After a lovely stay in Munising Michigan we made a short two hour drive east across the UP to St. Ignace Michigan. Our purpose for stopping here was to visit the historical Mackinac Island which was a must see stop for me on the trip. Mackinac Island is the fudge capitol of the nation and the only forms of transportation are bicycle and horse drawn carriage. A person would have to be crazy not to have this place on their bucket list!
For our visit to Mackinac I choose the Carp River Campground in the Hiawatha National Forest. The campground was a short fifteen minute drive into the quaint town of St. Ignace to catch the ferry over to Mackinac. While the town was bustling with tourists enjoying their summer vacations, the campground was a serene oasis nestled on the shores of the tea colored Carp River. Our site was large and private, surrounded by tall trees and had stairs leading down to the river. We spent our first evening sitting on the banks with a cold beer watching the river flow swiftly by and wondering if the tree next to us was going to fall in the river. It actually did the next day making a huge booming sound across the forest.
We got up early the next morning eager to ride the ferry to Mackinac Island. There are several ferry lines that will take visitors across and they are all pretty comparable. We chose to ride the Star Line Hydro Jet Ferry. The cost was $24 a person for round trip and an additional $10 to take our bikes with us. Riding bikes around the island is one of the main attractions and we opted to bring our bikes instead of rent them over there. The rental prices were surprisingly reasonable but our butts like our own seats so we toted them across. The ferry crew was super helpful and friendly and made it a breeze to check in our bikes and enjoy the crossing.
As the ferry approached the island it looked like something out of a movie. Big beautiful houses sat regally along the shore line with colorful kites and banners waving in the wind. We grabbed our bikes and headed up the ramp onto Main Street and our senses were immediately assaulted by the sights, sounds, and smells of Mackinac Island. The smell was the first thing to get my attention. I would call it barnyard fudge. There was a strong rather unpleasant smell of horse feces and urine coming from the many horse drawn carriages. That smell was overlapped with the warm delicious sent of fudge making. To say the least it was quite confusing to the senses. It made me hungry yet repulsed at the same time. In addition to the smells, Mackinac is a visually stimulating with colorful bicycles parked at every inch of curb, big beautiful horses, lovely carriages, and brides and grooms in their finery. It’s a very popular place for weddings and we saw our fair share of bridal parties that day.
We jumped on our bikes and set off delighted to explore. We biked through town passing gift shops, restaurants, and of course the 15 fudge shops that make Mackinac the fudge capitol. We came across a huge expanse of grass right on the shore of Lake Huron were people were lounging on blankets or giant white wooden chairs. It was the ideal place to stop and eat our packed lunch. Everyone around was so happy to be there and the whole scene felt like something out of a movie. We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while people played Frisbee and flew kites.
After lunch we decided to bike the perimeter of the island. There is a bike path that follows all the way around the island. It is 8 miles of flat easy biking along the azure blue waters of Lake Huron. I didn’t know water of this color existed besides in the ocean. In fact, I felt like we were on the coast of some Caribbean Island as we cruised around on our bikes and watched big boats making waves in the distance. As we made our way around the island we stopped here and there to hike up to different lookout points and really appreciate the views. There is something about riding a bike without the hustle and bustle of car traffic in a beautiful place that makes everyone feel free and happy. I’ve never seen so many people with huge smiles on their faces at once as I did biking around Mackinac.
After we biked the whole outside of the island we stopped back on Main Street and parked our bikes. We wandered around the shops and sampled some heavenly fudge. Probably the best I’ve ever tasted! Then we hopped back on our bikes and explored the streets of town, admiring the historical old homes. We came across the stately Victorian Grand Hotel and were awestruck by its enormous porch that won it the title of largest porch in the world. The hotel really was grand! We watched as guests dressed up for dinner came down to wait for horse drawn carriages to pick them up for their evening out and we marveled at the beautiful flowers growing around perfectly manicured grounds.
We made a final pass on our bikes right through the center of the island to see the historical cemeteries and the small airstrip where several small private planes parked. We also passed by Fort Mackinac in time to hear a boom from a cannon. We were disappointed we had missed the last tour of the day of the fort but it was time to catch our ferry anyway.
As the ferry headed away from the island I was sad to leave it behind. While I was glad I got to see it I felt like my day there wasn’t quite enough. I want to go back and spend a weekend, explore the fort, and take a carriage ride. For now it will do though. It was time to head back to The Cramper and get ready for our next stop on our summer adventure. Until next time Mackinac Island!