What's the best time to visit Mackinac Island?
The best time to experience Mackinac Island is from mid-May to early July, offering pleasant temperatures perfect for exploring and fewer tourists than the busy late summer months.
During this period, the island comes alive with unique events like the Lilac Festival and Fourth of July celebrations, enhancing the visit. While lodging might be pricier, the combination of great weather and vibrant festivities makes it worth it.
Michigan’s Mackinac Island is a paradise for outdoor lovers and anyone looking to explore some incredible attractions. With miles of trails, beaches with crystal clear water, colorful flowers, and towering trees, the views alone will make your stay worthwhile!
The island is home to several unique attractions you won’t find elsewhere. These range from historical sites to interesting museums and more. In addition, the island is known for its freshly caught fish and incredible, world-renowned fudge.
In fact, just 14 fudge shops on the island make up to 10,000 pounds of fudge per day during peak tourist season! You won’t want to miss these delicious sweet treats.
Finally, the horse-drawn carriage rides are a unique experience you won’t find in many other places. Choose a carriage with friends or family, learn about the island’s deep culture, and explore the town in style!
But while there’s certainly plenty of reasons to go, when is the best time to visit Mackinac Island? Here’s our take.
The Best Time to Visit Mackinac Island in 2024
The overall best time to visit Mackinac Island is between mid-May and early July. The weather during this time is excellent, with temperatures between mid-40s Fahrenheit on the low end in May and mid-70s on the high end in July.
These are the best months to go because you can avoid more crowds that come around in late July and early August while enjoying phenomenal, pleasant weather that’s easy to walk and bike around in.
You won’t easily get too hot or too cold, which is ideal for exploring the island.
Additionally, this time of year has several special events and festivals you won’t want to miss, like Memorial Day celebrations in May, the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival in June, and a host of Fourth of July events.
Ultimately, if you’re willing to spend a bit more on lodging and still deal with a few crowds during the holiday events, going between mid-May and early July is an ideal time to go.
Cheapest Time to Visit Mackinac Island
The cheapest time to visit Mackinac Island is between January and March. During this time, the island is much less crowded, and lodging costs can be significantly cheaper than in peak season months.
The weather during these winter and early spring months can be colder and wetter, and the temperatures often dip below freezing (reaching as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit or -12 degrees Celsius in January).
However, depending on your plans, the cold weather could even be an advantage — between January and March, you’ll be able to participate in unique activities like ice fishing and snowmobiling.
Plus, the island is still plenty beautiful, filled with winter wonderland scenes, and still home to many attractions. During this time of year, there are also several special events, like the Mackinac Island winter festival.
Overall, visiting Mackinac Island during these months is ideal for those looking to save some money on lodging and participate in activities exclusive to the winter season. While it might not be the best option for everyone, it’s an option worth considering.
Least Busy Time to Visit Mackinac Island
The least busy time to visit Mackinac Island is from September until October. During these two months, the summer season has ended, the temperatures have cooled, and most of the tourists have left.
However, the weather is still pleasant and mild during this time, with temperatures between mid-50s Fahrenheit on the low end in September and mid-60s Fahrenheit on the high end in October.
The foliage is also stunning and despite the reduced crowds, there are still several festivals and events on the island during these months.
The Halloween festivities in October are especially popular, offering plenty of family-friendly activities and fun. Overall, we suggest visiting in September or October if you’re looking to avoid peak crowds and don’t mind slightly cooler temperatures.
Worst Time to Visit Mackinac Island
The Mackinac Island is worth visiting at any point throughout the year, so it’s hard to say what is objectively the worst time to visit; it ultimately depends on what you’d like to do during your trip.
If you’re into winter sports or Christmas-time festivities, going during the spring or summer is the worst time to go. Alternatively, if you’re looking for warm weather, the best outdoor activities, and all the museums and shops to be open, visiting during winter will be a disappointment.
That said, if you’re looking to avoid the crowds and not too concerned with unique activities or events, late June through August is generally considered the worst time to visit Mackinac Island.
This is the island’s peak season, with temperatures in the 70s Fahrenheit (around 23 degrees Celsius). Lodging costs are also the highest during this time of year, and attractions may be inundated with visitors.
Overall, the summer is not the ideal time to visit Mackinac Island for those looking to avoid crowds and save money. However, it might be good for anyone looking to participate in summer-specific activities, tours, and events.
Mackinac Island by Month: Climate & Activities
Still unsure about the best time to visit Mackinac Island? Take a look at our summary of the weather and climate by month below:
Winter temperatures on Mackinac Island range from -7 to -1°C (19-30°F). It’s a serene time for snow sports like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with the island covered in a peaceful blanket of snow.
Similar to January, February maintains cold temperatures between -7 to -2°C (19-28°F). Visitors can enjoy winter festivals, ice skating, and the charm of the island’s Victorian architecture in a winter setting.
