Mackinac Island

26 07 2009
  • 7274 Main Street
  • Mackinac Island, MI 49757
  • (906) 847-3783
  • Website
Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island

J and I finally feel like Michiganders (or is it Michiginians?).  It seems like every weekend, our friends who grew up here always say they’re “going up north.”  That’s it.  No specific place.  Just up north.  Since we don’t have family here or a cottage somewhere, there’s really no reason for us to “go north.” 

Since moving here, I’ve wanted to go to Mackinac Island.  J went when she was younger.  Her family did the circle tour one year and Mackinac Island was one of the stops.  I’ve never been.  We had plans to go for a couple days in June, but wedding plans made it impossible to take the trip.  A couple weeks ago, J and I were noticing our weekends off, alone together were slowly becoming more and more rare.  We looked at the calendar and figured out the last weekend in July could be the last chance until next spring for us to get away for a day, so we made plans.

Our day started early.  We got up around 7:30 and got on the road about 8:00.  We knew we couldn’t afford to stay on the Island and we knew we couldn’t afford to take the ferry two days in a row, so we decided just to make it a day trip.  Yes, it was a long day with a lot of driving, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  Mackinac Island is abouta  3 1/2 hour drive from Lansing, but it’s all four lane highway which is really nice. 

We pulled into Mackinaw City at about 11:30.  We found our way to the Arnold Ferry.  When we pulled in, a guy pointed us to a parking lot across the street.  We parked and walked back to get our tickets.  Arnold was the one ferry company that had a AAA discount.  I showed my card and got a couple bucks off.  The tickets were $22 a piece for the round trip, so the ferry round cost us $44.  I was hit with sticker shock when I first saw the prices, but it’s the only way to get there.

The towers of the Mackinac Bridge peaking through the clouds.

The towers of the Mackinac Bridge peaking through the clouds.

The 11:30 ferry was just pulling out as we were making our way to the dock, so we had to wait for the noon.  It wasn’t too bad of a wait and they did have vending machines so we could grab a bottle of water while we waited in the afternoon sun.  We boarded the ferry and took the fifteen minute ride out to the Island.  The weather was still pretty cool and it had been raining all morning which gave us a great view of the Mackinac Bridge.  The towers looked like they were rising out of the clouds.  It was pretty cool. 

Because of the fog, we had no idea how far we were from the Island.  We were sitting on the top deck of the catamaran but it wasn’t until we got right up to the Island before we could see it. 

We docked and got off the boat.  All three ferry lines have docks that spit you right out into Main Street.  I had no idea what to expect when we got there.  I knew that bicycles were a pretty popular way of getting around, but the first thing that shocked me was the sheer number of bikes.  They were everywhere.  There were rental places everywhere and they were parked everywhere.  Since it was a Saturday, Main Street was pretty crowded and you really had to watch where you were going or there was a really good chance you’d get run over by a bike. 

Our first order of business was lunch.  I’ll blog separately about our food experiences, but I will say the first stop was the Yankee Rebel Tavern.  We don’t usually get up for breakfast and being up that early threw off our eating schedule, so by the time we got to Mackinac, we were really hungry.

Downtown Mackinac Island.

Downtown Mackinac Island.

After a quick lunch, we started to walk around downtown.  I knew Mackinac Island was known for the fudge, but it’s nuts just how many fudge shops there are.  The thing that was really funny was that every single fudge shop had a sign in the window declaring themselves the Island’s best fudge according to the Detroit News.  It’s like they just take turns every year.  We put off fudge until the end of the trip because we know that if we bought one early, we’d be buying it all day.

We walked quite a ways down both ends of Main Street.  Just looking at the houses in the area is amazing.  I think it would be weird to live in such a tourist community but the houses were gorgeous and the views were even better. 

We decided to rent a couple bikes so we could see more of the Island, but that didn’t work out.  It’s been years since either of us rode a bike and the ones we rented were pretty hard to control.  I was struggling to keep the handle bars straight and I’m pretty athletic.  J could never get going so we gave up and brought them back after a half hour. 

Houses on the hill on Mackinac Island.

Houses on the hill on Mackinac Island.

We still wanted to see the Island and the only other way we knew about was the carriage tours.  The tour is $23 a person.  Again, sticker shock, but it was the right thing to do.  We got to see a lot and we had a guided tour, so we learned more about what we were seeing.  The first tour guide we had was really good…except she ended every sentence with the word, “right?”  So it made everything a question.  “That’s the Grand Hotel, right?”  She wasn’t asking like she didn’t know…for some reason she just ended every sentence that way.  The tour is split up into two sections.  You get off one carriage at the halfway point then get on a bigger one.  The second tour guide we had was a douchebag.  He sort of yelled at an old guy for making a weak I’m sure he’s heard many times, so I see his point, but he didn’t need to act like a dick about it.  He also didn’t talk very much.  There were long periods of silence and when he’d ask a question and no one answered, he wouldn’t just tell us.  He’d keep asking if anyone knew.  It would go on for five minutes before he’d finally just tell us the answer. 

