5 hours on Mackinac Island
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Then over to the walk leading out of the west end end
of the downtown.
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.
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LS 8/14 copyright 2004-2014 by Keith Stokes. These photos may not be reproduced without written permission.