Mackinac Island, 2012 – Time Standing Still

I’ve been really excited for this post, because Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw), is a destination I have a feeling many people either haven’t heard of or don’t bother seeing. Whichever category you fit into, I suggest you high-tail it to the picturesque northern Michigan island immediately.

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When my British friend Carly decided to hop across the pond for another North American visit – her first being in 2009 – we knew we had to step up our hosting game for her return. Her first visit here was pretty low-key – it was our first time meeting in person, after all! – but this time we had a few adventurous ideas in mind.

Instead of travelling solo this time, Carly brought her best friend T over, who we immediately adored.

Our first adventure took us across the border into the US state of Michigan for a day trip to Mackinac Island.

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A helpful suggestion for any first time visitors – bring a sweater or coat, no matter the season. Mackinac Island is car-free (with the exception of a few emergency vehicles), so you’ll be parking on the main land and taking a ferry over. The wind gets a bit nippy on the ferry, even if you go in July like we did.

There are several options for transport on the island. You can rent a bicycle or horse, take a hop-on hop-off carriage tour, or use your own two feet to get you places. We chose the latter two options.

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The clothes people are wearing may be modern, but the town sure feels frozen in time. The carriage tours are a great way to explore Mackinac Island, as they have stops at all the must-see locations.

My favorite is Arch Rock. It’s a naturally formed limestone arch which played a key role in the formation of the Mackinac Island State Park. It sits atop a hill overlooking Lake Huron, and is the perfect spot for beautifully scenic photos.

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The only downside with Arch Rock is that as each carriage arrives, a fresh wave of people wanting pictures of Arch Rock appear. Plus, you don’t stay too long up at the top (if you take the same carriage back down), which can make it feel like a rushed stop. Still, the view alone is entirely worth any hassle.

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The Fort is definitely impressive, but the title of my second favorite stop has to go to the Grand Hotel.

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If this hotel looks vaguely familiar to you, you’ve probably seen Somewhere in Time. Opened in 1887, the original rates per night were about $5 – if only! Now, if you aren’t a guest, you aren’t even permitted close to the door. A security guard stopped our group based on our clothing and we didn’t catch on fast enough to pretend we were guests. Still, if you can stay here, I suspect people who have would highly recommend it.

The hotel was suffering financially by the time Somewhere in Time was filmed here, but the movie’s 1980 release sent visitors flocking to the site. If, like us, you find yourself not a guest of the hotel, farther down the hill there is a path through the woods which opens up onto the lower grasses. At the very least, you’ll get a better view of the front of the hotel, and be able to more fully understand why so many people are drawn to it.

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We decided to forego a carriage ride back down the rest of the hill to Mackinac Island’s downtown area, and instead spent a leisurely walk talking, laughing, and of course, checking out the sites and stores. There are plenty of gift opportunities, particularly for that special Somewhere in Time fan you know!

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Our day was wonderful, crowds at Arch Rock and entry denial to the Grand Hotel aside. If you aren’t too far away from Mackinac Island, I highly suggest it as a wonderful day trip getaway.

Have you been inside the Grand Hotel? Did it live up to your movie- and or history-loving expectations?

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