In the summer months, a lot of people make the trek to Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island and/or cross the Mackinac Bridge to enjoy some outdoor adventures in the Upper Peninsula.
In between those frequented routes sits the quaint town of St. Ignace… and unbeknownst to the majority of tourists looking for things to do on Mackinac Island or things to do in Mackinaw City, there are plenty of things to do in St Ignace!
Affectionately known as Michigan’s Home Port, St Ignace is a quiet city that offers instant access to some of the best attractions in the Upper Peninsula.
The small town serves as the gateway between Michigan’s two peninsulas positioned just across the bridge in the U.P. When road-tripping or vacationing in the area, I always make sure to experience some of the eats, sights, activities, and natural beauty that St. Ignace has to offer.Aaron Cruz
Don’t make the mistake of using this city as a quick stop on your next adventure. Instead, stay a while, and discover all St Ignace Michigan has to offer.
Outdoor Things to Do in St Ignace Michigan
Known for its iconic views of Mackinac Bridge and its gorgeous stretch of shoreline, St Ignace is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. These are a few of the best outdoor things to do in St Ignace.
Soak Up the Views of the Mighty Mac While Parasailing
The Mackinac Bridge is an engineering marvel that should be appreciated from multiple perspectives, which is why you should consider a parasailing excursion while you are in St Ignace.
Mackinaw Parasailing is a local company that offers parasailing experiences to people of all ages — and no experience is necessary.
These seasonal excursions will take you over the water and into the skies, where you can enjoy the sensation of flying through the air as you absorb the incredible views that surround you.
Spend a Winter Day at Doc Holle’s Silver Mountain
Winter in St Ignace Michigan is the perfect time of year to get outside and enjoy a new adventure. If you are planning to be in the city during this snow-filled season, consider heading to Doc Holle’s Silver Mountain.
This Michigan winter ski resort offers downhill skiing, sledding, and snow tubing, making it one of the most popular outdoor attractions in St Ignace.
Be aware, though, that the conditions need to be right and there needs to be enough snow, so you will want to check in with the staff before you head to the ski resort area.
Visit Wawatam Lighthouse
The Wawatam Lighthouse is unlike any other lighthouse that you will find in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, largely because this lighthouse wasn’t built in St Ignace.
It was actually constructed in 1998 and was incorporated into the design of a Michigan welcome center in Monroe — near the Michigan and Ohio border. In 2004, officials decided to redesign the welcome center and offered to relocate the lighthouse to St Ignace.
Today, the lighthouse rests at the edge of the St Ignace Boardwalk in Chief Wawatam Park. Its light shines out onto Lake Huron, serving as a navigational tool for mariners who are traversing the waters. Many visitors consider this to be one of the best photo spots in the whole city.
On the opposite end of the boardwalk and downtown, I recommend walking up to the six-foot-tall Chief Wawatam wooden statue and over to the Wawatam Lighthouse, which is a recent addition that was first lit in 2006.Aaron Cruz
Climb to the Top of Castle Rock
Standing guard nearly 200 feet above the waters of Lake Huron, Castle Rock appears to rise from the landscape like a towering fortress.
Climbing to the top has been a rite of passage for St Ignace visitors for nearly 100 years, making this one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. When you reach the top of this majestic rock formation, you will be able to see for more than 20 miles on a clear day.
Enjoy a Memorable Day at Straits State Park
Straits State Park is a sprawling recreational area in the heart of St Ignace Michigan. Despite its convenient location within reach of downtown, this park is considered somewhat of a hidden gem.
Visitors will find that it has a little bit of everything. There’s a swimming beach on the shores of Lake Huron, which offers some of the best views of Mackinac Bridge as it stretches across the water.
Also, there are picnic areas and viewing platforms for those who want to soak up the ambiance of the park, as well as playgrounds for children who need space to run and play. If you are looking to stay a while, you can reserve a campsite at the park’s campground.
Heading south and then west on S. State Street and out of downtown, I found several places to view the Mighty Mac, the vast Great Lakes waters, and lots of Michigan natural beauty. As approached I-75, it was a great opportunity to turn off into Straits State Park. There is an observation point to capture the bridge up-top in-between and beyond the greenery.
