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A horse-drawn carriage passes by the mansions overlooking Lake Huron on Mackinac Island, Mich.

Jay Clarke , Miami Herald file

Weekend away: Making memories on Mackinac Island

  • Article by: Ellen Creager
  • Detroit Free Press
  • June 15, 2013 - 12:21 PM

On a warm spring day, there is nowhere in the world like Mackinac Island.

It’s like summer without crowds. It’s a season of daffodils — the tulips not up yet — and clean, clear views of the Mackinac Bridge and a chance to ride a bicycle around the Michigan island practically alone.

And it’s a chance to see what’s new on this old island that has made it through yet another hard winter. Off come the shutters. Out come the bicycles. Put up the wicker porch furniture! Brush on the fresh paint!

Here’s a look at what’s new, along with what’s old and still great.

 

THE BASICS

Mackinac (pronounced MACK-in-awe) is an island that sits in the straits separating the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan. Ferries travel to the island — which has banned automobiles for more than a century — from Mackinaw City (Lower Peninsula) and St. Ignace (Upper Peninsula).

WHAT TO DO

Eat ice cream at the Grand: Up at the Grand Hotel, the venerable lodging is showing off its new Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor. At the east end of the hotel, Sadie’s is open even to the unwashed masses who aren’t guests. With a whimsical black-and-red interior, serving Hudsonville ice cream, it is in honor of Sadie, the owners’ Scottish terrier who won best in show at the 2010 Westminster Dog Show.

What hasn’t changed at the hotel? The incredible view from the long front porch. The fine breakfast. The geranium carpet in the lobby. The courtly service. The general air of civilization. (www.grandhotel.com; 1-800-334-7263).

Take in good old Fort Mackinac: Many tourists never get up to the fort because they are too lazy to walk up the steep ramp. Do it. You will never get better photographs of the island than from Fort Mackinac. Plus, you can jolt the kids awake with cannon booms and rifle blasts this year in honor of the continuing anniversary of the War of 1812. Entry fee $11, $6.50 for ages 5-17, ages 4 and younger free (www.mackinacparks.com; 1-231-436-4100).

Ferry under the Mackinac Bridge: It started with just a few ferries, but this year many trips a day will do a small detour that takes you right under the awesome Mackinac Bridge en route to or from Mackinac Island. Don’t miss it. For summer hours and dates, see Star Line, Arnold Transit and Shepler’s Ferry. Ferries that take passengers under the Mackinac Bridge leave from both St. Ignace and Mackinaw City. Check schedules at Shepler’s Ferry (www.sheplersferry.com; 1-800-828-6157); Star Line (www.mackinacferry.com; 1-800-638-9892); Arnold Transit (www.arnoldline.com; 1-800-542-8528).

Enjoy some fudge: This may seem old hat, but have some respect for island fudge makers. It’s hard to make fudge that turns out well and doesn’t burn, drip to the floor or harden in weird shapes in front of a snickering crowd (trust me, I tried it). And just watch those guys with the fudge paddles. Watch their hands.

Fudge is available all over town, but true fudge lovers should check out the island’s Fudge Festival Aug. 23-24 (www.mackinacislandfudgefestival.org).

Spot cairns on the shoreline: With the water of Lake Huron receding over the last decade, Mackinac Island’s rocky shoreline now is substantial. Visitors cycling along M-185 on the edge of the island can see many cairns — little towers of stones — a case of human contributions enhancing nature.

Out by Arch Rock (whose steps to the top, by the way, are closed this season for renovation) I built a cairn. I took a photo, rode on, rode back, then couldn’t find it again.

Ah, well. Somewhere out there is my minor contribution to the scenery on Mackinac Island.

WHERE TO STAY

The Bicycle Street Inn & Suites, with a 1870s-style neoclassical cream exterior, is the first newly constructed hotel on the island in 13 years. The 36-room hotel features 24 large balcony suites that look out over the harbor or onto the quiet neighborhoods behind Main Street. Rates are $155-$440 a night, depending on the room and the season. (7416 Main St.; www.bicyclestreetinn.com; 1-855-560-8005).

The island’s tourism brochure features many lodging choices: www.startribune.com/a2306.

 

IF YOU GO

www.mackinacisland.org or 1-800-454-5227

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