11 Fabulous Things to Do on Mackinac Island in the Fall
Fall is Mackinac Island's sweetest secret. The air is clear, waters are calm and shorelines begin to glow in a rich patina of copper and gold. Autumn is when the island glides gracefully from the intensity of summer to the peak of fall when forests are transformed to ruby apple red, pear yellow and pumpkin orange. Long after fall foliage has faded elsewhere, the island still offers an applause-worthy color show that often stretches into late October.
1. Plan Your Trip CarefullyThe Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry Service operates until the Straits of Mackinac freeze over, though since the frequency of ferry runs change, you'll want to plan carefully for your trips over and back.
2. Shop Bargains on Main StreetShopping’s become a true October “sport” too, with the Great Turtle Shopping Week, a festival of steep bargains, music, treats and giveaways. Original art is popular too, carried at shops like Mackinac’s Little Gallery, also known for equestrian-themed works, and Little Luxuries, featuring organic gifts and regional art. Hit Somewear on Mackinac for fashion finds.
3. Enjoy a Quiet Picnic at Marquette ParkPicnickers can spread out on the broad, half-empty lawn of Marquette Park at the end of downtown.
4. Dine Easily at Popular RestaurantsVisitors can even get a table at otherwise-crowded eateries, such as the Seabiscuit Cafe or Mary's Bistro.
5. Take a Carriage TourAnother popular activity, step aboard the popular carriage tours with no wait required.
6. Stay at the Grand Hotel
Hotel pricing runs like clockwork here; come a certain date on the calendar, prices drop and they're even better midweek. The Grand Hotel runs some of its most popular packages in autumn. The annual “Somewhere in Time” weekend offers a chance for fans of the Christopher Reeve/Jane Seymour film to mingle with some of the original actors, listen to experts on the social mores of the Victorian era, even reenact scenes from the island-filmed cult romance. And that’s just one of several October events that showcase the island at its romantic—and sometimes quirky—best. Other packages are themed around ballroom dancing, murder mysteries, girlfriend getaways and even its seasonal closing. The “Close the Grand” special offers a reduced price, more casual “rules” and surprises like the buffet at which chefs whip up a feast from what's remaining in the pantry stock.
7. Explore by FootAlthough things are calmer, autumn also brings a renewed vigor to the island. Everything feels as fresh and bright as the Grand Hotel’s perennial beds, bursting with dahlias big as softballs and vast drifts of black-eyed Susans. The weather makes you want to take a brisk morning walk along the East Bluff—with Victorian-Era summer mansions on one side, grand views of Lake Huron on the other.
8. Rent a Bike from the Mackinac Island Bike Shop
To cover even more territory, rent a bike from the Mackinac Island Bike Shop and start your journey on the easy 8-mile paved trail encircling the island. Here, you'll spin past cobblestone streets, beaches and clusters of wild daisies, bright against Lake Huron’s teal-green waters. Inland, 140 miles of carriage roads, bike trails and footpaths knit through a hilly and wooded landscape, past jagged limestone outcrops and historic cemeteries. More than 80 percent of the island is preserved as state park in Mackinac Island State Park, a stark contrast to the busy downtown fudge shops and ferry docks. Prepare for hills and solitude both as you head up options like Tranquil Bluff Trail, which traces the high eastern shore or even trickier inland trails.