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.