I’m gently woken by the soft pitter-patter of rain. It’s dark, and through puffy eyes, I fumble for my watch on the bedside table: 5:15 a.m. I lurch out from underneath the covers and stumble blearily to my hotel room window, casting my gaze east. The only noises are water droplets on the glass and my in-room Keurig enthusiastically squirting out steaming dark roast behind me. 5:20 a.m. rolls around — sunrise time — and I see… nothing.

A gooey fog hangs over Mackinac Island, Michigan, obscuring any chance of watching the sun’s grand debut for the day. I’m at Mission Point, a sprawling, picturesque resort on the aptly-named “Sunrise Side” of the isle. It’s my first day here, and I’m itching to see what all the fuss is about — but I’m out of luck this morning.

I make quick work of my coffee, comb my fingers through my hair, then lace up my hiking shoes and venture outside before everyone else is awake. I didn't need to rise at the crack of dawn to avoid hustle and bustle, though; Mackinac Island runs on a clock that ticks slower than the one I’ve just strapped to my wrist, and the streets don't get busy until well after 9 a.m.

Mackinac Island | A horse and carriage walking by trees on Mackinac Island

Only accessible to the public by ferry, this place has largely rejected what locals have deemed to be the vexations of urban life. Cars are forbidden (save for a handful of emergency vehicles); residents implemented a ban on “horseless vehicles” in 1898, and it stuck. Walking the roads, the quiet is remarkable. The only modes of transportation are bikes, your own two feet and a famous fleet of horse-drawn carriages.

Mission Point resort

Sitting on a whopping 18 acres, Mission Point is the largest family-owned resort on the island. After a brief stint as a college in the 60s and a religious retreat in the 70s, it was converted into a luxury resort in 1987. It’s typically open from late April through late October, in line with the island’s travel season.

Mackinac Island is also a history buff’s haven. Much of the residential and downtown architecture have maintained their Victorian bones. What’s more, battles were fought here during the War of 1812 — the island changed possession between the Americans and British during the conflict — and numerous 18th-century military bases have been restored to their original condition. Fort Mackinac is the most notable, perched atop a hill overlooking the downtown, and even features a functional cannon. Fort staff fire a blank to open the island every morning.

Mission Point | A soldier firing the cannon at Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island

Exiting Mission Point’s teepee-shaped log lobby, I push my way through the swinging entryway doors and start down the paved hill. The fresh morning rain has devolved into a caressing mist that whisps around my face as I devour the breathtaking scenery around me. Perched on a small, easterly hill, Mission Point looks out on an expansive lawn and, just past that, the sparkling waters of Lake Huron.

It’s the first time the beauty of this small isle, labelled “Michigan’s Crown Jewel,” really sets in. At just 10 km², this little oasis of land in the Great Lakes is an ideal marriage or honeymoon destination. It's early June and Mission Point’s gardens are bursting with colour from a small army of tulips, standing at attention.

As I start my hike down the hill, I dodge worms that have wriggled onto the pavement after a night of rain. An otter, common in the area, scampers across my path before slinking into the bushes. Nature’s FM radio — birds belting chirps and squawks into the air — is cranked to high volume. Cobblestones turn into dirt as I clamber up a hill and onto a hiking trail.

Outdoor Activities

Mackinac Island has more than 110 kilometres of trails that range from rugged woodsy hikes and thrilling mountain bike paths to easy paved walks that lead to lake and nature views. Then, you can get out on the water with a kayak rental, parasailing or a charter tour.

My mind is completely blank as I trek by trees painted with generous brushstrokes of moss, murky puddles brimming with fallen leaves and over gnarled, protruding roots. Morning hikes are my favourite way to clear my head, and it’s only when I arrive at Arch Rock (a towering limestone arch on the east side of the island) that a thought pops into my head: “Wow.”

Mackinac Island | Arch Rock in the spring on Mackinac Island

Arch Rock

The Anishinaabek inhabited Mackinac Island for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans. It is a sacred place — named Michilimackinac, or “Place of the Great Turtle,” the island is believed to have been the first land on Earth. Numerous burial sites have been discovered around the island.

More than 50 feet wide, Arch Rock gives me pause; pictures can't do it justice. Gazing through it to the waves below and the navy blue horizon feels like peeking through a porthole window to another dimension. History confirms that I’m not alone in my spiritual response to the natural formation; the Anishinaabek (Odawa, Ojibway and Potawatomi) who lived on Mackinac Island for centuries believe that Gitchi Manitou, The Great Spirit, enters the world through this doorway. Due to the merciless forces of erosion and the elements, geologists say Arch Rock only has a few decades left before it collapses.

I feel a weight settle onto my chest. This is a place of deep cultural and religious significance, and it's clear to me it should be treated with the utmost respect. I gaze upon Arch Rock for just a few minutes more before turning back the way I came. History is all around me, much of which was not kind to the Indigenous peoples who once inhabited the isle.

Additional resources

For resources from the University of Michigan about the history of the Anishnaabek people on Mackinac Island and beyond, click here.

While efforts have been made to begin introducing Indigenous history in Mackinac Island museums, many tours still trivially stop by burial sites, and an art museum is now housed in a former "Indian dormitory." Today, Mackinac Island attracts thousands of visitors; there are countless ways to enjoy the land and culture while still being mindful and respectful of the area's past.

