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Mackinac Island touring tips, hints, suggestions

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Nickel, May 23, 2010.

  1. Nickel

    Nickel New Member

    Hubby and I are scrapping the Niagara Falls trip in June and are going to Mackinac Island instead. I've done a fair amount of looking up websites and reading about the area but as always, I want to tap into all the knowledge and expertise we have here at FSU. If you've been to Mackinac Island, Mackinaw City or Sault Ste. Marie and have any tips or info you can pass along, I'd love to hear it.
    Last edited: May 23, 2010
  2. Capella

    Capella Guest

  3. BreakfastClub

    BreakfastClub Active Member

    I don't know when you're going, but I went in September and the weather was really unpredictable hour by hour. Literally. It would be full sun, warm and suddenly you'd notice a dark line of clouds rolling in, giving you 10-20 minutes to run for cover before an intense thunderstorm full of strong wind, fierce lightening and cool rain would slam you for 15-30 minutes... and then leaves as quickly as it came with the sun back out full throttle.

    I liked it, but it everything is very regulated and a little contrived. I'd have been bored if there more than a couple of days, but there is plenty of peace, quiet and time to sit around reading a nice book in quaint scenery if you're looking for a longer vacation.

    Make sure you bring or rent a bike and ride the perimeter.

    If you're interested in museums and history, the 2 hour trip up to the Shipwreck Museum and lighthouse and Whitefish Point is well worth it. Most of the UP is pretty to drive, and the state parks up there are well worth visiting too if you are into hiking, camping or other outdoor activity.
  4. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

    Well, since I saw a special about the bridge they built, I know it is pronounced Mackinaw. That is all.
  5. JJH

    JJH Well-Known Member

    I haven't been there in 25 years. At that time, the island was lovely and had excellent fudge. Also, there were horses and, um, when the temperature rose, there was a certain, um, aroma. But all of that could have changed drastically.

    MOIJTO Banned Member

    My cousin was married on Mackinac Island, her inspiration was "somewhere in time". Its beautiful and expensive. Have fun!!!
  7. Nickel

    Nickel New Member

    Yes, I saw it many years ago. Thinking about getting it at the library and convincing hubby to watch it before we go. (snicker) :p

    We're going in early June and I expect the weather to be unpredictable then, too. I'm hoping for some nice sunshine during the day and will dress in layers to deal with any chill that might come off the water.

    :lol: Thanks, Brian. ;)

    Someone at work thought we should go to Sault Ste. Marie and watch the boats going through the Soo Locks so we might do that for a bit. I am excited to see it all, the bridge, the island, the Grand Hotel, the Soo locks, the museums. I have always wanted to go to Mackinac Island but always found other destinations that pulled at me a little more or made more sense financially or time-wise. This time going to Mackinac Island is the destination that makes the most sense in all respects for both of us. He grew up in Detroit and has traveled all over the US but has not seen any of his home state outside of a trip to Frankenmuth about a month after we started dating, and I haven't been north of there myself. I think it's time we both explored "our" state. :)
  8. LastEmpress

    LastEmpress Guest

    If you're staying a night in the Sault, there's a really cute place right across the street from the Locks called the Lockview Inn. If I remember correctly it was pretty reasonably priced and in a great location. It's not a five star hotel by any means, but it gets the job done.

    I love the U.P.! And as BreakfastClub said, the drive up to Whitefish Point and the Shipwreck Museum is definitely worth it. Tahquamenon Falls is also a really pretty spot, and it's about an hour to and hour and a half from the Sault. Mackinac Island is beautiful, especially when you take the bike ride around the Island. In 'town' where the fudge and other tourist shops are can get a little congested (and as JJH mentioned if it's warm there's definitely an aroma) so when you get out on the other side of the Island it's quite nice and more open. And definitely make a stop at the Grand Hotel.

