There seems to be some mystery around whether or not you can visit Mackinac Island in the winter. Can you believe that the island is still open to visitors? Well, it is!
Winter might be the most wonderful time to visit Mackinac Island, especially if you don’t like to be around crowds. There are still plenty of things to do on Mackinac Island during the winter months, and we’ve got all the details below!
Getting to Mackinac Island in the Winter
The most common way to get to Mackinac Island in the winter is to catch a ferry service. Star Line Ferry continues to operate limited ferry schedules from its dock in St. Ignace during the winter months.
Its Huron winter ferry has a reinforced steel hull that allows it to break through thin ice on the Mackinac Straits.
Islanders enjoy using an ice bridge across Lake Huron when the ice gets thick enough. At that point, though it takes an icebreaker to clear a pathway for a ferry.
Fortunately, flights can be taken from Mackinac County Airport in St. Ignace to Mackinac Island Airport all year round. Fresh Air Aviation and Great Lakes Air offer fantastic options for flying to Mackinac Island Airport.
Getting Around Mackinac Island in the Winter
As you may know, automobiles aren’t allowed on Mackinac Island, except for emergency and security vehicles. The best ways to get around Mackinac Island in the winter are to walk or call a taxi service.
Mackinac Island Taxi Service operates all year. In the winter months, the horse-drawn taxi is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You’ll just need to call 906-847-3323 to arrange for the carriage to pick you up.
Where to Stay on Mackinac Island in the Winter
There are several charming and cozy places to stay on Mackinac Island when the weather outside is frightful. In fact, the island gets an annual average snowfall of 94 inches, bringing peace, solitude, and unfortunately, cold temperatures. Good thing there are plenty of places to warm up – from Mackinac Island Airbnbs to boutique hotels and cozy bed-and-breakfasts!
If you enjoy staying in a historic home, Bogan Lane Inn has been turned into a bed and breakfast. Comfortable beds, antique furniture, and a warm atmosphere make this a refined place to spend your Mackinac Island winter getaway.
Guests are welcome to enjoy the living room and warm up in front of the fireplace after outdoor activities. A continental breakfast is provided every morning with hot coffee or tea, cold juice, and fresh pastries.
An 11-room boutique hotel, Pontiac Lodge is located downtown and couldn’t be more convenient. Some rooms have one or two bedrooms, full kitchens, Jacuzzi tubs, and wet bars. All the rooms are on the second floor.
Amenities include Wi-Fi, large-screen TVs, refrigerators, coffee makers, and microwaves. Queen or king beds are available, and some rooms have a sleeper sofa or two queen beds with a trundle bed.
Located on Main Street, Above Mackinac Condos has three condos that offer all the comforts of home right in the middle of downtown. With fully stocked kitchens, you’ll be able to cook your own meals if you choose.
Whether you need to sleep four or 10 people, one of the units may be perfect for your island getaway. All of them have a flat-screen TV, internet, and washer and dryer.
Three family-friendly suites remain open at Village Inn Suites throughout the winter. Located close to the ferry dock, these suites can accommodate between two and six people. They provide plenty of space and a very good location. All suites have a kitchen, so preparing your own breakfast is possible.
If you’re planning a winter weekend getaway to Mackinac Island, Small Point B&B is open on weekends during the winter. This is a traditional bed and breakfast where the emphasis is on relaxing and getting to know your fellow guests.
You can enjoy hot chocolate around the fire pit or play a board game in the parlor. Seven rooms have multiple beds, and children of all ages are welcome. A continental breakfast is served each morning.
Fun Winter Things to Do on Mackinac Island
The best thing about a snowy Mackinac Island winter trip is all the fun things that you get to do outdoors. Attractions like the Butterfly House, Carriage Tours, the Grand Hotel, and Fort Mackinac are closed. But there’s still plenty to do around Mackinac Island State Park.
The tree lighting usually takes place on the first Friday in December. This traditional tree lighting on Mackinac Island ushers in the winter and Christmas seasons.
The Mackinac Island Christmas Bazaar is a fundraiser for the medical center and the two permanent churches on the island. This special winter weekend event runs for two days following the tree lighting. Hayrides are also available!
New Year’s Eve Turtle Drop
While New York City has its ball drop, Mackinac Island has a turtle drop. On New Year’s Eve, a 70-pound green fiberglass turtle wrapped in lights drops at midnight to an enthusiastic crowd of revelers.
