Mackinac Island

Okay, pretend you didn’t read the title of this post. From just this picture, can you guess where we went on Sunday?

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Mackinac Island! Situated between lakes Michigan and Huron, between the lower peninsula and the upper peninsula, Mackinac Island is still today free of motorized vehicles (excepting an ambulance, a fire truck, and one police SUV) and both locals and tourists get around using their feet, bicycles, and horse-drawn carriages. It is, as you can imagine, a twee touristy trap.

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And no, I didn’t say that like it’s a bad thing. You know me that well, at least.

Anyway: the island is accessed via one of two ferry points. The first is from Mackinac City on the LP; the second is from St. Ignace on the UP. My advice to travelers from the south is to drive the extra five miles to St. Ignace. Doing so offers several advantages: you get to drive across the gobsmackingly huge Mackinac Bridge, which is 4-5 miles long and hangs from pilons 550 feet tall. You get to say you’ve been on the UP. You get to park without anything like the hassles or worries of Mackinac City. And at the end of the day–as we discovered–when the line to take a ferry back to Mackinac City is more than an hour long, the St. Ignace ferry will still be mostly empty, and you can walk right on.

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Mackinac Island is a paradise for lovers of Victoriana. The Grand Hotel was built in 93 days, in 18something. It has 400 rooms and still looks very, very large today. Besides it there is a historic fort, the governor’s summer residence, and lots and lots of charming Victorian houses, shops, and churches.

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If you take the carriage tour of the island, your first stop will be the Wings of Mackinac butterfly conservatory. I do recommend it. I had enjoyed the one in Key West so much that I made a point of going to this one–and it was good. They had the really huge iridescent blue butterflies, which makes the experience for me.

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Another scenic spot is Arch Rock, through which one gains a picturesque view of the trees and the lake. It almost looked like ocean. I tell you–we were sore tempted to get in the water, cold as it was.

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Did I say that there were lots of beautiful Victorian houses? There are. The hilly trails around the island afford lots of good views of them, too. The island is also famous for fudge shops, so do plan on buying and consuming some while you’re there.

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We finished off our day on Mackinac by finding a grassy spot by the water to sit and drowse and soak in some sunshine. I pondered on how similar it was to Prince Edward Island, where the Anne of Green Gables books are set, and also to the settings of any number of Agatha Christie mysteries that take place by the seaside, in hotels and resorts, crowded with tourists who are madly determined to get into water that isn’t quite warm enough. I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

Do go, when you have the chance.

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2 thoughts on “Mackinac Island

  1. I have always wanted to visit Mackinac Island, ever since I read about their lilac festival in Victoria magazine. The boy and I are going to try and vacation (or maybe a future honeymoon?) out there at some point in our lives, hopefully sooner rather than later.

    Of course, we’d likely go in the off-season, when it is lovely and cold and mostly deserted, just the way I like it!

    Hope you had a lovely time!

  2. Just be aware that off-season, the island is basically closed. Shops, touristy spots, it all closes. The horses are shipped off the island, etc. I think the bridge even closes for a few months. Maybe the lake freezes over?

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