I have a morning exercise for you to try. Hold up your left hand, palm out, as if you were going to place your hand in a mitten. You are now looking at the state of Michigan. I live on the left (west) side, just under (south) of your pinkie….around the knuckle area. A couple of weeks ago, we traveled straight up (between your ring and middle fingers) Michigan to visit Mackinac Island. Mackinac is located just off the right tip of your middle finger. You can catch a ferry from this side of the bridge ,(Mackinac Bridge) or on the other (in the U.P.–Upper Peninsula) side, to reach the island. And once you are there, you have left the world behind.
Probably the biggest thing that sets Mackinac Island apart from any other island in the Western Hemisphere is that cars are prohibited. This has been the case since the early part of the 20th century when “horseless carriages” first appeared (exceptions are first response vehicles and, as needed, road repair vehicles). There have been times when I have been there and not seen, or heard, one motorized vehicle. Unfortunately, this past visit coincided with some road maintenance so my idyllic stay was marred (a bit) by these loathsome mechanical creatures (it truly is a peaceful sound when there are no engines humming in the background). So, since there aren’t any cars, the main modes of transportation are your feet, bicycles and horse-drawn carriages/buggies. Unique, no?
Mackinac has an interesting history. Native Americans (the Ojibwa) would summer on the island. They thought it looked like a turtle and was home to “The Great Spirit”. By the 17th century the first Europeans arrived (French). And through the next couple of centuries the Island “belonged” to the French, British, and Americans. It became a fur trading mecca–as in millions of dollars. In the early 1800s, John Jacob Astor (yes, of those Astors) established the American Fur Company on Mackinac which was very successful and instrumental in aiding Astor to amass his fortune. Many hotels, restaurants and shops sprang up during the next few decades. Before you knew it, Mackinac became quite the summer resort town…yet, it has always maintained permanent, year-round inhabitants as well.
Due to its 300 year history, Mackinac is rich in architectural culture. There are buildings reflecting the Colonial, Greek Revival, Queen Anne, Victorian to name a few styles. The crown jewel of these historical building is, of course, The Grand Hotel. I have never stayed there, but we have explored its grounds, had afternoon tea and gone dancing in the ballroom. It is truly a lovely, beautiful building. And I LOVE how it’s decorated — bright, bold colors emanating the style of Dorothy Draper (decorated by her protegé, Carlton Varney). Just to prove how grand The Grand is, think about this: the porch is a whopping 660ft. long (200m). Impressive. The Grand’s other claim to fame is the 1980 movie, “Somewhere in Time” which was filmed around the island, including The Grand Hotel.
Mackinac has many other things to do and explore. It has a State Park to bike or hike through, a paved bike path that circles the island, Fort Mackinac, an art museum, butterfly conservatory, and more. And not to be forgotten is the Lilac Festival held every June. My history with island? Brett and I spent part of our honeymoon there in 1994. We love it so much we went back again the next year and again a couple of years later. We were positive that going to the Island would be a regular trip for us. And now, 15 or 16 years later, we finally returned…and loved it again! It’s a vintage dream.
Now some visuals for you to enjoy:
On the ferry.
Arriving in our “port”. Notice all the bicycles ready to rent?
Empty docks signaling the end of summer.
Horses and dogs….hard to know which is man’s best friend on this island.
Would love to have this view in my front yard.
Note to self: Check savings account when you get home. Then laugh.
Our room and it’s view. We stayed at Mission Point.
The above shots are from the grounds of our hotel one beautiful morning.
Visiting the Fort.
Some examples of the architecture. The above photo is the Murray Hotel where we stayed on our honeymoon. Awww.
I even like the Post Office. So darling.
Gorgeous flowers were everywhere!!
As we biked around the perimeter of the island, we saw these rock formations all along the coast line. In the above photo, I am watching a group of four people creating a tower to call their own. Isn’t the water beautiful? Crystal clear.
We biked up around The Grand just to see it. Later that evening we got dressed up for a four-course, Italian dinner at our hotel followed by dancing at The Grand. We hired a taxi to take us The Grand– it was so romantic to travel by horse-drawn carriage and arrive at such an elegant place. Our tab at The Grand was $60.00–we had three cocktails. Not three each…three total. Gasp. And now you know why we haven’t stayed the night there–yet.
I didn’t quite capture a sunset but this was close.
This concludes your visual tour of Mackinac Island. Whenever you happen to find yourself in Michigan, lose yourself on Mackinac Island.
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