Set in the waters separating Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas, Mackinac (pronounced Mack-i-naw) Island is one of Michigan's loveliest and most romantic destinations. Cars are strictly prohibited; visitors get around the island on foot, bicycles, and horse-drawn carriages. The lack of modern transportation cultivates the sense of 19th-century nostalgia pervading the island, a veritable repository of beautifully restored Victorian homes. Mackinac Island State Park (tel. 906/847-3328, summer only) constitutes 80% of the island. For more information, contact the Mackinac Island Chamber of Commerce (tel. 800/454-5227; www.mackinacisland.org).
The oldest structure in Michigan, and one of the few remaining Revolutionary War-era ruins in the nation, Fort Mackinac (tel. 906/436-4100; www.mackinacparks.com) looms high on a bluff overlooking the Straits of Mackinac. Originally a British outpost, Fort Mackinac was conquered by American soldiers 20 years after the Revolution. In addition to housing historic ruins, the Fort hosts Victorian children's games; bagpipe, bugle, and drum corps music; hourly rifle and cannon firings; and military reenactments performed by costumed interpreters.
Another prime vantage on the straits can be had from the porch at the Grand Hotel (tel. 906/847-3331), a National Historic Landmark. The veranda exudes romance and is a focal point on the world's largest summer hotel, built in 1887. For $10 you can tour this lovely landmark hotel , drink cocktails, and take in the view. The price of your ticket will be deducted from any hotel restaurant meals.
If you like to bike, take a spin around the island, following an 8-mile circuit on Mich. 185 (Lake Shore Rd). The view of the straits is spellbinding from here and you can rubberneck without fear, given the prohibition on motorized vehicles. Bike rentals are available throughout downtown, at $5 per hour for one-speeds, $6 to $8 per hour for tandems. Ask about day rates and children's seats.
For an easier tour of the island, travel via horse and buggy with Mackinac Island Carriage Tours (tel. 906/847-3307; $17 adults, $7.50 children 5-12). Trips begin near the boat docks in the center of the shopping district and last about 2 hours. Sites include the Governor's Mansion, the Grand Hotel, and Arch Rock -- a boulder with a gaping 30- by 40-foot hole gouged in it by waves and glaciers.
The island's newest attractions include two butterfly conservatories. The Mackinac Island Butterfly House, McGulpin Street behind St. Anne's Church (tel. 906/847-3972; $5 adults, $2 children 6-12); and the Wings of Mackinac, north of the Grand Hotel on Carriage Road (tel. 906/847-9464; $5 adults, $2 children 5-12). Downtown, a smattering of shops and galleries are worth an afternoon stroll. Don't leave the island without sampling its famous fudge -- many downtown shops sell the island's favorite confection.
Where to Stay & Dine -- For a romantic getaway, the historic Grand Hotel (tel. 800/33-GRAND or 906/847-3331; www.grandhotel.com) disappoints no one. The individually decorated rooms feature all the expected comforts; some have balconies with lake views. If money's no object, the suites are exceptionally luxurious; many are named and themed after famous figures, including six First Lady rooms. Resort grounds include tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course, and formal gardens. Doubles start at $350, including breakfast and dinner daily, horse-drawn carriage shuttle service, and all tips. A great family resort is Mission Point (tel. 800/833-7711 or 906/847-3312; www.missionpoint.com), with 18 acres on the lakefront and a host of recreational facilities. Doubles begin at $194. Other moderately priced choices include the family-run Hotel Iroquois, Main Street (tel. 906/847-3321), a 100-year-old but thoroughly modernized inn where doubles start at $160; and the Lilac Tree Hotel, Main Street (tel. 906/847-6575; www.lilactree.com), whose suites come with fridges and microwaves and whose rates start at $130.
For fine dining on the island, nothing surpasses the Grand Hotel's Salle à Manger (tel. 800/33GRAND), known for its French-inspired entrees, decadent pecan ball dessert, and service fit for royalty. The hotel's Jockey Club and Woods restaurants offer casual meals -- pasta, chicken, and steaks -- at lower prices. The Carriage House, Main Street (tel. 906/847-3321), in the Hotel Iroquois, features local specialties such as broiled whitefish and pork tenderloin served with a chutney of Michigan apples and cherries. A nice family choice is Dockside Inn, near Star Line Ferry (tel. 906/643-7911), a casual restaurant serving local fish, chicken, ribs, burgers, and over 140 types of beer.
Getting There -- The major route to Mackinac Island is I-75 from the south. From the lower peninsula, you can reach the island by ferry from Mackinaw City. From the upper peninsula, ferries depart from St. Ignace. Shepler's Mackinac Island Ferry (tel. 800/828-6157), Arnold Transit Company (tel. 800/542-8528; www.arnoldline.com), and Star Line Ferry (tel. 800/638-9892; www.mackinacferry.com) all service the island from both cities, and all charge the same rates: $17 adults, $8 children 5 to 12, free for children under 5. Bike transport is $6.50. You can also travel by plane from St. Ignace on Great Lakes Air (tel. 906/643-7165; www.greatlakesair.com).
For more side trip ideas from Detroit, visit our complete guide online at www.frommers.com/destinations/detroit.
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