Mackinac Island v. Mackinaw City

Blog Get Outside Great Lakes Mackinac Island Mackinaw City Michigan

Everyone who comes to Mackinac Island wants to know why Mackinac Island is spelled with a ‘C’, when Mackinaw City is spelled with a ‘W’. Today on the blog, we wanted to answer that for you!

Mackinac Island Map

The first name given to Mackinac Island was Michilimackinac, the place of the ‘Great Turtle,’ because of the shape of the island, with the greater region being known as the Straits of Mackinac. Eventually, the name shortened and the island became known as Mackinac Island. 

When Mackinac Island became shortened from Michilimackinac, Mackinaw City decided to go with the phonetic spelling of the name ‘W’, so as to help alleviate confusion to island / non-island.

Of course, all of this happened back in the early 1800’s, before any of us were around! But according to research of those before us, that is how the story goes of how Mackinac Island / Mackinaw City were named and why they are spelled differently! 

Sources: Mackinaw City Chamber of Tourism (

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