view notable artifacts such as the lighthouse's original lens.

Exterior of McGulpin Point Lighthouse
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The lighthouse offers a breathtaking view of Mackinac Bridge and the two lakes it overlooks, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.

If you want to learn more about Mackinaw City's lighthouses, join a Mackinaw City Lighthouse Tour.

The Mackinaw City Lighthouse Tour is a great way to see all of Mackinaw City's lighthouses open to the public: the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, McGulpin Point Lighthouse, St. Helena, and Detour Reef.

Spiral staircase in McGulpin Point Lighthouse
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Go Stargazing at the Headlands International Dark Sky Park

Welcome sign of Headlands International Dark Sky Park
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Mackinaw City is home to the Headlands International Dark Sky Park, one of the best places in the country for stargazing.

Scenic sunset at Headlands International Dark Sky Park
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Located on Headlands Road, the Headlands International Day Sky Park is a 550-acre county park nestled conveniently on the shores of Lake Michigan.

While stargazing is the main attraction, the park also offers hiking, biking, and other fun outdoor activities.

You can even glimpse the area's wildlife like black bears; bald eagles also frequent the site.

Learn about the Mackinac Bridge at the Mackinaw Bridge Museum

The Mackinac Bridge is one of the region's iconic landmarks and is one of the country's longest suspension bridges.

The Mackinac Bridge Museum is the perfect place to learn about the construction and history of the Mackinac Bridge.

Located on Central Avenue, the Mackinaw Bridge Museum is a small museum wholly dedicated to the history of the Mackinac Bridge.

A trip to this museum is a great way to learn the history of this famous bridge and how it came.

Each exhibit features artifacts and materials that contributed to the construction of the Mackinac Bridge, from old construction equipment to the hard hats the workers wore.

Visit Mackinac Island with Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry

The Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry loading passengers
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The first thing you want to do while in Mackinaw City is visiting Mackinac Island.

There are many ways to get to the island, but none can match Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry.

Located on Central Avenue, the Mackinac Island Ferry has operated since 1945 and is one of the best ways to experience Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island.

The Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry dock
Peter K Burian, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1945, Captain William Shepler started a small snack bar to serve passengers while waiting for their ferry to Mackinac Island.

He eventually started his own ferry boat company.

Fifty years later, Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry is one of the largest and most popular ways to travel to Mackinac Island.

Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry offers five different lighthouse cruises through the Mackinac Straits and the Great Lakes.

Each trip features narration from the Great Lakes Lighthouse Keepers Association.

Two Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry leaving Mackinaw
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Learn about the Iconic USCGC Mackinaw at the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum Inc.

The WWII Icebreaker Mackinaw WAGB-83—also known as USCGC Mackinaw—was a ship that served as a vital part of the US war effort.

After the war, the vessel was decommissioned and eventually ended up in Mackinaw City, where she is now one of the region's most popular tourist attractions.

Located on Central Avenue, the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum Inc. features exhibits that chronicle this famed vessel's career as an icebreaker and transport vessel during World War II.

Tours of the USCGC Mackinaw are available, terrific for learning more about the vessel and her role in the war.

You can also view rooms like the mess deck, engine room, sickbay, and Captain's quarters.

Go on a Trail at the Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park

Welcome sign of Mill Creek Discovery Park
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Bask in the beauty of nature at the Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park and go on one of their many hiking trails.

Located in the heart of Mackinaw City, this state park covers 600 acres of nature preserve.

The National Register of Historic Places added the Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park to its records in 1978.

It's currently one of Mackinaw's prime destinations for fun and adventure.

Nature lovers and adventure-seekers will love the park's dozens of trails around forests and other natural greenery.

There's also something for the history buffs.

The park also features historical sites that detail life in Michigan during the 18th century.

Tours and guides are available all around the park to showcase all the best that the Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park offers.

Buy Some Unique Clothing at Del Sol

If you're looking to go shopping to buy unique souvenirs in Mackinaw City, then Del Sol is your next spot.

On Huron Avenue, Del Sol specializes in color-changing clothing and other unique accessories like jewelry, hats, and sunglasses.

What's great about their clothes is that they change color when exposed to sunlight, giving you a whole new outfit to enjoy.

Del Sol is the perfect place to buy Mackinaw City souvenirs for your friends and family back home.

Take Pictures at the McGulpin Point Lighthouse & Historic Site

Exterior of the McGulpin Point Lighthouse & Historic Site
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The McGulpin Point Lighthouse & Historic Site is one of the six famous lighthouses in Mackinaw City.

Located along the Straits of Mackinac, the McGulpin Point Lighthouse & Historic Site opened in 1869 and remained in operation until 1906.

Today, the McGulpin Point Lighthouse & Historic Site is known as one of the oldest surviving light stations in the Strait.

The top half of McGulpin Point Lighthouse & Historic Site
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The lighthouse is open to the public, and you can take Insta-worthy photos featuring this 12-meter lighthouse as a breathtaking backdrop.

Besides taking pictures, you can also explore the area and read the minor signs as each tells stories about shipwrecks in the area.

If you want to relax, head to the beach and sit in one of the pavilions.

