Mackinac Island – Logistics: Part 1

I believe I’ve mentioned I like all my ducks in a row. So, before visiting Mackinac Island there were many things I wanted to know ahead of time. Like, where do we stay? Should we stay on the island or on the mainland? What ferry line should we take? How does it all work? Well, after visiting a time or two (or three) we’ve figured some of these things out. Our preferences won’t mesh with everyone’s, we know. But, we can try to answer some of the common questions!

Where should we stay?

There are two main options for accommodations: on-island and off-island. The first time we went, we stayed in Mackinaw City. We made this choice for two reasons. First, because we honestly didn’t understand how we’d be able to manage our luggage, bicycles, etc. on the ferry. By staying on the mainland, we’d just have to manage ourselves and our bikes, no luggage. The second reason we stayed on the mainland was because we wanted to ensure a lake-view for the 4th of July fireworks.

Fourth of July

I researched many hotels and ended up choosing one I felt would meet our needs (specifically, a lake-facing balcony). It was a nice enough hotel. Small room, but clean. It was not a bargain, but we expected to pay a premium price over the holiday with a lakeside room. Harried staff still cleaning rooms at dinnertime, but again it was high season. All in all we were happy with the accommodations.


Sunset from our Mackinaw City hotel room balcony

We learned many things during this first trip staying off-island. We learned how to manage the ferries (more on that later). We learned we liked the things-to-do on Mackinac Island better than the things-to-do in Mackinaw City, although Mackinaw City is a lovely town with very nice shops and restaurants and plenty to do, especially with kids. But we prefer nature-based activities and since we had just discovered our dreamland (see Mackinac Island – Our Dream) we found ourselves disappointed that we couldn’t get to the island earlier and stay later.

Flower Basket

When we went back in the fall of 2011, we decided to stay on the island. Guess what? It was less expensive. Granted, it was no longer “high season”. But where we stay, we would have paid less for 4th of July week than we paid in Mackinaw City. We would not have had a lakeside room, but we could have (in a different hotel) for an equivalent price. We saved everyday ferry fees and were able to enjoy the quiet of the island before the first ferry in the morning, and the nightlife after the final evening ferry.

Our preference: Stay on the island!

Hotel? Inn? Bed and Breakfast? Grand Hotel?

Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel

Most people think of Grand Hotel when they think of staying on Mackinac Island. It nearly is Mackinac Island. Grand Hotel is lovely and it meets the needs of many visitors (all-inclusive pricing, no tipping, luggage handling). It’s just not our preference. There are many other island accommodation options.

Market Street Inn

Market Street Inn

For our first stay on the island, we chose the Market Street Inn. It’s not a hotel, but I wouldn’t call it a Bed and Breakfast either. When I think of “bed and breakfast” I think of shared bathrooms and shared meals. Each of the nine rooms at the Market Street Inn has its own private bathroom, and although it has the feel of a big house, we had total privacy. We could have interacted with the innkeeper and the other guests as much or as little as we wanted, and no one was monitoring our comings and goings. It was perfect! We can’t imagine staying anywhere else, although I know others have their own favorites for various reasons.

There are many other highly regarded hotels and inns on the island. Some hints and tips follow:

Chippewa Hotel

Chippewa Hotel Waterfront on Main Street

If you like to be in the middle of things, check out the accommodations on Main Street, including the Chippewa Hotel Waterfront, Main Street Inn and Suites, Lilac Tree Suites and Spa, Murray Hotel, or Lake View Hotel. I have no personal experience with these hotels, I just know where they are located and they will definitely put you right in the middle of the shopping, dining and entertainment area of the island.

The wonderful mid-day hustle and bustle of Main Street

If you like to be just a touch off the beaten path but still within walking distance of all the fun, try the Windermere Hotel, Hotel Iroqois, Mission Point Resort, Jacob Wendell House or Bay View at Mackinac Island. These are all also on Main Street, just about a block or two from the main shopping area.

Parallel and just one block northwest of Main Street is Market Street. This is our very favorite street on Mackinac Island. It’s just a block behind all of the shopping, dining and entertainment, has some delightful shopping of its own, but yet is incredibly quiet and private. It’s also very historic which we love. And, it’s on the path of the carriage tours so we hear our favorite sound often, the clip-clop of the horses passing by. This is the home of our favorite and only choice of accommodations, the Market Street Inn. Other choices on Market Street include Cottage Inn of Mackinac Island, Cloughan Bed and Breakfast, and Metivier Inn.

Cloughan Bed and Breakfast, Market Street

If you really want to be away from all the hustle and bustle, the Inn at Stonecliff is about two miles out of town high on the area known as the West Bluff.

Our preference: Market Street Inn

Market St Inn Porch

Market Street Inn, our Mackinac Island “home”

Next time we’ll talk about the ferries, bicycles, and luggage!


All photos courtesy of White Pine Photo. We wouldn’t have a blog if not for our fantastic photographer! Connect with White Pine Photo: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

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2 Responses to Mackinac Island – Logistics: Part 1

  1. Gary Krueger says:

    My wife and I have stayed at several locations on the Island over the years, The Grand, Stonecliff, Mission Pointe, Cottage Inn, just to name a few. We love it and often spend New Years Eve on Island. Always an adventure.

  2. Elizabeth Homza says:

    Thanks for commenting, Gary. New Year’s Eve is definitely on our to-do list! Do you stay at the Cottage Inn for winter visits?

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