Touring Mackinac Island, Michigan
5 hours on Mackinac Island
Photo Journal
Mackinac City Marina
Shepler's Ferry departs Mackinaw City Marina

While visiting my parents in Mackinaw City, Michigan on July 31, 2004, I decided to make a daytrip to Mackinac Island. I had recently purchased a higher resolution camera and wanted to get some new photos for While I recommend setting aside a whole day for visiting Mackinac Island (or staying overnight if your budget permits), a good time can still be had in just a half day.

This Saturday morning was overcast and foggy and followed a rainy Friday, so I almost didn't go. But while debating how to spend the day, the sun poked through and I decided to make the trip to Mackinac Island.

Other northern Michigan Trips

Mackinac Island in Winter

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Keith's other trips

Mackinac Island pictures

Mackinac Island
I chose to ride Shepler's Ferry to Mackinac Island this day. Shepler's & Star Line oferry services between Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island do a good job and the main reason to pick one is personal taste or convenience of location. When I took the round trip ferry in 2004, the fare was $17, not too bad considering it was around $10 in the mid '70s. Inflation and fuel prices hit the Mackinac Island ferry companies hard in the next few years and the price has risen to $25 in 2014. As of 2014, Arnold Transit Company uses much slower ferries, which travel less often at a slightly lower price.

The nine mile ferry ride from Mackinaw City to Mackinac Island takes about 20 minutes, though the departure from Mackinaw City was delayed slightly while presentations were made to the three employees of the month. The crowd seemed to enjoy the presentations.

sail boat in Straits of Mackinac
Sailboat on the Straits of Mackinac
Mackinac Island Main Steet
Huron (Main) street with Fort Mackinac in distance
Mackinac Island Main Street with horses
Looking south along Huron Street
Father Marquette statue - 1909
Father Marquette statue in the park in front of Fort Mackinac

Arriving on Mackinac Island about 10:30AM, it was hard to figure out what the weather was doing. It stayed foggy, while changing briefly between sunny, cloudy or lightly raining. I walked east on the main street, taking a few photos. The downtown was busy, but not crowded the way it can be during the peak tourist season from mid-July until mid-August.

view of village of Mackinac Island
View of the Mackinac Island Harbor from Huron Road

At the east end of town, I climbed a set of about 150 steps up to Huron Road, a street with Victorian homes on one side and a bluff on the other. You can get up there by streets, but it is a lot longer walk. This stretch overlooks the Mackinac Island downton from the east and is one of my favorites. There are rarely many people around and you get views of the community that most people never see. I took many photos of the harbor, downtown, and nearby Round Island & Round Island Passage Lighthouses.

Ferry boats entering Mackinac harbor
Arnold Transit and Star Line Ferry boats entering Mackinac harbor
Grande Mariner cruise ship
183 foot Grande Mariner cruise ship
Round Island Light House, Round Island Passags Lighthouse
Round Island Lighthouse
Round Island Passage Lighthouse
Mackinac Island main street
Mackinac Island main street seen through trees

Then I walked west following the top of the bluff, on Anne's Tablet Trail through the woods and then along the back of Old Ford Mackinac. The woods were full of wildflowers, but they really can't compete with the many gardens at summer homes and businesses on the Island.

East Blockhouse
East Blockhouse Fort Mackinac built 1798
Fort Mackinac sally port
North Sally Port looking into Fort Mackinac
North Blockhouse
Fort Mackinac
North Blockhouse
West Blockhouse at Fort Mackinac
construction of Fort Mackinac started in 1780

After taking photos of Fort Mackinac and some of the nearby houses, I walked along Huron Road past the Michigan Governor's summer home and then on across the backside of the Grand Hotel golf course. There was a rented carriage on the road behind me, but even though I was taking my time, the family with the carriage could never get their horse going fast enough to catch me.

**Tip: The 112 year old Michigan Governor's Residence is open to visitors on Wednesday mornings from mid June to late August. Admission is free.

**Tip: Do not bicycle or walk through puddles on Mackinac Island. Particularly if it hasn't been raining. 

West Bluff Road on Mackinac Island
Victorian Homes on Mackinac Island's West Bluff Drive
Flower in the garden of one of the Victorian homes
Victorian house on West Bluff Drive
West Bluff Drive Victorian Home
Victorian house on West Bluff Drive
West Bluff Drive Victorian Home

I continued across Annex Road and down Grand Avenue to West Bluff Road (Google calls it Grand Hotel Avenue) with its gorgeous Victorian Homes. These huge homes have up to 15 bedrooms. The flowers in the gardens were spectacular. At the east end of the Road is the private street in front of the Grand Hotel.

**Tip: The Grand Hotel charges $10 for non guests to visit the Hotel and Grounds (the money is credited to any purchases made at the hotel), but they don't charge people coming from this direction. You will also avoid the charge if you go to the Grand Hotel by horse drawn taxi.

