Mackinac Island-Not a Car in Sight

You  pronounce  it  “Mack-i-naw,”  like  the raincoat  (the  mainland  town  where  the ferries  operate  from  is  spelled  Mackinaw City, just so out-of-towners get it straight). Cropping  out  of  the  Straits  of  Mackinac, which   separate   the   Upper   and   Lower  peninsulas  of  Michigan  at  their  closest point, this summer resort island is a Victorian  period  piece  of  white  frame  houses and trim gardens. The only way to reach it is by private plane or ferry; and since you can’t  bring  a  car  you  have  three  options for  getting  around  the  island:  on  foot,  by horse-drawn carriage, and on a bike. Pedaling  happily  along  the  limestone  cliffs overlooking  the  straits,  you  may  wonder why the automobile was ever invented.

A complete circuit of the island on trafficfree Lake Shore Road only takes 8 miles, doable even with fairly young riders (rental bikes in town also offer child seats and trailers if that’s a better option for you). You’ll have  to  stop  along  the  way,  of  course,  to drink  in  the  views—don’t  miss  Arch  Rock on the east coast, a boulder pierced with a gaping  30-  by  40-foot  hole  gouged  by waves and glaciers, or Sunset Rock on the west bluff above town. Most of the island is covered  by  Mackinac  Island  State  Park,  with  70  miles  of  paved  roads  and trails where cyclists can explore the cedar-and   birch-forested   interior.   Above   the town, you can also cycle up to Fort Mackinac  (7127  Huron  Rd.),  built  by  British  soldiers  during  the  American  Revolution  to defend  the  link  between  Lakes  Michigan and Huron, vital to the lucrative fur trade. Fourteen buildings, mostly from the 1880s, are still intact, and costumed interpreters do  military  reenactments;  shoot  off  rifles and  cannons;  lead  children’s  games;  and perform  bugle,  fife-and-drum,  and  bagpipe  music.  The  cliff-top  site  was  chosen specifically for sentries to watch over the lakes, so you can just imagine how fantastic the views are.

Of  course,  if  you’d  rather  take  in  the scenery  from  a  rocking  chair,  you  can always  plunk  yourself  down  on  the  white colonnaded veranda—the world’s longest front   porch—of   the   landmark   Grand Hotel,  built  in  1887.  Even  if you’re not staying here, you can tour the historic hotel. In the center of town, a few neat low white buildings recall the days of the  early-18th-century  fur  traders,  along with  a  bark  chapel  built  by  the  original Huron natives.