When I was a kid our family went to Mackinac Island, and I had always remembered the trip. Maybe it was because of the picture to the right. I remembered the horses, the candy, and the crystal clear water surrounding us. I had went to school in the Upper Penninsula and passed Mackinac Island every time I crossed the bridge and always thought about going back. So when my boyfriend Phil and I were planning a quick last minute trip for Labor Day weekend, and for his 30th birthday, Mackinac immediately came to mind.
We were too late in our planning to stay on the Island, so we camped with my family, aunt, uncle, and my cousins. Basically all my favorite people. We camped at a little campground in Waters, MI. The campground was called Headwaters Camping and Cabins. It was a small family owned campground with a boat launch and swimming area. The campground was only 1 hour from Mackinac City where you can take the ferry over to the Island.
We woke up Satruday morning and pretty much left the campground and drove up I-75 to Mackinac City. We got into the city and ran to get tickets for the ferry. There are 2 ferrys in the city Star line and Shepler’s. We took Shepler’s, the ferry runs every 1/2 hour until about 11pm during the summer and costs $26 for a round trip ticket. The beautiful marina that Shepler’s Ferry pulls intoPhil waiting to board the Ferry
Mackinac Bridge in the backgroundArriving at Mackinac Island
Phil and I have this thing we like to do when we travel. We don’t plan. We let the day go how its supposed to not according to a schedule. So when we got off of the 16 minutes ferry ride we noticed everyone was walking towards the right so we turned to the left and found a cute little bar called Mary’s Bistro that had local beers on tap. We had a beer and a couple of appetizers and went to go find our transportation for the rest of the day. The island doesn’t allow any cars, the main source of transportation is biking or riding a horse drawn carriage. So naturally, the island does have a hint of horse poo, and you have to watch your step to avoid stepping in pee puddles or poo piles. There are multiple bike rentals along the main stretch. We grabbed 2 bikes and started on our 8 mile trip around the island. It took a little bit of getting used to navigating around all of the other tourists. Many of whom have never ridden a bike before and who were learning on a one lane road with thousands of other people. Kinda dangerous. We made it about a half mile before Phil spotted a put-put course that had real greens instead of astro-turf. I had always beat Phil at put-put and it drove him crazy because he loves golfing. He always told me “wait until I get you on real greens.” So this was his chance. The course was beautiful, It was a sunny 80 degree day right with Lake Huron as the back drop. We grabbed some Mojito’s and hit the course Phil was right, he crushed me on the round of put-put. The ball moves a lot slower on grass then it does on astro-turf and I couldn’t get the hang of it. While Phil was getting hole in ones and was under par every time. Needless to say I basically drank both drinks to hid my frustration. We got back on our bikes and started around until we hit Arch Rock.
You had to climb up 206 steps to try and get a view of the rock, but it’s definitely worth it. There is something about looking out to a lake view. It’s calming and serene. Large bodies of water have a way of speaking to the soul, and make you see the big picture a little more clearly. We didn’t stay too long at the rock because of the amount of tourists but it was just enough time to reset and hold hands for a minute.
We continued around the Island making pit stops here and there but just enjoying the Lake and the breeze.
We finished the bike ride in a little over 2 hours. It was not a difficult ride at all, most of the bike path was flat. We decided to stop at another historic restaurant to avoid the crazziness of main street mid-day. This place is so freaking adorable, the history, the architecture, the horses, the flowers, not the smell though. We walked up to the Grand Hotel and were greeted by another tourist asking us if we were staying in the hotel or not (you have to pay $10 just to get onto the grounds of the Grand Hotel if you aren’t a paying guest) we told he we weren’t that we were just looking around and she handed us her passes for the rest of the day. So since we saved $20 on passes we decided to spend that at the top of the hotel getting $20 drinks each. The Grand Hotel has a dress code after 6pm, its dinner attire where men wear suits and women where cocktail dresses. There is a bar at the top of the hotel that doesnt require that attire, but be forewarned you will get a lot of disapproving looks walking through the hotel not in dinner attire. Maybe one day we’ll be able to spend $400 a night on a hotel room but until then I’m a-ok being a tourist there.
We ended our trip buying way too much fudge (I don’t even like fudge and we bought 4 different types, dark chocolate sea salt, rocky road, raspberry truffle, and chocolate peanut butter), tourist-y t-shirts, and of course grabbing another drink before getting back on the ferry.
Another way to get a family around the Island is by horse drawn carriage, the carriages not only bring you around the outside of the island but also the inner parts of the island. Where the battlefields are, the old cemeteries, and other trails with historical meaning. The carriage ride takes about 4 hours to complete but makes it easier for young families to stop and see all of the main attractions.
Only 500 people live on the Island year round. We spoke with all of our bartenders about what they do on the off season. Most travel, some are international college students that just come over for the summer as a type of travel abroad program, others live on the island year round. Apartments range from $1,000 to $400 for a room in a house. There is a small airport on the Island that is open year round but the ferry does shut down on the off season. There is small school and a Dr’s office that is open by appointments only. It’d be a dream to live there in the winter, cross country ski into town, the peace and quiet would be unlike anything else. The real estate on the Island is another story. It is amazing to see the properties on the Island. Definitely click on the link to Zillow.com and see how beautiful the houses are.
Mackinac Island takes you back to the time where life was simple, you don’t hear the sound of cars on the island, you hear the waves and horse hooves instead. You see families laughing and enjoying each other. Its so easy to just get lost and realize the entire day is gone. Its a prefect family trip that I will definitely do again. I would most likely go again in spring or fall while its not packed with as many people. Book a trip, you will not be sorry.