For a quick getaway that really succeeds in getting away
from it all, it’s hard to beat Mackinac Island. Pronounced Mack-in-awe, the
island sits in Lake Huron between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan,
and seems to have been frozen in a simpler time. Stepping off the ferry is like
stepping into the 1880s.
It may seem strange to be offered a ride by horse drawn
carriage when exiting the terminal but, since motor vehicles have been
prohibited since back in 1898, it is perfectly natural here. No need to hurry
off though, a stroll along Main Street is an ideal way to start the day before
riding away in a coach or on a bicycle.
Follow Your Nose
Just follow your nose, the smell of cooking sugar and
chocolate will draw almost every visitor toward town, there’s no point in
fighting it. Mackinac is famous for fudge, and no visit is complete without dropping
in on one, or several, of the shops.
Murdick's is the granddaddy of them all, a Mackinac staple
since 1887. That’s when father and son opened the shop making ship’s sails in
the back and fudge in the front. Folks loved to stop and watch the fudge being
spread and cooled on the huge marble table--they still do.
No Cars Allowed
There is plenty to see beyond the little town, too. The
entire island is listed as a National Historic Landmark, and more than 80
percent of the island is preserved as Mackinac Island State Park. Bicycles may
be the best way to get around, they are available to rent by the dock, or they
can be brought along on the ferry for a small fee.
Perhaps the best bike route on the island is the road that
runs along the shoreline. The official state highway, Michigan 185, is an easy--and
gorgeous--eight mile ride on the only state route in America that doesn't allow
For history buffs, a stop at Fort Mackinac is a must. Built
by the British during the American Revolution, the fort changed hands a few
times before the end of the War of 1812. When the war ended, the Americans held
it. In 1875 it became part of Mackinac National Park, the second national park ever
designated in the United States. In 1895 the park, and fort, were turned over
to the state of Michigan.
Today, costumed interpreters greet visitors at the fort and
portray life in the 1880s. Some play music, while others answer questions, pose
for pictures, and lead tours. Items are on display from the days when the fort
was manned, and some of the soldiers carry original 45-70 Springfield Model
1873 rifles, the type used at the fort during the 1880s. One not-to-be-missed highlight
is the demonstration and firing of a Civil War era 1841 model six-pounder cannon
that takes place several times each day.
For those wishing to spend more than a day on the island, the
Grand Hotel is the ultimate address. The stunning Victorian inn has hosted five
presidents, Thomas Edison, and Mark Twain, as well as serving as the setting
for the films Somewhere in Time and This Time for Keeps.
The place to be in the afternoon is the Grand Hotel's famous
front porch for refreshments and conversation. Proclaimed as the longest porch in
the world at over six hundred feet, it was where Thomas Edison first publicly
demonstrated the phonograph.
If riding up to such elegant lodging on a bike seems out of
place, call on one of the Grand Hotel’s fancy carriages. Arriving at the Grand
in a horse-drawn coach could complete the escape to an earlier, elegant place
Have you been to Mackinac Island? What was your favorite
part of the experience?