MACKINAW BRIDGE – MACKINAW ISLAND – MACKINAW CITY – ST IGNACE ~ MICHIGAN
One cannot come to Michigan and have the visit complete, without visiting Mackinaw! Spring and summer are the best times to visit!In order to see it all, you’ll need a weekend at least. The highlights of this trip would be to first stop in Mackinaw City (assuming you are heading north) where there are a vast many quaint shops featuring: sports memorabilia, souvenirs, art work, leather goods, furniture, collectibles, & jelly beans, just to name a few. There are many many Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts in the area and as many restaurants. I think over the years I’ve tried all of them and by the end of this post I’ll give my recommendations. You will get a great look at the “Mighty Mac” from here as well, for those of you who aren’t familiar, the “Mighty Mac” is the Mackinaw Bridge. You’ll read more about it in a paragraph or two. They also offer a lot of other summer fun for adults and families alike - parasailing, ski jets, dinner cruises, golf, putt-putt miniature golf, fishing, etc.
Mackinaw Bridge is, of course, the main attraction!! Its beautiful when lit at nite and is a photographers dream. Mackinaw Bridge was opened in 1957 and at 8,614 feet (2,626 m), the Mackinac Bridge is the longest suspension bridge with two towers between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere. The Mac is 5 miles long and the length of the bridge’s main span is 3,800 feet (1,158 m), which makes it the third-longest suspension span in the United States and 12th longest worldwide. If its not too windy and you have a beautiful day, I suggest a drive across this beautiful span.
Once across the bridge, you’ll find yourself heading into St Ignace. You will also be entering the UPPER PENINSULA of Michigan leaving behind the LOWER PENINSULA at Mackinaw City. One thing St Ignace is well known for is their Annual St Ignace Car Show Weekend (2013 will be the 38th) - Thursday June 27th – Sat June 29th, 2013. There are also shops to browse, hotels & restaurants, however in my opinion, St. Ignace is more towny than touristy. There is however a hospital here, as we never can plan an illness or accident. I learned this the hard way…. a story that will no doubt show up at some point on my blog.
The final destination…. I’ve saved the best for last… is MACKINAW ISLAND!!!! It is an amazing magical place! It’s important to point out that you can go to Mackinaw Island from either Mackinaw City or St. Ignace. I always go from Mackinaw City. (It seems easier and I enjoy Mackinaw City immensely.) Motorized vehicles have been prohibited on the island since 1898 (except for an ambulance & service vehicles and maybe a firetruck). Travel on the island is limited to: foot, bicycle, or horse drawn carriage. Bicycles, roller skates/roller blades, carriages, and saddle horses are available for rent, although you may opt to ferry over your own bicycle, there will be an additional fee. Mackinac Island is about 8 miles (13 km) in circumference and 3.8 square miles (9.8 km) in total area. There is an airport on the island with a 3,500 foot paved runway. There is also a golf course on the island, Wawashkamo Golf Club was laid out in 1898 as a Scottish links-type course and is now the oldest continuously played golf course in Michigan. The Grand Hotel, which lives up to it’s name, is both Grand and Elite. The Grand Hotel is a Victorian-style structure that opened in 1887 and in 1957 was designated a State Historical Building. The Grand Hotel is well known for a number of notable visitors, including five U.S. presidents, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, Russian president Dmitri Medvedev, inventor Thomas Edison, and author Mark Twain. The State of Michigan also maintains a Governors mansion for incumbent Governors.
The Island hosts many events throughout the year, but the best one by far is the Lilac Festival. This year, 2013, will be the 64th Annual Mackinac Island Lilac Festival and will take place June 7-16, 2013. This is a beautiful time of year to be on the island, both for the festival and for the weather.
The next most important piece of information I can give you will dispel a myth. Contrary to belief, not ALL Mackinaw Island Fudge is actually made on Mackinaw Island. Most of the shops both on the island and mainland St. Ignace/Mackinaw City import their fudge. However, as promised earlier, before ending this post I will share with you my favorite tried and true places. Unless a shop is a specialty shop featuring art, jewelry, etc, most all of them sell t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and assorted memorabilia about the island. I would advise you to compare prices before making purchases as the shops vary widely in price and selection. Another popular item is ‘salt water taffy’ – which again, you’ll find some island made and some shipped in. Bear in mind, most that make their own product (fudge and taffy) allow you to view this process. Aside from the shops on the main street and surrounding area, there are several museums, a beautiful butterfly aviary, street artists, and the like. There is a lot to see and Mackinaw Island is a photographers dream. Don’t forget to check out the little nook and cranny areas, I’ve sought them out & never once been disappointed. If you plan on spending a night or two on the island, be prepared to pay for this, it’s perhaps something you may not do more than once, but is well worth the cost. There are several hotels (some without A/C), many bed & breakfasts, as well as some timeshares that may be available (this is relatively recent), there is of course also the Grand Hotel. If you opt not to spend the night on the island, it’s worth a trip back from mainland the following day, keep in mind the ferry schedule and when the last one departs the island. If you miss that – you’re stuck!
