Michigan Vacation: Part 3
When we decided to plan our Michigan vacation, we thought it would be fun to spend few days at Mackinac and D started searching for some Memorial Day deals. We ended up deciding to splurge on the Grand Hotel which is the most iconic hotel on the island. And as luck would have it, two of our best friends who had recently moved to Michigan were also going to be staying at the Grand Hotel that weekend.
Getting to Mackinac Island
The only way to get to Mackinac is by boat. Mackinaw City (in lower Michigan) and St. Ignace (in upper Michigan) both have ferry docks that you can take. There are several ferry services you can take from either side, and they offer hourly ferry service and various valet services. We took Shepler’s Ferry and they did a great job. We chose to have them valet park our car in their outdoor lot (they also have an indoor option), mostly because we cut our time short and had to get on the ferry ASAP. The only thing I wasn’t a fan of was that they are all first come first serve. D had a 10am tee time on Mackinac, so we chose this ferry and got there at 7:30 am for the first ferry of the day since we weren’t sure how crowded it would be. We ended up being on a pretty empty boat with maybe 20 other people – most of whom looked like they were employees on Mackinac Island. It was about a 15 minute trip over and we got a little bit of history of the island. Our friends took the ferry from Mackinaw City (which is a little longer), and heard a whole history on the bridge which sounded really interesting.
Arriving on the Island
The ferry services do such a great job of taking care of your bags. Cars aren’t allowed on the islands, so they offloaded our luggage, and put in onto a cart destined for the Grand Hotel. A horse and driver come along, attach the cart and take all of our stuff up to the hotel. I thought it would be chaotic, but they seem to have it down to a science.
We arrived on the island about 7:50, so D was able to move up his tee time to 8:15. Off he went to golf, and I stayed behind to pre-register, grab a coffee, and enjoy my magazines and a book in the garden of the Grand Hotel among all the tulips. When it got a little chilly, I moved inside and after that got boring (18 holes of golf takes about 3 hours), I went and sat in the rocking chairs on the porch until John and Alexandra arrived and joined me.
Saturday on the Island
After D had finished golfing, we decided to bike around the island. You can rent bikes on the island, but we all chose to bring our bikes along. It’s a $10 ferry fee (includes both ways), or it’s $30 a bike for a few hours which seemed really pricey to me. Mackinac Island boasts 700 miles of trails, but we decided to bike the outer loop of the island which is about 8 miles. I think it would have been more enjoyable if it wasn’t Memorial Day weekend, but there were SO MANY tourists – many who were really wobbly on a bike, and a lot of kids that weren’t being watched by their parents (aka biking on the wrong side, cutting people off, stopping randomly, etc). There are a lot of places to stop on the outer loop and we really enjoyed it once we got to some portions that had less people. After our bike ride, we grabbed a late lunch and then headed back to the hotel to explore a bit.
We ended up at the tennis courts where we decided to play pickleball. I had never played before, but the rules aren’t too hard so we played for about 45 minutes. The four of us were pretty bad in general, but we had some great laughs and probably amused the court attendant a bit. Around 4:30, we headed back up to the Grand Hotel to get ready for the free wine reception they were hosting.
It’s always fun to dress up, especially when friends and free drinks are involved. The weather was beautiful and the appetizers and wine were set up on the front porch. We were able to snack and talk and enjoy the gorgeous views of the lake.
From the wine reception, we headed into the dining room for a five course meal! It was incredible! Dinner was included in our hotel package, but otherwise it is $80 per person. There’s no way I would pay that much, so I’m so glad we took advantage of the package deal. I really wish I had taken a picture of my food because it was all beautifully plated.
After dinner there were nightcaps in the parlor of the hotel accompanied by a woman playing the harp (a harpist?). There was definitely an older crowd enjoying the music, but it was cool to sit down for a second and listen. The Grand Hotel has a strict dress code -after 6:30 everyone in the hotel must be in dress clothes (no jeans, slacks/dresses for the women, and I believe the men had to be in a suit and tie).
