During my family’s recent getaway to Mackinaw City, we took a day trip to Mackinac Island. The island is located in Lake Huron between the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan. This is one of my favorite spots to visit in my home state.
The 3.8-square mile island once served as home to a Native American tribe, a center for fur trading, then a military post when the British built Fort Mackinac (still available to tour on the island). It became a popular tourist destination in the late 19th century. The primary way to get to the island is via boat so there are several ferry companies that depart from Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. In the winter when the lake freezes, some residents will drive snowmobiles across the ice. There is a small airport that private planes use.
I love visiting Mackinac Island. It’s relaxing, even during the busy summer season, and beautiful. I love the uniqueness of horses, bikes and walking as the only modes of transportation. I love that it’s like a secluded getaway in the midst of busy civilization.
Here are 10 things I find fun and interesting about Mackinac Island:
1. No vehicles: Motor vehicles were banned from the island at the end of the 19th century and the restriction continues today (except for emergency and some construction vehicles). M-185, the country’s only state highway without motored vehicles, goes around the 8-mile circumference. The only modes of transportation are horses, bikes and your own feet. I love this about Mackinac Island. It makes the island unique, and also provides a sense of peace and break from our crazy, honking society.
2. Mackinac Island State Park: Mackinac Island was the second national park, then the land was given to Michigan in 1895 and became our first state park. The state park comprises 82 percent of the island. There are more than 70 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. I’ve hiked the majority of these trails and there is always something interesting and informational to see and learn.
3. Family time: I love any place that enables my family to relax and spend time together. Mackinac Island is the perfect place to do just that. From the ferry ride over to the horse-drawn wagon tour to fudge sampling to simply wandering the streets of the island, we felt worlds away from ‘regular life.’ We even all agreed to suspend technology use (except for pictures) while on the island (so awesome to me!). It was so fun being on the island with my family, especially for the first time with the younger nieces and nephew. We discussed quite a bit of history, horses and nature.
4. Horses: I love visiting Mackinac Island where my favorite animal is pretty much everywhere I look. More than 500 horses are brought to the island every spring, and taken off the island for the winter. Many of the horses are used to pull wagons for guest taxis, maintenance supplies, island tours and business needs. You can also rent saddle horses for tours around the island. I unfortunately never got to ride a horse on the island before my cancer surgery so I’m disappointed that I can’t experience this. However, I was happy that my two older nieces and my niece’s husband took advantage of this fun outing.
5. Grand Hotel: This 390 room hotel opened in 1887 to summer tourists. It has the world’s largest porch (660 feet) overlooking Lake Huron and the hotel’s beautiful gardens. No two guest rooms are the same, which makes me want to walk through every room to see the decor! There is an evening dress code and non-guests are charged $10 to visit the porch. It’s definitely a pricey hotel, but a pretty one.
6. Biking: Riding bikes is one of the most popular ways to get around on the island. You can bring your own across the lake on the ferry or rent one of the more the 14,000 available from vendors on the island.
7. Arch Rock: This is one of my favorite spots on the island. The natural limestone rock is 146 feet above sea level. It’s unique in the size and shape. Many legends surround the arch. It’s predicted that it will erode completely in the next few decades so check it out.
8. Population: Approximately 7,000 people live on the island during the summer months as tourist season brings many temporary workers to help at the restaurants, shops, hotels, bed and breakfast inns and elsewhere. During the winter, only 400-500 islanders remain.
9. Education: I find it fascinating that there is a K-12 school on the island. Of course, the year-round island youth need to be educated but I guess the island size and sort of remote location made me think there wouldn’t be a school. The largest graduating class in recent years had eight students. The 2016 class graduated five students.
10. Fudge: There are 14 fudge shops on the island! So much fudge is made that more than 10 tons of butter is brought to the island every year. I’m not a huge fudge fan but I admit to some sampling when on the island.
There is so much more I could share about the island! It truly is a fun, unique, relaxing experience. Have you been to Mackinac Island? If so, what was your favorite experience?