This summer we headed to Mackinac (Mackinaw) Island in northern Michigan just beneath the Upper Peninsula. A trip planned at the last minute, we packed our bags and armed with books/videos for the kids, embarked on a 500-mile road trip which seemed quite an ordeal with two kids. At the end of the day, Barney saved us!
A quick drive up north to Michigan City followed by several interstate exchanges let us enjoy the picturesque pastures and rolling hills that make up most of Michigan. This reminded me of scenic drives through Missouri several moons ago and is quite unlike the flat plain lands of Indiana and Illinois. We reached Mackinac City situated on the tip of Lake Huron, one of the Great Lakes. The city's downtown is lined with rows of quaint small shops and docks for ferry rides to the Island. There are also a couple of neat attractions, including Colonial Michilimackinac right beneath the Mackinac Bridge on Lake Huron. It is very convenient to stay in the city and take a ferry to the Island.
Rise and shine. We are off to the Island in Shepler's Ferry that uses the latest hydroplaning technology, enabling the ferry to zip through in a relatively short time. After about 15 minutes or so, we are dropped off on the island. The neat thing is that absolutely no automobiles are allowed on this island that is extremely pristine and you cannot help falling in love with the cobblestone roads and Victorian architecture surrounded by an incredibly beautiful lake. Everywhere you see horse drawn carriages and bikes. There are numerous hiking trails or you can bike on an eight-mile loop around the island. We set forth on a buggy ride and this tour passes by the famous Grand Hotel (they charge you $10 just to enter the lobby) and through the foliage on the island, allowing you to feast your eyes on the rich flora and fauna, including a natural 'Arch Rock' formation. The British and French used to trade furs with the natives for maple syrup and other goods during the 17th century. The tour makes several stops and you can get down and enjoy the attractions and hop back on the next one. A few modern attractions like the Butterfly garden is nestled along with well kept Colonial attractions such as Blacksmith shops and Condiment stores. This is very similar to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia and Conner Prairie near Indianapolis. Then later in the afternoon we walked up the ramparts of Fort Mackinac, which turned out to be a good workout. Fortunately, the weather was an incredible 70 'F and once we reached the top of the Fort, we did not regret it. There were a couple of Rifle firing demonstrations on the Fort Grounds followed by an interactive demo of toys that were used by the children during Colonial times. The highlight of the Fort was the Canon Firing demonstration, which is a neat show for both kids and adults.
Then it was time to head to the Lake and enjoy the blue, green and azure dazzle that beckons you from afar. The other interesting fact is that in all of the Great Lakes you can see freighters that plow the waters regularly. Finally, you can't leave the island without trying Mackinac Fudge!
We left Mackinac City and headed North to the Upper Peninsula via the Mackinac Bridge. This is the longest suspension bridge in the world and is longer than the Golden Gate Bridge. We reached Salte Saint Marie on the US-Canadian Border. The reason for coming to this place was to see the famous Soo Locks, which was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers. An incredible feat in that the Locks alter the level of the waters in the lakes when huge freighters come from Lake Huron and have to go to Lake Superior. You can ride a ferry through the Locks and watch yourself being transported up to a height of 21 feet and then down again on the way back. One has to experience this in order to appreciate this engineering marvel.
We then set off for Traverse City on US 31, passing through a number of quaint small towns spread along the coastline. Another interesting fact is that Michigan, which is in the Midwest, has the largest number of lighthouses compared to any other state in the country.
Once again we headed up a little north winding up on US 22 to travel to the tip on the Grand Traverse Bay and stopped at Sutton's Bay, an interesting little town with absolutely no stoplights or parking meters. The Lake is dotted with yachts and sailboats and white sandy beaches. The beauty of these small towns along the lake is that they offer a completely different landscape in spite of being in the Midwest! I was reminded of Sausalito Bay in Northern California and Norfolk in Virginia. Traverse City happens to be the Cherry capital of the world and you see a lot of farms on the way beckoning you to stop and try cherries and strawberries.
We headed back down South on US 31 and as we approached another small town, we had to take one last peek to see what it had to offer. Manistee on Lake Michigan was hosting a Beach Festival that day and as we ventured in further we couldn't resist entering the cool waters of the Lake.