The lamp of McGulpin Point Lighthouse & Historic Site
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Zip through Nature at the Adrenaline Falls Zipline

Are you looking for some heart-pumping outdoor adventure?

Then, head on to the Adrenaline Falls Zipline.

Located between Huron Avenue and Crossing Drive, the Adrenaline Falls Zipline features two ziplines atop the local Starbucks.

Enjoy an aerial view of the beautiful Mackinaw landscape as you zip through scenic forests, waterfalls, and wetlands.

Ziplining is a great activity to do with friends as you can share the experience of discovering Mackinaw City.

Learn about Mackinaw City's Maritime History at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Exterior of whitefish point lighthouse at Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
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A small part of Lake Superior—the one near the light station—is known for hundreds of shipwrecks.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is a maritime museum that exhibits items and artifacts found from the shipwrecks.

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is around an hour and thirty minutes from the Mackinac Bridge.

Visit the Garlyn Zoological Park

The Garlyn Zoological Park is a family-owned zoo home to more than 400 animals, including tigers, sloths, lemurs, hyenas, and more.

Located in Naubinway, Michigan, the Garlyn Zoological Park is just a 47-minute drive from Mackinaw City.

At 30 acres, The Garlyn Zoological Park is currently the largest zoo in East Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Fun things to do while in this animal sanctuary include tours, animal feeding, and casual strolls.

Dine at the Biere de Mac Brew Works

All this exploring will make you hungry, and there's no better place to eat in Mackinaw City than the Biere de Mac Brew Works.

Owned and operated by the Ranville family, Biere de Mac is a local brewery and restaurant specializing in gourmet comfort food, focusing on locally sourced ingredients with French fare.

Located along the Mackinaw Highway, the restaurant has a casual and relaxed atmosphere, perfect for unwinding after a long day of exploring Mackinaw City.

Their menu features all sorts of delectable dishes.

They also offer craft beers brewed in-house.

Check Out the World's Largest Waterway Traffic System at Soo Locks

Bright rainbow over Soo Locks
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The Soo Locks is a world-famous waterway system located in Sault Ste Marie—about one hour and six minutes away from Mackinaw City.

If you're into construction and engineering, you wouldn't want to miss seeing the world's most extensive waterway traffic system.

A boat leaving Soo Locks
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This one-of-a-kind attraction offers multiple vantage points with mesmerizing views of the system.

To explore Soo Locks, you can go on a boat tour for a unique experience while traveling along with this architectural marvel.

The waters of Soo Locks
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Go Thrill-Seeking at the Haunted Theatre and Mackinaw Haunted House

If you're a paranormal enthusiast, you'll want to drop by the Haunted Theatre and Mackinaw Haunted House.

Located on Huron Avenue, this family-owned attraction has operated since 1974.

Today, the original Haunted Theatre now has a sister: the Mackinaw Haunted House.

Both houses' visual effects and 3D animatronics will catch your interest and send chills down your spine.

So, if you're in for a retro and modern haunted house experience, visit the Haunted Theatre and Mackinaw Haunted House.

Be One with Nature at the Tahquamenon Falls State Park

Cascades of Tahquamenon Falls State Park
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Your Mackinaw City trip won't be complete without a nature getaway at the Tahquamenon Falls State Park.

Located in Paradise, MI, the Tahquamenon Falls State Park is about an hour and 33 minutes away from Mackinaw City.

The Tahquamenon Falls State Park has a massive land area—about 50,000 acres wide—and is well known for its natural, undeveloped terrain.

Welcome sign of Tahquamenon Falls State Park
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For any adventure-seeking outdoor enthusiast, hiking around the woodlands of this enormous park is a must.

The undeveloped woods add to the place's overall authenticity as a nature-filled getaway.

The great Tahquamenon Falls also makes for a great photo backdrop or picnic spot.

Snow-covered boardwalk at Tahquamenon Falls State Park
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Relax and Unwind at the WaWatam Park

Take a break from Mackinaw City adventures and relax at the WaWatam Park.

Located near the Mackinac Bridge on the shores of Lake Huron, the WaWatam Park is great for picnics, strolling, and simply taking in the view.

Tables are available for picnickers, and there's also a playground for the kids.

But, of course, you can also go the traditional way by laying down a blanket on the green grass.

Whether you're spending time with family or having quality time by yourself, the WaWatam Park is a great to unwind and appreciate Mackinaw City's natural beauty.

Play Mini-Golf at the Animal Tracks

The Animal Tracks mini-golf course is one of the best places in Mackinaw City if you're looking for a fun and family-friendly activity.

Located beside the Mackinac Bay Trading Company, the Animal Tracks is a mini-golf course famous for its forest and wildlife theme.

The goal of playing mini-golf at animal tracks is simple: match the animals with their tracks on their respective hole markers.

This mini-golf course is a great place to bond with your kids as the simple courses make them more independent while challenging them to think critically.

Final Thoughts

Mackinaw City has a unique history, culture, and nature—all rolled into one conveniently-located small village.

Every corner of Mackinaw City has something unique to offer, and there's always a surprise waiting for you at any moment.

If you're planning a trip to Mackinaw City, write down these 18 best things to do in your itinerary for an excellent and well-rounded experience.