June 3-4, 2011: Mackinac Island getaway (Part 1)
The first adventure of the summer started with a long weekend to Mackinac Island. It’s been years since I was on the island so I was excited to get there and relax. Ok, I admit, any trip appeals to me and I’m always excited to get away to explore and find adventures! But Mackinac Island has a special appeal…a sanctuary that beckons you to step back in time
without the noise and pollution of cars, spend a few days playing and exploring with one of my favorite travel partners (no secret who that is).
Justin and I set out on a beautiful Friday afternoon. Our plan was to stay at the Comfort Inn in Mackinaw City that evening and take the Star Line ferry to the island early Saturday morning. Crossing to the island was like crossing into a small oasis. Someone said Mackinac Island is like another world and I think she’s right. We stepped off the ferry to be greeted by a porter who took our bags, via bike, to our hotel. The first thing I spotted when we walked to the downtown area were teams of horses pulling buggies and wagons. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.
Those who know me know my obsession with the four-legged animals. Despite not being able to ride anymore, the smell, sound and sight of the majestic animals still weaves a familiar comfort and relaxation through my bones.
On our stroll to the Harbour View Inn, we glanced in storefronts and laughed at the multitude of fudge shops (17 on the island!). Reality greeted us in the form of a new Starbucks store so we kicked off the vacation with our usual nonfat chai
lattes (although MUCH pricier than already high prices at home but still worth it). As we walked through downtown and passed the waterfront, we saw Fort Mackinac above us and I marveled at the history surrounding us (Justin eventually took the map since I was distracted in every direction!). We picked up a map and guide of Mackinac Island at the visitor center (highly recommend this thorough guide for only $1).
We found our hotel by following the smell of the barbecue as directed by our porter. Justin was delighted to be offered a complimentary serving of fresh BBQ ribs by a staff member. It was “opening day” of the barbecue that the hotel sets up during summer season – BBQ ribs, brisket and more. Harbour View ended up being a wonderful choice – such friendly staff, beautiful furnishings and great size rooms. Our doorwall opened to a balcony; although shared by others, we sat outside for lunch and relaxing.
Ironically, my mom and her friend were on the island too. It wasn’t deliberately planned, more based on the cheaper rates for us. We found it fun to randomly run into them on the street or at Saunders. I loved seeing my mom from afar, laughing and having a good time. It made me smile.
We spent the next few days exploring the island. Justin and I both enjoy history, hiking and learning so Mackinac Island was a great place to be. We started with a carriage tour of the island, learning some history from the comic drivers. It truly is an interesting history and daily life on the island – deliveries done by bike or horse carriage; a small post office; islanders driving snowmobiles across the frozen strait during winter (guided by a line of trees stuck into holes drilled in the ice); the number of employees hired for summer season (600 at the Grand Hotel!); six students in the 2010 graduating high school class; the island made out of limestone so no opportunity for great crop growing and so much more.
The Grand Hotel stables are open to the public most days until 5pm so of course this was a “must” stop. Several old carriages are on display and we met the four Hackney horses available for carriage use by the Grand Hotel’s owners and VIP guests. The barn manager was there too, despite being his day off. Ben was a wealth of knowledge about the horses and living on the island. He built his home on the island more than 20 year earlier, met his wife on the island and raised a family. He grew up around horses and his love of his job and the horses is evident. It was so nice of him to take time to indulge our curiosity. We found that many of the island locals were very friendly.
We laughed at the amount of fudge and t-shirt shops. There are many choices for dining. We ate at the Yankee Rebel, Goodfellows and Horn’s. The evenings certainly quiet down as the day-trippers leave and only the overnight guests and employees are left. I imagine it’s a bit livelier during peak season. There wasn’t much to do after 8pm but on Saturday night, we returned to Horn’s for drinks and were happily entertained by a great band and the Tigers game (on television).
To be continued…