VIDEO: No Man is an Island (Mackinac Island)

Posted In: Blog, Destinations, Video

Our visit to Amish country sent us back a few hundred years. While not quite the Wacky Wayback Machine of Amish land, Mackinac Island rolled the clock back at least a century or so.

Mackinac Island is a charming tourist destination that’s distinguished by what it DOESN’T have: motorized vehicles. It’s also a quaint little town with lovely Victorian architecture, well groomed parks, a marina, and a plethora of tourist-oriented shops and restaurants. But the REAL draw is the absence of cars. This is the anti-LA.

Why is not having cars such a big deal? It’s often said that Americans have a love affair with the car. The truth is that while we may indeed love cars, in the parlance of the times…it’s complicated.

We love the way cars make us feel. (Although most Ferrari are a bit more inspiring in this department than most Kia.) We love iconic car design, new and old. We love going fast. We love the freedom that cars have afforded us to explore this spectacular continent. If we were towing our Airstream with a pack of horses, our Long Long Honeymoon would be long indeed.

But cars have their downsides. About 100 years ago, bureaucrats began reorganizing cities to accommodate cars. In a nutshell, this meant the elimination of many pedestrian areas. It also facilitated a mass exodus from downtown areas to suburbs. Hey, they gave us what we wanted.

Cars are not only exorbitantly expensive to purchase, maintain, fuel, and insure, they are also incredibly dangerous. We suffer a little Vietnam War body count every year in the United States in terms of highway deaths. Meanwhile, they generate copious amounts of pollution and noise.

So it’s refreshing to step into a place without cars. Mackinac Island not only bans cars, it bans ALL MOTORIZED VEHICLES. Even electric bicycles will not be found here.

This universal ban by the city turned out to be a fantastic strategy to attract tourists. Let’s face it: you can buy fudge anywhere. You can view rock formations anywhere. You can visit shoreline anywhere (at least anywhere along Lake Huron). But you can’t escape motorized vehicles anywhere, not even in Amish country. In fact, you need to come to ONE PLACE: Mackinac Island.

Visiting Mackinac Island requires a little effort. There’s no bridge (naturally!) connecting the island to shore. So you need to take a ferry. The tickets cost a little over $10 per person, so if you plan on returning home, a couple will spend about $40 a day in fares. On the bright side, the ferry rides are fun and kids travel for half price.

Mackinac Island itself is basically a 3.8 square mile small town. In the off season (with winters so brutal that *don’t tell the tourists!* snowmobiles are allowed!) only a few hundred people brave the elements year round. So it’s a small town that comes alive during warm summer months. As a tourist destination, it has everything that you would expect. Lots of average restaurants, and a few good ones. Lots of t-shirt shops, and a few good ones. And then there’s that hotel.

The crown jewel of Mackinac Island is the Grand Hotel, an enormous Victorian behemoth perched high on a hillside overlooking Lake Huron. It’s grand indeed.

Although we didn’t stay at the hotel, we visited one evening for a brief poke around. The hotel facilities are impressive and make you feel like you’re prowling the deck of the Titanic around formal dinner hour. Unfortunately, no one wore “Get hitched” t-shirts during Victorian times. Although we weren’t asked to leave, we felt quite out of place. So after taking a quick gander at the festivities, we politely recused ourselves and returned to the unwashed masses.

Mackinac Island is a beautiful and unique place. The nearby camping is also good. Once you reach this portion of Michigan, in the shadow of the Mackinac Bridge to the Upper Peninsula — you really begin to feel like you are “out there” in a fabulously rural camping environment.


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Sean’s Tilley hat
Merrell Jungle Moc shoes
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