Charming Mackinac Island
Somewhere In Time
Colorful, Victorian dollhouses, horses and carriages, flowers and butterflies, clear blue water, and a charming, historic island crowned by one of America’s oldest resorts. Mackinac Island is literally a storybook fairy tale come to life. The first thing you should know before going though is, it’s not pronounced like it’s spelled; it’s pronounced mak–uh-naw.
In order to get to the island, you must park your car in St Ignace and take a ferry. The experience couldn’t have been any easier, and crossing the Mighty Mac, the Mackinac Bridge, to get to St. Ignace is breathtaking. The Mighty Mac is one of the largest suspension bridges in the world, and I never imagined the Great Lakes to be so beautiful. As we got closer to the island, you could see the resort and all the beautiful houses. Passing by Round Island Lighthouse we could see the dock. Unmanned kites were secured on the beach and the full length of the fort was visible at the top of the island.
Everything, and I mean everything is pristine on Mackinac. The entire island just seems to sparkle. I don’t think I’ve been to a cleaner place. Vehicles aren’t allowed on the island, so the only way to get around is horse and carriage, walk or ride a bike. As someone who sits in Atlanta traffic often, giving up the car for a few days is more than a pleasure. Such a treat to be in a place where cars aren’t rushing by and the sound clopping of horses coming down the road is magical. I was lying in bed one night with the window open, and all I could hear was the clip clop sound and squeaks and creaks of carriage wheels as a horse drawn carriage went by. It felt like the scene from a movie.
Speaking of movies, the movie Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour was filmed on Mackinac at the Grand Hotel, and that title captures the feeling and spirit of Mackinac perfectly. A few days on the island and you do feel like you’ve been transported to a different place, somewhere in time.
The Grand Hotel opened in 1887. It’s an extraordinary example of American Grandeur and is the world’s largest summer hotel. The hotel also claims the record of the largest porch in the world, and the interior design was done by Carleton Varney, president of the well known firm, Dorthy Draper & Co. Known as America’s summer place, the hotel is rich in history and maintains many of the same traditions of gracious living like afternoon tea and nightly dancing. In addition to the gift shops at the hotel, there is an art gallery, flower shop, wine bar, ice cream parlor, pool, greenhouse, and the most spectacular view of Lake Huron. We stayed here the first part of our trip, then moved down to the Windermere in town. Since the Grand can be pricey, plan to go when they’re offering the Pure Michigan package, which is during shoulder season.
The Grand Hotel also owns the stable up the hill, and even if you aren’t a horse person, it’s worth a visit. This 8,700 sq ft working stable houses the horses for the Grand Hotel and also serves as a museum for some 20 antique carriages used by the hotel and Mackinac Island Carriage Tours over the years. The stable is also immaculate, and you only need to take one look at the horses to know they are well cared for. While there, we learned many of the horses are moved off the island during the brutal winter months, when the island shuts down, and as the island comes to life again in the spring, the horses are brought back.
A carriage tour and bike ride around the island are a must. The bike ride is an easy, flat ride all along the perimeter of the island with stunning views of Lake Huron. You can rent a bike at the dock in town and pick up a carriage near the fort. Nothing beats having a carriage tour guide give you all the insider knowledge. Curious as to how anyone survives the winter on Mackinac, I had a ton of questions for our guide. He told us very few people live on the island year round. During the winter, they have to wait until Lake Huron freezes over completely, and then they can ride their snowmobiles across the lake to St. Ignace. Ferry service stops of course and groceries can be flown to the island by plane. Many islanders have cars they keep in St. Ignace and have their own private horse and stable on the island. It’s a life I couldn’t do.
Fort Mackinac was founded in 1780. It was previously occupied by both the British and American Military seeking to control the Straits of Mackinac between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Previously used in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, Fort Mackinac contains the oldest building in Michigan, along with 13 other historical structures. It was Michigan’s first state park and the second national park in the US after Yellowstone. The fort has many demonstrations and exhibits, which can either be toured with a guide or done self guided. The fort also has a museum, gift shop, and the views of the island and marina are beautiful. Be ready though, they fire the cannon every hour at the fort.
Mackinac also has two butterfly conservatories, Wings of Mackinac and The Original Butterfly House and Insect World. We went to both and enjoyed them equally. Below are pics from both.
Other musts on the island include sampling fudge at any one of the fudge shops, shopping on Market st. (two of my favorite shops are Poppins on Mackinac and Little Luxuries), and the walking trail up near the Grand Hotel.
Hope you enjoyed this little peek at Mackinac. I can’t wait to go back in the future, hopefully during Mackinac’s annual Lilac Festival.
Thanks for reading!