As spring begins in March, temperatures on Mackinac Island range from -4 to 3°C (25-37°F). March is a transitional month, offering opportunities for indoor activities, including exploring historic sites and museums.
Spring temperatures on the island range from 0 to 8°C (32-46°F). April marks the opening of some seasonal businesses, and visitors can enjoy the awakening of nature with blooming flowers and budding trees.
May sees temperatures ranging from 5 to 14°C (41-57°F). It’s a lovely month for hiking, biking, and horseback riding as the island comes to life with vibrant spring colors.
Summer arrives with temperatures between 11 to 20°C (52-68°F). June is perfect for outdoor activities, including exploring Mackinac Island State Park, taking horse-drawn carriage tours, and enjoying the island’s fudge shops.
July maintains warm temperatures from 15 to 24°C (59-75°F). It’s a peak month for tourism, with visitors enjoying water sports, kayaking, and the iconic Mackinac Island Lilac Festival.
Temperatures in August range from 15 to 24°C (59-75°F). It’s an ideal time for sailing, golfing, and attending events like the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac.
As fall begins, temperatures range from 10 to 19°C (50-66°F). September offers a tranquil atmosphere, with opportunities for fall foliage tours, hiking, and exploring Fort Mackinac.
Fall temperatures on the island range from 4 to 12°C (39-54°F). It’s a great month for experiencing the changing colors of autumn, enjoying seasonal treats, and taking scenic bike rides.
November sees temperatures between -1 to 5°C (30-41°F). It’s a quieter month, and some businesses may close for the season. Visitors can still enjoy the island’s natural beauty and historic sites.
In December, winter returns to Mackinac Island with temperatures ranging from -6 to 0°C (21-32°F). December brings a festive atmosphere with holiday decorations, and visitors can enjoy the island’s winter wonderland.
Frequently Asked Questions
Want to know more about Mackinac Island? Here are our answers to relate questions about when to go, what to see, and more:
How many days should you spend on Mackinac Island?
If you just want to walk, bike, or take a horse-drawn carriage around the island, it’s possible to do this in one full day or as a two-day weekend trip.
However, if you want to have a more well-rounded excursion, visit the state park, go to museums, go kayaking, and else, you’ll want to reserve at least three to four days for your trip.
What is the warmest month on Mackinac Island?
The warmest month on Mackinac Island is July. During this month, temperatures average around 74°F (23°C). It’s also one of the busiest months of the year on the island, so make sure to plan ahead, especially in terms of accommodation, tours, and popular restaurants.
How long is the boat ride from Mackinac Island?
There are two ferry companies that come into Mackinac Island, and both take around 16 to 18 minutes from Mackinaw City or St. Ignace.
Is Mackinac Island cold in May?
Temperatures range from 40 degrees to 63 degrees Fahrenheit (4 to 17 degrees Celsius). These temperatures are mild for some but may feel too cold for many people. However, if you don’t mind “sweater weather,” May can be a great time for you to visit Mackinac Island.
Are there any safety precautions to consider when visiting Mackinac Island?
Mackinac Island is generally safe to visit and explore, but it’s always best to take common-sense precautions, especially if you’re traveling alone.
What is the first thing to do on Mackinac Island?
One of the first activities you should do when visiting Mackinac Island is to take a leisurely carriage ride. This ride is a great way to explore the island, get acquainted with its history, and take in beautiful views.
Other top activities include visiting Fort Mackinac, exploring Mackinac State Park, and sampling delicious fudge at one of the several fudge shops in town.
What is the best airport to fly into to go to Mackinac Island?
Pellston Regional Airport, located in Mackinaw City about 15 minutes from the ferry dock, is the best airport to fly into for Mackinac Island. After arriving, you’ll make your way to the ferry dock and take a 16-18 minute ferry ride to the island.
Can you see the Northern Lights on Mackinac Island?
Yes, it’s possible to catch the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis on Mackinac Island. The lights are typically most visible during the winter months when the sky is particularly dark and clear. The best time to see them is between the late evening and early morning hours.
Do you need to buy Mackinac ferry tickets ahead of time?
No, you don’t need to buy Mackinac ferry tickets ahead of time, as you can purchase them once you get to the ferry port.
Do you need a car on Mackinac Island?
Not only do you not need a motor vehicle, but you aren’t able to drive one even if you want to! Mackinac Island is home to M-185, which is the only U.S. highway that prohibits automobiles. This rule even includes electric bikes.
So, What’s the Best Time to Visit Mackinac Island?
Mackinac Island is a popular summer destination, with peak season usually lasting from late May to early October.
However, the island is still enjoyable during other times of the year, and the shoulder seasons can be a fantastic time to visit, as they tend to have more moderate temperatures and fewer crowds.
Ultimately, the best time to visit Mackinac Island is up to you, and we hope this guide has helped you make your decision. Regardless of when you choose to go, be sure to partake in plenty of unique activities and have a great time!