If you’ve considered a Michigan camping vacation, you’ve likely looked at adding Mackinac Island to your itinerary. It’s a unique, car-free experience where everyone rides bicycles or uses horse-drawn carriages. It’s like transporting yourself to the early 1900s. But can you bring your RV and camp there? Let’s look at what makes this island special and whether you should bring your house on wheels!
Where Is Mackinac Island?
Less than 600 people call Mackinac Island home. But this island in Lake Huron, east of the Mackinac Bridge that transports folks from the Upper Peninsula to the Lower Peninsula, welcomes about a million visitors yearly.
Pronounced “Mack-i-naw,” Mackinac Island is only accessible by plane or boat. There’s no bridge to the island, and it hasn’t allowed cars for over 100 years. Ferry boats depart Mackinaw City and St. Ignace daily. The ride lasts less than 20 minutes. Or you can charter a 7-minute flight from St. Ignace to the Mackinac Island Airport. I-75 will take visitors into Mackinaw City or St. Ignace to board a plane or ferry.
What Is Mackinac Island Known for?
Mackinac Island is famous for its fudge and saltwater taffy. People come there to experience the laid-back atmosphere, the Victorian charm, and the elegant lodging accommodations. There are many shopping and dining opportunities and a vibrant nightlife. It’s no wonder that Travel + Leisure Magazine named Mackinac Island the “Best Island in the Continental U.S.” and USA Today dubbed it the “Best Summer Travel Destination.”
However, it’s not only a place to relax. There are also ample outdoor recreational activities on Mackinac Island. The best way to take in the stunning views and get around the island is on a bike. Cruisers, tandem bikes, tag-along trailers, and other rentals are available on the island. A trip around this charming island is about 8.2 miles and offers breathtaking scenery.
There are also two iconic golf courses on Mackinac Island. One is on a battlefield, and the other includes a horse-drawn carriage ride between nines. You’ll not only enjoy a round of golf with your friends, but you’ll also soak in beautiful scenery and maintained greens.
The Woodlands Activity Center offers a mini-golf course, a bike track, pickleball courts, a shuffleboard court, and a garden nature center. It’s a pleasant place for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy recreation. Definitely check out the Butterfly House – Tom and I ended up spending quite a bit of time mesmerized by the butterflies! Finally, we recommend exploring Fort Mackinac and catching a cannon firing demonstration.
Pro Tip: Before you head to Mackinac Island, spend some time at these 4 Best Mackinaw City Campgrounds for Enjoying Michigan Summers.
Is Camping Allowed On Mackinac Island?
Although there are outdoor activities on Mackinac Island, camping isn’t one of them. For one reason, they don’t permit cars, so you can’t bring RVs either. RVers and tent campers can enjoy camping on the mainland in St. Ignace or Mackinaw City and easily access the ferry for day trips to Mackinac Island.
They also don’t allow camping to protect the nature and history of the island. Mackinac Island State Park covers about 80% of the island. Preserving the forest and surrounding rock formations is vital to maintaining the uniqueness of Mackinac Island.
Best Options for On-Island Overnight Accommodations
If you’d like to spend a night or two on Mackinac Island, there are many charming accommodations. We’ve chosen our top three options for your stay. We’re sure you’ll love each option, from the iconic Grand Hotel to a quaint bed and breakfast to a convenient inn!
Bed and Breakfast: Cloghaun Bed and Breakfast
Cloghaun Bed and Breakfast is on Market Street. It’s one of the oldest Victorian homes on the island and is just a short stroll from the ferry docks. Each room has a Victorian decor to create a charming oasis. If you’d like to read, play a board game, or work on a puzzle, visit the Sitting Room, where you can also connect with other guests. Outside, guests enjoy a comfortable front porch and spring gardens.
Hotel: Grand Hotel
The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island offers a one-of-a-kind experience that will likely make you forget about the lack of camping on the island. There are various rooms, from lake view double suites to golf view balcony king suites and 2-bedroom suites. Guests can also enjoy 13 restaurants and bars. If fancy dining is your cup of tea, head to the Main Dining Room after 6 p.m. in your finest attire. Dance the night away to live music or sit in a rocking chair on the longest porch in the world. It’s an old-world charm experience!
Inn: Bicycle Inn and Suites
Finally, our third recommendation is the Bicycle Inn and Suites on Main Street in the heart of downtown. Private balconies offer views of Main Street and Lake Huron, and the suites provide comfortable accommodations for a family vacation, a romantic getaway, or an anniversary. Guests enjoy access to a fitness center, laundry, business center, gift shop, indoor bike parking, and vending. The on-site restaurant and bar is easily accessible and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Best Options For Nearby Mackinac Island Camping
Since Mackinac Island doesn’t allow camping, you must stay on the mainland and take a ferry or flight to visit the island. There are three private campgrounds nearby and one state park that will provide a comfortable, convenient stay.
Mackinaw City/Mackinac Island KOA Journey
For RVers who prefer to stay at KOAs across the country, there’s a KOA in Mackinaw City. This KOA has a 4.6/5 rating on Google. It has all the amenities you expect at a KOA, like a heated pool, dog park, playground, laundry facility, bike rentals, and more. Take advantage of the free shuttle to the ferry docks to head to the island. Rent a bike or bring yours and hit the North Western Bike Trail next door.
Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping
Another campground near the island with a 4.6/5 rating on Google is Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping. There are all types of sites, from tent sites to lake view full hookup RV sites. This campground is in a natural setting surrounded by indigenous plants and wildflowers on the shore of Lake Huron. Guests enjoy access to beaches, a heated pool, three playgrounds, two basketball courts, a mini-golf course, and more. Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping also provides a free shuttle to the ferry docks.
Lakeshore RV Campground
Our third suggestion for nearby Mackinac Island camping is at Lakeshore RV Campground. Family-owned and operated, this campground offers full service for all RV sites in St. Ignace. Lakeshore RV Campground has a 4.5/5 rating on Google and provides a bathhouse, laundry, dump station, and beautiful lake views. It’s also a Good Sam park.
Straits State Park
If you prefer to stay in state parks when you travel, the nearest state park to Mackinac Island is Straits State Park in St. Ignace. It’s 181 acres and features fantastic views of the Mackinac Bridge and Straits of Mackinac. There’s a campground, picnic areas, a playground, a waterfront area, and viewing platforms. Spring and fall are prime seasons to view migratory birds. The campground’s upper loop offers larger RV sites with electric hookups.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Mackinac Island?
Memorial Day weekend begins peak season on Mackinac Island. If you want to avoid crowds, don’t visit during summer. However, there’s so much to do during the summer tourist season and the weather is so pleasant that most people still choose to travel during these months.
However, September and October are great times to visit Mackinac Island because most tourists are gone and temperatures have yet to dip below freezing. You’ll also enjoy the fall foliage and festivals on the island. You might also find discounted rates for lodging.
Pro Tip: Unsure where in Michigan to explore? Why not check out The Best National Parks In Michigan.
Mackinac Island Camping: Not Permitted On Island But Worthy Off-Island Options
Even though Mackinac Island doesn’t allow camping, campgrounds still provide easy access to the island. Don’t leave the RV at home because you can’t drive to the island. Enjoy the comforts of your home on wheels while you experience the Victorian charm, history, and unique lifestyle of Mackinac Island.
Perhaps you’ll book a night or two on the island to fully embrace this laid-back community!
Have you ever visited Mackinac Island? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
Become A Mortons On The Move Insider
Join 10,000+ other adventurers to receive educating, entertaining, and inspiring articles about RV Travel Destinations, RV Gear, and Off-Grid Living to jump-start your adventures today!