Mackinac Island is truly a place where time froze as the rest of the world kept aging. The island is devoid of any sort of automobile except for some small aircraft that land at the airport, an ambulance, and snowmobiles (in winter). Horses move at about the same pace you can walk, and while bikes are the speedy way to get around, there are plenty of signs asking you to move slow.
Most people arrive at the island by Ferry. There are two Ferry lines (Shepler’s and Star Line) that run throughout the day with mainland departures from both Mackinaw City and St. Ignace. The downtown area can be very busy with day visitors, but quiets down considerably after the last Ferry has departed for the day and the island is left with overnight guests. If you’re arriving by Ferry, your luggage will most likely be transported to your hotel by carriage or bike. If you’re arriving by plane, you’ll need to call for the taxi which can take as long as 45 minutes to arrive.
Upon completing the journey, a drink is necessary. If you’re looking to get things kick started, I’d suggest the Pink Pony. The interior is as unique as it sounds and the drink selection is fantastic. I’m told the food is very good as well, although I’ll need to test that on the next trip.
For those who enjoy local restaurants, there is no shortage of great options. The only “chain” you’ll spot on the island is a sole Starbucks which boldly claims “Locally Owned” in the windows. The first dinner we had was at the Kingston Kitchen which offers authentic Jamaican cuisine and drink.
The Grand Hotel is a symbol of Mackinac Island (rightfully so) and full of rich history. We enjoyed an excellent breakfast and walk around the grounds. Be warned that if you’re not a guest of the hotel there is a small fee to enter the grounds, but it is credited to your dining bill. In all honesty, I could do an entire blog post about this hotel. My words won’t do it justice and the pictures don’t either. But if you’re wanting the full Mackinac experience, I would strongly suggest considering the extra cash to spend a couple nights here.
Daytime activities in Mackinac center around the outdoors and the island’s history. You can rent a horse, carriage, or bike from many places around the island. While a non-horse person such as myself questions whether a horse rental is a good idea, I’m told (and have some childhood experiences to confirm) that the horses know their way back home for when their guest undoubtedly gets lost on the island’s many trails and paths. On a beautiful day, a bike ride around the island is a great way to take in some scenery, history, and a little exercise. The paved path around the island is largely flat and 8.2 miles long, making for a nice journey.
Our second dinner was at the Carriage House restaurant which is located at Hotel Iroquois. The views are fantastic (especially for those dining outside on the patio). The restaurant has a formal feel to it and the food was good (wine list was excellent). However, I was a bit disappointed in the limited menu which I think was likely due to COVID rather than representative of more normal times.
If you’re looking for some after dinner fun, Horn’s Gaslight Bar is the place to be. Open until 2am with live music every night, it’s a staple for both locals and visitors alike. I am told that usually several places are open late with live music, but in the current pandemic, Horn’s was the primary place to be post-dinner.
Our final day in Mackinac consisted of meandering around town. While the main portion of downtown does have a touristy feel to it (think discount t-shirts, fudge, etc), there are many local art galleries, boutiques, and coffee shops to be found. And of course, all this walking requires an occasional stop to quench one’s thirst. 🙂
Before dinner, we stopped at Great Turtle Brewery. We tried the beer cheese soup and whitefish dip appetizer. Both were quite good as was the large selection of local beer. For those who can’t decide on a specific cocktail, they do offer a cocktail flight. How cool is that?!?
In fitting fashion, the best meal we had on Mackinac was the last one. I can’t speak highly enough of the 1852 Grill Room and suggest everyone makes it a point to eat here. Located in the Island House Hotel, the restaurant is very elegant with amazing views of the water. An impressive menu, wine list, the service are only outdone by the overall experience itself.