Mackinac Island, Michigan
From the moment you step off the ferry you know you’re in another world. The air is filled with the sweet smell of freshly baked fudge and the pungent smell of horse manure … simply paradise. Wait? Did I just use words manure and paradise in the same sentence? Yes, I did. You see Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw) is a piece of patchwork ripped out of the fabric of time. Old Victorian hotels, and small bed and breakfasts add an old world charm to this 8 mile round island. Oh, you’re still wondering about the horse manure statement. You see, there is one law that make Mackinac Island stand out from any other place, and that is simply this … no automobiles are allowed on the island.
That’s right. All transportation is provided by bicycle, or horse and buggy. From UPS deliveries to taxi services, horse and buggy (or cart) are used as a main form of transportation. Visitors can bring their own bicycles, or rent them on the island. The island is also the home of the famous “Grand Hotel” which was featured in the movie “Somewhere in Time” starring Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour. In the movie, Christopher Reeves character drives an automobile up to the Grand Hotel. This was the only exception made to the law and required a special permit for them to shoot the 30 second shot.
The island is located in Lake Huron, and along the eastern end of the Straits of Mackinac, between the upper and lower peninsula’s of Michigan. The island has a unique history. Fort Mackinac was the home of the British during the American Revolutionary War, and was the scene of battles during the War of 1812. Mackinac Island also became a fur trading outpost. John Jacob Astor, established the American Fur Trading Company, setting up a base of operation on the island. At the end of the 19th century motor vehicles were restricted on the island because of safety concerns for the islands residents, an their horses. To this day, the ban is still enforced with the exception only being for emergency, and constructions vehicles.
The island is famous for one of its natural geologic formations, Arch Rock, a limestone archway. Other geological formations include Devils Kitchen, Sugar Loaf Rock, and Skull Cave. The islands interior is mostly wooded and the fall colors make it a wonderful route for day trip, whether by bicycle or horse drawn carriage.
We, my wife and I, spent the first day bicycling around the exterior of the island. The water was crystal blue, and the fall colors only amplified the inherit beauty of this island. The island is hilly in many areas and the 8 mile bike ride is an endurance test. Passing cyclist offer a sincere, “hi” as a greeting, something lost in some larger cities in the world.
Downtown, the local shops are filled with local merchandise, and your standard emporiums filled with t-shirts, and snow globes. “Fudgies”, the local nickname for tourist, invade fudge shops and local restaurants sampling everything from Chocolate and Peanut Butter fudge, to Whitefish grilled on a cedar plank.
Some stores sell authentic Native American merchandise, while others cater toward the more, “frugal” visitors. The buildings follow the same Victorian architecture as the rest of the homes, hotels, and Bed and Breakfasts do, adding to the old world charm.
On our second day, we rented a horse and buggy and took a tour through the islands interior. Miss Beth, our horse, knew the way with almost GPS accuracy. She took us along the old cemetery, one of only four locations in the U.S. where the flag is always flown half-mast.
She then took us passed Skull Cave, and then along the path to Arch Rock. A slow walk through the fall colors of the islands was a relaxing and wonderful end to our last day on the island.
Mackinac Island is almost magical in its sense of history, and quietness. In the evenings, the only sounds you hear are that of standard island patrol on horseback. In the fall, the sky is filled with a variety of colors, and are only matched by the majesty of the islands sunrise, and sunset.
If your looking for a wonderful getwaway, a quiet getaway, you need to go no further than back in time, to the small island, known as Mackinac.
You can see more photos in the Mackinac Island Photo Gallery.