As I continued heading west past the interstate and onto U.S. Route 2, almost immediately I turned left onto Boulevard Drive and into Bridge View Park. The bridge became front-and-center! This was when I chose to get my feet wet as I was now alongside Lake Michigan and on the other side of the Straits of Mackinac.
Pro tip: It’s a great spot to have a picnic while watching the sunrise or sunset. For great photos, head a couple of miles further to the west to the Bridge View Scenic Turnout for additional bridge viewing opportunities.Aaron Cruz
Take a Historic Walking Tour Along the Huron Boardwalk
If you’re looking to stretch your legs and learn a bit about the area’s rich history, don’t miss taking this self-guided tour through Downtown St Ignace. A 40-page booklet is available free of charge from the St Ignace Chamber of Commerce (or available for download here) and will guide you through the interactive tour.
There are 29 stops along the way as you explore from Kiwanis Beach on the north end of the boardwalk to American Legion Park on the south end. You’ll make your way south on the water’s edge and back north again along the streets of downtown St Ignace.
Indoor Things to Do in St Ignace Michigan
No matter the reason (whether to get out of the heat, cold, or rain), you might be looking for a great place to spend the day inside. When that’s the case, consider a few of these indoor things to do in St Ignace.
Stop by Indian Village for Authentic Souvenir Shopping
Indian Village has long been considered one of the best tourist attractions in St Ignace Michigan.
It combines the beloved kitsch of the Upper Peninsula tourism experience with the dedication to cultural preservation that is so important in this community, making it a wonderful stop for people who are looking to experience all that St Ignace has to offer.
At Indian Village, you will find some of the best souvenir options, allowing you to bring home something special to remember your time in St Ignace.
Uncover the Past at the Straits Cultural Center
The Straits Cultural Center is the home of the Michilimackinac Historical Society and is one of the best places to visit if you are hoping to learn more about the rich cultural history of this region.
The museum welcomes visitors during the summer travel season, and it displays artifacts, photographs, and other objects that showcase the important role that this region between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas has played over time.
Visit the Museum of Ojibwa Culture
Owned and operated by the city of St Ignace Michigan, the Museum of Ojibwa Culture should be included on every itinerary.
In addition to the main museum exhibits that include artifacts, jewelry, photographs, and more from Ojibwa culture, several buildings on the campus allow people to enjoy an immersive and insightful experience.
The Longhouse/Healing Lodge, for example, is a life-sized model of a Huron Village Longhouse, which was the building that served as the home to the entire clan. Visitors are invited to walk through the longhouse and experience for themselves what life might have been like for the Ojibwa people.
Try All of the Best Fudge Shops
Forget wine tasting — St Ignace Michigan is the place to go fudge tasting. Whether you love classic, tried-and-true chocolate fudge or would prefer to sample an eclectic flavor that can only be found near the Straits of Mackinac, you will certainly have a good time stopping in Michigan fudge shops for a bite.
Some places to visit include Original Murdick’s Fudge, the Mackinac Fudge Shop, and Zak & Mac’s Chocolate Haus. Feel free to battle it out with those in your party to determine which shop truly makes the best fudge.
Additional Attractions Near St Ignace Michigan
While there is plenty of things to do in St Ignace, your trip to this part of Michigan would not be complete without a quick day trip across the Straits or to the northern shore of Lake Huron. Here are some places to visit in these areas.
Mackinac Island is a small island off the coast of St Ignace, and it’s famous for its law banning the use of motor vehicles. When you step off of the ferry and onto the island, you will be transported to another era.
Horses will be clopping through town, bicyclists will be ringing their bells, and the smell of fudge is carried on the breeze. Some of the top attractions that you should check out on Mackinac Island include its iconic Grand Hotel, Fort Mackinac, and Arch Rock.
Despite its name, Mackinaw City is a village just on the other side of Mackinac Bridge from St Ignace. Because of its location and rich history, it’s one of the top destinations in Michigan. Plus, you’ll find tons of things to do in Mackinaw City and can take a ferry from here to Mackinac Island for a well-rounded trip.
