~Friday, July 9, 2021~
A day we’ve been looking forward to for so long, and one of the top highlights of the trip so far…...visiting Mackinac Island, and even better, that we got to experience it with our bro-in-law.
We nailed it in choosing the perfect day to visit; before the weekend crowd (even though it was still very crowded), and the best weather day we were going to have while in the U.P. Tim walked over from his hotel (it is that close to our campsite). We wanted to get an early start, with the first item in order being a nice big breakfast of bacon, eggs, and homemade banana muffins that would hold us over until midday. As we ate outside, it was interesting to hear Tim’s perspective about our new lifestyle and how amazing it must be to wake up EVERYDAY to what used to be only a 2-week/year vacation for us. Thanks for the reminder of just how lucky we are that we get to live this ever-evolving, amazing experience every single day.
Before going to the ferry building, which was only 5 minutes from the campground, Tim wanted to stop off at his hotel again to look into discount tickets for the ferry ride. (normally $29 each at the dock or $27 online). The hotel’s price was $26 so we went that route. Got to terminal 1, checked in our bikes and got in line for the next ferry which runs every 30 minutes. Everything appeared to be going smoothly until the attendant came over to scan our tickets. We found out the ferry tickets we bought at the hotel were for a different ferry company. Oh no! Our bikes were already loaded, and we’re basically ready to go. To eliminate the hassle, we decided to move forward with purchasing the tickets for this ferry, in hopes of getting a refund from the hotel. Getting refunds and demanding good customer service is part of my wheelhouse, so I told Tim I would work on getting our money back. No luck with the first representative, but with the manager, yes. I was very pleasant in explaining our situation and in about 30 seconds of the conversation, received a YES! I never cave until I get a favorable response. They should have explained that there was more than one ferry service when giving out tickets. Especially for dunces like us.
Loaded and ready, we enjoyed the 18-minute ferry ride over to the island, with no expectations. We had no idea just how beautiful this island and its surrounding
area would be. All we knew was that it was a must stop while visiting the U.P. A little background: Mackinac Island and the surrounding Great Lakes were formed about 13,000 B.C. when glaciers from the last ice age melted. Artifacts from the past have revealed a Native American occupancy dating back to 900 AD. Automobiles were banned in 1898 leaving visitors to get around on foot, bicycle or horse-drawn buggies. It is the only city in the U.S. where motor vehicles are banned.
We disembarked the ferry with our bikes, then immediately headed to the bike shop for Tim to pick up his rental for the ½ day rate. If you want to see the entire island, having bikes is critical. As we started out, we just kind of mingled in with the horses and people, but seriously, I’ve never seen so many bikes. Pedestrians are only allowed on the sidewalks leaving the streets for cyclists and horses. Market Street seemed like the perfect starting point with its numerous shops, restaurants and attractions. I swear we must have seen at least 15 fudge shops, 10 t-shirt boutiques and 10 carriages, all on one street.
Within 10 minutes, we were ready for calmness. There is an 8.2 mile loop around the island called Lake Shore Blvd. and have to say, was my favorite part of the island. It is absolutely stunning with views of Lake Huron all around. If you want to “pull-over” you simply park your bike near the sidewalk along with the hundreds of other bikes, no lock necessary (we didn’t see one bike locked up),
and check out such sites as Arch Rock (a 144-foot tall natural limestone arch), Devil’s Kitchen, the Skull Cave and Sugar Loaf Rock. There are a few interpretive signs along the way. Part of the road was apparently washed out or too muddy for bikes to cross, which forced everyone to take a detour route on British Landing Road. The map stated that it was really hilly, but only for a very small portion where I simply walked my bike up. The rest of the way was slightly muddy but pretty level, and a nice ride through the forest until you’re once again on the main road. We even saw them reinforcing a portion of the shore with huge limestone rock, so they clearly have an erosion problem.
After our ride around the island, we built up an appetite so went back to Market Street to check out the food scene. We ended up at a perfect spot called The Great Turtle Brewing Co. While the boys grabbed a beer at the bar during our 30-minute wait (turned out to be only 15 minutes), I walked down to a few shops. Something told me to head back, where the boys were already seated outside, placing their order. I ordered Fish’n Chips (never had this in a whole fish style) while the boys ordered a 3-meat hamburger. All delicious, fun people watching from the Market Street balcony, while listening to an acoustic guitarist playing old 70’s tunes. Our waiter was very nice, a young man from California who now lives on Mackinac Island. Hard to imagine living here full-time, though it is quite beautiful.
Much to the boy's dismay, we did our loop of shops. I bought a t-shirt, Tim bought a hat, and Jeff enjoyed seeing us buy souvenirs. Then we got back on the bikes, stopped at a few churches (Catholic, Protestant and Episcopalian), then walked up to the top of Fort Mackinac. This was a British and American military outpost garrisoned in the late 18th century, a home for soldiers and their families. They offer live programs and tours but were closed for the day by the time we arrived. At least we got to see spectacular views from that vantage point.
Sad to end such a wonderful day, but we had to get back to our pups. We were completely wiped out from all that fresh air and sunshine, taking in all things Mackinac. Jeff and I may do it again before leaving the U.P. We’ll see. When we got back, we thought we’d take a walk down to the water with Sadie and check out the other campsites. We definitely know where to camp next time…...the lower loop 1 with its views of Lake Huron and the Mackinac Bridge. We’re keeping all of our campground maps of the trip (at least the ones that we’ve thoroughly enjoyed), and noted which sites to book for our future visits. And the proximity of Straits State Park in general, to Mackinac Island is perfect; just an 18 minute ferry ride. After some time at the water, we discovered an alternative route back to our campsite…...a forested trail. With our late lunch, we forfeited dinner. In fact, I wasn’t feeling all that great…..a little upset stomach and exhaustion. In bed by 10:00 for me 😮😴 while Jeff and Tim enjoyed some nighttime conversation by the fireless fire pit.