    Not sure where you're driving from, and how much time you have, but there are lots of wineries in and around the Traverse City area and the Northwest corner of Michigan. It is a bit out of the way, but if you have the time the scenery is beautiful, the wine is good and there are some really fab restaurants. But that might be a trip for another time. :lol:
  9. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

    LOL! You are welcome. I came home a bit drunk last night. :lol:
  10. skatemommy

    skatemommy Well-Known Member

    Did this whole trip 2 summers ago. You may want to stay in Mackinac City and day trip to the island. Otherwise you've got to drag all your stuff onto the ferry and then to what ever hotel on the island that the only ground transportation is by horse drawn cart - no vehicles on the island. Recommend Shepler's Ferry from the city to the island. There is a butterfly museum/bug exhibit down aways on the strip that was a nice change on the island. You must visit the Pink Pony bar. Recommend Tahquamenon Falls - on the State Park property is a brew pub! They make Blueberry beer which was really quite good! Every Michigander should visit the Soo Locks in their lifetime - it really is an amazing engineering feat. 1000 foot freighters came thru when we were there. And yes, the wineries have lots of tasting outlets in Mac City. One more, the Pumpkin Pie fudge is to die for. Have fun!
  11. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

    Bearing in mind: Sault Ste Marie (Soo Saint Marie) is not a day trip, precisely, from Mackinac. (If you go to the Soo, go to Antlers. It's fun.) And if you go up that way, go west of the Soo and hit the Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. (And walk the shore--THAT is why I told people in New England "No, you don't have big lakes.")

    After I get over my gut-instinct ex-seasonal response (OMG Mackatraz don't go! Sorry, it's a gut reaction)...first, definitely use Shepler's. They're a little Mickey Mouse at times but they're reliable and in the high season it's on the half-hour. Do not miss the parks on the mainland--Colonial Michilimackinac is INFINITELY more fun and interesting than the Fort on the Island. (Say "mish-ih-li-MACK-in-aw" to really impress the GSRs at the ticket booth--I finished up a season once in that position after the funding ran out for my exhibits job and the variations of pronunciation were...varied and intertaining.) Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse is also rather neat.

    Please do NOT ask:

    "What time does the bridge swing over?"
    "What part of Canada are we in?"
    "Where is the nearest fudge shop?" (unless you are visually impaired, you will find it--I swear there's an ordinance that there has to be one ever 200 yards)

    And I am one of the least-likely posters on here to post anything activist/animal-rights stuff so please take this seriously: Please, please PLEASE seriously consider NOT patronizing the carriage tours and taxi service operated by the Chambers family (ie, every carriage that is not owned by the Grand or by one of the two hourly-rental livery stables.) They don't treat the horses well and they treat the drivers even worse. And I, and just about every parks employee, have seen myself that they interpret the operating high-temp limit for the big three-horse hitches VERY liberally. I have seen horses in the three-horse hitches arrive at the Fort Mackinac stop in conditions that, in my opinion with 20+ years experience with horses, I would consider severely overheated and dehydrated. The drivers are very poorly treated as well. If you want to do a carriage tour, consider renting by the hour from one of the liveries--don't worry, the horses know the way.

    Uh...yeah, so I worked for the Parks two seasons, as it worked out in a job that required spending time at all locations on a routine basis. Like most seasonals that makes me a tad jaded. I do think one of the best parts of my job was when I was doing trail signs on the island and biking--the east side is quiet, and gorgeous--I saw loons on that side one morning. And there are trails off the paved paths as well. If you like hiking, 80% of the Island AWAY from town is Parks land and it's wonderfully peaceful.
  12. Fridge_Break

    Fridge_Break #HotMessExpress

    I was there a few summers ago with some friends from college. We ended up staying at a hotel in Mackinaw City right on the beach, and then made a day trip to Mackinac Island (yes the spellings are different :lol: ) It was pretty easy, we just took the things we needed for the day with us. We were able to do everything we wanted to do in a single day there -- and it's gorgeous too. Not to mention that it was all probably a bit cheaper than paying for lodging on the island itself.
  13. Theatregirl1122

    Theatregirl1122 Enjoying Vicarious Voids!

