Good morning all! I hope you are all doing well. I’m so pleased to share with you this guest post from the lovely Jenn (you can find out more about her in the author bio below). Since I’m UK based, I love getting posts like this as it helps me explore more of the world that I haven’t visited yet. Even a virtual tour of places like this is still an exciting thing, and it is definitely a post that is well worth a read. Here are five more places that you need to add to your bucket list!
No cars allowed, that’s the first rule of Mackinac Island. Mackinac Island is located on the Lake Huron side of the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan, creating a border between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
The Mackinac Bridge connects Michigan’s upper peninsula with Michigan’s lower peninsula. The Island remains a popular attraction for tourists and Michiganders to visit for its historical landmarks, infamous fudge, and unique island culture. In place of motorized vehicles, residents and tourists commute via bicycle, walking or by horses.
While some people choose to live on the island year-round, most of the tourism and foot traffic of Mackinac Island happens during the warmer months of the year. While some of the island may be considered a tourist trap, there are plenty of historical landmarks on Mackinac Island that you should visit.
The Legend of Mackinac Island
Let’s start with The Legend of Mackinac Island. The state of Michigan has a significant amount of Native American history that influenced their state, including The Legend of Mackinac Island. Before the island existed, Makinauk, the great turtle, would let other animals rest on his back when they were tired.
Eventually, Makinauk said the Great Spirit of the Sky wanted to create an island for animals to rest on, but in order to do this, one of the animals needed to dive deep down to the bottom of Lake Huron to retrieve soil. Numerous species tried and failed to retrieve soil, until a muskrat, who was considered least-likely to complete this task, was finally successful.
The island was believed to have formed from the soil the muskrat retrieved and then placed on the turtle’s back, which the outline of Mackinac Island resembles.
Now onto the historical landmarks:
Fort Mackinac was constructed by British Commander Patrick Sinclair around 1779. He knew building the fort on the bluffs would be a huge advantage for future battles. The United States was given the fort as part of The Treaty of London in 1796 and the British were to leave the premises.
However, it wouldn’t be the last time the British had control of the fort. On July 17th, 1812, during the War of 1812, British forces seized the fort from unsuspecting United States soldiers. The British maintained control of Fort Mackinac until the end of the war in 1814.
The fort didn’t change hands after the War of 1812, and it was eventually decommissioned in 1895. While the fort was still in commission, it served as a prison for Confederate sympathizers during the Civil War, and was the location of the murder of Corporal Hugh Flinn.
Now, the fort serves as an important historical landmark on Mackinac Island. The fort has been converted into a living museum that tourists can interact with during the warmer months of the year.
The Grand Hotel was built in 1887 as an example of the finest summer resorts in the world. The hotel holds the record of the world’s longest front porch (660 feet), and it’s considered one of America’s top-10 all-inclusive resorts.
The Grand Hotel was eventually declared a historic building by the state of Michigan in 1957, and later became declared a National Landmark by the United States in 1989. Famous guests of the Grand Hotel include: Mark Twain, Thomas Edison [where his phonograph was first demonstrated to the public], and five U.S. presidents. The hotel also served as the background for the 1980 movie “Somewhere in Time.”
If you plan to stay here, there’s no need to calculate tipping: all bills include an 18% gratuity fee automatically added. In addition, there is a dress code that guests need to adhere to when in public areas of the hotel. It offers 397 uniquely decorated rooms ranging by size and price, and children are allowed.
However, don’t expect to visit the Grand Hotel without potentially experiencing the paranormal; there have been many stories over the years of guests experiencing unexplained phenomena.
The hotel was believed to have been built on a Native American burial ground, and while the skeletons that were discovered were reburied elsewhere, the paranormal activity at the hotel continues to this day.
The Biddle House is home to the Native American Museum on Mackinac Island. The house was owned by Agatha and Edward Biddle, merchants that moved to the island during the 1830s.
Agatha was Anishnaabek [a tribe of Native Americans], which, along with other Native American tribes, were dealing with immense changes and repression during this time in history.
If you visit the Biddle House today, costumed interpreters will tell you the stories of the Biddles, the Anishinaabek, and the culture during the 1830s. You’ll also get to see cooking demonstrations and gallery displays throughout the house.
At the highest point of the island resides Fort Holmes. Fort Holmes was built by the British during the War of 1812, named Fort George at the time in honor of King George III.
Though small in size, the fort was able to hold back American soldiers until the end of the War of 1812, and was never captured. Once the United States gained control of the fort, they named it after Major Andrew Holmes, who was killed in 1814 during one of the attempted recaptures of the fort by American soldiers.
The fort was abandoned after the War of 1812 and was left to decay. It’s gone through two restoration projects, with its recent restoration meant to mimic how it looked back in 1817.
Mission Church is considered Michigan’s oldest surviving church building. The church is located on the east end of downtown Mackinac Island, and was the island’s first Protestant church, and possibly the oldest non-Catholic church in the Northwest. It was listed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1971.
The church is technically no longer in service, but as part of Mackinac Island State Park, it remains open for people to visit during the year. Like many of the churches on the island, you can hold a wedding at Mission Church.
Those are only a handful of historical sites you can see on Mackinac Island. If you want to learn more, you’ll have to visit the island yourself! The island is normally open for visitors to come from April to October.
You can easily plan a day-trip on the island, but if you want to stay for a few days, there are plenty of accommodations like the Grand Hotel where guests can stay the night. And don’t forget to get some fudge.
Jenn Kalchik is a lifestyle blogger and digital marketer currently living in Wisconsin. Her blog, Jenn & Tonic, highlights her take on life through lifestyle topics, book reviews, her experience with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and digital marketing tips. She’s fueled by chardonnay, cast recordings, and chocolate.