Biking the 8.2-mile shoreline loop around the island is, of course, the classic must-do biking experience on Mackinac Island. But once you’ve taken in the cool, clear waters of Lake Huron, head inland to explore the true natural beauty and historic significance of the Island’s interior. There are carriage tours that will cover some of the same ground, but a bike is simply the best way to get around.
Any time of year is a great time to explore the interior paths where you can immerse yourself deep into the peacefulness of the woods, and enjoy spectacular views from above the trees at the highest point of the island. Grab a map from us at Cloghaun, the bike shop, or use this helpful map.
There are several ways to get up and into the heart of the Island. From the Cloghaun, a nice route is to head up Cadotte Avenue, the beautiful tree-lined street leading up a gradual hill to the Grand Hotel. Toward the bottom of hill, across the street from the Gate House, check out the Little Stone Church on the right, built in 1904. When you reach the Grand Hotel, there’s are two paths you can take.
You can make the left onto West Bluff Road, which will take you directly in front of the Grand and then up and around the historic West Bluff district with its large Victorian summer cottages and amazing views of the Mackinac Bridge. This collection of cottage mansions—with their gorgeous rounded porches and turrets, and finely-manicured gardens—were built in the late 1800s. Between the West and East bluffs, there remain 33 homes on land that their owners lease for 20-year periods from the state. Therefore, if you buy one of these impressive (and expensive!) homes, you’re only buying the structure that sits on the land, not the land itself. While it’s a beautiful route, the West Bluff Road hill is easier to bike down than up, so don’t feel bad about getting off your bike and walking up. (Or you can always ride it in the downhill direction later!)
Instead of taking the left onto West Bluff Road, you can simply continue up Cadotte Avenue past the Grand Hotel. Regardless of which route you take, you’ll eventually end up at Four Corners. At that intersection, if you continue straight, you can check out Harrisonville (aka “the village”), a small neighborhood towards the middle of the Island, including Great Turtle Park. If you take the left onto Annex Road, you’ll head out to the western side of the Island, toward the historic district of Hubbard’s Annex and other interesting spots such as Sunset Rock, Woods Restaurant, and The Inn at Stonecliffe. Finally, if you turn right onto Huron Road, it will take you past Fort Mackinac and the various attractions on the eastern side of the Island. In other words, choose your own adventure!
Another way to get up into the interior of the Island from Cloghaun is to turn left, not right, out our front door and continue down Market Street until it dead ends at Fort Street. Take the left at Fort Street and start to climb. It’s super steep, however, so most people walk their bikes all the way to the top to Huron Road, where you can admire the Governor’s Summer Residence on the left, which overlooks all the town and harbor. You can also get to the middle of the Island by heading up Mission Hill over by Mission Point Resort.
Regardless of how you make the climb up into the Island’s interior, once there you’ve already done the hard work and can enjoy exploring on relatively even ground. There are a variety of paved and gravel roads suitable for all ages, riders, and bikes. For those into more serious mountain biking, there’s no shortage of single track trails for all levels of technical ability. The roads and trails are well marked, including routes toward the various points of interest, M-185 (aka Lake Shore Drive), and downtown—so it’s nearly impossible to get lost.
Once up Fort Hill, an interesting first stop is Ste. Anne’s Cemetery to pay respects to the Cloghaun family ancestors, including Thomas and Bridget Donnelly, who built Cloghaun in 1884. It can be interesting to walk both cemeteries (there are two adjacent to each other) and see the names, dates, and ages of those buried there from families that are still active on Mackinac Island.
From the cemeteries, go visit Fort Holmes. There are a couple of different routes to get to Fort Holmes Road. Along the way to the Fort, you’ll have the opportunity to take a brief detour to Point Lookout, which offers an excellent view of Sugar Loaf, a 75-foot tall tower of rock (the tallest limestone stack on the Island), and the surrounding Mackinac Island forest. In the fall, when the leaves have changed, the views are incredible.
After taking in the view at Point Lookout, head to the newly-restored Fort Holmes, a fortified earthen redoubt originally built in 1814 by British forces during the War of 1812. Located at the highest point of Mackinac Island, with near 360-degree views of the Island and surrounding waters, Fort Holmes served to defend nearby Fort Mackinac from attack by the US Army. Those remarkable views are now just for the enjoyment of those who make it to the top—and they don’t disappoint. On a nice day, you can see
for miles nearly every direction.
From the high point of Fort Holmes, make your way to Arch Rock. Just follow the signs. Viewing this beautiful rock formation from the top provides a much different perspective than from the stony shore below. Keep in mind that Arch Rock is a major stop for the carriage tours, so you can expect to find this area crowded with “fudgies”—the Islanders’ term for vacationers. But it’s worth a look despite the congestion. Different viewing angles are available, including a platform that extends out to nearly the top of the arch, offering incredible vistas of the shoreline and Lake Huron.
Leaving Arch Rock, follow the signs to Huron Road and head in the direction of town with an easy downhill coast along the East Bluff, with more beautiful Victorian summer cottages. Keep an eye out for the “Baby Grand” house on your right, and enjoy the views overlooking the Mission District. Heading along Huron Road, you can take the super-sharp left at Truscott Street and descend around the bend to the right and then coast down the steep hill to Lake Shore Drive, where you’ll be on the block where Ste. Anne’s Church is located.
Alternatively, you can keep going straight on Huron Road. Just above the Island House Hotel, you’ll spot a short detour on your left to Anne’s Tablet, where you’ll also pass the gazebo featured in the Christopher Reeves film, Somewhere in Time. Hey, you’re right there, you might as well check them out. If you keep going west on Huron Road, it will take you back past the Fort and all the way across to the western end of the Island, back to the West Bluffs and the Grand Hotel, where you can cruise down Cadotte Avenue all the way to Market Street and Cloghaun, where a relaxing beverage on the porch awaits. You’ll have earned it.
Regardless of where you go and how you get there, just grab a map, explore, and enjoy!
After a day of exploring, return to the Cloghaun Bed and Breakfast for a relaxing evening followed by comfortable night’s sleep and hearty breakfast in the morning before setting out to explore some more. Check availability and Book Today!