Mackinac Island, MI

The winds are strong as we head toward Mackinac Island (38NM) blowing 15 to 20 knots with a 4 foot chop but we make the trip in about 5 hours and pull into the East Dock Marina. The marina here is tiny but sufficient and gives us access to this amazing state park. Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw) was first used as a summer fishing spot by the Great Lakes American Indians. They called the island Michilimackinac which meant ‘place of the great turtle’ because of the hump-backed shape of the island. Later the name was shortened to Mackinac. Much like Sault Ste. Marie the island was then further established by European settlers creating missions followed by forts, war (site of the first battle of the War of 1812), fur trading, fishing and then tourism. The island was declared a U.S. national park from 1875 to 1895 (the second national park created after Yellowstone). In 1895 the park was then turned over to the State of Michigan, becoming Mackinac Island State Park, the first state park in Michigan. The majority of the buildings and homes on the island date to the mid 1800’s and are kept in near perfect condition with meticulously manicured gardens and flowers everywhere. Cars are not allowed on the island as when they first arrived in 1898 they startled the carriage horses and were banned by the Village Council. So without cars you then have horses doing all the work...and bicycles...thousands of bicycles. The main streets team with bike riders of all shapes and sizes, ages and capabilities. The bikes, combined with horse carriages and drayage, results in an overwhelming effect on the senses...especially your sense of smell! During our first foray into the town we have a beer at the renowned ‘Pink Pony’ bar and on our return to the boat Larry meets the owner of a bike shop (Jim Fisher of Mackinac Wheels) and they arrange to do a ride the next day. On his return Larry is ecstatic to have finally gotten out on the trails for a 13 mile ride. I jog around the island (8 miles), just me and hundreds of bike riders. Later we toured Fort Mackinac and then had a beer on the famous porch of the Grand Hotel. The following day we go for a 16 mile bike ride around and up and over the island to visit Fort Holmes, the airport, and the art museum. Dinner at the Grand Hotel that night was a fabulous end to this great day.

A ‘Looper’ must is to go by the ‘home’ of Mark & Jill VanderMeulen outside of Detour, MI. (on your way to Mackinac Island). The John W. Boardman was built in 1923 & sailed the Great Lakes until 1980. She was used to haul cement to construct the Poe Lock at Sault St.e Marie in 1968.

A ‘Looper’ must is to go by the ‘home’ of Mark & Jill VanderMeulen outside of Detour, MI. (on your way to Mackinac Island). The John W. Boardman was built in 1923 & sailed the Great Lakes until 1980. She was used to haul cement to construct the Poe Lock at Sault St.e Marie in 1968.

Entering Mackinac Island Harbor on a windy day

Entering Mackinac Island Harbor on a windy day

Love these old murals…

Love these old murals…

Horse drawn carriages for hire or you can rent one and drive yourself around the island

Horse drawn carriages for hire or you can rent one and drive yourself around the island

Gorgeous horses work long days here on the island but are treated very well, There are around 20 different breeds of horses on the island, including Percherons, Belgian Draft Horses, Welsh Cobs, and Haflinger Ponies.

Gorgeous horses work long days here on the island but are treated very well, There are around 20 different breeds of horses on the island, including Percherons, Belgian Draft Horses, Welsh Cobs, and Haflinger Ponies.

Getting the lay-of-the-land. Only 8.2 miles around the circumference of the island.

Getting the lay-of-the-land. Only 8.2 miles around the circumference of the island.

Fort Mackinac is at the top of the hill

Fort Mackinac is at the top of the hill

The Pink Pony is evidently quite famous

The Pink Pony is evidently quite famous

The famous mural at the Pink Pony’s inside bar/stage

The famous mural at the Pink Pony’s inside bar/stage

Having one at the Pink Pony’s outside bar

Having one at the Pink Pony’s outside bar

Thousands of bikes and bike riders

Thousands of bikes and bike riders

The public library is beautiful and has a lovely outside readers deck overlooking the lake

The public library is beautiful and has a lovely outside readers deck overlooking the lake

Charming houses along every street

Charming houses along every street

The gardens are spectacular (check out the sign)

The gardens are spectacular (check out the sign)

Another beautiful home in front of the harbor

Another beautiful home in front of the harbor

We popped into the Mackinac Island Yacht Club for a beer….

We popped into the Mackinac Island Yacht Club for a beer….

