Click here to see the flowers on Mackinaw Island
Click here to learn more about the Mackinaw Bridge
Click here to learn about transportation on Mackinaw Island (no motor vehicles allowed)
Click here to see some examples of the homes on Mackinaw Island
Click here to see the transportation to the island.
It was the Victorians who made Mackinac Island one of the nation’s most favored summer resorts. In the post-Civil War industrial age and before automobiles, vacationers traveled by large lake excursion boats from Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit to the cooler climes of Mackinac Island. They danced to Strauss’ waltzes, listened to Sousa’s stirring marches, dined on whitefish and strolled along the broad decks. To accommodate overnight guests boat and railroad companies built summer hotels, such as the Grand Hotel in the late 19th century. Victorians, like travelers everywhere, shopped for souvenirs, and Mackinac shops supplied them.
In the 1890’s wealthy Midwestern industrialists who wanted to spent more than a few nights on Mackinac built their own summer cottages on the east and west bluffs. Soon a social life including tennis, hiking, bicycling, examining the local natural wonders, and at the turn of the century, golf at on the new Wawashkamo Golf Course.
Perhaps the most noticeable first impression visitors get of Mackinac Island is the absence of automobiles! Visitors and residents travel by foot, bicycle or horse drawn carriage. This tempo is more comparable to the 19th century. Tour carriages and taxis will take you wherever you want to go and it’s not long before you adjust to a slower pace most visitors have never known.
With over 80% of Mackinac Island in public hands you would expect little development and, fortunately, that’s true. Concerned with the disappearance of America’s finest natural treasures, Congress took steps in the early 1870s to ensure that some of these treasures would be preserved for posterity. In 1872 the federal government designated Yellowstone America’s first national park. In 1875 portions of federal land on popular Mackinac Island were given similar protection.
Other than issuing a small number of land leases for the sites of bluff cottages, all development was stopped. This ensured the preservation of most of the natural limestone formations such as Skull Cave, Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf. Twenty years later, when the last U.S. army soldiers left Fort Mackinac, all federal land, including the fort, became Michigan’s first state park. The newly appointed Park Commission limited all private development in the park and required leaseholders to maintain the distinctive Victorian architecture of their bluff cottages. In recent years the historical sites and fort buildings such as the Officers’ Stone Quarters have been restored to their original condition and brought to life through dioramas, period settings, guided tours and reenactments for the benefit of the thousands of summer visitors.
When the Park Commission purchased a Victorian cottage near Fort Mackinac in 1945 and designated it the Governor’s Summer Residence, it ensured politicians would beat a path to its door. John Kennedy rocked on the porch with Governor G. Mennen Williams in 1960 and won his important support for the Democratic nomination that year. More recently Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole conferred with state politicians here.
Is romance in your soul? Welcome to Mackinac Island. It was inevitable that 19th century writers would discover the Island’s charm, but even before the written word, Indian legends were part of its history. For many native Americans Arch Rock was created when a beautiful Indian maiden’s tears washed away the limestone bluff as she waited in vain for her lover to return.
In the 1820s a young army lieutenant on a tour of duty at Fort Mackinac sat on the porch of the Officers’ Stone Quarters and composed beautiful letters to his wife revealing his loneliness and love for her. During the Civil War, John C. Pemberton, now a general, commanded a Confederate army in Tennessee and had the dubious distinction of surrendering Vicksburg to U.S. Grant.
New England poet Henry Longfellow based his long narrative poem, in part, on written accounts of Henry R. Schoolcraft, an Indian agent who recorded information on Indian legends and culture while residing at Mackinac’s Indian Dormitory during the 1830s.
Edward Everett Hale wrote his”Man Without a Country” while sitting on the porch of the Mission House.
In the late 1880s Constance Fenimore Woolson, a popular novelist and close friend of Henry James, wrote her best-known book, Anne, which is the story of a young girl and her exciting adventures on Mackinac Island. Anne’s Tablet on the Fort bluff commemorates Woolson, as does nearby Anne Cottage.
Mark Twain, on an international tour to recoup his fortunes, visited Mackinac during July 1895 and lectured at Grand Hotel. According to his memoirs, Twain was paid $345 for this speaking engagement.
In 1946 after World War II MGM filmed a romantic tale of lost and found love called, This Time for Keeps starring the famous swimmer Esther Williams and Jimmy Durante.
In 1979 the Grand was again the setting for a romantic fantasy called Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. Each fall the hotel hosts a reunion of fans enchanted by the movie. But love is celebrated by ordinary folks, too. Each Saturday from June to September many real-life brides takes their wedding vows at picturesque Mackinac settings
You cannot leave the Island with out trying the Famous Mackinaw Island Fudge.