While on the tour, we learned we could have rented horses to horseback ride the trails and we could have rented carriages to give ourselves a carriage tour of the Island.  By the time our guided tour was over, it was getting pretty late in the day and we had spent enough money already.  As much as I wanted to go horseback riding, I didn’t push the issue and we’ll make a point to do that next time.

The other thing I didn’t get to see that I would have liked to was Ft. Mackinac.  There was another $10.50 admission charge per person.  I didn’t think it would interest J so I didn’t ask.  The Fort looked pretty cool, but not sure if it would have been worth the $21 for the two of us. 

Looking down the hill towards Main Street and the harbor.

One of the many gorgeaous hotels and B & B's on Mackinac Island

The one thing that just shocked me about the Island was the Starbucks on Main Street.  Here you’ve got an entire community with locally owned shops, restaurants, and hotels then you throw in the most pretentious chain store.  Seriously, who ok’d this?!  I would have rather seen a McDonald’s than a Starbucks on Mackinac Island?

I know someone’s going to ask about the Grand Hotel.  I’m not spending $15/person to look at a hotel.  That’s ridiculous.  Yes, I would have liked to seen it.  Yes, I would have loved to stay there, but I’m a tight ass.  We drove by it on the carriage tour.  It’s size was impressive, but other than that, I wasn’t super impressed.  I’m sure it’s beautiful inside, but until I can get someone else to pay for it, I’ll have to rely on pictures from their website. 

After the carriage ride, we walked back down the hill from the Governor’s Summer Residence.  Just a side note, if I’m ever elected Governor of Michigan, I’m spending the entire summer there.  Screw the legislature. 

Looking down the hill towards Main Street and the harbor.

Looking down the hill towards Main Street and the harbor.

It was now pushing 5:00 and we were getting hungry again.  We found another bar where we could sit overlooking the harbor and had dinner.  It was a nice, relaxing way to end the day.  After dinner, we picked up some fudge and headed back to the ferry for the ride home.

The entire day was a blast!  I’m so glad we finally took the time to drive up to Mackinac.  It was expensive and a lot more so than I thought it would be.  It’s another one of those places I couldn’t imagine taking a family to just because of the expense, but I guess there’s not many vacation spots that are free.   It was perfect for J and me.  We had a wonderful day.  Had some great food.  Got some fudge and still made it home before 11:00. 

Mackinac Island is one of Michigan’s treasures.  I can’t wait until we take another trip “up north.”




7 responses

27 07 2009
Bernie B

If you rent the movie “Somewhere in Time” most of it was shot on the Island and at the hotel. $1 rental is easier on the wallet *grin*

I’m told an easy way to spot people from Michigan is that they/we often have a way of making statements sound as if you were asking a question.

27 07 2009
Mid-Michigan Dining

It’s funny because I have a friend from the St. Louis, MO area that does the same thing and the whole time we were on the tour, all I could think about was him. She had really good info though…much better than the second guy.

13 07 2010

If you ever here the locals refer to “fudgies” you will know you have experienced true local culture. When I was a kid my sister read that locals called tourists fudgies. A couple of years later we heard a pair of ferry workers talking about a baseball cap left behind by the “fudgies”… Since becoming disabled I have not been back but hopefully someday.

Found your blog(s) through facebook links. Very pleasant reading.

18 10 2010

Ok so I actually gave tours on the island, tour drivers are under paid and over worked and most definitely under trained. We get minimum wage $7.40 have to pay taxes and room&board we don’t get over time and we don’t get set hours we will work any where from 12- 16 hours a day. They treat us horribly and most of our passengers aren’t interested in hearing the speech, they are rude obnoxious and they use there cell phones on a regular occasion . I had a lady who took my only dry coat and used it to protect herself from the rain. I was appalled at her behavior. we work in all weather rain or shine no matter what the temperature is like. The horses are treated even worse than the employees we has several die because of dehydration everything is kept hush hush and they almost never see vets the two vets that they have are part of the family that owns MI CT. The horses are worked often all day with long periods of no days off. They get horrible collar and harness sores welts the size of soft balls that bleed and ooze. When they get shod they often go lame because of misplacement of the nails.It is also very common for a lame horse to be forced to work all day. next time you take a carriage ride on Mackinac Island mybe you should think twice.

10 09 2018

Everything I’ve heard from carriage drivers and residents of Mackinac Island makes me think this commenter is just a complainer and most of her “information” isn’t really information at all, especially that about the horses.

8 04 2012
Kilwins – Holland « SW Michigan Dining

[…] sure I’ve mentioned several times on this blog how much I love Mackinac Island fudge.  Every time I get the opportunity to stop by a Kilwins, whether it’s in South Haven, […]

1 10 2014

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