The places I am going to suggest are simply based on my own experience and are not meant to diminish in any way the other locations. Most of them are gorgeous and well maintained, however, I find most a bit pricey. I figure I won’t be spending much time in a hotel room, so I take a common sense approach. I do require “CLEAN”…. this is a MUST with no exceptions! So…. I am not in anyway uncomfortable referring anyone to the locations I recommend. I ALWAYS stay in Mackinaw City – it’s just my preference, I think its a quaint little town, everything is within walking distance of most of the hotels and I like that. I enjoy walking the area and seeing things at my own leisure without the hassles of parking and traffic. That said….. here we go!!!
HOTELS – Mackinaw City:
Hamilton Inn Select - reasonable rate includes hot breakfast, they also have indoor pool & whirlpool, interior entry corridors and a 1400 foot beach – they are on the water. To see the bridge lit at night, reserve a lake side room or see it from the beach area.
Rainbow Motel - reasonable rate but does not include breakfast. They have indoor pool and 2 whirlpools, one inside/one outside. Miniature golf, playground, picnic area. This is family owned and has always been clean, it has been there for many years so don’t expect fancy-schmancy. It is simple, very clean, adequate and affordable.
**** I also highly recommend calling both locations directly to book, this will offer you a lower rate. ****
RESTAURANTS – Mackinaw City:
Dixie Saloon – the food is great, with portions to match. Great atmosphere and music!
Cunninghams Family Restaurant – good food, family style meals, kid friendly, nautical decor, friendly/helpful staff. Again its family owned/operated and is one of those ‘holes in the wall’ worthy of trying.
O’Reilly’s Irish Pub and Restaurant – being Irish, I couldn’t leave this out of the mix. Another one that’s worth the stop!!!
Mackinaw Crossings – The crossings is a blend of shopping and food. There are several restaurants and diners that serve meals, drinks, ice cream, baked goods and etc. Each night in the center of the Crossings they have a tremendous Lazer Light Show as well as live music, magicians and various entertainment. Another DO NOT MISS area in Mackinaw City!!!!
SHOPS – Mackinaw City:
These of course can change from time to time, and I’ve been there soooo many times over the years, most I could get to blindfolded, I can’t tell you for the life of me their names . But some you just NEVER forget.
Mackinaw Bay Trading Company - They have clothing, furniture, candy, candles, just EVERYTHING under the sun in this store. I can spend (and have) hours in here! For those of you who are Harley fans – yep, they have a Harley Shop here too – a BIG one. Don’t miss this store – great gift ideas throughout the entire store.
Murdick’s Fudge – Ok… as aforementioned regarding Mackinaw Island Fudge… this is THE PLACE to go for your fudge!!! Honestly, I cannot stress this enough! I am not related, I stand to gain nothing in referring you, but having tried other businesses and their products over the years and Murdick’s is simply the best! Opened in 1887, the Mackinaw City shop is actually owned and operated by the Murdick family descendants. There are no Murdick family members connected to the Mackinac Island stores since it was sold in 1969. I refuse to buy from any other fudge shops, I’ve found the best! They offer a fudge club and ship year round, so if you want to send gifts, it’s perfect. It is homemade & you can watch the entire process. They offer countless flavors. They also sell sugar free homemade chocolates that are fresh – not prepackaged and old.
Alice’s Kandy and Korn - If you love Karmel Korn this is simply the best I’ve ever had. They make and sell various other chocolates among which is their “seafoam”. You don’t find this everywhere, but you can find it at Alice’s.
I hope when you decide to visit Mackinaw City and Mackinaw Island that this information aides you in having an enjoyable time. I’ve always found that when I stick with tried and true locations I can’t go wrong and it’s always a more enjoyable trip, I hope this is so for you as well. Keep in mind, if you’re going ALL out for a special occasion the info I’ve suggested isn’t fancy and frilly! Mine is for an average relaxing weekend of leisure, but one with the headaches removed.
One last note in closing. I often travel with my daughter, and she has special needs. I will offer this word of caution – ‘Up North” doesn’t lend well for medical attention or clinics. So… should you need even the basics, plan on heading across the bridge and into St. Ignace to the Hospital Emergency Room…. and when you arrive there, things aren’t ‘typical’ either, they are a bit antiquated. The pharmacy is a rather large vending machine that you’ll need a code from the attending physician to access. You’ll need to pay cash or use a credit card and seek reimbursement from your insurance company after returning home. So be SURE to keep your receipts! Going south won’t help either, as you’ll travel a great distance to find a hospital or pharmacy and St. Ignace is closer, remember the bridge is just 5 miles across. The same applies to accidents of all kinds; broken bones, cuts requiring stitches, poison ivy/oak, & other such injuries. But…. we survived and the beauty of this area is worth going back for!!