Snowshoeing & Cross-Country Skiing
The beauty of Mackinac Island in the winter is the lack of crowds and the fact that 80% of the island is a state park. You have 70-plus miles of hiking trails to enjoy with snowshoes and cross-country skis. Just pack up your equipment and enjoy the scenery!
You can ski, snowshoe, or bike along the perimeter of the island via M-185, which is 8.2 miles. You can look for the Native American Cultural History Trail, which follows this route, and includes six panels discussing the Native American impact on the Great Lakes.
Twilight Turtle Trek
The famous Twilight Turtle Trek on Mackinac Island happens on multiple dates during the winter. You can enjoy the groomed cross-country ski trails in Mackinac Island State Park on the 2-mile, lantern-lit trek. Beforehand, meet at Greany Grove next to Fort Mackinac for hot chocolate by the bonfire. Then, enjoy the snow-covered trail through this winter wonderland.
Fat Tire Biking
If you want to bike in the winter, the way to go is fat tire biking. With more than 70 miles of hiking trails across the island and additional streets and trails on the other 20%, you can put your fat tire bike to good use. For fat tire bike rentals, call or send an email to Mackinac Wheels.
Arch Rock Lookout
While you’re enjoying the perimeter route around the island, be on the lookout for historic Arch Rock, which is the most famous rock formation on the island. It rises 50 feet above the water and is an impressive sight. You could even snowshoe to the observation deck to get a closer look!
Best Mackinac Island Winter Dining
Throughout winter, a few delicious Mackinac Island restaurants remain open. Whether you want breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack, you can find it as one of these awesome spots.
Douds Market is open all year, and you can purchase what you need to feed yourself. It has breakfast items, such as egg sandwiches, juices, coffee, etc. You can get pastries and other items to prepare in your hotel or condo too.
If you’re in the mood for American pub dining, The Broken Spoke is the place to go. Whether you crave giant wings, a luscious craft burger, or prime rib, you can find it here. Soups, salads, appetizers, wine, beer, bourbon, and whiskey will all warm your soul.
Do you enjoy visiting historic taverns? Mustang Lounge fits the bill, and it offers good food and good company. Hand-tossed pizza and cold beer keep people coming back. You can order whitefish dip, chili, burgers, sandwiches, and more tavern-style food as well.
Shopping on Mackinac Island in the Winter
While Mackinac Island is a shopper’s paradise during the summer, the winter shopping options are much more limited. Great Turtle Toys, though, offers the chance to schedule a shopping time. Just text June at 614-506-1692. How fun does it sound to have a shop open just for you?
Another shop open by appointment is Balsam Shop, where you can look for charming gifts and unique souvenirs. Just call 906-847-3592 to schedule a time. If you have need of a well-stocked hardware store, Island Hardware fits the bill.
Mackinac Island Fudge
Do you want a taste of some famous Mackinac Island fudge? While the fudge shops on the island are not in operation during the winter months, you could order a batch ahead of time from the mainland and have it delivered to your bed and breakfast or condo.
Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Mackinac Island in the Winter
Can you go to Mackinac Island during the winter?
Of course! Winter is actually the most enchanting time to visit. The snowfall and fewer visitors create a quiet and peaceful Mackinac Island winter experience.
How to get to Mackinac Island in the winter?
Star Line Ferry still operates services on Lake Huron during winter. And, you can always fly to Mackinac Island Airport via Great Lakes Air and Fresh Air Aviation.
What Mackinac Island hotels are open in the winter?
Bogan Lane Inn, Pontiac Lodge, Above Mackinac Condos, Village Inn Suites, and Small Point B&B are a few of the cozy lodging options that you have during the winter season.
What is there to do on Mackinac Island in the winter?
There’s plenty of opportunity to go cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat tire biking on Mackinac Island in the winter. The season also brings some exciting events, especially the Twilight Turtle Trek. Plus, hiking to Arch Rock rewards you with a view of glittering snow in the sunlight.
Enjoy the Winter Magic of Mackinac Island
With so many places to go during the winter Mackinac Island in the winter is a place to enjoy the quiet of the outdoors, maybe get a glimpse of the Northern Lights, check out the frozen lakes, see the pond hockey tournament, let all the stress melt away, and just chill. It’s a magical place with warm and friendly people who are happy to welcome you to their world!