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Mackinac Island, Michigan

Fast Facts

Location: Michigan, US
Attraction Type: Historic Island
Significance: Historic Center, Architecture, Colonial lifestyle, Events, Festivals
Best Time to Visit: You can visit Mackinac Islands at any time of the year, but keep a watch on the events and festivals calendar.
How to Reach: The best way to reach Mackinac Island is through water. You can book a ferry from Mackinac city in Michigan's Lower Peninsula or one from St. Ignace in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in the summer months. Snowmobiles can be availed in the winter months. You can also book a flight to Mackinac Island airport.
Nearest Airport: Mackinac Island Airport

Walking through the streets of the Mackinac Historic area can give you a pleasant sensation of traveling back in time, as well as an uncanny sensation of somehow being removed from here and now. It is not surprising though, because Mackinac Island has hardly changed over centuries. Even now, the only way to get around in the island is by foot, bicycles or horse drawn carts. All motorized vehicles have been banned in the island for over a hundred years, which is close to actual history of commercial motor vehicles itself. The historic architecture, the cobbled streets, the quaint lifestyle that reminds you of the early days of European settlement give you a taste of heritage and history like nowhere else in the US.
History of Mackinac Island

It is imperative that a place, which is so intent on maintaining the purity of its past, must have a past to really feel proud of. The place is, after all, a designated national historical center and most of it is maintained as a Historical Park by the US government. Mackinac Islands, like all areas around the great lakes had a substantial Indian population. In fact, the island derives its name from the Indian word 'Mitchimackinac' meaning the 'big turtle' referring to the turtle back like shape of the island. The French were the first Europeans to discover the island and realize its strategic importance in the Great Lakes area. The French were quick to colonize parts of the island, with missionaries converting the native Indians, and the traders carrying out the affluent fur trade.

However, it was not long before the island became a bone of contention between the British and the French. The British built the Fort to guard its interest, one that they eventually had to surrender in the hands of the American freedom fighters. The island became a battlefield during the War of 1812. The loss of the British army meant that the fort had to be handed over to the American side. It also lost its apparent strategic advantage following this event. However, it's still maintained by the American army and considered as a national heritage. Its whitewashed stone exterior is reminiscent of Islamic military construction, in contrast to the more expected wooden construction of European military outfits.

Things to see in Mackinac Islands

Mackinac Island, as its history makes clear, was inhabited by a wide cross-section of groups and people. The French, the British, the Indians and the early Americans all settled, offering their distinctive contribution to the island's unique ethos and culture. A walk through the historic center of Mackinac Island will open you up to a wide variety of styles — colonial, Greek revivalist, Tudor revivalist, Romanesque and of course the most widespread Victorian style of architecture. It is difficult to enumerate the objects of interest and sightseeing opportunities in Mackinac Island because of its sheer number. However, some of the most popular ones that you must never miss seeing are: Fort Mackinac: Built in 1780, it lost much of its strategic importance soon after the War of 1812. In 1895, it was officially closed down, but was revived and restored as a valuable part of American history and heritage in the 1930s. It is now a popular tourist destination.

The Grand Hotel: Reaching widespread fame after being the setting for the 1980 film Somewhere in Time, this Victorian style architecture is one of the most delightful attractions of Mackinac Island.

Round Island Lighthouse: This is located in Round Island, south of the Mackinac. The place is quiet and largely uninhabited. Built in 1894, this lighthouse, including both the light and the structure have been heavily restored and renovated in 1924.

Spooky Delights: One of the greatest fun activities of Mackinac Island is to indulge in a tour that takes you through the haunted destinations in the island area. The haunted theater is the most significant one, but you can also check out the various landmarks from the common tour package called the 'Haunts of Mackinac', inspired from the best-selling book with the same name. It is really fun with a difference.

There are numerous other historic places to see in Mackinac Island, given its long and eventful past. You can choose from a wide range of tour options to get the most out of your tour.
Things to do

When you are in Mackinac, heritage is the word. So do not look for the rush of adrenalin when you are here. Instead, look for the more quaint and relaxing options. Almost all Mackinac activities are meant to showcase the unique heritage of the island and uphold its rich culture. Some of the things you must not miss during your visit to the beautiful Mackinac Island include:

Carriage rides: Take a ride on a horse drawn carriage across the historic site of the island. You can also take a ride on saddled horses.

Events and Festivals: Mackinac is famous for its wide range of events and festivals that reveal and preserve the artistic heritage of the island. Mackinac Music Festival, Fudge Festival, Lilac Festival and the Great Turtle Festival are the most popular ones.

Accommodation in Mackinac Island

Accommodation in Mackinac Island belongs to a wide range of categories. There are hotels, inns and B&Bs, as well as cottages and historic inns. Harborview Inn, Hotel Iroquois, Island House Hotel, Lake View Hotel and Lilac Tree Hotel and Spa are some of the most popular accommodation facilities available in the island.

Mackinac Island has wonderful dining, shopping and entertainment options as well. The island also has a great nightlife, and you will easily find a place to party out after a hectic day's itinerary in one of them. Do not forget to spend the night in the island, even if you are planning on a really short visit. The sights and the sounds of Mackinac Island at night, with the tingle of the horse drawn carts blending with the sound of the ships and vessels deporting and porting at a distance transports to a different time, a different world.

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