Les Cheneaux Islands
About a 30-minute drive northeast of St Ignace, the Les Cheneaux Islands are an excellent day trip destination when you’re using St Ignace as your home base.
With numerous hiking trails, water adventures, delicious dining options, and more, don’t miss visiting this hidden gem resort area along Lake Huron’s northern border.
Touted as one of Michigan’s best roadside attractions, The Mystery Spot has been attracting Upper Peninsula travelers into its parking lot for years.
Known as Michigan’s most unusual tourist attraction, it offers tours where you can decide for yourself if what you are seeing is an optical illusion. Zip lines, mazes, putt-putt, and lots of fun for kids can also be found on the grounds.
Delicious Restaurants in St Ignace
The best way to enhance your visit to St Ignace Michigan is with a meal at one of the city’s locally owned restaurants. There are many dining options to choose from in this community.
Casual Restaurants in St Ignace
With its reputation as the Upper Peninsula’s welcome center, it’s not surprising that there is a handful of locally owned, casual dining spots in St Ignace. These restaurants feature appealing menus in relaxed settings, making them the perfect stops for all types of travelers.
B.C. Pizza has become one of the most legendary restaurants in St Ignace. It’s known for its near-perfect pizza pies and traditional Italian quick-bites menu.
Clyde’s Drive In
Another favorite casual dining spot in St Ignace Michigan is Clyde’s Drive In, which is a seasonal dining spot that offers a classic drive-in experience and mouthwatering burgers.
St Ignace Fine Dining Restaurants
Casual and comfortable are two words that define the city of St Ignace, but one of the best places to celebrate a special occasion and indulge in fine dining is the Village Inn.
Located in a historic building in downtown St Ignace, the Village Inn features an extensive menu filled with meals created from fresh ingredients.
It may be known as one of the best restaurants in the city, but this is not one of those intimidating, exclusive dining locales. Everyone is welcome here — come as you are to enjoy a mouthwatering meal.
Ice Cream & Coffee in St Ignace
For an extra special treat, consider stopping at one of the coffee shops or ice cream places in St Ignace.
Molly Moo’s Ice Cream Parlor
Molly Moo’s is hailed as the best place to get ice cream in the city. Its waterfront views and extensive flavor selections make it popular not only among travelers but also among locals who call this place home.
Harbor Hope Coffee
If you are a weekend warrior in St Ignace, consider stopping by the nonprofit organization Harbor Hope Coffee, a local coffee shop that aims to serve the community.
Java Joe’s Cafe
Before walking through the town, head to Java Joe’s Café, at any time of the day, to grab some of their many, many, many breakfast food options. Rated by the Detroit Free Press as one of the top ten places in the state for breakfast, it’s been a must-visit restaurant in St Ignace for over 25 years!
Enjoy the colorful décor, murals, and numerous cookie jars while sampling some French Toast covered in whipped cream and apples, with some peanut butter and chocolate chip pancakes dusted with powdered sugar alongside.
Hotels in St Ignace Michigan & Other Lodging
St Ignace has no shortage of options when it comes to accommodations. From local vacation rentals to campgrounds with picture-perfect views, you are sure to find someplace you love in this city.
St Ignace Hotels
It’s not surprising that there are several hotels to choose from in St Ignace, given that it’s the first community that you come to after you cross Mackinac Bridge. However, there is only one locally owned hotel — Colonial House Inn.
Since 1940, this inn has been welcoming travelers from throughout Michigan and across the country, and it has earned a reputation for providing a comfortable, home-like stay. With seven rooms to choose from, this bed and breakfast offers an intimate and romantic experience on the shores of Lake Huron.
Vacation Rentals in St Ignace
Scattered throughout St Ignace are vacation homes and cottages that are often available as short-term rentals. Among these rentals, you can often find waterfront properties and homes located within walking distance of St Ignace’s historic downtown area.
