For those of us who have lived close to the sea, a lake vacation is a different experience. But, if you want a place that will change your mind about lake vacations and lake beaches, check out Mackinac Island on Lake Michigan. Some of the best beaches are on Lake Michigan i.e. without the extensive shoreline and the clinging sand.
It's a little island on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron between the lower and the upper peninsula of Michigan. Well, it's actually on the Lake Huron side, but you wouldn't know the difference.
Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw) is little known to most people outside of the Midwest. I went to school in Michigan, and Mackinac was always on the virtual travel bucket list of places to visit.
Decades later, and in retirement, I finally made the trek.
My husband rushed his annual summer visit to northern Michigan anticipating our departure for France. He goes every year to visit his relatives and old friends. Since he was able to convince us to go on this trip, he decided to add Mackinac Island on the itinerary as a bonus.
With the subsequent frenzy of our move to France, our summer trips fell entirely off the radar. So, here's my effort to revive our lovely visit to Mackinac Island.
There are no cars on the island except for emergency vehicles. You won't find many places in the U.S. that will provide this complete car-less experience. What is remarkable is that it has been this way since 1895 -- not just a recent climate change promotion.At first, it was because it scared the horses, then later, it was to preserve its quaint, historical, pre-auto ambiance. The simple act by the village council to ban "horseless carriages" was prescient, and it kept the island's natural beauty. More power to the village council of today, the State Park Commission, to resist the pressures of development and commerce!
Mackinac is a working island. There are 500-700 horses on the island that take care of city services like trash, recyclables, and deliveries. There is a U. S. Post Office, but they don't deliver mail, but Jeff Bezos can have your Amazon package delivered to you -- by horse and carriage, of course.You can get a cab or a limo, but it comes with a slow and sometimes stubborn horse. Hotel buses pick you up from the harbor and deliver you and your luggage to your hotel by horse and buggy.
Lake Michigan is pristine, and I hope it stays that way.The beaches are clear with blue-green waters. You can see right through to the bottom. Its natural beauty is truly food for the soul.
Eighty percent of the island is a state park.It started as a military outpost in the late 18th century, first with the French and then some back and forth between the British and the Americans. It became a National Park in 1875, the second only to Yellowstone. In 1895, the Feds transferred the fort and the park to the State of Michigan.
What about the 20 percent? It is made up of the private commercial side.
The Grand Hotel and the Mission Bay Inn are the two largest hotel resorts located on either end of the island. You might remember the movie "Somewhere in Time" with Christopher Reeve. It was filmed in the Grand Hotel. You can enjoy the movie aspect of the hotel, but for me, the views from the terrace are spectacular.There are a lot of old Victorian houses that are now B&B's and inns. There are excellent restaurants, pizza places, fudge shops, and tee-shops. Some of the shops are very touristy, unfortunately. I think the city tries very hard to keep the commercial side "classy," in keeping with the rest of the island.
The best thing about the island is that it is nostalgic and wholesomely American.I read that back in the days, soldiers, from the old Fort Mackinac, used to come back to the island to visit to get a sense of peace and to forget the wars of the past. I understand that sense of peace and timelessness completely. No sounds of traffic nor other stresses of busy lives.
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Read about Whistler Mountain in BC if you want to know about another wonderful outdoor experience!