Taking your Dog to Mackinac Island

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After posting some photos of my recent trip to Mackinac Island with pup in tow, Pup North received a number of questions and requests for dog-friendly suggestions for one of Michigan’s most popular destinations. So does Mackinac make for a pup-friendly vacation?

Check out specifics below, but we say yes! Mackinac is overall a very dog-friendly city with a variety of activities to suit everyone from lazy bulldogs to the most active, trail-loving hounds.

As with most cities, dogs on Mackinac Island are required to be leashed and you must clean up after your pup. An additional concern: There are up to 400 horses on the island during the busy season, so it is also imperative that your dog will not bark at or spook these equine workers. If your dog is reactive or frightened by large animals, Mackinac Island may not be the safest or most relaxing trip for your pooch.

Getting to Mackinac Island with your Dog

You have two options in getting to Mackinac Island, because after all, it is an island! The most popular option is ferry. The three main ferry lines (Shepler’s, Star Line, and Arnold) all allow leashed dogs to ride on the ferry for free. The other option is by airplane via the Mackinac Island Airport.

My husband and I (and our dog!) opted for the latter option and found the airport to be very dog-friendly. Pups are allowed inside the welcome building and there was even a water dish next to the drinking fountains. There is also plenty of grass for a potty break while you wait for a carriage.

Getting Around the Island

Being that Mackinac Island prohibits motorized vehicles, you have three options for getting around the island itself. First — and most fun — are the horse-drawn carriage taxis. The taxis are dog-friendly, with lap-sized pups — like my Barley — riding for free. I did do some research and it looks like larger dogs can ride for the price of a child’s ticket (half of an adult).

Dog on horse-drawn carriage on Mackinac IslandEnjoying the flowers from the horse-drawn carriage

Bikes are available to rent all around the island, however, it seems like the safest route would be to hoof it if you’ve brought your pup. The third option: we opted not to rent a bike and were able to easily walk to almost every attraction once we were dropped off downtown.

Dining

I feel like this is always a bit of a grey area — on Mackinac and in any other city. Of course, only service dogs are allowed in food-serving establishments, but it seems that more and more restaurants are allowing leashed pups to join their humans on patios or decks with outdoor seating.

During our trip, we ate at the Carriage House. There is a large, beautiful grassy patio behind the restaurant overlooking the straits. They welcomed Barley on the patio with no problem, and even brought him water.

Barley acting fancy at the Carriage HouseBeing fancy at the Carriage House

I’ve heard and read of Mary’s Bistro being dog-friendly, however, when we went, they politely turned us down (perhaps it was because it was busy). The bartender did point us toward another bar that allowed dogs in their outdoor seating area — the Mustang Lounge — which we didn’t try, but looked fun!

According to this article, there are a number of other restaurants on the island that are deemed dog-friendly, but I would call ahead or go with the knowledge that you might have to be flexible. Regardless, most of the restaurants on the island will package up your food to-go. So you could always bring a blanket and eat picnic-style if the weather is nice!

Dog-Friendly Activities

Hiking

I know many people visit Mackinac just for the great hiking. Mackinac Island State Park contains 70.5 miles of signed and interpreted roads and trails There are also over 50 interpretive panels throughout the park that describe the natural wonders and historic locations. The park and trails allow well-behaved, leashed pets — just remember to bring plenty of dog bags to clean up after your pup!

Colonial Michilimackinac

A must-see for families and history buffs alike, no trip to Mackinac Island is complete without visiting the historic fort. The fort allows well-behaved, leashed pets. But please note: The canon frequently fires in the fort, a sound similar to a loud firework. If your dog gets scared or skittish around loud, booming noises, you may want to steer clear of this attraction.

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse

Full of historic exhibits and situated on beautiful grounds, the lighthouse is another unique, pet-friendly destination. Tours of the lighthouse tour are given throughout the day and allow for beautiful views of the island and straits.

Carriage Tours

A great way to see the sights is on a Carriage Tour. Learn about the history and charm of Mackinac Island with a nearly 2-hour, narrated tour — complete with tons of cheesy jokes. The tours are dog-friendly (with larger dogs requiring a half-priced ticket). This is a great way to see the famous Grand Hotel (which is otherwise off limits to pups, grounds and all).

Dog looking at Grand Hotel on Mackinac IslandAdmiring the (unfortunately non-dog friendly) Grand Hotel

Shopping

Most of the boutiques and shops — save for the ones that made/served food — are more than happy to have your pup shop with you. There were also many shops that put water dishes out front on their sidewalks. I recommend visiting Caddywampus for a fun — and funny — selection of dog gifts. It also looks like Professor Harry’s allows dogs (for the price of a person) to pose in your old-timey photo.

Dog with souvenir from Mackinac IslandBarley enjoying his souvenir from Caddywampus

Beaching

If your pup is looking for a place to cool down after a few hours walking downtown, there is a pretty little beach on the southernmost shore of the island, just west of the public library, off of Lake Shore Drive. The beach is pretty rocky, but the views of the bridge make it a worthwhile stop. I didn’t see any signs that prohibited dogs and Barley enjoyed a dip before heading back up to the boardwalk.

Dog on beach on Mackinac IslandSee the Mighty Mac in the background?

Where to Stay

Mackinac is a great day-trip destination, but it can be difficult to fit everything in one day! There are a few hotels situated right on the island that allow dogs, but the Mission Point Resort seems to be the most accommodating, with a Pooch at the Point package created especially for families with pups. Sunset Condos allow pups under 40-pounds (read their pet policy here). Harbor Place Studio Suites and Mackinac Island Home Rentals also have pet-friendly policies.

If you do decide to head to Mackinac, be sure to take plenty of photos and tag them #pupnorthlife so we can enjoy and repost! Have fun!