We headed to bed not long after, since it was almost 10pm by then and we had been going full steam all day.
Sunday on the Island
The forecast for Sunday was rainy and chilly in the afternoon, so we met for an 8:30 breakfast to take advantage of the morning. Breakfast was also in the main dining room, but no dress code (although D was told he had to remove his hat). The breakfast menu was amazing as well and none of us were disappointed by our breakfast choices.
We headed off to Fort Mackinac which is going to be my next blog post because there is just too much to share about it. I love history and Alexandra is a social studies teacher, so the two of us soaked it all in. John and D, being military, obviously liked all the information on the old fort. I think all four of us are very thankful that they weren’t soldiers back then! The fort shoots off the cannons on the hour and fires some of the guns on the half hour, so there’s a lot to see in addition to all the buildings.
After Fort Mackinac, we adventured around down the main drag. It was much less crowded than Saturday, probably because the weather detoured the day tourists from coming to the island. We wandered into a few fudge shops since Mackinac is known as the fudge capital of the world. Most of the shops make the fudge out in the open for you to see, and they give samples and answer questions. I wish I would have gotten pictures, because it’s definitely a sight to see.
We split up for lunch, and just as D and I were finishing up, it began to rain. Thankfully we had our raincoats with us, we he hightailed it back to the Grand Hotel to relax for the afternoon. D took a nap which I read a book in our little sitting area. The view from our room looks out over the main lawn and the lake, so I was a bit distracted.
Once D woke up, we headed out into the rain which was mostly just a little sprinkle by then. The fog was rolling in, so we headed down to the shore line and walked along it for a bit. Then we ventured up into the gardens of the Grand Hotel. They have a huge greenhouse area with a ton of plants. Even though the rain hindered us a little, the lack of crowds made up for it.
There was another wine hour at the hotel, this time with mixed drinks too (!) – so we headed back up to get ready and meet John and Alexandra. Due to the cold weather, it was inside this time, but that didn’t put a damper on the experience at all. We fully took advantage of the free drinks before we headed into another five course meal in the dining room.
We were all feeling sufficiently stuffed after the wine hour + dinner, so we changed into walking clothes and headed out to some of the back trails near the hotel. We saw the stables where the horses from the Grand Hotel are kept, as well as a lot of workers heading back to their lodgings after a day of work. We also made it to the home where the Governor of Michigan has a residence. There are a lot of private residences on the island, but this one is owned by the state and is a perk of the job. The fog and the setting of the sun made the walk just a little bit eerie, but it was a unique experience in itself.
After the walk, we headed back to our room to pack up. D and I went to sleep early because we had plans to get up at 4:45 to watch the sunrise.
Leaving the Island
Unfortunately, the fog lingered, which meant no sunrise for us. We headed back down to the docks to drop off our luggage, and then took a little ride around the island since most people were still asleep and the first ferry hadn’t arrived yet.
We got in line around 7:45 for our 8 am ferry, although there weren’t too many people so early in the morning. The fog was thick, and I attempted to sit on the top of the ferry to get some pictures with D, but got too cold and went below and chatted with another woman who’s husband was uptop! Because we had the valet service, our car was waiting for us at the dock when we arrived – definitely a perk of the valet.
We had a great time at Mackinac. I think one more full day would have been great to go back on a bike ride and go into some of the smaller museums there.
If you go
- Hit the outter bike loop early in the morning or later at night when it is less crowded OR stick to the inner trails if you want to avoid high bike traffic.
- St. Ignace seemed to be less crowded as far as people getting on the ferry (both on the way to the island and back) and was a shorter ferry ride. However, if you’re coming from lower Michigan, you’ll have to pay a toll to cross the bridge – so it might not be worth it.
- If you’re staying the weekend, get up early to go to the main street. All the bike rentals + carriage rides + all the shops/restaurants are on that main drag and it gets super crowded, especially when all the day tourists arrive. Most shops open around 8, so there are definitely things to do.
Have you ever been to Mackinac Island? Anything we missed seeing?