August 13, 2013
Mackinac Island is half tourist trap, and half otherworldy time capsule. It sits in Lake Huron, nestled between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, accessible only by ferry. There are no cars on the island, just bikes and horse-drawn carriages. There's a giant marina, an historic fort, a main strip of candy-colored hotels and charming, old-timey fudge shops – and the rest is mostly state park, with a little bit of insane private real estate to ogle.
I've gone maybe 5-6 times in my life – whenever people come to visit, usually. General trip protocol calls for you to step off the ferry, rent some bikes, and leisurely cycle the 8-mile circumference of the island, stopping for a beach picnic, or a photo op (tiny Mackinac Bridge!), or a covert pee break. When you get back to "town" and return your bikes, you can stroll the main strip and peruse gift shops, buy pounds and pounds of fudge, and try to dodge all the horseshit and people acclimating to their bikes, before hopping on a ferry back to the mainland.
I went twice this summer: once with Kathleen and Jeremy, and once with Micah. Two Tuesdays, exactly a week apart. Micah saw a warm, sunny Mackinac Island, and the Shannons saw a cold, blustery one – though no less beautiful, or crowded. Micah and I stayed a bit later – we could've had dinner there, but opted for cocktails instead. The island clears out in the late afternoon, after all the families leave. The pace of the place slows considerably. We took a later ferry than I ever had before, and discovered that it was one of two daily that took a scenic detour underneath the mighty Mackinac Bridge. It was refreshing to experience something out of general trip protocol, something that brought back a bit of the magic I experienced there as a child. (Plus, Micah has bit of a thing for bridges, so this was just bridge icing on the bridge cake for him.)