20 Best Things to Do in St. Ignace, MI

St. Ignace, MI
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Located on the shores of Lake Huron is the beautiful city of St. Ignace, the county seat of Michigan's Mackinac County.

It's a great travel destination to explore because of its rich history and culture.

The city is important from a transportation point of view, since it is the only mainland city that remains accessible from the nearby Mackinac Island via snowmobile when Lake Huron gets frozen over during the winter.

It is also the second oldest city in Michigan founded by Europeans and is home to people of German, Irish, English, Polish, and French descent.

The cultural makeup of the city is really wonderful.

Are you interested in learning more about this fascinating destination?

Here are the best things to do in St. Ignace, Michigan:

Go Hiking at Straits State Park

A picnic table at Straits State Park
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Hiking is one of the most enjoyable activities that you're going to have at Straits State Park.

The most important trail that runs through the entire park is very near to the viewpoint of Mackinac Bridge.

It then intersects with the North Country trail after traveling about three-fourths of a mile.

Finally, the trail ends near the observation tower, while the North Country trail extends even further.

To differentiate between the two, you can look at the blazes, which are yellow for the park trail and blue for the North Country Trail.

Make sure that you spend some time at the viewpoint of the Mackinac Bridge since it's very beautiful to look at, and the vast expanse of the bridge can be enjoyed.

It's a great spot to click some photographs, too.

A camping tent at Straits State Park
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In case you're traveling with your kids, there are three designated areas with playgrounds.

Swimming is also allowed on the premises.

You can also pack a lunch or some snacks since there are two picnic areas that overlook the bridge.

They are set up nicely, complete with picnic tables, grills, and water fountains.

For those interested in some more adventure, you can book a stay at a mini-cabin here.

Camping is another fun activity that can be carried out in Straits State Park.

Father Marquette National Memorial is also located within the boundaries of this state park.

View of the lake at Straits State Park
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Cross the Scenic Mackinac Bridge

Daytime view of the Mackinac Bridge
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This mighty and massive bridge is famous worldwide for its excellent engineering and construction.

The world's 24th-longest spanning bridge, the Mackinac Bridge helps connect the Straits of Mackinac to the upper and the lower peninsulas of Michigan.

Moreover, Lake Michigan and Huron pass underneath the bridge and provide some scenic views.

It is very relaxing as you take a cab ride through the entire bridge and look at the azure blue waters on either side.

Cars along the road of Mackinac Bridge
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If you are lucky enough to visit St. Ignace on the day that the Mackinac Bridge walk is conducted, do take the chance to participate in this event.

It's been held every September on Labor Day since 1958.

The entire bridge is closed during the event, and the public can walk the entire Mackinac Bridge.

It is a really fulfilling and wonderful experience to walk on this magnificent bridge and look at the scenic blue waters on either side.

The bridge walk is also the only day of the year when you can actually hike this section as part of the North Country Scenic Trail.

Silhouette of the Mackinac Bridge during sunset
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Enjoy the View from the Top of Castle Rock

View of Castle Rock from the ground up
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Castle Rock is a large geological tourist spot.

It is a limestone stack located five kilometers north of St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula.

Towering at a height of 59 meters above the water of Lake Huron, it was created when the surrounding land had eroded.

Castle Rock is made from the breccia type of limestone, and it is a sea stack or a sea chimney.

Moreover, many local people have also considered this important from a cultural point of view, and there are many legends and myths attached to it.

Some even call it the "Ojibway’s Lookout," while it is said that a rabbit’s back is the more likely one.

The peak of Castle Rock
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As you enter the premises, there are also statues of Paul Bunyan and his sidekick Babe the Blue Ox located here.

A quaint little gift shop where you can buy souvenirs is also built.

If you're interested in visiting this place, make sure that you visit sometime from mid-May through mid-October since it is open only during these seasons.

Moreover, for a small admission fee, you can also climb the outdoor staircase that will take you right to the top of the rock.

The views from this point are phenomenal.

This climb is not for the light-hearted, though, since the steps are quite steep.

Pay a Visit to the Fort de Buade Museum

The Fort de Buade museum is located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula region.

It is a very important French fort and is historically significant to the French and the Canadians.

Fort de Buade was an important trading center and distribution point for arms and ammunition during the war.

You can also find a beautiful collection of historical books and local artifacts at the museum.

The arrangement is also very well done and adheres to the timeline.

You can learn a lot about the local history here, since the display is quite large with many antiques.

Moreover, the tour is free, but visitors are encouraged to try making a small donation.

If you want to enjoy the entire tour and really learn, it would be best for you to spend at least two to three hours at this place.

The antiques are from different eras during the 19th century.

There's even a gallery where Michigan Native Americans and their portraits are distinctly laid.