Mackinac Island: How to get there

From Ontario, there are two main access points to get to Mackinac Island. Once you're in Sault Ste. Marie, it's less than an hour’s drive, followed by a short ferry ride. Or take the Bluewater Ferry from Sombra, Ontario to Marine City, Michigan, then another one to the island.

Mackinac Island: Where to stay

Mission Point Resort

Despite its numerous luxuries and amenities, dining options and activities, Mission Point Resort feels just like a boutique hotel. The staff are warm and personable, the log-cabin architecture is eccentric yet gorgeous, and the interior design is stylish. The resort’s unique feel is likely due to the owners being heavily involved in the day-to-day operations — the Ware family purchased the resort in 2014.

Stay in a spacious suite in either the Main Lodge or the dog-friendly Straits Lodge, if you’re looking to bring your furry friend along. Spend a little bit extra and reserve a Lake View room; they’re your best chance to catch a sunrise or revel in sweeping vistas of the lake.

Mackinac Island | A group of women enjoying drinks in the Mission Point spa on Mackinac Island

Make your island stay a restorative one at Mission Point’s Lakeside Spa and Salon, which boasts a range of services like massage therapy, facials, saunas, steam rooms and much more.

Rooms from $620 per night; missionpoint.com

Mackinac Island: Where to eat

While there aren’t many ingredients that are harvested directly on the isle, Mission Point Resort has established an expansive network of local producers to ensure delicious, fresh produce arrives on your plate at each one of its three restaurants. Fruits, veggies, meat and the ever-popular white fish are delivered to Mission Point daily after travelling a short distance via ferry.


Mission Point’s fine-dining restaurant offers dishes that wow with artist-grade presentation and layered, inventive flavours. It’s worth travelling to Mackinac Island just to try chef John Clements’s seasonally-inspired tasting menu. Clements doesn’t shy away from leaning into his farm-to-ferry produce. Veggies are the often star of his plates, like in the whimsical roasted celery root wheel, sea vegetable consumé or the English pea ravioli. Succulent proteins aren’t an afterthought, though. Michigan’s tasty white fish has a reputation for being some of the best, and Clements serves an incredible melt-in-your-mouth walleye as a fourth-course option. Expect to spend about $170 per person here.

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Bistro on the Greens

Open from late May to early September, Bistro on the Greens is the best option for al fresco dining. The Mediterranean-inspired menu hits the spot, and the lake backdrop doesn’t hurt, either. Stop by from 8–10 p.m. for happy hour deals and live music.

Mackinac Island: Things to do

Mackinac Island | A horse and carriage with a driver on Mackinac Island

Horse-drawn carriage ride

Arguably the most unique aspect of Mackinac Island is its commitment to preserving Victorian-era ways of life. As soon as you hop off the ferry downtown, it’s impossible to miss the huffing horses and tasselled carriages that roll slowly through the street. Book a romantic tour of the island that takes you by several historic landmarks, complete with a charismatic driver loaded with tons of stories about the lore and legends of each one.

Mackinac Island | A couple biking near sunset on Mackinac Island

Rent a bike

Horse and carriage a little too slow for your fancy? Pick up some speed with a bike rental from Mission Point Resort and spend hours zooming through the trails, or by cheerful crowds and quirky local shops downtown. Turn your wheels towards the Native American Cultural History Trail which features six stops along M-185 that share information about Indigenous heritage in the area.

Mackinac Island | Two employees pouring fudge on a pan at Joann's Fudge on Mackinac Island

Treat yourself to fudge

Believe it or not, this tiny crop of land in Michigan is a world-renowned fudge destination. Multiple shops making the sweet stuff line the streets, but we’d recommend getting your paws on a slab from Joann’s Fudge or Ryba’s Fudge Shops.

Mackinac Island | The downtown strip on Mackinac Island

Party in downtown Mackinac

The live music isn’t just off the shores of Mackinac Island — it’s everywhere downtown, too. You’re guaranteed to find a booze-doused rock-n’-roll or Irish-anthem pub party on the waterfront town’s main strip.

Mission Point | A person holding a drink on a boat looking out at the sunset on Mackinac Island

Sip N’ Sail Cruise

Boats and alcohol continue to be the best thing since PB&J, and with a Sip N’ Sail cruise, you can add live music to the mix. Drift around Mackinac Island’s shores and under the Mackinac Bridge to the tunes of a local performer with a beer, wine or cocktail in hand. Time your tour right and you’ll even be able to enjoy an unobstructed view of the sunset.


Mackinac Island | The sunset on Lake Huron on a Sip N' Sail cruise from Mackinac Island

I missed Mackinac Island’s fabled sunrise on my trip there, but all hope wasn’t lost. On my last day, I booked an 8 p.m. Sip N’ Sail tour. Spritz in hand and relaxed grin on my face, I sat patiently, eyes tracking the horizon. The bobbing vessel ventured out further onto the lake before stopping under Mackinac bridge.

Finally, the moment I'd been waiting for: As the sun kept dipping down, the sky burst into colour.  It was breathtakingly vibrant, as if a celestial being spilled orange, blue and pink watercolour paint over the Earth. Lake Huron reflected all the colours right back up towards the heavens. 

Behind everyone on the boat, a singer plucked strings on his acoustic guitar and crooned into a microphone. An enormous freighter coasted by, barely disturbing the water, impossibly quiet for its gargantuan size. For a moment — a minute, an hour? — it felt like time stopped. It was then that Mackinac Island stole my heart, and I can’t wait to go back.