Home » 2000 Cross Country Road Trip

Mackinac Island, MI

Saturday, July 15, 2000 - 9:00am by Lolo
0 miles and 0 hours from our last stop


My absolute favorite way of exploring is on my bike, so a trip to Mackinac Island, where no cars are allowed, was something I was greatly looking forward to.

Family at Mackinac IslandFamily at Mackinac IslandWe woke early to a bright sunny day and rode our bikes from the campground to the ferry terminal just a few blocks away. For some reason, having nothing but our bikes beneath us gave us a feeling of freedom, a sense of adventure. Ferries make us happy too--they always seem to take us to special places we learn to love. So needless to say, spirits were high and we were ready for a day of fun.

Then, to our dismay, while filming our approach to the Island, Herb's camcorder went on the fritz--he couldn't see anything through the viewfinder. This was not good. Immortalizing our vacations on film is a passion with us, so this was not a mere inconvenience but a possible catastrophe. After putzing around with it for awhile, Herb came to the conclusion that the camera was probably recording, but he just couldn't see what the heck he was filming. He would just have to aim and hope that he wasn't just filming the tops of our heads or our feet.

The island was great--a step back in time to the Victorian Age. Horse-drawn carriages were bustling up and down Market Street, the main drag through the historic part of town. We strolled through the town, past its historic buildings and quaint shops--this was right up my alley. Herb wasn't quite as enamored with the quaintness as I was and kept mumbling something about the smell of horse piss. I think he was still in a bad mood about his camcorder.

The kids, however, loved it--especially the fudge shops. I've never in my life seen so many fudge stores, and they all had little tables outside offering free samples--which the kids took great advantage of. After filling our faces with about a pound of free samples, we purchased enough chocolate chip mint and death by chocolate (or some name like that) to last us the rest of our vacation, or so we thought--it was so good, that it never made it past Montana.

Now that we had our fill of fudge, it was time to do some exploring. Having spent many visits to historical forts in the past, we chose to skip the tour of Fort Mackinac and use the time we had on the island to bicycle the 8.2 mile Shoreline Trail, which goes completely around the island.

We first took a side trip up the hill past the fort to Skull Cave, because the name sounded pretty appealing to our 8 and 10-year old boys. According to legend, an English fur trader named Alexander Henry hid out in this cave during an Indian uprising in 1763. Unfortunately for him, the local Indian tribe used the cave to bury its dead, so he had to spend the night sleeping on a bed of skulls. The kids were hoping to see some skulls, but no such luck. If there ever were any, they are now long gone. They did, however, have fun climbing around on the rock above the cave.

We then headed off on the shoreline trail, which, as its name implies, ran right along the shore of the lake, with no cars to deal with, just the occasional horse-drawn carriage. After a short distance, we stopped at Arch Rock, a limestone arch that rises 149 feet above the water and has a span of 50 feet. Very impressive--I hope Herb managed to film it. We spent the next hour or two meandering along the rest of the Shoreline Trail, enjoying the views of the lake. Almost back in town, we rode past the very impressive 1887 Grand Hotel, with its very inviting 660-foot verandah. Unfortunately, it wasn't that inviting--for non-hotel guests, they charge an admission fee to even set your foot on the porch.

Back in town again, we had an early dinner at the Pink Pony Bar and Grill, which we learned is the end destination for the sailors in the Chicago to Mackinac Island sailboat race each year. I can see why. The food was great and the views out over the harbor to Mackinaw Bridge were lovely. It was a perfect ending to a near perfect day.


Mackinac Island, one of Michigan's most popular state parks, is located in the western portion of Lake Huron near where it meets Lake Michigan. A visit to Mackinac Island is like a step back to the Victorian Age. There are no cars on the island--transportation is limited to horse-drawn carriage, bike, or foot. However, that isn't a problem as the island is quite small. In fact, there is an 8.2 mile "round-the-island" shoreline road for biking, hiking, and running.

The island is reached by ferry either from St. Ignace or Mackinaw City. The ferry docks at the southern part of the island in the historic downtown where most of the action is. Here you can stroll along Market Street visiting the historic buildings dating back to the early 1800s when the American fur trade was centered here, or stop in one of the many fudge shops which line the street. To the west of Market Street stands the impressive 1887 Grand Hotel with its 660-foot verandah, which unfortunately only hotel guests are allowed to sit on. In true Victorian fashion, guests receive afternoon tea and are expected to wear formal attire after 6:00 pm.

On a hill 150 feet above the town stands Fort Mackinac, which played an important role in the War of 1812. There are 14 historic buildings to visit within the fort and live history presentations where soldiers costumed in American uniforms from that time recreate military life in the 1800s, complete with music and musket demonstrations.

Past the fort is Skull Cave, which according to legend, is the cave where the English fur trader Alexander Henry hid out during an Indian uprising in 1763. According to Henry, the floor of the cave was covered with the human skulls. Apparently, the local Native Americans, used this cave to bury their dead.

The best way to see the rest of the island is to bike the 8.2 mile trail that runs around the entire island's shoreline. Bikes can be brought over on the ferry or rented right in town. One of the highlights along the shoreline trail is Arch Rock, a natural limestone formation with a span of 50 feet that rises 149 feet above the water. It is one of the most photographed spots on the Island. Other stops include a Nature Center and British Landing, where the British came ashore in 1814 on their midnight raid.

Steve Cates on January 20, 2006

We visited the island in 2004 and found the carriage ride to be quite worth the money. The driver was extremely knowledgeable and we learned a lot about the history and sites on the island. I'd recommend it.

Evelyn Hansen on February 24, 2006

Remember that the Grand Hotel was the location for the movie Somewhere in Time w/ a very young & handsome Christopher Reeves (it was his 1st movie after Superman) and Jane Seymour (while already a successful actress in England, this was her introduction to the American public.)
Filming on the island was a challange because of the vehicle restrictions.
Can you tell that this is my favorite movie of all time?
Time travel, the paradox of the watch, romance & the beautiful Jane Seymour!

Mackinac Island location map in "high definition"

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