Tour Father Marquette National Memorial

Daytime view of the Father Marquette National Memorial
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Father Marquette National Memorial is a memorial dedicated to the life of Jacques Marquette, who was a famous French priest and explorer.

It's located in the Straits State Park.

This national memorial focuses on his life and works.

Road sign of Father Marquette National Memorial
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Marquette was responsible for establishing a new Jesuit mission in 1671.

He also established one of the earliest European settlements in Michigan near Mackinac Island.

The building, unfortunately, caught fire in 2000, but the site still has an interpretive trail.

Today, the main building has become an old structure with antique feels.

Visit Wawatam Lighthouse

Exterior of The Wawatam lighthouse
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Wawatam Lighthouse is modern, fully automated, and one of St. Ignace's main aids to navigation since 2006.

It was erected in 1998 and has been working to help navigators in St. Ignace since August 2006.

Scenic sunset over Wawatam Lighthouse
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Walking on the pier is allowed and publicly accessible.

Enjoy some fresh air as you walk about and breathe in.

Aerial view of Wawatam Lighthouse
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See Gorgeous Sand Dunes at the Hiawatha National Forest Dunes

Trail leading to the waters of Hiawatha National Forest
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Scenic sand dunes are among the most beautiful natural attractions in Michigan.

These are usually close to the shorelines of the Great Lakes.

A very scenic area of sand dunes is located near the Hiawatha National Forest in the Ranger District.

They're majestic and make for great subjects and backdrops for photos.

There are also great spots where you can enjoy a pleasant sunrise or sunset.

Relax on a sandy beach looking at sand dunes and the setting sun.

Enjoy Live Performances at Bayside Live

Bayside Live is a free summer waterfront concert series, which hosts many fantastic events.

Various singers, songwriters, comedians, bands, and more perform at the waterfront for free during the evenings at the marina pavilion.

This takes place in American Legion Park, located near the shores of Lake Huron.

It is usually held every Thursday during the months of July and August.

Browse through Fascinating Artifacts at the Museum of Ojibwa Culture

Museum of Ojibwa Culture
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The Museum of Ojibwa Culture is dedicated to the culture of the North American Indian tribe.

It has various displays and artifacts related to these Native Americans.

The museum itself is housed inside a church, which is very pretty.

You will get to learn a lot about Native American culture by visiting this museum.

It has various antiques on display.

Museum of Ojibwa Culture's exterior
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The gift shop is also very beautiful and has many arts and crafts made by local Native Americans.

So, make sure you buy a little something here not only as a mark of remembrance but also to help them in your own simple way.

Other than this, the museum also has sculptures of historical figures, among other historical pieces.

They even have interactive and fun sessions for kids, and you can even buy a coloring book.

The staff is warm and friendly.

Though it does run for free, donations are really appreciated.

Have Fresh Seafood at Driftwood Restaurant and Sports Bar

Exterior of Driftwood Restaurant and Sports Bar
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With great food and excellent service, Driftwood Restaurant and Sports Bar is one of the go-to places to have lunch or dinner at St. Ignace.

The ingredients used are locally sourced and very fresh and all the dishes are homemade and have a great taste.

They have a variety of options on the menu, including soups, salads, and sandwiches.

Their specialty is their fresh seafood, which is locally caught.

Other than this, you can also try some chargrilled steaks, burgers, or specialty wings.

Their coconut shrimps and Cuban sandwich are also among their top-recommended dishes.

Take Snaps of the Famous St. Anthony's Rock

A massive rock known as St. Anthony's Rock stands behind the shops in downtown St. Ignace.

Like Mackinac Island's Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf, this geologically related landform is an example of sea stacks or sea chimneys constructed millions of years ago.

According to legend, Father Louis Hennepin gave the rock its name in 1679 while sailing on La Salle's boat, the Griffon, around the Great Lakes.

Saint Anthony of Padua, it is thought, provided the inspiration for the rock's moniker.

Due to the railroad's proximity to the big rock in the late 1880s, it became a famous tourist destination.

Your St. Ignace visit won't be complete without snapping a photo with this iconic rock.

Chase the Sunset as You Cruise with Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry

The Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry on the waters
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Set out for a once-in-a-lifetime sunset cruise in the Straits of Malacca as the sun sets.

As evening approaches, take a Sheplers Evening Lighthouse Cruise and get a firsthand look at how these lighthouses keep watch over the Great Lakes as a lighthouse keeper specialist provides narration.

For your convenience, there is a restroom onboard the ferry.

Front view of the Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry
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The cruise lasts up to three hours.

Scheduled cruises may run in bad weather, such as rain or fog, as long as it is safe.

