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The Best Time to Visit Mackinac Island in 2023

The Best Time to Visit Mackinac Island in 2023

Are you thinking about visiting Mackinac Island in the upcoming future? Great choice! Mackinac Island is a beautiful destination with something for everyone, from outdoor activities to unique local attractions.

One of the most well-loved aspects of the island is that it is entirely car-free. This concept compels people to walk, bike, or ride horse carriages, creating a unique, historic, and charming feel at any time of year.

But the best time to visit Mackinac Island will depend on your plans, preference, and budget. We’ll share various options so you can understand which time of year will work best for you.

Additionally, we’ll uncover fantastic activities, attractions, and other recommendations to ensure your stay meets your expectations and answer related questions. Let’s get into it!

Why You Should Visit Mackinac Island

Guy in a horse-drawn carriage outside of a Starbucks in the downtown area on a nice day during the best time to go to Mackinac Island

MACKINAC ISLAND, MICHIGAN, USA – September 23, 2017. Horse-drawn carriage. Retro horse Cart with Coachman on the street with old houses in the city center/Mivod/Shutterstock

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!

Overall Best Time to Visit Mackinac Island

Winding road going down to the residential part of the island, pictured during the summer, the overall best time to visit Mackinac Island

Gary R Ennis Photos/Shutterstock

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

A bunch of bicyclists following a curving road, pictured during the springs, the cheapest time to visit Mackinac Island

NicoleTalkaPhotography/Shutterstock

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

Empty streets of the downtown area with cold weather and wet streets pictured at dusk during the least busy time to visit Mackinac Island

MACKINAC ISLAND, MICHIGAN – SEPTEMBER 12, 2017: The main street of Mackinac Island is full of quaint shops and restaurants. This is a popular vacation destination in Michigan/Aceshot1/Shutterstock

September and October are two of the least busy months on Mackinac Island. This is because the summer season has ended, the temperatures have cooled, and most tourists have left.

The weather during this time is still pleasant and mild, 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 during this time, as the trees change color and create a beautiful landscape. Despite the low 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, visiting Mackinac Island in September or October is ideal for those looking to avoid peak-season crowds.

The weather is still pleasant, and there are plenty of activities to do without fighting the crowds. Plus, plenty of accommodations are available at discounted rates during this time of year. It’s an excellent choice for anyone looking to save money.

Worst Time to Visit Mackinac Island

Gorgeous blue skies with a bit of high-level clouds in the above an older-style home with gorgeous flowers in front, pictured during the worst time to visit Mackinac Island

MACKINAC ISLAND, MI, USA- September 6, 2020: Beautiful Mackinac island in summer/gg5795/Shutterstock

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. The worst time to visit ultimately depends on what your trip goals and expectation are.

For example, if you’re into winter sports or Christmas-time festivities, going during the spring or summer will not scratch your itch. 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.

Things to Consider

Image of a high-speed ferry spraying water out of the back while passing between two lighthouses in the Mackinac Island harbor

Mackinac Island, MI / USA – July 9th 2016: Star line ferry passing the two lighthouses on Mackinac Island Michigan/Michael Deemer/Shutterstock

Now that you understand the best and worst times to visit Mackinac island based on your preferred weather, budget, accommodation, space, and other preferences, we’d like to share a few other points to consider when planning your trip.

These include:

  • Transportation. Since Mackinac Island is only accessible by air or boat, you’ll need to consider this when planning your trip. Make sure you check flight or ferry schedules to ensure you’re able to get to the island when you need to.
  • Charter Boats. If you’re looking for an even more unique experience, consider chartering a boat to get to the island. This will allow you to explore the waters around Mackinac Island and enjoy the views on your own terms.
  • Accommodation. Since Mackinac Island is a popular tourist destination, you’ll want to book your accommodation in advance. Depending on the season, it may be challenging or even impossible to find a room at the last minute.
  • Attractions. Mackinac Island has plenty of attractions to take advantage of during your stay. If you’re planning to visit certain places, such as museums and tours, make sure you check their opening hours and schedule accordingly. Many museums will be closed outside of the peak season.
  • Dining. Mackinac Island has some of the tastiest restaurants in the state. Make sure to research the restaurants ahead of time and make reservations if necessary, as they can get crowded during peak season.
  • Safety. Mackinac island is generally safe to visit and explore, but make sure to take common-sense precautions, especially if you’re traveling alone.

Activities to Consider

It’s time for the fun part! What type of activities do visitors generally get into when visiting Mackinac Island?

Here are popular activities to partake in on and around the island:

  • Horse-drawn carriage rides
  • Horseback riding
  • Museum tours
  • Town exploration
  • Hiking and biking trails
  • Fishing
  • Swimming in the lake
  • Bonfire nights
  • Visiting the Grand Hotel
  • Exploring the State Park
  • Kayaking
  • Boating
  • Snowshoeing
  • Northern Lights

Specific Attractions to Consider

If you’re interested in learning about specific attractions you can visit, here’s a list of our top recommendations:

  • Mackinac Island State Park. Beaches, carriage rides, butterfly house, arched rocks, and more
  • Arch Rock. Popular natural feature within Mackinac Island State Park
  • Grand Hotel. A historic hotel frequented by notable figures such as Mark Twain
  • Fort Mackinac. An 18th-century fort with multiple exhibits and artifacts
  • Mackinac Island Carriage Tours. Explore the town by horse and buggy
  • Mackinac Island Fudge Shops. A must when visiting Mackinac Island!
  • Butterfly House & Insect World. Walk through a beautiful garden of colorful butterflies
  • Great Turtle Kayak Tours. Highly-rated sunset kayaking excursions with reputable guides
  • Jack’s Livery Stable. Horseback riding experience
  • Island Bookstore. Friendly, charming, and cozy bookstore
  • Mackinac Island Bike Shop. Rent bikes to explore the no-car island
  • Marquette Park. Pretty lilac-filled park by the lake
  • Wawashkamo Golf Club. 18-hole golf course
  • Benjamin Blacksmith Shop. Learn about the art of blacksmithing
  • Wawatam Lighthouse. Boardwalk with beautiful lake views
  • Kiwanis Beach. Park, garden, and beach all in the same area
  • Fort Holmes. 1817 fort with scenic views of the surrounding area
  • Sugar Load Rock. 75-foot-high rock in Lake Huron

Frequently Asked Questions

Bridge spanning Lake Huron with waves lapping the rocks on the shoreline during the best time to visit Mackinac Island

Jeremy’s N Photography/Shutterstock

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!