Mackinac Island – Michigan’s First State Park

A beautiful sunny day greeted us as we drove along Route 31 for our 2 hour drive to Mackinaw City to catch the ferry boat to Mackinac Island. On the way we passed through the scenic town of Charlevoix with the Farmers Market in progress on the main street. The curbsides on both sides of the street for miles were lined with beautiful bright petunias and other annuals of brilliant colors. What a spectacular sight to see as we drove through the town of Charlevoix and on to the Motorcoach Resort at Bay Harbor. We had to go in and check out this place for future stays with our RV. It was well worth the time to see the manicured landscape, pools with water fountains, and wonderful amenities.

We arrived at Mackinaw City to the Sheplers Ferry terminal in time to catch the 1 o’clock ferry boat to Mackinac Island. The trip across the Straits of Mackinac was 20 minutes with a great view of the five-mile long Mackinac Bridge, the third longest suspension bridge, joining the Upper and Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Arriving in historic Haldimand Bay where the boat docks adjoin Main Street, a bustling business district filled with hotels, restaurants and many fudge shops. We had a wonderful lunch at the Carriage House Restaurant on the water looking out across Lake Huron. The best thing that ever happened to Mackinac Island was the automobile ban beginning in 1898. The exhaust-free air, quaint and narrow village lanes and picturesque horse-drawn carriages – have created a unique charming and historic ambiance.

We checked into The Lilac Tree hotel on Main Street with a spectacular view from our balcony of the hustle and bustle of main street and the ferry boat docks to Lake Huron. It was time to explore this historic island on foot. We made our way up the steep limestone bluff to Fort Mackinac which served as a military outpost for the British and later, American soldiers from 1780, (when the British moved the Fort from Mackinaw City to Mackinac Island), to 1895. After seeing the cannon firing demonstration we headed down the narrow streets to the immense and palatial Grand Hotel, which opened its doors in 1887 and established Mackinac Island as the most fashionable summer resort in the Great Lakes. Summer cottages appeared in the early1880s but by the late 1890s, magnificent mansions were constructed in keeping with the Grand Hotel, of which we captured many on film.

What a great way to start my day with yoga at 8:30 outside on the Yoder Dock. After a hearty breakfast at the Chippewa Hotel (1902) in the Pink Pony Restaurant overlooking the magnificent yachts docked in the harbor; we went to rent out first ever tandem bicycle. Mackinac Island is a bicyclist’s paradise, especially the road around the island, 8 miles in circumference.

Knowing Bob’s recent experience on his bike I decided I would be at the helm and he would be the passenger taking videos from the back seat. We must have been quite a sight (no photo) as we peddled our way around, up and down the center of the island for three and half hours. Peddling along we saw St. Anne’s Church (1874); the Arch Rock, rising 146 feet above the water and spans fifty feet at its widest point (we also viewed it from the top of the bluff); and continued along the East Shore, stopping at idylic beaches with peaceful views looking out over the crystal clear waters of Lake Huron. Then back to the Grand Hotel for one last view of this magnificent structure built so long ago and that still amazes everyone who stops by to see it. But don’t go too close with your bicycle because you will be asked to move away from the front of the Hotel. After one last meal at the Pink Pony Restaurant, because it was so good the first time, we got the 4:30 ferry boat back to Mackinaw City. There is so much to explore and enjoy in Mackinac Island State Park’s 1,800 wooded acres: beautiful historic buildings, miles of trails for hiking, biking or horseback riding and incredible panoramic views. We will return!!!