Make sure to dress in layers, with jackets or windbreakers, to prepare for changing wind and sea conditions when you go on this trip.

The terminal of Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry
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Indulge in Seafood at Manley's Fish Market

There's no better option for the tastiest smoked salmon in the Midwest than this Upper Peninsula treasure.

You'll find Manley's Fish Market on North State Street in St. Ignace's lovely downtown area.

The Straits of Mackinac are only a short drive from this one-of-a-kind roadside location.

It's easy to mistake this modest yet vibrant structure for any other roadside market.

Frozen, fresh, and smoked seafood from local waters fills the market.

There's something for everyone at Manley's, although Great Lakes whitefish take the spotlight on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Visitors may stock up on beef jerky, pastries, soda, and other food for the trip at the convenience store.

Locals and visitors love the shop's selection of lake trout, fresh salmon, whitefish, and other fish species.

Go Fishing at Chain Lake

If you're looking for a place to fish, check out Chain Lake, spanning 324 acres.

It is accessible through Interstate 75, providing a pit stop and lake view for southbound traffic at mile 346.

Additionally, there is the North Country Trail, which runs parallel to the St. Ignace-Trout Lake Trail.

When fishing, you can catch rock bass, sunfish, bullhead, sucker, perch, northern pike, and largemouth bass.

The pond can be utilized for ice hockey during colder months if the weather is conducive.

The lake may have been named from its form as a "chain" of rivers and lakes.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Look at Beautiful Art at The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum

Exterior of The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum
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About 20 minutes away from St. Ignace, The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum features various art forms related to the culture and history of Mackinac Island.

These include many paintings on maps, which play an essential role in history.

They have also displayed photographs that belong to the mid-19th and the mid-20th century.

Other than this, you can also view different Native American art forms and beaded garments.

Many local artists and their contemporary art and photography are also on display.

It is one of the major attractions of Mackinac Island State Park.

Learn about Horseshoeing at the Benjamin Blacksmith Shop

A blacksmithing museum located near Biddle house on the market strait of Mackinac Island, the Benjamin Blacksmith Shop used to specialize in the art and craft of horseshoeing.

Today, the museum has various displays of horseshoes showing its many examples.

After becoming a tourist attraction in 1968, it stopped actually making horseshoes and started focusing on craft metalwork.

The examples on display today are thus very old.

You can look at mild steel items being forged.

The Benjamin Blacksmith Shop is also a part of the Mackinac Island State Park.

Explore the Vast Mackinac Island State Park

Welcome sign of Mackinac Island State Park
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Mackinac Island State Park is a vast state park that is both historically significant and a fun place to visit.

It is spread over 1,800 acres and has many different types of museums and gardens located inside its boundaries.

Some of the forts that you can visit here include Fort Mackinac, Fort Holmes, and others.

There are also limestone caves and unique rock formations, which make for really beautiful geological features.

The arch rock of Mackinac Island State Park
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Some of the important historic areas are the Matthew Geary House, the Mission House, the Governor's Mansion, and more.

Some rock formations that you have to see at Mackinac Island State Park include Arch Rock, Sugar Loaf, and Sunset Rock.

Other than these, you can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities like biking and hiking in this hilly region.

There is also a beach where you can relax and watch the sunset.

Learn about the Fur Trade at the Biddle House

Exterior of Biddle house
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The Biddle House is one of the historically important museums you'll find on the Mackinac Island State Park grounds.

This is a historic house, and the fur trade shop space was built before 1800 on the market street.

Today, it is a very important national historic landmark that gives insights into how the American fur trade grew economically.

The pelts that are available here include those from the beaver, the mink, the otter, and even the raccoon.

The fur market expanded under Edward Biddle and his wife Agatha Biddle into a very profitable business, and this was the house they lived in after 1832.

After being made open to the public, it was reconstructed, and many elements like the kitchen, and the fireplace, were reinstituted.

Play Golf at the Wawashkamo Golf Club

The Wawashkamo Golf Club is a nine-hole linked golf course on Mackinac Island.

It was laid out in 1898 by Alex Smith and has many features from the 19th-century Golf Links.

These include a layout that is relatively treeless, holes that are quite short, and a very long rough.

It is laid out on the site of the 1814 battle of Mackinac Island.

You can look at historical markers which are used to commemorate the signs of the battlefield.

The word "Wawashkamo" is derived from a Chippewa word that means "the act of walking a crooked trail."

It was also recognized by the Golf Digest in 1996 as one of America's most historic golf landmarks.

Final Thoughts

When planning a Mackinac Island vacation, consider making St. Ignace your home port to take advantage of all the area offers.

Experience a wide range of fascinating sights, mouth-watering restaurants, excellent shopping options, exhilarating excursions, and boat tours when visiting St. Ignace.