Travel Back in Time to Michigan\'s Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel

Harpursville Travel Blog

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The Grand Hotel from their beautiful gardens.
Travel Back in Time to Michigan's Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel
 
 
A movie brought me to Mackinac Island. Ever since watching the 1980 movie, Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, set and filmed on the island, I've wanted to see the Grand Hotel and sit on what is called the world's largest porch.

 
This summer, my husband and I traveled to Mackinac Island(pronounced Mackinawe) an idyllic place where the clippity cloppity of horse hooves replaces the sounds of motorized vehicles. The island, approximately 2500 acres, is two miles wide and three miles long, and is home to about 500 year round residences. Native Americans who first came upon the island, thought the island looked like the back of a giant turtle and gave it its name, Michilimackinac, meaning "land of the great turtle".
The famous bridge connecting the two parts of Michigan.


 
We arrived at Michigan's Mackinaw City, on the Lower Peninsula, where we took a ferry ride across to the island. Another port to the island is at St. Ignace, on the Upper Peninsula. The $48 dollar round trip fee included free parking for the duration of our stay on the island. The ferry rides,which depart every half hour, take less than 18 minutes. On arrival to Mackinac Island, a porter will deliver your baggage to your hotel or bed and breakfast. It is customary to give a $2 tip for each bag that is scurried to your hotel via bicycle. Depending on the location of your accommodations and if you don't wish to walk, horse carriage taxis are available to take you to your destination. On the dock, bales and bales of hay and several trucks loaded with goods wait to be unloaded onto horse drawn wagons.
View of the harbor.
Other than an ambulance, fire truck,and police car that are on the island, in case of emergency, no other motorized vehicles are allowed on the streets. However, a visitor will rarely see any of these vehicles during their stay!  Golfers need not worry as golf carts ARE allowed on the course, however, there is one warning. To reach the second nine, you are NOT allowed to drive over the road, violators will be fined. A horse drawn carriage waits to take you and your clubs across to the second nine where you can pick up another cart to complete your round of golf.

 
There are two main streets on Mackinac Island, Main St, where most of the restaurant, bicycle rentals,hotels and souvenir shops are located. Market Street is where historical buildings, the U.
The author and husband after a buggy ride around the island.
S. Post Office, medical building, a working blacksmith(for the 500 or so horses), galleries and unique gift shops and bed and breakfasts line the street. Before and after the day trippers, the island is very different. Walking through the quaint town for my morning walk, it was eerily silent at 6:30 AM, just me and two squawking seagulls, Hundreds and hundreds of bicycles resting in neatly lined coils of long rows waited for their first riders in the coming morning. Once in a while, I could hear the clop, clop of horse drawn carriages delivering goods and people to different destinations. Street cleaners were already hosing down the street at this early hour as you might imagine that 500 or so horses leave many road apples behind throughout the day!  And, throughout the day, street cleaners on bicycles monitor and keep the streets clean for pedestrians and cyclists.
The famous arch rock

 

I recommend taking a carriage tour, usually an hour in length, to learn some of the history of the island , passing by the white painted British fort, Grand Hotel and some of the many beautiful homes on the island.
 

Take a bike ride around the island, as well. Bikes are everywhere! There must be thousands of them on the island and hundreds in use during the peak time of the day. Averaging around $5-8 dollars per hour, it's a great way to see the island. The eight miles of mainly flat road which lines Lake Huron is beautiful. Stop to look at the Mackinac Bridge. Currently the third longest suspension bridge in the world,(and, I was told, longest over fresh water). The bridge opened in 1957. At the mid way point of the bike ride is British Landing. There are bathrooms and also a food court. If you want to get to the top of the fort, see the cemetery and Arch Rock, you can bike from this point approximately 3 miles to the top of the hill. It's a strenuous journey where I walked much of the hills but it was WELL worth the trip for the ride down hill! Afterwards, I was told the bike route from the other direction is much less strenuous. On the way down, you also can travel back in time as you come upon the grand lady of the island, the Grand Hotel. Beautiful horse drawn carriages with drivers in turn of the century garb bring guests to and from the resort. The porch is said to be the longest in the world at 660 ft. long. If you'd like to walk the porch and are not a guest, you will have to pay $10. A beautiful park below the hotel has shrubbery shaped like two horses pulling a carriage, benches and trellises of pinks and red roses and people playing croquet. If the people weren't wearing tee shirts, shorts and having Ipods and Bluetooths attached to their ears, you'd think you had traveled back in time. Mackinac Island Public School,enrollment about 70, K-12 , is located below the Grand Hotel. In 2009, the graduating class was 10. As you can imagine, sports not including many participants, such as golf and basketball are played. The school joins with other local schools come prom time.
 

Arch Rock is about 150 ft above the water. Legend says that the Anishinaabe-Ojibwe indians believe that Arch Rock was where the great Creator, after creating the earth, blew the breath of life. You can reach Arch Rock, one of only two limestone arches east of the Mississippi, by a steep wooden stairway has been built from the Lakeshore Road. We took a leisurely walk up to the rock by way of Truscott St. and turning onto Huron Rd. The route was lined with yellow wildflowers and some wild antique pink roses. Tree canopies cooled the journey which took about 1/2 an hour for vistas well worth the walk. On the way back, we took the stairway down to the road.

 
As for eating, my husband and I ate at the Pink Pony, the SeaBiscuit and the Yankee Rebel, all good meals and moderately priced. Try the white fish or walleye or a salad with Michigan dried cherries. And, of course, you should stop at one of the 17-18 fudge shops,a confectionary delight for which Mackinac Island is famous. The oldest fudge shop is Murdick's but there is also Joann's, Murray Hotel and Ryba's where you can purchase fudge.

 
Lilac trees, of an assortment of colors, are everywhere as wealthy residents brought them to the island many years ago. We stayed at the Bay View Bed and Breakfast, a beautiful yellow and white structure on the Main Street right past the Yacht Club. Coffee and tea are available throughout the day with Cookies served after 3PM in the colorfully decorated dining area with large windows overlooking many yachts docked at the harbor. Scrumptious desserts are served between 8-9 pm. Breakfast dishes vary from day to day. Rooms with private baths are tastefully decorated although ours tend to be rather small.
 

The oldest grocery store on the island is Dawd. It's been open for 124 years. Residents can also get their groceries delivered by airplane, ferry and in the winter via snowmobiles(which are allowed during the winter months). Residents call the day when the fire department deems the ice thick enough for travel, "Freedom Day". After Christmas, the discarded trees have a new purpose, lining the ice covered Lake Huron route to get to the mainland!
 

As the ferry taking us back to Mackinac City left the dock, I turned for one more view of the idyllic island  which I had come to see because of  a long ago watched movie.
 
http://www.gailhennessey.com
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The Grand Hotel from their beautif…
The Grand Hotel from their beauti…
The famous bridge connecting the t…
The famous bridge connecting the …
View of the harbor.
View of the harbor.
The author and husband after a bug…
The author and husband after a bu…
The famous arch rock
The famous arch rock
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photo by: gailhennessey