New England has Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. The South has Pawley’s Island. You would think the Midwest would lack our own iconic island due to our absence of an ocean. You would be wrong. Michigan actually has the 9th longest coast line in the United States and located just off the coast of Northern Michigan in Lake Huron is Mackinac Island.
Due to its significance as a strategic position in the Great Lakes fur trade, the British established a fort, Fort Mackinac, on the island in the late 18th century. While it didn’t see any action during the Revolutionary War, it was the site of two battles during the War of 1812. By the end of the 19th century, the island had become a popular tourist spot.
What makes this island unique is that it remains very much the same as it was a hundred years ago. Automobiles, save for emergency and construction equipment, are not allowed on the island. Instead, transportation is on foot, by bicycle or by horse-drawn carriage. There is a certain charm to the island and it feels as if you are stepping back in time. Despite its small size, the island is not lacking for things to do. You can tour Fort Mackinac, which provides an interesting history lesson coupled with beautiful views of the lake. Wawashkamo Golf Club is a links style course laid out in 1898 and is the oldest continuosly played course in Michigan. You can ride bicycles around the perimeter of the island, taking in the surrounding beauty of the lake, or cut through the interior of the island on one of the many trails. A must stop on any ride is Arch Rock, a natural limestone arch towering 146 feet above the road below.
There are several places where you can stay. I have stayed at the Hotel Iroqious and would recommend it. If you truly want to experience the grandeur of the island, though, plan to stay at the famous Grand Hotel. Five Presidents have stayed at the Grand Hotel, amongst a slew of other notable guests, and it claims to have the largest porch in the world. At the very least, you can tour the hotel and the ladies can enjoy an afternoon tea time while the gentlemen enjoy their own tee time.
I do have one word of caution for when you visit the island. You have to treat bicycles as if they were cars. There are speed limits imposed on the island, although I really don’t know how you could judge your speed on a bicycle without a speedometer. It is also possible to get a BUI, so don’t drink and ride.
The Grand Hotel
Source: “Mackinac Island”. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mackinac_Island