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Mackinac Island – Lake Huron, MI

First let’s get the pronunciation right. It is pronounced Mackin-aw not “ack”. It’s french. Mackinac Island is a 3 mile long summer paradise where the wealthy elite of Chicago and Detroit once summered to escape the city heat. Today it is still a paradise but for tourists from around the world.

The only ways to get there are by high speed ferry of which there are at least 3 to choose from and by air. Once you get there, you will notice there are NO cars. Cars were banned quite a while ago. The only land transportation is by horse, horse carriage, and bicycle. You can rent a horse right in town or your own carriage, take a carriage taxi, take a tour in larger horse carriages, and there are too many bicycle rental places to count. They even rent bicycles built for two.


Fudge shops and souvenir shops with tons of tshirts and sweatshirts are in abundance. I recommend checking out their inexpensive waterproof raincoats which are quite popular and the kite shop.

I went over and spent the night at the Island House Hotel, an 1800s Victorian Hotel which was the first one on the island. It has a huge sweeping veranda on the front well stocked with rocking chairs and a view of the lake to while away the afternoon reminiscing about easier times. The front lawn is covered with deck chairs as well. The rooms are nice though small but who has time to be in them anyway. The indoor swimming pool and hot tub get lots of use even late at night. Dinner in their dining room was excellent. I had the Mackinaw Chicken, breasts smothered in sauteed mushrooms, carmelized onions, and swiss cheese. At night you can here taps played at the old fort above and reveille late the next morning.

Island House Hotelisland_house.jpgGeorge relaxing

I took the carriage tour for a day. Most of the tour guides are from other countries, here on a work exchange program to see America, but their english is fine. One young lady from Yugoslavia I believe accepted the job as tour guide not realizing she would be driving horses and caring for them. She got more education than she expected. LOL. The tours are definitely a must. You see most of the island, Arch Rock, a butterfly exhibit (extra), and old Fort Mackinac (extra) where I learned a few new things.

Horse carriage tourArch Rockbutterflies.jpgAvenue of Flags

Fort Mackinac was the site of the first battle of the War of 1812. The british at a nearby fort waited to hear the war was on then sneaked in behind them and surrounded them. The fort woke up to cannon fire the next morning with no idea that war had been declared. Outnumbered 10-1, they had to surrender. We got it back later.

At the fort you can tour all the buildings, participate in interactive displays including drilling, see demonstrations on cannon and rifle firing, and enjoy beautiful vistas over the city below. The demonstrators are in authentic wool uniforms and very very good.

lookout.jpgBlockhouseGeorge guarding the fort from touristsfort6.jpg

Barracks CannonCannon cleaning and loadingCannon go boom

I also liked the bathhouse with bunches of claw foot tubs. After some outbreaks of disease, the doctor at the fort ordered all soldiers at the fort to take a bath at least once a week, whether they needed it or not. The order was not really successful until they came up with running water. Snicker.

With about 100 men stationed there at a time, one hard year they had 83 court martials, mostly for drunkenness. That is when they decided to build the canteen for the men with items the army does not issue them, a pool table, and a bar which also served sandwiches. Always wondered why bases have bars; to keep them out of town where they were more likely to drink too much or desert.

At the end of the carriage tour, you can opt to get off at the Grand Hotel. This is the actual hotel used in the enchanting movie “Somewhere in Time” with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. It is magnificent both inside and out and still quite reminiscent of the time it was built. They charge $12 to go on their veranda if you are not staying there. Staying there will cost you between $350-$1000! Believe it or not, they had a lot of people staying there anyway. In town, you can find movie memorabilia including postcards with scenes from the movie and copies of the portrait of Elise (Jane Seymour). Every year they have a weekend gathering where folks dress up in period costumes to honor the movie and times. I took a horse carriage taxi back to my hotel from the Grand where the hot tub was waiting for me again. 😉

Grand Hotel - Mackinac Island, MIgrand_hotel2.jpgFountaingrand2.jpg

To see more pictures of the island, click here.

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