When planning your family vacation to Mackinac Island, it’s important to do a little research about the island first. For instance, did you know that motor vehicles are prohibited everywhere on the island? So in order to get around you’ll either need to walk, take a horsedrawn carriage, ride a horse or bike. Worried about how you’ll get a bike on the island? Don’t be! This guide will tell you everything you need to know about transporting your own bike or finding bike rentals once you’re there.
Mackinac Island Michigan
Planning a trip to Mackinac Island? Lucky you! Mackinac Island is one of my favorite Michigan vacation spots and it smells like fudge 90% of the time.
Besides being an amazing weekend getaway for those looking to shop, eat, explore Fort Mackinac or simply take in some amazing great lakes views, it’s also a great place to go if you like to bike ride. In fact, bike riding experience is a helpful skill to have when visiting this completely motor-free island.
For seasoned bikers, the island is an opportunity to notch off the 8.2 miles around State Highway M-185 or go mountain biking on trails within the interior of the island. For newbies, it can be a fun new vacation experience and helpful in getting around to see all of the island’s touristy sights. But before you jump on your bike and peddle out into traffic (yes, I said traffic) you’ll want to understand the rules of the road and also how to make the most of your awesome experience biking Mackinac Island!
Getting a Bike on the Island
Before you can start riding around the beautiful, Lake Huron island, you’ll need a bike. How do you get one? Well, that’s easy. There are two ways to get a bike for your use on the island. Either you can bring your own bike with you to the island by paying the extra bike transport fee with the ferry, or you can rent a bike from one of the many bicycle rental shops on the island after you arrive. I usually choose to bring my own bicycle simply because I like how my bike rides and it only costs about $13 extra with Shepler’s or Star Line Ferry for the round trip bike ferry pass.
If you choose to rent bikes on the island there are usually several options to choose from, including single speeds, 3 speeds, mountain bikes, tandem bikes and pull behind carriers or tagalongs for kids. Bikes can usually be rented by the hour or for the day.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Book a Mighty Mac departure on Shepler’s Ferry and travel under the Mackinac Bridge for a brief narrated tour before arriving at the island. There’s no added cost but the photo opportunities are priceless!
How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Bike on Mackinac Island?
There are several bicycle rental spots on the island and they can almost all be found on Main Street close to the ferry docks. If you’re planning to spend only 1 day at Mackinac Island, these places close to the docks are usually the best choice. However, if you’re planning to overnight on the island, check with your hotel or lodging first to see if they have bicycle rentals of their own. The Grand Hotel and Mission Point are two hotels that offer bicycle rentals right from their property, and they’re two of the best family resorts in Michigan. By renting directly from your hotel, you won’t have to make the walk back on foot once you’re done riding.
When looking at cost, most bicycle rental places are between $7-$15 per hour depending on the type of bike you’re renting. Almost all of them also offer a full-day rental, but only a few will offer a half-day rental or evening rental for a discounted price. Unless you’re really into bike riding, an hourly or half-day rental is usually what my family chooses. It takes about 60-90 minutes to ride all the way around the entire island, adding a few extra hours to explore British Landing or stop for photos of the Mackinac Bridge along the way. After that, my legs are toast anyway and I’m ready to give the bike back.
Can You Rent Electric Bikes on Mackinac Island?
The short answer is no. However, guests with disabilities can rent an electric wheelchair from Ryba’s Bicycle Rentals. Also, guests with disabilities may use an electric bicycle on Mackinac Island only if they are a qualified person with a mobility disability and only if the E-Bike is a Class I electric bicycle.
Choosing the Right Bike Path
The island is made up of several different bike paths. Deciding which path is right for you is important. Typically most people tend to stay near the downtown area and ride around the main pass which leads to the fort, famous Arch Rock, restaurants and stores. This is where my family also tends to stay on our bikes when we have the kids with us.
In this area, there are many places to stop for breaks, places to use the restroom or grab a snack – all important when you’re riding with young kids. Plus, it always made me nervous to venture out too far with young kids on bikes for the fear that they will give up halfway and I’ll be stranded riding my bike while carrying both their bikes and them in my arms on the way back.
Mackinac Island Bike Trail
When we travel without the young kids, my husband and I prefer to head out on the paved bike trail that circles the island. This 8.2-mile path is breathtaking with a constant view of the lake on one side and wooded natural beauty on the other. Since not as many people choose to venture out this far from the main strip, the ride can be relaxing with only the sounds of seagulls and the smell of fresh cedar to distract you from your peddling. Plus, if you get tired along the way, there are always places to pull off the path and sit on the beach until you’re ready to ride again. Just be prepared that food and restroom stops are not available again until you reach the halfway point.
While the third path option is not something I’ve tried yet myself, I do know of several people who constantly tell me I’m missing out. Throughout the interior of the island are mountain bike paths woven between the trees. These are non-paved trails and better navigated by a serious off-road biker. However, along interior trails are some of Mackinac Island’s best-kept secret places like Sugar Loaf, Skull Cave, Fort Holmes and even the island’s historic cemeteries.
Maneuvering the Island
There are a few other things to consider when biking Mackinac Island, Michigan.
- Parking. Knowing where to leave your bike when frequenting the downtown businesses can be confusing at first since there aren’t any bike racks like some of us are used to. Bike parking can be found alongside the road within the lines. Most likely you will see several other bikes already using this space. Simply follow suit. Just remember where you left your bike because the parking area and streets often become overcrowded. I’ve lost my bike a time or two and was left wandering around wishing I had an alarm to sound to lead me back to it.
- Locking up your bike. Whether or not to use a bike lock is your preference. There are certainly people who do both. Keep in mind that there aren’t typically places to lock your bike to.
- Bikes and horses. Even though motor vehicles are banned from the island, bikes are not the only mode of transportation. There are also horses, horse-drawn carriages and a lot of foot traffic. Common road rules still apply and there are officers present to enforce the laws. Be considerate and attentive.
Other Places to Bike Ride Nearby
On the other side of the ferry from the island, you can either find Mackinaw City or St. Ignace. We usually choose to stay in Mackinaw City overnight and have found that they also are very progressive for bike riders. Not only is there a boardwalk along the lake to ride with a lighthouse and fort to visit, but the North Central State Trail runs through the area. The North Central State Trail connects Mackinaw City to Gaylord with trails for biking or walking. The trail is a ride we would love to one day make, but haven’t yet completed fully.