Take a ferry to this island where time stands still on Mackinac Island (pronounced MACK-in-awe). Located at the top of Michigan’s lower peninsula (often referred to as a “mitten” due to its shape), the 3.8-square-mile island technically resides in Lake Huron and is about 460 miles from Columbus. The entire island is now a National Historic Landmark and many of the buildings, including its famous Grand Hotel, have changed little since the 19th century. In 1898, they famously banned most motor vehicles on the island, so residents and visitors get around by foot, bike or horse-drawn carriage. You’ll need to park your trailer for the day before you take the ferry over to the island, but you won’t be lacking in activities to do on your trip back in time. Keep an eye on all the action from nearby Straits State Park where you can camp and watch boats sailing the Straits of Mackinac, gliding under the Mackinac Bridge. There’s beach access to Lake Huron at the park, as well as historical sites and hiking.
Mackinac Island’s biggest Victorian charmer is its world-famous Grand Hotel. The hotel opened in 1887 as a summer retreat for island-loving vacation goers. As years went by, visitors arrived from near and far to relax on its famous 660-foot long front porch (the largest in the world) and swim in its epic swimming pool.
Today, the hotel offers beautiful lake views, bike rentals, golf, multiple dining options, manicured gardens, family-friendly lawn games, and its traditional afternoon tea service. The Grand Hotel is a majestic example of living history on this already historic island. No trip to Mackinac would be complete without a stop here.
RACE TO MACKINAC
One way to get to Mackinac Island is by boat, and the most adventurous sailors get there each July during the annual Race to Mackinac from Chicago, IL. It’s the oldest freshwater distance race in the world, covering 289.4 nautical miles up Lake Michigan each summer. Competitors from around the world sail ships of all sizes in an around-the-clock race to the finish in all sorts of weather. This exciting event is so unpredictable, that while the boats all start on the same day, they might arrive at the island days apart.
The oldest building on the island is Fort Mackinac, which was founded in 1780 during the American Revolution, but not by U.S. troops. It was the British army that moved their fort to the island for protection from American attack. They gave control over to the Americans in 1796, but that wasn’t the end of the drama in this historic fort. Possession changed hands again during the War of 1812, finally landing with the Americans in 1815, where it remained until it closed in 1895.
Since 1959, Fort Mackinac’s 14 buildings have been open to the public for daily events, tours, and activities. At the fort, little explorers can learn more with hands-on displays and interactive exhibits. You can also take a tour with a costumed historical guide and one lucky person each summer morning gets to fire the fort’s cannon.
Are you ready for an adventure?