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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Bottrall

Biking on Mackinac Island Map

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

I admit it. We've lived here for five beautiful summers and I've never even attempted to go around the island on my bike. I get all the fresh air I want sitting right on my back porch with a big glass of wine thank you very much. But Cecelia came to visit with Devon and Mary Grace and the energy of those two teenagers was infectous. After all - people ride the island every day - how hard could it be?

Two hours and a pair of very wobbly legs later, we had travelled 8.3 miles and were right back where we started. It was harder than I ever imagined and worth every single drop of salty sweat.

But really if you are going to ride a bike on Mackinac Island, especially if it's been a while, let me give you a few tips first.

TIP #1

Practice before you get here!

Other than the stationery bike in my living room, I haven't ridden a bike since I got my drivers license at age 16. The car offered me a freedom the bike never had and I left my 10 speed in the rearview mirror. That was forty years and 50 pounds ago.

The first time I attempted to ride a bike here on Mackinac Island it never occurred to me that it wouldn't be just like "riding a bike." I swung my leg over the bar, pushed off and immediately toppled over into the bushes. That wasn't fun. I brushed my knees off, got back on and again, the bushes were my friend. David stood there shaking his head and embarrassingly, I walked the rest of the year.

The next year, David bought me a bike. It was a step through and I was sure I could manage this one. I pushed it into an area with no tourists, no bushes and a lot of flat sidewalk and grass. I managed to stay on this time and after five or six times up and down the sidewalk, wobbling like a four year old, I finally managed to get the hang of it.

The medical center on Mackinac Island is pretty busy every single day patching up bumps and bruises so before you attempt something as big as 8.2 miles, I suggest you practice at home first where thousands of bikes and a hundred horses won't get in your way. And for goodness sakes, Please Wear A Helmet!

TIP #2

Watch out for road apples & wild fudgies!

Those big puddles probably aren't rain and road apples don't grow in trees. A road apple is what the locals affectionately call horse droppings. Running over one of these with your bike tire is bound to make a big mess, so watch out for them and the random yellow puddles. Those big yellow puddles probably didn't come from the sky.

You also need to be doubly careful of the Wild Fudgies. Locals have been calling candy loving tourists Fudgies for years, but put a ferry full of ones on bikes and you may find yourself surrounded by people who are so busy looking around and thinking of ice cream, they forget to watch where they are going. These are called Wild Fudgies and they can be dangerous. Steer clear of any Wild Fudgies on the road and while we are talking about it, make sure you are not one yourself. Nothing screams tourist louder than someone who forgets all the rules of the road they learned when they were a kid. Please follow all the rules of the road!

TIP #3

Get yourself a map!!

Most of the bike shops on the Island have maps available, free of charge. But if you are a planner, here is one you can download right now.

It's pretty hard to get lost just going around the island. After all if you just keep following M185, the only road in Michigan without cars, you will eventually come back to where you started. But this year is a little unusual. Much of M185 has been under construction this summer. Workers have been busy buttressing the road after storms, high water and rough winters washed much of the pavement away over the last two years. If you run into an area that is closed, the map comes in very handy to find your way around the road block.

If you look closely at the map you can see that there are a lot of fun excursions to take on the interior of the island. For sure don't miss Arch Rock. Although you can see it from the road, there is nothing more intoxicating than knowing you have climbed 207 steps to the top and peered through the portal down at the teeny tiny humans below. Perhaps, after visiting Arch Rock, you might decide to wander down the trail a bit further North and go see the giant limestone formation known as Sugar Loaf. Full of bees, the rock stacks more than 75 feet above the ground and is over 11,000 years old.

If you need a restroom break or a medical station you can find those on the map as well.

TIP #4

Bring more snacks and water than you think you will need.

Yes British Landing has bottled water and their fried pickles are Ah-Mazing. But Mile 5 is a long way from mile 8 and you are bound to need refreshment before then. There are many picnic tables along M185. Each has such beautiful views, it would be a shame to waste them. We brought granola bars, apples and even a candy bar on the trip. Two hungry teenagers later, there was nothing left but wrappers. We each drank an entire bottle of water and I went through a giant YETI of lemonade on top of that. Bringing a bag full of snacks and water is just smart.

TIP #5

Make plenty of stops along the way.

Sure getting around the island is an admirable goal, but if you're going to do that without stopping to enjoy what Mackinac Island has to offer, you may just as well ride at home.

We started out by Mission Point and went east around the island. The goal of the kids was to get Aunt Michelle around the Island, but it was hard to keep that goal in front of us when there were so many other fun things to do. We started by climbing to the top of Arch Rock. While I very slowly plodded my way up all 207 steps, Devon and Mary Grace ran by me, not once but twice.

I finally made it to the top where Mary Grace and I waited in line to take our picture. A family next to us was trying very hard to get a photo of dad swimming down below. Everyone of those steps was worth it for that beautiful view.

Back on the bikes, I am already exhausted. That, combined with the beautiful views and the clear breeze, had me begging to stop at every beach along the way. Cecilia was easily my biggest inspiration. Slow and steady wins the race and she sure did. While the kids and I would jump off the bikes to stick our toes in the water or smell a beautiful flower or watch a yacht going by, Cis would straddle her bike, never leaving the road, waiting patiently for us to stop our meandering and get back to our goal.

TIP #6

Take a moment to enjoy the flowers

August is my favorite time of year on Mackinac Island because the flowers are just so pretty. They grow wild on this side of the island. Bursting with yellow and purple on the side of the road. Goldenrod waved in the sunlight. Milk pods were fat and just starting to burst at their seams. We dodged monarchs and I counted 63 before I lost count. Seagulls were everywhere on the West side of the Island. I wonder if there are more fish on this side of the island or if they like the quiet of no ferries. At one point we stopped and just listened. Other than the waves, and occasional bird, there was no sound. No tourists calling out. No music, no radios. Just pure Michigan, the way God intended it.

TIP #7

Sunblock & Sunglasses

That sun reflecting off the water is hotter than you think. I almost never burn, but I sure came close that day. Make sure that you put sunblock on before you start out and that you reapply after the first hour.

Speaking of the sun, make sure you wear a pair of sunglasses or a hat with a big wide brim. That sun can be really hard on the eyes and cause a whopper of a headache.

And what if it isn't sunny that day? Make sure you wear layers of clothes. When the sun goes behind the clouds it gets cold and when it comes out, you swelter. Jackets and sweaters came off and on depending what the sun was doing.

TIP # 8

Take Market Street not Main.

There was never a more welcome site than when I spotted the school in the distance. My legs were wobbly. The sweat had dripped and then dried all down my face. My bike seat was poking in places in shouldn't. But the end was in site. And then we came around the corner into town and a mob of people. After almost 8 miles of nature and beauty and quiet, suddenly the streets were full of walkers and horses and shoppers and more bikers. Downtown can get super busy and running into tourists and dodging horses is not fun. So this is where your map comes in. Market street is much less busy than Main and only one street up. The shops are pretty awesome too.

At the end of the ride we rewarded ourselves with drinks and lunch on the patio at Mission Point. Never has a lemonade tasted so darned good. Many, many thanks go to Cecilia and Devon and Mary Grace for inspiring me and watching over me on our Around The Island Excursion! Love you guys!

Make sure and take pictures of your ride around the island and share them with us here. I would really love to see them. Ours are below.

I hope you are enjoying Everything-Mackinac blog. Sign up by clicking here so that you don't miss a single issue. And I hope you will share this with all of your friends. I know they will be glad you did.


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