    Well, I'm not a bit jaded ;). I used to go to Mackinac most summers as a kid but haven't been since I was 16. And I loved it.

    I second the recommendation of Michilimackinac. It is a far more interesting fort than the one on the island. I usually go to the one on the island but it only takes an hour or so. The view is pretty impressive but nothing much happened there.

    When we went up to Mackinac, we always camped in Petoskey and took a day trip to the island. There isn't so much to do there that you'd need an entire vacation and staying off the island is much cheaper. I definitely recommend that you bike around the island. It is about 8.3 miles and very nice. The back half of the island has some cool limestone formations. If you can bring your own bike, do. The ferries will take them over for you. If you don't have a bike to bring, I do suggest you rent one. You have to buy fudge at some point, but, as mentioned, you won't have any trouble finding them. Pretty sure I used to get my fudge from Ryba's but I don't remember if there was a good reason for that. I also recommend Kilwin's Mackinac Island Fudge ice cream.

    Mackinaw city is cute. There is mostly a lot of shopping in the city. Unless things have changed in the last few years (and I really do hope they have), it is basically the mecca of seriously mediocre food.

    Petoskey is a very nice area. The beach is nice and it is pretty easy to find petoskey stones (they are a fossilized coral) which are very cool.
  14. michiruwater

    michiruwater Well-Known Member

    I went there in 5th grade for a trip and hated it :shuffle: Soooo contrived. We went to the Fort, of course, and that was kind of interesting but I couldn't stand the loud gunshots. I went there as a kid too. And I pass over the area a gazillion times a year but I wouldn't even really want to go again. You can get fudge elsewhere as well...

    I say just go up to the Copper Country at the top of the U.P. for your trip instead - much more interesting and not at all contrived - but I'm terribly biased :p But perfectly serious. There are a thousand awesome historical sites and beautiful places and if you want touristy things all throughout the U.P. there are Pictured Rocks tours and Shipwreck tours and waterfalls... the U.P. is a really, really special place in a way that's hard to describe, especially up in the Copper Country. And I'm not just saying that because I grew up there :shuffle:

    Either way, enjoy your trip. I was a very cynical 10-year-old so it's more than entirely possible my opinion means absolutely nothing...

    This has definitely not changed :lol: I've stopped there a couple times on my way home in the past three years and now I just go on to St. Ignace unless I forgot to get $3.50 for the bridge toll. Not that St. Ignace has good food, I just always go to that Subway...
  15. Bev Johnston

    Bev Johnston Well-Known Member

    Wow. I can't believe some of the negativity about this lovely place! I've visited Mackinac Island three times in the past ten years and cannot recommend it enough for an excellent getaway.

    Two times we stayed at Bogan Lane Inn B&B. It had a shared bathroom, but the owner keeps the place very clean and that part didn't bother me at all. There were no tvs and a huge front porch for talking, playing cards, and relaxing. The owner grew up on the island and is a fount of information. Breakfast was always so much fun there!

    The third time we stayed at Island House Hotel. It was okay. Much more pricey than the B&B and really not as nice. I missed getting to meet and mingle with the other guests over breakfast.

    We took the Arnold ferry twice and Shepler's once. Either is okay, but Arnold has all catamarans and they are much faster. No problems with reliability for either line.

    I believe that all of the hotels or ferry lines have porters that take your luggage to your hotel and then back to the ferry when you leave. At least that was my experience. In my three visits, I never once had to lug a heavy suitcase up the hill. And if you get to your hotel or B&B before check in time, you can usually have the porter drop your luggage there for you, so that's not an issue either.

