Mackinac Island August 2011 (pronounced MackinAW)

We found a special deal to stay in the Grand Hotel, and it is indeed very grand! Men have to wear a jacket and tie after 6:30, and women have to wear dresses. Dinner was fun, everybody was dressed up, and the waiters were great. I had a lobster and avocado egg roll that was really good, as part of a 5-course meal. The bread pudding was great, and I heard that the pear and praline ice cream that went with it was excellent. We really ate well here, it was quite a treat, and I wish I had taken pictures of the food. At breakfast, the strawberries were huge and the best-tasting I've had in my life.

We brought our mountain bikes to the island, and rode around a lot, it's so much faster than walking. Sandra doesn't have a bike, so she had to do a lot of walking. She borrowed Christina's bike so that the two of us could ride the lakeshore trail all the way around the island. 8.2 miles, no problem, and very beautiful scenery.

Getting to the island

Michigan consists of the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula, and the very long Mackinac Bridge connects the two of them. Mackinac Island can be reached from either peninsula, by ferry from Mackinaw City on the South side or St. Ignace on the North side. Some of the many ferries shoot a "rooster tail" of water as they go. I think these two were racing. The ferries have top and bottom decks to sit in, and the wind is strong. We took mine, Christina's, and Audrey's mountain bikes on the ferries, rather than renting on the island.


I don't know if cars are allowed on the island or not, but I never saw one. Just a lot of horses and bicycles ... and guys with shovels. The downtown core is pretty crowded, but this is part of the charm, people are walking back and forth across the streets, dodging horse-drawn buggies and bicycles. All of the buildings have an old-world feel. Mackinac Island has a lot of fudge stores and bike rental shops.

In the picture on the left you can see the bikes parked in a special area between the sidewalk and the center of the street - they have a white line to indicate the bicycle parking zone.

Downtown Architecture

I loved the style of these wild old buildings with their turrets and bright colors!

Other Downtown Features

There are other interesting sights downtown, including this beautiful church with its amazing stained glass windows, a marina for visitors to park their boats, and shops such as this art gallery where a resident painter named Noelle cheerfully called for Christina and Audrey to pose with her while I took a picture. There was a free concert happening at the park, and a lot of people were hanging out on the grass and listening.

West Bluff Road

Just a bit further up the hill from the Grand Hotel is a street up high on the bluff that has a great view. The houses up here are amazing, and the horse-drawn carriages come regularly through this street to view them. In the picture to the left you can see how they have built a high viewing point at the top of the house, though I'm sure they have great views from lower floors as well.

Horse Culture

There are many roads and bicycle trails in the middle of the island, and while parts of them are just like regular towns, many seem to be very interested in their horses. In particular, I ran across this highly-decorated house behind the West Bluff. The sign said "Private Barn - do not enter", so I did NOT enter, though I came close enough to take some pictures. It must take some time to keep all of this nice wood so clean. Notice the prize ribbons on the wall.

The Grand Hotel

Sandra decided that I would never agree to stay here if I knew the price and the conditions of staying there, so I didn't find out until well after it was booked that I had to wear a jacket and tie in the hotel after 6:30. Dresses for the women. I was okay with it, but I left the packing to Sandra, and I ended up without dress socks! I refused to wear my white running-shoe socks the first night, so I went without socks the first night. After being self-conscious and having to hide my feet under the table during dinner, I decided to just go with the white socks. Dressing up wasn't so bad after all, and I think the girls had fun with it.

This hotel was really amazing and we had a great time there.

The Room!

Wow - we were shocked at the wallpaper when we walked in - this could never be called "neutral"! Together with the green carpet and red chairs ... it was fabulous in its own way, and we felt like we were visiting Alice in Wonderland. The girls immediately set up their stuffed animals and started imagining! They said that every room was different, but of course who is going to go around and check?

The Front Deck

The front deck of the hotel is apparently the longest in the world. People sat out there in the rocking chairs after dinner to watch the sun set over the Mackinac Bridge and have a drink. The weather was beautiful for our stay, sunny and in the mid 70s the whole time.

We (especially the girls) enjoyed the giant chess set that was on the South end of the deck.

Inside the Grand Hotel

I was really surprised by the bright colors inside the hotel. I've since been told that it is the typical Victorian style. Bright oranges, lime greens, lemon yellows, with stark black-and-white designs here and there.

As I mentioned, we had to dress up for dinner, and the waiters were fantastic, very professional. Each night had a five-course dinner and several excellent choices for dessert. Also, a big "No Tipping" sign was displayed on the wall behind the check-in counter. Even the continental breakfast was great.

The Pool and the Grounds

The pool was very nice, and they had a giant inflatable worm that children climbed up on, taking turns moving to the big head and trying to balance sitting on top of it. They would fall off after a minute when the other kids figured they had been there long enough and started bouncing up and down. After they fell off, they would go climb back up on it, at the end of the line. Christina and Audrey couldn't get up on their own and eventually learned that teamwork was needed, taking turns helping each other (and other kids) up onto it.

Cycling Around the Island

Sandra put Christina's bike seat up as high as it would go, and even though it's a kids bike, it was fine. The trip around the island is 8.2 miles, but it's almost completely flat, so it is pretty easy. It took us about an hour and forty minutes and wasn't difficult at all. We stopped to take pictures and to look at things many times. We saw a lot of rock piles where people had stacked rocks on top of each other. The girls rode with me for a couple of miles of the lakeside trail earlier, but did not go all the way around. They even worked on their own little rock pile for a while. Check this big rock pile.


The hotel grounds had a British-looking red telephone booth facing the golf course. Mackinac Island has a rich history that I didn't mention in this trip report. The British and the Americans fought over it because of its strategic value as a lookout point at this relatively narrow intersection between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. I rode up to the highest point on the island, Fort Holmes, but the picture below shows a cannon at Fort Mackinac. There are many nice houses on the island, and I took pictures of quite a few of them. I liked how the gateway framed the front door of this house. You can see a "widow's walk" at the top of this house, so I assume you can see the lake from it.