The weekend before last, Mike and I traveled to Mackinac Island (pronounced MACK-in-awe), a quaint isle nestled in the picturesque straits between Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas. I’d only been twice before, and the last time I was a sophomore in high school, so a lot of it felt new to me. I shared this photo last week (along with my recipe for campfire banana boats), but it helps to give a visual.
The four-square-mile island is home to just 500 permanent residents and is accessible only via ferry (or puddle-jumper plane). The first thing you notice when you step off the ferry and onto Main Street is the absence of cars—they’ve been banned since 1898. Instead, people travel by horse-drawn carriage or bicycle.
Mackinac Island is also incredibly scenic. Roughly 80% of the island is set aside as Mackinac Island State Park, with miles of interior trails set amid limestone bluffs and scenic biking paths along the coast. It was actually the nation’s second national park after Yellowstone, but was handed over to the state of Michigan in 1895.
Here are some trip highlights.
Biking the Island’s Lake Shore Path
The quickest way to see the sights is on the seat of a bicycle. We rode the 8-mile path that loops the isle, hugging the coast of Lake Huron and its bright blue, clear water.
We stopped off to explore The Grand Hotel, the island’s most extravagant accommodations. It boasts the largest front porch in the world, which overlooks the Straits of Mackinac and Victorian-style gardens.
Touring Fort Mackinac
The island is home to one of the only forts that saw action during the War of 1812 (back when the midwest was the Wild West). Today, soldiers dressed in period garb and hipster facial hair march in formation, fire off their rifles, and set off the cannons every hour. We toured the historic buildings and enjoyed the panoramic views.
Shopping Main Street
Main Street is home to more than 15 fudgeries—seriously, fifteen—where you’re welcome to sample dozens of flavors of hand-paddled fudge. It’s kinda Mackinac Island’s thang.
There’s no shortage of artsy boutiques, cafes, and pubs, tucked into pastel-hued Victorian buildings. So very twee.
Here are a few of my favorite lakefront homes, too.
We tented in Straits State Park and enjoyed a bitchin’ view of the Mackinac Island Bridge the entire time.
One of our campsite neighbors was Lilly, a potbelly pig who oinked with every step she took. Watch the video here (turn up the sound!).
- Length of ferry ride to Mackinac Island from St. Ignace: 20 minutes
- Number of miles biked on the island: about 10
- Times I accidentally left my iPhone behind on a beach: 1
- Number of “dream homes” I photographed: 7
- Flavors of fudge sampled: 4
- Minutes spent rocking on the front porch of the Grand Hotel: 15
- Number of horses I made sustained eye contact with: 6
- Amount of money spent on hand-painted, retro sign in one of the boutiques: $60.15
- Number of ice cream cones consumed: 2
- Total time spent traveling in the car, round-trip: about 13 hours