…only to find out that there is no bar, just lockers where the members keep their alcohol and then serve themselves cocktails

…only to find out that there is no bar, just lockers where the members keep their alcohol and then serve themselves cocktails

Jim Fisher (of Mackinac Wheels) and Larry enjoy an 13 mile mountain bike ride all over the island (photo by Larry)

Jim Fisher (of Mackinac Wheels) and Larry enjoy an 13 mile mountain bike ride all over the island (photo by Larry)

The south view of the harbor from Fort Mackinac

The south view of the harbor from Fort Mackinac

The north view of the town from Fort Mackinac

The north view of the town from Fort Mackinac

At the fort with the Independence behind us in the harbor

At the fort with the Independence behind us in the harbor

A model of the Mackinac sailboat

A model of the Mackinac sailboat

Biking is a way of life on the island and has been for years

Biking is a way of life on the island and has been for years

Horses do all the work from street cleaning…..

Horses do all the work from street cleaning…..

…to hauling lumber (photo by Larry)

…to hauling lumber (photo by Larry)

The Grand Hotel is just that…very grand. Built in 1887 by the Grand Rapids, Indiana, Michigan Central railroads and the Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Company. The world’s largest summer hotel was built by Charles Caskey and his crew of three hundred carpenters in less than four months. (photo by Larry)

The Grand Hotel is just that…very grand. Built in 1887 by the Grand Rapids, Indiana, Michigan Central railroads and the Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Company. The world’s largest summer hotel was built by Charles Caskey and his crew of three hundred carpenters in less than four months. (photo by Larry)

In 1976, the owner of The Grand Hotel, Dan Musser, chose Carleton Varney president of the Dorothy Draper & Co. to redesign the hotel. He and his staff have designed all of the main rooms, plus the 397 guest rooms, where no two are alike. This is the main salon as you enter the hotel

In 1976, the owner of The Grand Hotel, Dan Musser, chose Carleton Varney president of the Dorothy Draper & Co. to redesign the hotel. He and his staff have designed all of the main rooms, plus the 397 guest rooms, where no two are alike. This is the main salon as you enter the hotel

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The Geranium Bar

The Geranium Bar

The view from The Gand’s famous wrap-around porch and their horse drawn carriage

The view from The Gand’s famous wrap-around porch and their horse drawn carriage

Larry and I enjoy a ‘Big Porch’ beer on the the big porch of The Grand Hotel. The longest porch in the world at 660 feet long bordered by their signature red geraniums . These flowers are deadheaded every two days and grown in a greenhouse on the hotel property.

Larry and I enjoy a ‘Big Porch’ beer on the the big porch of The Grand Hotel. The longest porch in the world at 660 feet long bordered by their signature red geraniums . These flowers are deadheaded every two days and grown in a greenhouse on the hotel property.

The lower gardens of the hotel were setting up for a celebration

The lower gardens of the hotel were setting up for a celebration

We assisted Dan Musser (the owner of The Grand Hotel) in securing his boat at the East Dock. She is 1953 Chris Craft called Marion Leigh. Tied up in front of the Independence

We assisted Dan Musser (the owner of The Grand Hotel) in securing his boat at the East Dock. She is 1953 Chris Craft called Marion Leigh. Tied up in front of the Independence

First stop on the bike ride around the island is at Arch Rock

First stop on the bike ride around the island is at Arch Rock

Fort Holmes is at the top of the island. This is a restoration. The original was built in 1812

Fort Holmes is at the top of the island. This is a restoration. The original was built in 1812

The Mackinac Island airport

The Mackinac Island airport

Stunning houses and gardens abound, like this one on the East Bluff

Stunning houses and gardens abound, like this one on the East Bluff

We stop to take a picture of ‘Mighty Mac’ the Mackinac Bridge. Built in 1957 it is the longest single-unit suspension bridge in the western hemisphere

We stop to take a picture of ‘Mighty Mac’ the Mackinac Bridge. Built in 1957 it is the longest single-unit suspension bridge in the western hemisphere

These grand houses on the West Bluff have water views of the Mackinac Bridge. The yellow home is called the Cairngrom. It is a Victorian Cottage built in 1888 up for sale for $6 Million

These grand houses on the West Bluff have water views of the Mackinac Bridge. The yellow home is called the Cairngrom. It is a Victorian Cottage built in 1888 up for sale for $6 Million

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Another West Bluff beautiful home

Another West Bluff beautiful home

Date night (photo by Owen)

Date night (photo by Owen)

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The dining room at The Grand Hotel can seat 1,000 for dinner. Men are required to wear a jacket and tie and women are required to wear a dress.

The dining room at The Grand Hotel can seat 1,000 for dinner. Men are required to wear a jacket and tie and women are required to wear a dress.

Larry looking sharp

Larry looking sharp

We round-out our island experience with a 18 hole putting course at MIssion Point. Owen won…sorry Larry!

We round-out our island experience with a 18 hole putting course at MIssion Point. Owen won…sorry Larry!