mackinaw island Dark Sky Park in a day

Mackinaw Island & Dark Sky Park in a Day!

I am always looking for fun weekend getaways exploring my home state, Michigan. This short road trip consist of exploring Mackinaw Island during the day and then staying up till 1am laying amongst billions of stars and the Milky Way.

My friend and I have been wanting to check out Headlands International Dark Sky Park for a few years now. Neither of us photographed the Milky Way and thought this place would be the perfect spot to try it out for the first time. The Headlands became one of the first 10 International Dark Sky Parks in the WORLD in 2011. That’s right, you read that right THE WORLD, and my home state has one. It’s amazing what it takes to become one. Read here, to see what makes it so unique.

This was our second attempt driving out to the dark sky park. We got two hours into the drive the first time and the clouds were so thick we decided to turn back. The second time around was perfect. We planned our trip around the Moon calendar. We waited until there was no moon visible in the sky AKA, New Moon. This allows for less light pollution making the stars and Milky Way more visible.

We left around 11am making it to Mackinaw City around 3pm. We checked in at KOA and set up our tent. Since we had some daylight to spare we bought ferry tickets to Mackinaw Island. Mackinaw City KOA is the perfect location being 10 minutes away each direction from Headlands and Shepler’s Ferry.img

People call Mackinaw Island the “all natural” theme park of America. Transportation is limited to only horse and buggy, bike, or by foot. 

It was a quick 25 minute ride along side the Mackinaw Bridge to the island.img

We rented bikes to ride around the whole island from, Mackinac Island Bike Shop. We paid 9$ an hour. You pay when you return. It was great because we had no idea how long we were going to take.
imgIt felt as if we went back in time to the Victorian days. imgThe whole route was so beautiful!img

imgWe parked our bikes and hiked up a solid 207 steps to Arch Rock.img

imgThe views were awesome from the top.img

imgWe continued riding enjoying the sun shine!imgYou could see the Mackinaw Bridge from afar! This means we were almost done with our ride!imgWe made it around the whole island just over one hour. I still can’t get over how cute this town is.imgWe had a quick bite to eat and stocked up on some famous Ryba’s Island Fudge! You can’t go to Mackinaw Island and not eat fudge! It just wouldn’t be right.img


We rushed back to watch the sunset. The GPS took us to the right place.  We parked on the lawn and then walked a mile to the beach. There was construction going on the main road that takes you to the viewing point so we had to walk. You can check the website here for construction, program and event updates.

The road took us straight to the beach. There was a lot more people then I expected. I would guess around 70 people. They do have some rules. There is no camping aloud.  They allow blankets, sleeping bags, hammocks and chairs to snuggle up and watch the stars till morning but just don’t allow camping. You are also aloud to bring dogs as long as there leashed and you pick up after them. The only light allowed is red-filtered light. Click here for all the details. I will definitely be coming back with Watson and my SUP board!

We made it to the beach right after the sun set. The colors were amazing!imgBeing the photography nerds that we are, we had a blast being ghosts!

I figured out how to do this by accident a few years ago. The best time to do it is right after the sun sets. The shutter typically needs to stay open longer to capture all the light.  For this shot I set up my tripod and the 10 second timer. Running and posing is my specialty :P. I set my camera in aperture priority mode at f8 and ISO 100. This made the shutter open for 13 seconds. Once it clicked we froze for 6 seconds and then ran out of the frame. That is what give this the ghost affect. Cool right!?  Try it out, I would love to see how yours came out!

Photography is very much a trail and error hobby. This was our first time ever attempting shooting the Milk Way. I was actually so excited I forgot to take my lens cap off for the first 20 minutes thinking my camera broke! The first shot I took I was blown away! I could see the Milky Way with my naked eyes but nothing like the cameras. I was addicted, my adrenaline was pumping of excitement! Here was my first shot.imgAs the night went on the Milky Way moved along the sky. I loved the silhouette of the pine trees.img

imgThis was someone walking by with a red light.img

We decided to try some light painting since we were some of the last ones on the beach. I have seen amazing light painted photos so we thought we would attempt. Lets just say it didn’t go as we hoped. I thought these two still turned out cool though.img

imgThe clouds were starting to set in so we gave up around midnight. I could not believe how beautiful this place was and I can not wait to go back!


Have you visited a Dark Sky Park before? I would love to hear from you! Comment below, Pin, share and subscribe to stay up to date on my latest adventures!




Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *