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Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mackinac Island Day

Ever since we announced last winter that we would be working in Michigan this summer, people in the know would tell us "you have to go to Mackinac Island". Since we've arrived, people ask, "Have you gone to Mackinac Island yet?" So, Thursday 6/17 was the day! It was a partly cloudy day when we set out, and on the cool side. Jeans and sweatshirts were called for! We arrived at Shepler's ferry terminal, and after double checking that dogs were allowed on the carriage tour, I bought combo tickets for the ferry ride and Mackinac Island Carriage Tours. The 9:30am ferry also took you for a ride under the "Mighty Mac" on the way over to the island.

Mackinac Island has a varied history, from American Indian summering grounds, to a center of North American fur-trading business, and a colonial fortress. It lies in the Straits of Mackinac, where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet, and where the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan are joined by the Mackinac Bridge. In the late 19th century, the clean lake air and beautiful views of the island started to draw a crowd of wealthy urbanites, and it's popularity grew as a summer playground. Locals banned the automobile from it's shores almost as quickly as it arrived, and to this day remains as a horse and carriage mode of transportation only. The island is now known as a living postcard for the Victorian-era of life.
We arrived to the island through the jetties marked by these 2 lighthouses.

View of the harbor as we arrived.

 The governor of Michigan's summer residence high on the bluff
Fort Mackinac is a military outpost built by the British in 1780. They believed Fort Michilimackinac on the mainland was too vulnerable to the American colonists, so they moved their base of operations to the island. Re-enactments and demonstrations are shown daily here, and the views from the ramparts are stunning.

Mackinac Island's most famous landmark, the opulent Grand Hotel. It was built in 1887, when rates for Michigan's tycoons were $3.00/night! The Greek Revival palace is believed to be the largest summer resort hotel in the world to this day. It has become known as the backdrop for the movie cult classic, "Somewhere in Time", starring Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve.

Once on the island, we walked down bustling main Street to the carriage tour booth. Main Street was filled with kitschy stores, t-shirt shops, eateries, small hotels and of course, many fudge shops! It pretty much reminded me of downtown Sag Harbor on a summer day, without the cars of course! The girls loading the carriages offered us some water for the dogs, and then we loaded up in the rear of the carriage. Casey is on his best behavior, sitting up in his seat next to Al. he was very concerned about the horses however; I don't think he has ever been this close to one before!

The tour took us slowly through Main Street, through some beautiful lilac-laden streets ( it was actually the week of the Lilac Festival, and the smell was quite over-powering in some areas, but it was beautiful!), past the Grand Hotel, to the Surrey Hills Museum, where we dis-embarked this carriage to wander through the facility. Old carriages were on display, and there are several shops and snack booths here.

You can also visit the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory for an additional fee, but we had to skip this being that the dogs were with us. It looks beautiful, though.
We then re-boarded different carriages, these ones the largest horse-drawn carriages anywhere in the world, holding over 30 passengers and pulled by three large horses.

On these carriages we rode in the front seat, as invited by the driver. He felt there would be more room up front for the dogs. This is a short video I took while driving through the State Park forest. Seventy-eight percent of the 2200-acre island is protected as state-park land.

After rolling through the State Park forest, we stopped here at Arch Rock, a natural formation on the shoreline of the island. There's an Indian legend about the formation, but it is geographically stunning. There's an observation walkway alongside, and we had our picture taken at the end:
Here I am again...I'm really here :-).
We returned to the carriage, and the tour ended at Fort Mackinac. You could depart here to explore the Fort (for an additional fee), return via footpath to the bluffs near Arch Rock, or return to town with the carriage. We elected to go back to the bluffs for more pictures.
The road running along the top of the bluff on the east side of the island

The view of the harbor from high above

One of the mansions along the bluff road

There's a boardwalk staircase down the bluff that takes you back down to the harbor side.

Another view of the jetties and lighthouses, framed by lilacs

A video of Main Street activity

Time for lunch at "Chill'in and Grill'in"! We selected it mainly because it had outside seating where we could sit with the dogs, they were very friendly and gave us bowls of water and treats for them, and it was very tasty! I had a chicken/bacon/cheese ranch wrap, and Al had the whitefish burger. I definitely recommend it, and the harbor view is awesome!
Once lunch was over, time for a walk. There are several walks on the island, and we covered a lot of the spots on the carriage tour. So we decided to explore the west bluff of the island for our walk. There is also an eight mile road encircling the island which is great for bicycling, but whereas Casey would be fine jogging along with us, I don't think Chelsea is up for it anymore!

Down a quiet side street

Cute little stone church

View of the bridge across the park

Another view of the front of the Grand Hotel. The views from the 660-foot long front porch must be spectacular, but the hotel now charges $10.00 per person for tourists to enter the property. Apparently the guests paying large sums of money to stay there were getting miffed at the hoards of tourists descending upon the hotel, so they needed a way to cut down the crowd. I'm sure it was nice, but there's beautiful views elsewhere on the island, I didn't need to spend the $$$'s there!

The golf course across from the hotel.

There were wild orchids, or "lady slippers" blooming in several spots on the island. We used to have pink oneson the east end of Long Island, but I haven't seen any since I was a kid and my grandmother would take me for a drive in the woods to find them.

A trail along the west bluff, and more beautiful homes

Wildflowers and lilacs along the bluff

A wooden staircase leading down from the bluff to the lakeshore road...we were really hoping it would take us back to town, as that stairway would have been a real bear to go back up!!

The quiet road around the island

The shoreline

The Round Island Lighthouse, built in 1895. The beacon was replaced by an automated light in 1924, and then the lighthouse was abandoned when a new one was built in 1947 near the breakwater on the south side of the island.

The Hotel Iroquois, with some brilliant red geraniums, at the west end of Main Street.
It was now late afternoon, so time for some light shopping, the obligatory fudge stop, and a return to Mackinaw City on the ferry. The wind had picked up considerably, and it was a wet ride for people on the other side of the ferry; fortunately for me, I travel with a fisherman, and he determined the dry side of the boat to sit on :-).

When we arrived back on the mainland, it was time for some ice cream, and then we made the short drive to Wilderness State Park. It's a scenic 11 mile drive along the Lake Michigan coastline, to Sturgeon Bay. There's 2 campgrounds in the park, one on the lake with beautiful views, and one in the forest. There were a couple of spots where we could take a short walk, but the main hike along the beachfront was closed due to the Great Lakes Piping Plovers nesting in the area, and the dogs were definitely not allowed. It was a pretty park, and felt quite remote, but I will say at dusk when we were there, it was quite buggy. You wouldn't want to be camping without your insect repellent!

Back at the motel, it was time to settle in, have some dinner, and get ready for the next day's adventures in Sault Ste. Marie, and the Shipwreck Coast.


  1. The island will have to go on the bucket list for sure.
    Thanks for the tour.

  2. I lived on the Upper Peninsula for over 8 years, it was a wonderful place, and your trip to the Island brought back many memories. Thank you for the pictures!
    I hope someday to travel the UP on hwy 28 again from Sault Ste. Marie to the Porcupine Mountains, such a scenic trip!
    This is a great area often overlooked by most modern tourists because you have to travel so far to get anywhere, but well worth the time!
    Full Time Road Warriors

  3. I would say this is a must-see island. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. What a great little trip, and wonderful that you can bring the dogs along. One to add to our list for sure!

  5. Terrific pictures! So glad the dogs were included in places.

  6. Ohhh, Mackinac Island. Just as beautiful as I remembered it. So glad you enjoyed your visit there. It was definitely one of the highlights of our Michigan trip.
    I'm sure you will enjoy seeing the locks in Sault Ste. Marie. Quite amazing, if I do say so. Look forward to your next blog and hearing about the rest of your trip. We'll be sure to tune in for your next update and please tell Albert we said "hello".
    P.S. Can you believe all those fudge shops? If I'm not mistaken, I think we counted 17 of them.

  7. Thanks for taking us on a tour of the island. We visited over 8 years ago and it looks the same. Funny, they don't allow cars but a lot of the early tycoons visiting were from Ford, Chrysler and GM.

  8. Wow what a great blog post. Videos and terrific pictures. The island looks just like I remember it. Great memories for me. Thanks for it all.

    Love the pictures of Casey in the carriage and the one of the 4 of you. Priceless.

    Can't believe you did all of this in ONE day. We were on the island for 3 days in order to do all you did in one day.