USA & Canada: Mackinac Island | Grand Hotels & Horse-Drawn Carriages

by Lori Seto

Looking for a laid-back escape? No beach, no tequila-shot contests, no cars?! The answer: Mackinac (pronounced Mack-i-naw) Island, Michigan, a quaint slice of Victoriana tucked into the space between the state's Upper and Lower Peninsulas, where lakes Michigan and Huron meet. It takes some doing to reach (see Need-to-Know Info below), but once there, you'll be in for some serious relaxation.

In a Word: Ferry

To reach Mackinac you'll take a 16-minute ferry ride through the Straits of Mackinac, affording an amazing view of the Mackinac Bridge -- the Mighty Mac -- which connects Michigan's peninsulas. The journey is especially dreamy after dark -- on clear, crisp fall nights watch for the Northern Lights. Once on the island you can explore by bike or horse-drawn carriage.

Don't Miss

  • Natural beauty: Eighty percent of Mackinac Island is a state park -- Michigan's first, in fact. Explore more than 100 miles of trail on foot, mountain bike, or horseback to check out rocky limestone crags, scenic shorelines, and historic cemeteries.
  • Fudge: This chocolatey slab is the souvenir of choice! May's is the oldest fudge shop and Ryba's is probably the best known -- the distinctive pink boxes make appearances at the Michigan State Fair every year.
  • Military prowess: Fort Mackinac, on a bluff overlooking Mackinac Island's harbor, is a restored 19th-century British and American military outpost (founded in 1780) and a National Historic Landmark. Watch a rifle or cannon demonstration and check out exhibits in the barracks. Don't miss lunch at the Fort Mackinac Tea Room, with its amazing view of the bridge and harbor.

Best Place to Kiss

Snuggle up on a private horse-drawn carriage ride under starry skies. The clip-clop cadence of the horse's hoofs will put you under its romantic spell.

When to Go

  • Best weather: June through early September.
  • Best prices: Winter is low season, but many hotels close. You can cross-country ski and snuggle on sleigh rides but it is extremely cold.
  • Festival highlights: Immerse yourself in flowers at the June Lilac Festival; tap your feet at the Labor Day Jazz Festival at the Grand Hotel; thrill to the re-enactment of the War of 1812 Battle of Mackinac Island in late July or early August.
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