If you grew up in Michigan, chances are you took at least one family vacation or school trip to Mackinac Island as a child. The Island, tucked between Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas, is home to delicious fudge, horse-drawn carriage rides (cars are strictly forbidden), and one very grand hotel. It’s super touristy, but I like to think my family has a connection to the place that makes us more than mere “tourists” there. You see, my grandmother was born (and is now buried) on the Island, so I’ve always felt we were linked to the Island in a deeper way than your average tourist day-tripper.
Because of this, Mackinac has always been a special place to me. And since this school year is the last time I’ll be living in Michigan for the foreseeable future, I figured a return trip was in order; who knows when I’ll get the chance to visit next? So over fall break, I headed up to the island, a place I consider to be one of Michigan’s real treasures.
We stayed at Hotel Iroquois, which I had stayed at before and would gladly stay at again. It’s located right on the Island’s main street, but far down enough the road so that it feels quiet. It’s also located right on the water, so you get beautiful views in the morning. And, it has a gorgeous garden, so if you love flowers (raises hand), then you will love staying here.
We arrived on a chilly, gloomy, and – above all – windy October evening and set off for a short walk before dinner. Despite the temperatures, I’m still in favor of visiting Mackinac at a more off-season time; while there were still some crowds, it was quite peaceful overall. Just bundle up and you’ll be fine!
You would expect that an island as tiny as Mackinac would have limited dining options and, while that’s sort of true, I do think there are lots of little gems. We had dinner our first night at the Pink Pony (in the dining room, rather than the more casual bar area) and it was a surprisingly good meal. In fact, my Pasta DiAngelina (shrimp, pancetta, and pine nuts with angel hair pasta) was downright delicious.
One of the things that Mackinac Island is known for is its fudge. When I was a little girl visiting the island, my aunts and uncles always used to say “It’s time to fudge up” whenever they felt the moment had come for us to break open our boxes of fudge and cut off pieces for everyone to snack on. This happened very frequently, which is just as it should be on the Island, in my book. If there’s any place to indulge in this overly sweet treat, Mackinac Island is it. As we were there in October, all the fudge shops were making pumpkin pie fudge – and how can you say no to that?! We also sampled chocolate Butterfinger and penuche (brown sugar) fudge during our time there.
On Saturday morning, I woke up, looked out my window, and saw the most incredible sunrise coming up over the water. Not much can make me bolt downstairs at 7am, onto a public beach, without showering or doing my makeup or brushing my hair, but this did. I think it’s pretty clear why:
Once I’d gotten over my sunrise euphoria and made myself presentable, we stopped at the Seabiscuit Cafe for breakfast. My egg tart was so-so, but the bacon that came atop it was incredible. And I don’t even like bacon usually!
One of the main reasons we went to the Island was to visit my grandmother’s grave, which is tucked away in St. Ann’s cemetery, north of Fort Mackinac. After breakfast, we hiked up to the cemetery. I love how quiet it gets in this part of the island, where you’re hidden among sleepy, tree-lined paths. I can’t imagine a more peaceful resting place.
The walk back down from the cemetery was almost as beautiful as the cemetery itself. As you come down the hill by Fort Mackinac, you’re greeted with beautiful views of the Island itself, as well as the clear blue water beyond.
The other highlight of our time on Mackinac Island was a visit to the Grand Hotel and a fancy tea in the Grand’s gorgeous parlor…but as I’ve already gone overboard with photos here, that’s a story for another time!