Grand Hotel lobby
1/2 of the Grand Hotel's main lobby
Cupola Bar
Upper level of the Grand Hotel Cupola Bar
carved glass chandelier
Chandelier in the Cupola Bar
swiming pool from Cupola Bar
Esther Williams swimming pool built for the movie This Time for Keeps

It started to rain harder just then, so I went on into the Grand Hotel, visiting the art gallery and gift shop.

When my shopping was finished, I took the elevator to the top floor and walked up two more floors to the upper level of the Cupola Bar. The two level bar is at the very top, center of the Grand Hotel. Although they serve meals in the Cupola Bar in the evening, during the day it is a rare quiet spot with unique views.

After some photography and relaxation, I returned to the Grand's main floor. It was time for lunch and since I haven't had the Grand Luncheon Buffet in years, I decided to splurge.

**Tip: although the Grand Hotel has a dress code after 6:30PM (jacket & tie for men, dresses or pants suits for women) relaxed clothing is fine during the day. T-shirts and cutoffs are prohibited in some areas.

Dinning room with the Grand Buffet
Grand Luncheon Buffet

view from my seat in the Grand Hotel restaurant
Grnad Hotel porch
World's longest front porch
Gardens at the Grand Hotel host many weddings & receptions

I hadn't thought to ask how much the Grand Hotel buffet was, and almost choked when they asked for $45. Still it includes tax & tip, and I don't do this often. The dining room was much as I remembered, very long and elegant. I was seated at a window with a view across the porch into the Straits of Mackinac. The tables along the windows have seats for just one or two people.

The servers at the Grand Hotel's Grand Luncheon Buffet are mostly from the Islands (St. John and others) and are in uniform. Many are second and third generation Grand Hotel employees returning to Mackinac Island each summer. The buffet uses a series of tables, over 70 foot long, with dishes on each side. Many fruits, cheeses, Hors d'oeuvres, salads, pastas, breads, oysters & mussels in the shell, two kinds of smoked salmon. My favorite items were two seafood dishes and the turkey.

The first dish on the Grand Hotel buffet was a chilled blend of octopus, shrimp, mussels and other seafood. The second was a wonderful hot dish of shrimp (small & very large), scallops and chopped sweet peppers in a sauce. The turkey breast had been basted with mustard and honey, then rolled in finely chopped nuts and bread crumbs before roasting.

There were 20 items on the buffet dessert table, but I limited myself to blueberry cheesecake.

During lunch, the fog had finally lifted. Although is was quite windy, it stayed mostly sunny for the rest of the day. I followed lunch with some people watching from one of the rocking chairs on the 660' long porch. The young families seemed to be having particular fun.

street in front of Grand Hotel
private street in front of the Grand Hotel
Grand Hotel - Mackinac Island
View of the Grand Hotel from Cadotte Avenue
Grand Hotel
built in 1887 of Michigan white pine
Cupola Bar at Grand Hotel
Grand Hotel Cupola

Then I walked down the hill leading from the Grand Hotel to downtown Mackinac Island, stopping to visit the little stone church. 100 years old in 2004, the Congregational Mackinac Island Church has stained glass windows depicting the early Christian mission to the island.

fountains on Grand Hotel Golf Course
fountains on Grand Hotel Golf Course (built 1901)
Michigan Governor's summer home
Michigan Governor's Summer Residence
Little Stone Church - Mackinac Island, Michigan
Little Stone Church
Window in Little Stone Church
Little Stone Church stained glass window

Then over to the walk leading out of the west end end of the downtown. 

Round Island Passage Lighthouse, Herring Gull
Round Island Passage Lighthouse
woman feeding seagulls
Woman feeding herring gulls with Round Island lighthouse in background
Round Island Lighthouse, sailboat
Round Island Lighthouse was the setting of a scene in Somewhere in Time
fiberglass turtle
Turtles Around Town, fiberglass turtle

A woman on the Mackinac Island shore was feeding seagulls and they would hang in the wind, barely moving. I experimented with getting the soaring gulls and lighthouses into the same photos. As I was about to move on, I overhead one of her friends complaining that they should have had pictures, and gave them my card, to email for a photo of her. But I never heard from them. I wonder is she has ever discovered her photo here?

I continued along the shore to the Mackinac Island library. The library is another of the great secret spots on the island. The back of the library has a sheltered deck with rocking chairs looking out at the channel and Round Island. Less than 100 feet from a bustling street, it is a wonderful quiet spot to escape the tourist crowds.

I was finally back along the west end of Huron Street to the Shepler's dock, arriving just in time to get a choice spot on the 3:00PM return ferry boat. With a 20 mph head wind and pretty good size waves, the front upper deck wasn't quite as choice as it sometimes is.

Mackinac Bridge
Mackinac Bridge
5 miles long with 8,614 feet suspended - the longest suspension in the Americas and third longest in the world

Other Pages on this site

Mackinac Bridge
Mackinac Island pictures
Mackinac Island
Sraits of Mackinac Lighthouses
Mackinac Lighthouses

Mackinac Island in Winter

LS 8/14   copyright 2004-2014 by Keith Stokes. These photos may not be reproduced without written permission.