    Yes, I guess the downtown area is a little contrived. However, that's not where the beauty of the island is. You must rent or bring a bike (we brought our own bikes after the first trip) and tour the island. Make sure you hike the trails on the interior, but be warned that if you are not in shape that some trails might be challenging. There is one trail that is above some steep, rocky drops. It's just so amazingly beautiful. It's also worth it to know how to fix a flat tire on your bike - just in case - it's a long way back to "civilization" when you are on the other side of the island.

    I loved waking up every morning to the sound of clip-clop and boat whistles. It is so nice not to have to deal with cars!!

    We've had Ryba's fudge and Murdick's. Both are delicious, but I prefer Murdick's ever so slightly.

    I've been twice in July and once in August. The weather was pleasant during the day and slightly chilly at night during all of our visits. They were having weather that was much more humid than normal during our August visit, but really, it was nothing compared to where I'm from.

    We spent every night down on the rocky beach to watch the stunning sunset. My kids had a great time playing on the school playground, looking in the windows and imagining the kids that lived on the island all year.

    And yes, it's no Disney World, so if you like to stay busy busy busy, then this is probably not the vacation for you. If you like to lose yourself and relax, however, make sure you bring a good book and you will love it. We always hated to leave the place and just writing this makes me think that we should try to visit again this summer.

    Have a great time!
  16. purple skates

    purple skates Shadow Dancing

    I've stayed at the Mission Point Resort which was nice. The room I had was rather small - it was in the old part of the resort. Didn't matter much to me because I was alone (it was at a conference). The resort provided luggage service to and from the ferry docks. IIRC, I just walked to the hotel, which was pleasant and not too far. I think that there's a lot to do there, but I was not able to due to being there for a conference plus it was late fall then.

    We did an island bike ride when we went there when I was a kid back in the late 70's. That time we had camped at Wilderness State Park. I remember that it was a very pretty ride.

    The time that I was there between the childhood camping trip and this more recent conference, I just remember things as being very expensive. That time we didn't stay on island, but were there for a weekend taking the ferry back and forth, and eating meals on the island. We did get to go to the Governor's mansion (it was a political event) - I don't know if that is open to the public, but the views and gardens are wonderful. Also, even if you aren't staying there, a visit to the Grand Hotel is a must.

    If you are going to travel off island, the Soo Locks are fascinating - we saw them for the first time a few years ago. I second the Whitefish Bay and Tahquamenon Falls recommendations, and agree that Fort Michilimackinac is more interesting than the fort on island.

    michiruwater, I have wanted to do copper country for the longest time, but we never have had the time/money to go. One of these years we will. It looks so beautiful up there.
  17. Nickel

    Nickel New Member

    I was wondering if our resident Yooper would have some words of wisdom. ;) And thanks to my other Michiganian friends for your thoughts and experiences as well as those who have visited the area.

    We aren't staying on the Island, just making a day trip over there. We'll be staying in Mackinaw City. Or maybe I should consider a hotel in St. Ignace instead?

    I suspected the island would be, as michiruwater puts it, contrived, but that's ok, I still want to see it, and as much of it as we can fit in for a day. I am not in very good physical shape so any island sightseeing will have to be done using the carriage taxi. I can do some walking or hiking but knowing me, I'd get all excited and try to overdo it then be hurting and I don't want that to happen so I am going to try to restrain myself from doing too much off-the-beaten-path walking. I wish I could ride a bike but I have had balance issues for a number of years now and just can't handle a bike anymore.

    A co-worker is pushing the Tahquamenon Falls so I'll have to do some research on that. Does anyone know if that is a do-able day trip from Mackinaw City/St. Ignace or should we plan to get a hotel in the U.P. one night (or two)?

