Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mackinac Island, Michigan

There were two reasons to visit Mackinac Island, located in the northern Michigan. Firstly, it is among very few places on earth, where no motor vehicles are allowed (in fact, you can see the entire list from here). And secondly - I had previously heard that this place has no chain-ed restaurants on the island, which meant a complete break from the daily life (more on that later). Ever since I moved to Warsaw, I wanted to visit Mackinac Islands, which I finally did on the weekend of 4th July in 2011. Some magazines have also rated Mackinac Island in the world's top ten islands to visit. 
Tips for a better trip -
1. Park the car in the parking space of the ferry service. They allow it for a minimal fee. The ferry takes you to the island which is a 45 minutes drive (We used Arnold's Transit). Do watch out the Mackinaw Bridge. It's huge and very beautiful.

Hotel Chippewa, Arnold Transit Carrier and Mackinaw Bridge

2. You can stay either in the island or in the Mackinaw City or St. Ignace City and take a ferry to ride to the island daily (In case if you cannot part away with the regularities of life for even 2 days). We stayed in the island in the waterfront hotel, hotel Chippewa.
3. Be prepared to walk, or cycle, or may be even horse ride. There are no vehicles in the island. Also be prepared to cycle / walk on the uphills and downhills.
4. While on the island, do not miss eating fudge. The island is very famous for the chocolate fudge and has many venues where you can have one (We had a lot in Ryba's).
5. Do eat at the Pancake house (we had our breakfast here because it was next to our hotel, but it is a great option for really heavy breakfasts) and also at The Woods (Awesome upscale restaurant with great German food)!

Modes of Transportation in Mackinac Island

What not to miss - The Destination Guide

A map of the island can be picked up in the visitor's centre and it shows approximately 7 or 8 trails through which the island can be explored. We began our journey with eight mile circumference, known as M-185 Lakeshore Boulevard, of the island on a bicycle on the first day (I rode a cycle after 8 long years and while I shivered at first, it was the most enjoyable experience). The island has some great sights all along the way, with rugged hills on one side and water on the other. You can stop and take rest anywhere on the way and there are some interesting historical and natural spots which keep coming all along and this makes the journey much longer and worthwhile.

Scenes along the Eight Mile Lake Shore Boulevard Ride of the Island

Scenic beauty is not the only attraction in Mackinac Island, it has some natural formations of geological importance as well. Arch rock formation is perhaps the most famous destination on Mackinac Island, because it offers some enchanting views of the island and while I saw it in the noon, I am sure sunrise and sunset would be gorgeous here. Also, reaching to the rock is easy by walk and cycle too. Other limestone formations include Devil's Kitchen, Sugar Loaf and Skull Cave, which are all neatly mapped out and can be reached without much difficulty. 
Historically, Mackinac Island is renowned for being the land for French Fur Trade. Britishers built Fort Mackinac to combat any French invasion. Two battles from the American Civil war were fought here before USA finally took over it. Some of this rich history can be found in various museums in the island, most famous one being the Fort Mackinac

Limestone formation called Arch Rock
Historic Site of British Landing, Fort Mackinac and
natural formations of limestone like Sugar Loaf and Skull Cave

Mackinac Island can be best enjoyed in summer and fall times and usually it offers winter sports as well, but the population decreases considerably during winter and spring time. It is worth mentioning that there are no chained restaurants in Mackinac Island (at least they managed to escape my eyes). The only chain I saw there was Starbucks. This especially makes a trip to Mackinac memorable, because it allows to forget the world for sometime!

Statue of Liberty replica donated by the Boy Scouts and Scenes from the downtown. 

Among the many views of the island, some of the best views can be seen from the Fort Mackinac. From an elevated point, Fort Mackinac overlooks Marquette park and the waterfront near the visitor's centre. It is a gorgeous view that should not be missed. There is a beautiful cafeteria as well on the fort, which offers similar view and some great food. 

Views from Fort Mackinac 

Among the many luxuries which Mackinac can offer, Grand Hotel is probably the most famous one. The rooms are slightly costlier than the rest of the accommodations and dinners are for the dressed people mostly. But it stands like the pride of the island, with all notable people often staying here and some films shot on the premise as well. Also, somewhere, deep in the wood is a restaurant The Woods. Like I mentioned earlier, it is some money well spent on food here.

Hotel Grand and the restaurant The Woods

Mackinac also offers some water sports, ground sports and has some enriching gardens like the Butterfly conservatories. Depending on your interest, you can make this trip worthwhile. It sure does have something for everyone. If you can, make a plan right away, for this is a trip that you will not forget ever.