One amazing vacation rental in St Ignace is Hazel House, a four-bedroom home that can sleep up to eight guests and is located a short distance from a local boat launch.
Another option is a mid-century modern home that overlooks the Straits of Mackinac. On a clear day, you can see Mackinac Island in the distance from the sprawling deck. It features three bedrooms and sleeps up to eight people, making it an excellent option for a family vacation in St Ignace Michigan.
St Ignace Campgrounds
Camping has long been a popular activity in St Ignace, given the community’s proximity to the Straits of Mackinac, Mackinac Island, and plenty of hiking trails.
Tiki RV Park
Those who prefer to enjoy resort-style camping in an RV will love Tiki RV Park, a locally owned campground that has been operating in the city for more than 50 years.
Tiki RV Park is open seasonally between early May and mid-October, and it’s a favorite among people who want to take a day trip to Mackinac Island because it’s only a few steps away from the ferry docks.
Straits State Park
Another beloved campground in St Ignace is the one located at Straits State Park. The park itself is perfectly situated on the shores of Lake Huron, beneath the shadows of the Mackinac Bridge.
It offers both cabin camping and a modern campground area, making it a place where families can enjoy time with one another against the backdrop of Michigan’s natural beauty.
All About St Ignace Michigan
Home to about 2,400 people, St Ignace is a quiet, charming city on the shores of the Straits of Mackinac. It is most famous for being the first city on the other side of Mackinac Bridge and, therefore, has earned a reputation as the gateway to the Upper Peninsula.
However, this city boasts a rich cultural heritage and a commitment to the arts and historic preservation as well.
History of St Ignace
Dating back to 1671, the city of St Ignace Michigan is known for being one of the oldest European settlements in the state. The community that exists today was founded by a Jesuit priest, but the land had been occupied for hundreds of years prior to the European settlers’ arrival.
The Native Peoples
The native people who once called this region home included the Wyandot, Ojibwe, and Ottawa Tribes. They relied on the ample freshwater of the Straits of Mackinac and the Great Lakes to thrive.
While the European settlers permanently altered the way that the native peoples lived on the land, it’s worth noting that the Native American culture still permeates modern life in St Ignace.
The city has a high population of Native American peoples, and community organizers actively work to promote cultural awareness and experiences among locals and visitors.
From Fur Trade to Vacation Destination
After the Europeans settled the area, St Ignace became a prominent fur trading port, which allowed the community to grow and prosper. In the 20th century, St Ignace became a desirable vacation destination and operated several ferries to take cars between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.
NOTE: While the Mackinac Bridge changed that, ferry services still operate between St Ignace and Mackinac Island.
St Ignace Weather Throughout the Year
The water that surrounds St Ignace has a major impact on its climate and the activities available.
The spring months are typically cold and wet — and even sometimes snowy.It is usually mid-May or early June before true summer weather arrives, and visitors can expect the temperature to range anywhere from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit on a typical day.
At the end of summer, fall ushers in a new wave of cooler weather and windy conditions, with snow sometimes arriving as early as mid-October. Winter is easily the longest season of the year in St Ignace, with plenty of snowfall and cold temperatures to create a cozy and romantic atmosphere.
FAQs About St Ignace Michigan
What are the top attractions in St Ignace Michigan?
Some of the most well-known attractions in St Ignace include the Museum of Ojibwa Culture and Straits State Park.
Can you get to Mackinac Island from St Ignace?
Yes, St Ignace Michigan is one of two locations where you can take a ferry over to Mackinac Island. Both Shepler’s Ferry and the Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry Company operate out of the city.
How many cars cross Mackinac Bridge into St Ignace each year?
It is estimated that more than 4.5 million cars cross over Mackinac Bridge to St Ignace Michigan each year, making this one of the busiest port cities in the Upper Peninsula.
Discover More Things to Do in St Ignace & the Upper Peninsula
With its laid-back atmosphere and immersive attractions, St Ignace is one of the best places to visit in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Even if you are just taking a road trip through the Upper Peninsula, take the time needed to explore everything that St Ignace has to offer.
Thanks to Aaron Cruz for his contributions to this article.