Tag Archives: Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island Adventure: Part 3

After touring the Grand Hotel, we headed back to the main part of town, along the waterfront. By this time we were feeling peckish, so ducked into the Yankee Rebel Tavern for a bite and a beverage. It was good enough, a bit overpriced, but that’s to be expected in a touristy spot.

After our late lunch, we wandered the streets and shops. It is so odd to see nothing but horse drawn carriages and bicycles! There were taxi carriages, “drive your own” carriage rentals, carriage tours of the entire island, and you could just rent a horse to ride. All of those horses leads to a lot of horse poo, but fortunately the island employees full time pooper scoopers! Trust me, they can’t really keep up with the load, if you know what I mean.

 

043The slight but pervasive manure fragrance was almost overshadowed by the slight but pervasive fragrance of fudge making. Mackinac Island may not have invented fudge, but it seems to be the epicenter of fudge cuisine with dozens of fudge shops in a few short blocks. I was informed that approximately 10,000 pounds leave the island daily with tourists, leading the islanders to dub us “fudgies”. The shops create their fudge offerings in full view — boiling up the sugary mixture in copper kettles, pouring it out onto large marble-topped tables, then working the fudge into loaf shapes. Every shop we visited had two or three men working nonstop making the confection, creating endlessly fascinating culinary theater. We found if you worked your way through the shops tasting samples, you don’t actually need to purchase any!

After poking into various shops and experiencing a sugar rush from all of those fudge samples, it was time to head toward the ferry. We loaded up our bikes and boarded the ferry for home. Later, in honor of our visit, we re-watched the movie “Somewhere In Time”.

It seemed fitting.

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Mackinac Island Adventure: Part 2

 

036Our Mackinac Island adventure continues!  After cycling round the island, we headed to what was (for me, at least) the main attraction — the Grand Hotel!

Everything inland is UP, so the bike ride to the Grand Hotel parking area was a bit of a huffer-puffer. The exterior of the Hotel was just as I pictured – expansive, and, well … grand! Due to its popularity, though, the hotel charges $10 per person just to come in and look around. That seems rather presumptuous, but we paid it along with hundreds of others. I guess that pays for someone to continuously vacuum the carpets …..

We explored the hotel from stem to stern. From the first floor shops, up to the main lobby area, through historical exhibits, and up to the cupola bar at the very top of the structure. The view from there was fantastic! The hotel’s 660 foot front porch is the longest in the world – a photo can’t really do justice to the scale. On the porch we discovered Wonder Women, Captain Marvel, and Belle performing fan service. Cool!

The extensive grounds feature gardens, a large swimming complex, even a labyrinth (which we walked). The huge lawn offered games to play — croquet anyone? Bocci ball?  We explored almost every nook and cranny, then headed on.

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Jeff thought the exterior was grand as was the famed front porch, but the inside was nothing special. Nothing like, say, Yellowstone Lodge with its magnificently soaring log- framed atrium. Inside, the Grand Hotel looked pretty much like any other reasonably nice hotel facility. Was it worth the $10? It was for me, to see it once. I don’t think I’d need to see it again.

007Heading on up the hill, we entered a neighborhood of massive and gorgeous Victorian homes. Summer cottages for the rich and famous, I’m sure.  We explored this for a while, then headed back down to town.

Mackinac Island does boast a year round population of several hundred hardy folks. As the ferry service cannot run in the winter, the only transportation off the island is by airplane. UNLESS, the lake completely freezes up (which happens some years), and then the islanders can travel to St. Ignace by snowmobile across this “ice bridge”. They save their Christmas trees and stick them in the ice to mark the safest route! Otherwise, they have only the amenities on the island. They do have a medical facility, post office, grocery store (with reasonable prices) and a school. Two restaurants stay open for the winter, and residents travel by horse and sled or by snowmobile. The islanders that live there seem to like having the place to themselves, at least, for a while.

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On to town, continued in Part 3!

 

 

Mackinac Island Adventure: Part 1

Mackinac Island has been on my bucket list for a very long time. Even before the movie “Somewhere In Time” made the Grand Hotel famous, the idea of taking a ferry to an island where no cars were allowed sounded simply idyllic. So, we packed up our bicycles and headed out to the ferry!

There are two main ferry lines servicing the island from both Mackinaw City and St. Ignace (across the Mackinac bridge). I chose the Star Line because the parking logistics were easier – for a fee, we could park right at the dock. The other ferry required shuttling from parking to the dock. At this time of year, departures are frequent, almost one every half hour or so. We saved a couple of dollars booking online, and our bicycles were an extra fee which covered the ferry transport and an island bicycle permit.

003Several departure times allow time to swing under the Mackinac Bridge and around (schedule and weather permitting), so we chose one of those! The long bridge looks low to the water until you get under it, and realize that there is over 130 feet of clearance! It was fantastic to see the underside up close and personal.

About 20 minutes later, we were unloading at the Mackinac Island dock. We first stopped at a tourist information center to get a map and the scoop, then saddled up for a ride around the island. The circumnavigation distance is 8.2 miles of never ending blue water views. As a child, I didn’t fully appreciate just how pretty the Great Lakes are with blue water that is Caribbean-esqe in its clarity. On this beautiful July day, it was shown off to its best advantage.

I did not realize that most of the Island is actually park land – Mackinac State Park. It was originally the second National Park, established in 1875. That is only 3 years after the first National Park (Yellowstone) was established! Alas, its status as a National Park lasted only 20 years, when it was turned over to the State of Michigan with the proviso that it forever remain a Park. So, much of what we pedaled around was unspoiled and undeveloped land. Beautiful!

Geologically, the island is composed primarily of limestone, which can be carved into interesting features by the forces of wind, wave and ice. One of the most well-known features is Arch Rock. From the road, you only need to climb 207 steps to the top of the bluff to view it! You can also see it from the road, but the perspective isn’t nearly as pretty. I believe there is also a road up to the observation area, but what is the fun in that?

Riding around the 8.2 mile loop is a popular thing to do as evidenced by the number of bicycles on the road. You can rent bikes on the island but it is quite expensive for the nicer (multi-gear) bicycles – something similar to mine would have run over $60 for the day! It’s much cheaper to bring your own, and more comfortable too. It was quite an experience to ride along and only have to keep an eye out for other bicyclists and horse drawn carriages. Along the way, we spied a group of Amish young people enjoying the island on their bicycles. They must have felt right at home!

About halfway around the loop is a Nature center, and restrooms, making for a convenient stop. Frequent informative signs around the entire loop explained island history, flora and fauna. The loop itself is fairly flat, a hill or too (not bad), so it’s a do-able ride for most people.

Before we knew it we were back at the main town ….

To be continued on Part 2!