    ETA: Just took a look at mapquest to see where the falls are and it seems like it would be a do-able day trip but it also looks like it will make more sense for our home base to be St. Ignace instead of Mackinaw City. Good thing I haven't booked anything yet. ;) But I want to book the hotel(s) soon so I need to make a decision.
    Last edited: May 24, 2010
  18. purple skates

    purple skates Shadow Dancing

    I don't know much about St Ignace, but this might help. http://www.stignace.com/

    Tahquamenon is definitely a do-able day trip. You might want to double check how much walking is needed, though, to get to the falls. I can't remember since it's been a long time since I've been there.
  19. skatemommy

    skatemommy Well-Known Member

    It is a lot of walking; not so much from the parking to the lower falls (easy) as it is to get to the upper falls which of course is the most spectacular.
  20. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

    ROTFL...you must have skipped the North Blockhouse or reading any of the exhibit signs. Basically the first battle of the war of 1812 was the British retaking the island fort. The only "important" thing that happened at the mainland fort was the massacre during Pontiac's Rebellion, when local tribes used a lacrosse game (well, the precursor to lacrosse) to trick their way into the fort and kill the British soldiers. It didn't actually have must effect in the grand scheme of things.

    However the 'shows' are much more fun on the mainland, and it's all in one place--most people totally miss the Historic Downtown on the Island, which is where the blacksmiths' shop, 1840s house, and the Beaumont House are.

    I stand by my statements about the horses. The Grand treats theirs well (I still wouldn't stay there, it's wicked overpriced) but the taxis and tour carriages treat the horses like crap and the drivers worse.

    Remember, it's a nice place to go for a day, but it's not so great for seasonals, especially the ones who have to live on the Island itself. So we see the things they don't want tourists to notice. It's kind of like Disney, only no centralised infrastructure or benefits.

    And if you hit the upper UP, please please pleas visit Fort Wilkins. They're very lonely up there.
  21. loopey

    loopey Well-Known Member

    I haven't been in 20 years, but it was beautiful, and the fudge amazing!
  22. Theatregirl1122

    Theatregirl1122 Enjoying Vicarious Voids!

    The "battle" at fort Mackinac that started the war of 1812 was an immediate surrender with no fighting. Which, while it may be important to the war of 1812, is not very interesting. And since "something" constitutes more than just battles. Fort Michilimackinac also talks about the fur trade which I do think is "important".
  23. Meredith

    Meredith what a glorious day!

    That's the name of the fort I was tying to remember! I haven't been to the UP since I was a child; Nickel has some idea how long ago that was ;) but Fort Wilkins was one of the most haunting places to me. If I remember correctly, the fort had not yet been renovated.

    Second favorite site was Tahquamenon Falls, but best of all was Copper Harbor. The scenery in the UP is exceptional but seeing your father chased by a bear is something you don't forget. Only kids can laugh at something like that. :D
  24. michiruwater

    michiruwater Well-Known Member

    Copper Harbor! :cheer2::cheer2:

    LURVE Copper Harbor. Grew up 45 minutes south of there (Hancock) and always go there as often as possible when I go back home. It's one of the most gorgeous places I've ever seen.
  25. Lizziebeth

    Lizziebeth the real Lizziebeth

    My dad was born and raised in that area and we visited quite a few times when I was a kid. It is really beautiful country.
  26. Nickel

    Nickel New Member

    We just got back from our Mackinac region excursion. Thanks for all the tips! We took the Shepler's ferry and I loved sitting on the top deck with the wind blowing in my hair! I very much enjoyed our day on the island and was really glad we were there when the lilacs were so plentiful and fragrant. Makinaw City is such a quaint little town, too. I went up to Sault Ste. Marie one morning to see the Soo Locks (hubby wasn't interested in that so I went alone while he lazed about at the hotel) and found it interesting but it would have been more so if a freighter had been going through at the time. All I got to see go through was a little Soo Locks tour boat, lol. But I got the idea of how it works so I guess that little demonstration wasn't so bad. I definitely want to go spend a lot more time in the U.P. some day as I didn't get to see the waterfalls or Whitefish Point or Copper Harbor, etc.