Back to School, Back to Mackinac Island

For twenty years, I have been leading elementary school field trips “Up North” over the Straits of Mackinac to Mackinac Island. Thousands of young people and their parents have enjoyed the unique magic of the Island and returned with special Mackinac memories. Here’s how a typical trip unfolds.

The kids are in awe with their first glimpse of the Mackinac Bridge. Their excitement peaks as our Mackinac Island Ferry Company leaves the harbor and Captain Chuck blasts the horn. Soon after, the sight of the Grand Hotel and Fort Mackinac, big and white on top of the Island’s bluff, signals we are almost there.

Checking into the Inn on Mackinac or the Murray Hotel creates a buzz of excitement as we realize our home for the next two days will be a beautiful hotel and that we’re on one of the most unique islands on Earth. No cars, just horses and bicycles. There is no traffic noise – only the gulls, boat horns and horse’s hooves clomping on the pavement.

Unforgettable memories are made while bicycling around the Island, snapping photos at Arch Rock, posing on the cannon at British Landing and exploring Devil’s Kitchen, a small cave carved into a rocky shoreline cliff. The Island’s forts are full of riveting history.

Grand Hotel is aptly named, with an incredible view from the Cupola Bar and the World’s Longest Front Porch. Our trips include lunch at this legendary establishment.

Everyone seems to sleep well each night as we listen to the passing horse taxis. Before you know it, it’s time to pack up, say goodbye, take goofy class pictures and return to the ferry dock.

The tour buses are waiting after another smooth crossing of the Straits. Loaded up, we are on to Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park, where we’ll further explore the local nature and history. But there’s one big question: who gets to be the pit man during the pit saw demonstration?

Back in Mackinaw City, we say goodbye to Fort Michilimackinac to our right, Mackinac Island to our left, and the Bridge behind us. Then, we embark on a safe trip home full of Mackinac memories and anticipation for our next trip “Up North.”

Tom Byrum has escorted or helped arrange 2,500+ young people and chaperones to visit “Up North” over the last 20 years. He is a retired educator.

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