First, let’s make sure to get the pronunciation right. Call it MAK-in-aw. Mackinac Island is located in Lake Huron, in the straits between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. It’s not large at all, only 3.8 square miles. Eighty percent of the island is reserved as Mackinac Island State Park. And here’s the thing that probably sets it apart more than anything else – no motor vehicles (except for emergency and service vehicles) are permitted on the island.
As a result, Mackinac Island has a slower pace that’s centered around horses. If you want to get around the island, you’ll either engage a tour carriage, take a private carriage with driver, or rent your own carriage during your visit. Or if you prefer a more energetic choice, bicycles are available (and so is walking).
The whole island has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. Its history goes back to Native American tribes, who used the island as a meeting place following long winters. In the 1600s, French traders and Jesuit missionaries came to the island along with the fur trade, which dominated Mackinac Island for 150 years. In the late 1800s, folks found what a beautiful and relaxing place the island could be, and tourism became an economic mainstay. Wealthy businessmen built large hotels for the public, and Victorian mansions for themselves.
Today, you can enjoy a visit to one of the island’s many resorts, hotels, bed and breakfasts, historic inns, and rental cottages. Maybe you’ll choose the Grand Hotel, which certainly lives up to its name. You can visit downtown where there’s a wide variety of well-regarded restaurants and interesting shopping.
And maybe you’ll buy some fudge. Don’t laugh. Mackinac Island may be the fudge capital of the United States, with a half dozen shops devoted to the rich confection. In fact, you may hear yourself referred to as a “fudgie” while you’re in town. It’s a local term used to describe tourists, many of whom won’t leave without taking some gourmet fudge back home. Don’t be offended, though; they say it’s a word used with affection. That’s what they say, at least…