We didn’t know jack about Mackinac. It was only during the twenty-minute ferry ride from Mackinaw City over to Mackinac Island that we realized we’d been saying it all wrong. Despite that “c” at the end, it’s pronounced with an awww, not an aacckk. I later learned that early Native Americans likened the island’s shape to that of a Maehkaenah, or turtle, in the language of the Menominee Indians. Maybe they spell it the way they do just to get a laugh at the expense of blundering tourists.
However you pronounce it, Mackinac Island is the loveliest possible skipping stone between the Lower and Upper peninsulas of Michigan, jauntily perched right at the spot where Lake Michigan passes the baton to Lake Huron. It isn’t really all that close to anything, which is just fine by the 500 or so souls who live there year round and watch the “fudgies” or daytrippers who ride the ferry over to buy trinkets and the island’s famous homemade fudge, come and go.
Cars are not permitted on the island, so when you disembark from the ferry, you can either engage a horse-drawn carriage, rent a bicycle, or, like us, start the winding climb up the hill on foot. We passed quaint cottages with prim picket fences and heard the clop-clop-clop of horses passing by. An equine fragrance permeates the air, but all earthly evidence is quickly removed by a small army of good-natured gentlemen bearing shovels. The island is pristine, dotted with gracious “cottages” built during the Gilded Age when wealthy industrialists summered there.
Overlooking the harbor is Fort Mackinac, which played a dramatic role in the War of 1812, but the top spot on the island is commanded by the aptly named Grand Hotel.
Built in 1887 of Michigan white pine, The Grand Hotel boasts the longest porch in the world at 660 feet. You can pay a $10 fee to tour the common areas of the hotel, or a small fortune to stay there, which we did for three glorious days, feeling lost somewhere in time, which also happens to be the name of the 1980 movie starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour that was filmed on the premises. We sipped cocktails on the porch and looked out over the lake, feeling, well, quite grand!
We awoke each morning to this spectacular view
and spent the days exploring the hotel between the sumptuous breakfast and lunch buffets and formal four-course dinner. Jackets and ties for gentlemen, thank you. My handsome husband cleans up so nicely:
Of course, sparkling Michigan cherry juice was on the menu:
and there were the hotel’s justifiably famous Grand Pecan Balls for dessert. They serve 50,000 of them each season and I am embarrassed to say that we ate our share. The main ingredient, of course, is fudge.
After dinner a harpist plays in the parlor, where coffee is served by the hotel’s elegant and gracious staff:
The entire hotel is opulently furnished in the inimitable shouldn’t-work-but-it-does palette of famed decorator Carlton Varney:
We so enjoyed our three remarkable days on Mackinac Island. I even put an exclamation point next to the checkmark we made on our bucket list. If you go, I hope you have as Grand a time as we did.