We decided to make one more drive up to the northern tip of the Michigan mitten and check out Mackinac Island. We pulled into
Mackinaw City to first take a look at the incredible Mackinac Bridge.
It was nice to see it instead of going over it! The last trip over it had involved a traffic stoppage on the section that is nothing but a grate for way longer than I wanted to be up there! The bridge moves when vehicles go by! It was not a fun place to be stopped. But it sure made for some awesome images from the shore of the Straits of Mackinac off of Lake Huron.
After getting some images of the bridge we loaded up in the vehicles and drove to the parking lot for the Mackinac Island Ferry. We booked our rides on the ferry and went out to the pier to wait for the next one to arrive. We finally saw a boat coming across the straits.
The Ferry Ride
That rooster tail out the back was pretty cool to see!
When the ferry docked, the passengers disembarked. They had suitcases, packages, and bicycles! The only way onto Mackinac Island is via boat!
The crew helped everyone onboard and also brought on a load of bikes and boxes that they strapped in at the back. The back had a plastic drape as the water from the rooster tail wake would soak the cargo.
We took our seats on one side toward the middle of the ferry on the bottom deck. A bit less wavy at that point, we thought! The captain told us that the waves in the channel were somewhat rough but we were not prepared for what we experienced.
About halfway over, the swells were at least 6 feet. The captain kept the ferry moving into the waves which were not too bad and created some great splashes on the sides. But at a certain point, he needed to turn to head for the marina on the island and he turned as a large swell came upon us and the ferry tipped quite a bit to the side! We all grabbed our stomachs as the ferry righted itself and we headed back through the waves toward the island.
Upon arriving on the island we found that the downtown area which is right off the docks was jammed with people! We wandered around for a few minutes and checked out the lay of the land, so to speak. Everywhere you looked there were pedestrians, bicycles, and horses. No vehicles, except ambulance and firetruck, are allowed on the island.
As we walked around I saw horse-drawn carriages that had hotel names on the side. These were the shuttles from the docks. A wedding couple went by in a beautiful carriage. There were delivery wagons, the best one being the horse-drawn flatbed that the UPS guy was riding on. The driver would stop along the street and the UPS guy would hop off and deliver the packages to the stores along the street.
We decided it was time to eat so we found a restaurant toward the end of the main street that was not quite as crowded as the others and had an enjoyable meal while we discussed what to do next.
Several of us decided to take a horse-drawn carriage tour that would take us all around the island. The carriage was like a small tour bus holding 25 people! Our driver was interesting and knowledgeable about the island. This is a slow ride so you can see everything. There is a substantial hill on the route and the driver stopped every few minutes to give the team of 2 horses a break from pulling this heavy load uphill.
We got to see the homes and businesses that make up the island. The permanent residents number under 500. During the summer there are many more folks there to support the tourist season. Our carriage driver was from Europe and was an animal science major in college. He was getting a lot of good experience working with the horses on Mackinac Island.
We passed the Grand Hotel which is gorgeous and huge.
The Grand Hotel transport their guests in style!
Our first driver dropped us off at the Surrey Hills Gift Shop which has a large horse-drawn vehicle museum inside. But we were drawn across the park to Wings of Mackinac. This was a small butterfly conservatory. It was not very big but the butterflies were much closer than some of the larger butterfly houses I have been in.
The backside of the gift shop was the waiting area for the remainder of the carriage drive so we headed back over there. This time we were picked up by a bigger bus-like carriage. This one held 35 people and was pulled by a team of 3 horses.
Our new driver was from Hawaii via Louisiana. He was very interesting and very funny. He told us that no one told him it would be cold in Michigan in June when he came up there to start his “summer” job. But he enjoyed working with the horses.
The majority of the 500+ horses are ferried off the island for the winter months once the season is over. We did get to see the huge barns, paddocks, and fields where the horses get to hang out when they are not working. Many of the residents have horses and you can rent horses to ride or drive from the riding stables.
If they are not walking or riding a horse the residents and guests ride bicycles. Not too great going up the hills and kind of scary going down!
Our horse-drawn bus stopped for a break at one of the attractions on the island. We got to get out to get some images of Arch Rock that looks out onto Lake Huron.
We drove past the fort that guarded the island, Fort Mackinac.
Shortly after the fort, our driver told us we could continue on the carriage back down to the town or we could get off at an upcoming stop and take the stairway down. We decided to take the stairway and I am glad we did as the view was amazing!
We made our way back down to the main street to catch up with those that did not take the carriage tour. Upon regrouping, we decided it was time to head back to the mainland. By this time the crowds had gone down by a lot! The main street was almost deserted!
The ferry trip back to the ferry terminal was not nearly as rough as the trip over to Mackinac Island, although the waves were still pretty rough. I still cannot believe that a lake could have such big waves! We passed the Round Island Light on the way back. We had a much better view of it at sunset than in the morning.
Our day on Mackinac Island was over but as a life-long horse person I was so very happy we were able to see and experience what it would be like to have no motor vehicles around! If I was a bit younger I would for sure want to get a summer job working up there! And I would not even mind a bit of cold in June!
This was our final trip in Michigan. We spent the next day taking it easy in Charlevoix, getting breakfast, and checking out an art show. The next morning we all headed in our different directions back home.
Michigan was definitely not what I had expected! I would highly recommend all the places in Parts 1-5 when you make the trip to Upper Michigan!
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That is all for now! The next posts will be about my latest trip to Maine!