I was lucky enough to spend a long weekend on Mackinac Island (pronounced mack-in-aw) to celebrate Meg’s bachelorette party. I’d take this party over Vegas any day. Meg’s two aunts have homes on Mackinac Island and one of them offered to let us use her home as our party house! Just kidding. In between the fun times, we cleaned up after ourselves, did the dishes, a little laundry and took the adorable dog, Winky, for a long walk. A long walk where I slipped and slow-motion fell in mud and then we laughed until we cried.
If you don’t know about Mackinac Island, it’s a small island located in Lake Huron between Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas. The view from the island is spectacular and the streets are lined with charming homes and bed and breakfasts. It can be very touristy downtown, but since we were staying with locals, we had the insider’s tour of the island.
I took the picture below at a rest stop on the way. Fun fact: We (Michigan folks) use our hands as a map. You know, to point out cities, places of interest, where we grew up, etc. It’s what we do.
You need to take one of several ferries to get to the island. Our road trip had been windy and sunny, but when we arrived to take the ferry, huge gray clouds loomed. We were awed by the weather and also afraid of being poured on. Thankfully, only a few sprinkles dropped on us. It was still a beautiful ferry ride
Only emergency motorized vehicles are allowed on the island and your transportation choices are walk, ride a bike or take a horse-drawn carriage. Our entourage amassed an impressive amount of luggage and coolers, so two of us hopped on the carriage taxi while the other gals rode bikes to the house.
The first night, Meg’s aunts hosted a barbecue for us and it was just so nice! The barbecue was at her other aunt’s home and it is very close to Fort Mackinac. The fort was established in the late 18th century by the British to control the straits of Mackinac and in turn, the great lakes fur trade, during the American Revolutionary War. It was funny how her aunts didn’t skip a beat while telling a story as a cannon shot or when taps began to play lightly in the distance.
The next morning we went downtown to sample fudge and do a little shopping. Mackinac Island fudge is famous (in Michigan at least) and there are several shops where you can buy it in a variety of flavors. Mackinac Island Fudge is a popular ice cream flavor in Michigan, too. It was always my best friend’s favorite flavor while growing up.
The aunts recommended getting a free sample at each fudge shop before buying. They explained that some are creamier and some are grainier and everyone has their own preference. I honestly have never liked fudge, but I wanted to buy some for Marc. All of the girls unanimously agreed that Joann’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Fudge was the best by far. I think I like fudge now.
Meg wanted to go swimming at The Grand Hotel that afternoon and you can for a fee, if you are not staying at the hotel. The Grand Hotel was built in the late 19th century and has had famous guests like Mark Twain, Thomas Edison and several presidents. It has the longest wooden porch in the world.
I’ve only been to Mackinac Island once before and I experienced that if you ride your bike along the front of the hotel, there are people from the hotel that politely encourage you to move it along because it is expensive to stay there and they try to discourage gawkers. Meg showed us the side entrance to the pool past their charming greenhouse filled with geraniums. Soon we were living the life.
It was a beautiful day and the pool was refreshing without being too cold. I couldn’t believe how large it was. We picked a few lounge chairs in the grass behind the pool to catch a few rays (do people say that anymore?) and we could see the huge Grand Hotel over our shoulder. Drinks are pricey, but my Mai Tai completed the relaxing vacation feel of the moment. The red geranium is The Grand Hotel’s signature logo and the restroom by the pool had geranium scented hand soap. Fancy!
After our afternoon at the pool, we showered and primped for Meg’s big night. The aunts had planned for us to bike to different parts of the island for drinks. We were asked to wear a dress and heels and Meg asked us to wear a wide-brimmed hat. Just so you know, dresses, heels, big hats and bikes don’t go together very well, but we had a blast! Five minutes into our ride, Bethany’s skirt was caught in the bike gears and my hat flew off, but when we reached our first stop, it was amazing.
This lookout point gave us a great view of the lake and a distant view of the Mackinac Bridge, (see the first photo for a closer shot of the bridge) a 5 mile suspension bridge which until 1998, was the longest suspension bridge in the world. A few years back Marc and I went on a tour of San Francisco and our tour guide took us to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge to appreciate its majesty. Marc’s first reaction was that it seemed small! He meant no disrespect, of course, but could not help but tell our tour guide all about The Mighty Mac, the bridge he visited every summer as a kid.
The aunts, Meg’s mom and a few other family friends brought platters of appetizers and bottles of champagne that they biked up there for us to share with Meg. We had mini pulled pork sandwiches, caprese on toothpicks, crackers with dip and assorted meats and cheeses.
Our next stop was The Woods, a bar and restaurant affiliated with The Grand Hotel. It has America’s oldest operating duckpin bowling alley and it was MINT GREEN. It had an upscale cabin feel to it with black, emerald and deep red accents. The ladies room was a shocking fuchsia pink with the same geranium soap we had seen at the pool. We had a drink, bowled a little and hopped on our bikes for the next stop into the dark night lit by the full moon.
The temperature dipped after the sun went down and we all grabbed fleeces and cardigans that had been packed into any bike with a basket. Our next stop was the Grand Hotel’s Cupola bar, but first, we stopped to dance in the Grand Ballroom. I thought there was a wedding reception in progress, but nope! Fancy people just like to dance to an incredible live band every night. It was awesome. We saw evening gowns and men in suits because dressy attire is required in most parts of the hotel.
We then climbed the stairs to the Cupola Bar where you can see a panoramic view of Mackinac. It was too dark up there to capture the moment, but I did have a classy drink with champagne and candied orange peel.
Our last stop was downtown to Horn’s Gaslight Bar for another live band and a drink. The place was packed and my big-brimmed hat felt huge in that crowded bar. I could have taken it off, sure, but what’s the fun in that? I was also afraid of hat head. We danced and danced to classic rock n’ roll.
This is what Mackinac Island looks like at night. The streets are pretty quiet after the tourists (called fudgies by the locals) leave on the final ferry of the night.
The next morning, I made buttermilk pancakes for the girls and we packed our things. It was another gorgeous day in the 70’s with big puffy clouds. Three of us took the bikes back that we borrowed from Meg’s aunt as we marveled at another beautiful day.
We picked up a few things at our favorite shops downtown, like the gift shop Little Luxuries and the aunts’ book store Island Book Store. We also bought our favorite fudge from Joann’s. Then it was time to get on the Sunday afternoon ferry back to reality. I like to call the photo below: no makeup, no sleep, no problem.
I couldn’t help taking a few more phone photos of that gorgeous day while we recounted our favorite moments from the weekend.