At the point where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron collide lies the beautiful Mackinac Island. On the map, you will find it between Upper and Lower Michigan visible from the daunting Mackinac Bridge which connects Michigan. It was here that I remember a dream being born. It was on this island that Paul told me that he would like to try sailing for the first time. He said this as we watched sailboats enter the harbor finishing a sailing race from Chicago to Mackinac Island. He said that he could see himself on that sailboat race someday. It has been about 100 years since the first sailboat race from Chicago to Mackinac Island. Who knows? Maybe for the 100th anniversary you might see us there. It is one of the world’s longest sailboat races that takes place in freshwater and we wouldn’t even need a plane ticket to get there.
It took many years for the dream to take root and grow. It has been at least a decade since we have visited the island. This will be our third year of having a sailboat. Sorry for the lack of pictures. The last time I visited was before I even had a digital camera. Okay, maybe it has been more than ten years. I think we visited the island for our 5th anniversary, but so much water has passed under the bridge since then that I am even having a hard time recollecting that.
The first time that we visited the island, we stayed in St. Ignace. We loved the island so much that we decided to stay there on another trip. While we were in St. Ignace, we took the bridge over to Mackinaw City where at the time was a water park. We spent the warmest day at the water park. I remember it was in the upper 60’s in the middle of summer. A cold wind was blowing off the lake while we froze. I wonder if that water park is still there? It didn’t seem like an ideal location to me.
Our second trip to the island we stayed in a little B&B near the harbor downtown. The room itself was the size of a large closet. But it didn’t really matter that much to me. We were there to explore everything on the island. The island employees a lot of seasonal summer help from Jamaica. The woman that served breakfast in the morning was from there. She softly sang Annie’s Song while cooking and cleaning up. It was so soothing to hear her singing that I decided we would spend our 10th anniversary in Jamaica. We liked the culture of the people. They seemed to be carefree and happy. I bet that woman never knew she had an impact on my travel choices.
When you step foot on the island, you are instantly transported back in time. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the island. The main mode of transportation are bikes and horses. It is relaxing hearing the horses feet clop while falling asleep at night. Paul and I spent a lot of time biking. The island is 8 miles around with a paved bike trail surrounding the perimeter of the island. We witnessed a bike accident one time while we were there. A little boy ran out in front of a group of bicyclists. No one was seriously hurt, but the child was scraped up pretty badly. Paul took his canteen over to the child and cleaned his wounds.
The outside bike path can get pretty congested at times. The second trip we brought bikes instead of renting them. This allowed us to explore the inner parts of the island. Otherwise you need to rent bikes which can get pricey. The inner part of the island is rather hilly. We road by the airport, the governor of Michigan’s summer house, and explored several old cemetaries. The island is also home to a fort which we explored and ate supper at while overlooking the island.
As far as nightlife goes, we spent a couple evenings at The Pink Pony bar and grill. They featured live music which most of the time was a man playing classic rock songs on his acoustic guitar. It was a very popular place to go.
The last time that I visited the island, I stayed at the Grand Hotel. I went with a group of church ladies for a women’s retreat. We went during the week at the end of the season (which I believe is in October) when the last ferries go to the island with visitors. The hotel itself seems to be rather old but not unkept. It is fashioned in the Victorian style. We took our picture next to an antique carriage displayed inside. It really gives the flavor of staying at a classy late 1800’s resort for rich snobby people. I think it would be fun to go there dressed in era fashions or do some sort of Victorian period murder mystery party. Our meals were included in our stay which was in a large ornate hall. They had a 4 piece jazz band that played during the meal. The ambiance was remarkable and the food I remember was delectable too. I remember eating a very good lobster bisque and creme brulee there which says a lot since I haven’t been there in a decade.
There is also an 80’s movie called Somewhere in Time which was filmed at the Grand Hotel. I am sorry to say that never passed the sleep test for me. No matter what I did, I couldn’t stay awake while watching it. So I would pass on that unless you are into slow pace romance movies, then maybe.
Mackinac Island is also known for its fudge. The island has several fudge shops, candy stores, and ice cream parlors. Mackinac Island fudge ice cream is also available. Just stay away from the Mackinac Island horse apples. They aren’t good.
Even though you are surrounded by water, you will not find many beaches or swimming pools on the island. You can leave the bike trails at any time and jump in the water. I wouldn’t suggest it because the water is very cold. Very few people live on the island year round.
If you visit the island, you will feel the peacefulness of stepping back in time while still enjoying modern conveniences such as running water and electricity. To get the full experience, leave your cell phone in your car. Or take it one step further and dress like characters from Little House on the Prairie. Now that would be fun!