Once the center of the American fur trade, Mackinac Island holds great historic significance for the state of Michigan. Today, Mackinac Island is a major summer retreat for families and adventurers of all types.
Visitors to the Island almost have no choice but to enjoy Mackinac Island State Park, which encompasses 82 percent of the Island. In the center of the park is Fort Mackinac, founded in 1780, and home to one of the oldest public buildings in the state of Michigan–the Officers Stone Quarters. The Fort played a central role in the Island’s rich history, having traded possession between Britain and America several times between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. A little over a hundred years after the Fort was claimed by America once and for all, a young Gerald Ford visited Mackinac Island with his 1929 Boy Scout troop. The organization has since kept the tradition alive, bringing troops in every summer to explore the site and learn about its important place in history.
Boasting 70 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails (that’s more than 1,200 football fields), Mackinac Island is an ideal vacation spot for active outdoor lovers. Cars have been banned since the late 1800’s, and the M-185 is the only state highway in the country that is not utilized by vehicles. If you want to get around Mackinac Island, you have to travel by foot, bicycle, or horse. Visitors who prefer cycling can take advantage of the 1,489 bikes for rent on the Island. Approximately 500 horses are transported to the Island by ferry every spring, along with 5,000 horseshoes, 1,550 tons of hay, 460 tons of oats, and 200 tons of supplemental foods to keep the horses happy during the season.
What keeps Mackinac Island visitors happy? Aside from the scenic views and fun-filled attractions, at the top of the list is the Island’s famous fudge, specifically double chocolate–a fan favorite! Mackinac Island imports 10 tons of butter per year, as well as 10 tons of sugar per week during peak season to make its signature treat. Nearly 80 percent of that sugar used comes from the state of Michigan. There are 14 fudge shops on the Island.
If you are hearing wedding bells, it is very likely that you are on Mackinac Island, the wedding capital of Michigan. Weddings of all sizes and price tags take place almost daily on the Island, which is home to 63 wedding vendors. A couple’s wedding day is the happiest of their lives, and for an extra special touch, brides and grooms who marry on Mackinac Island can take a fairytale horse and carriage from ceremony to reception.
Water, Water Everywhere
Prior to the formation of the great lakes, Mackinac Island was largely underwater, covered by Lake Algonquin and Lake Nippsing. Now, however, Michiganders know to look for Mackinac in Lake Huron, which aside from providing a beautiful backdrop to the Island’s shoreline, also supplies drinking water to its many visitors and inhabitants. The lake’s high-quality drinking water can be attributed to its strong currents and great depth, plunging deeper than 120 feet. These same conditions, however, can also be blamed for the great number of shipwrecks the Island has seen throughout history. In fact, there were approximately 30,000 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes area surrounding Mackinac Island in the 1800s–most of which occurred in the month of November. In the Straits of Mackinac, there were a reported 78 more; however, only 14 of those documented were ever recovered. In an attempt to make travel to and from the Island safer, more than 100 Michigan lighthouses were built between 1850 and 1950 and the last reported shipwreck occurred in 1965. Mackinac Island’s Round Island Lighthouse was built in 1895 and can be toured once a year in July. Today’s visitors to the Island can rest easy knowing transportation to and fro has vastly improved with the modern ferry system!