Star Line ferry passes under the Mackinac Bridge
twice on a small detour enroute to Mackinac Island
on a May morning.
ISLAND, Mich. — On a warm day in May, there is nowhere
in the world like Mackinac Island.
like summer without crowds. Like getting a seat backstage.
a season of daffodils — the tulips not up yet — and
clean, clear views of the Mackinac Bridge and a chance to
ride a bicycle around the island practically alone.
it’s a chance to see what’s new on this old island
that has made it through yet another hard winter. Off come
the shutters. Out come the bicycles. Put up the wicker
porch furniture! Brush on the fresh paint!
take a walk and see what’s new, along with what’s old
and still great.
Bicycle Street Inn
among the new sights on the island is the brand new
Bicycle Street Inn & Suites, which opened May 5
downtown. It is the first newly constructed hotel on the
island in 13 years, and its grand opening will be May 31.
36-room hotel features 24 large balcony suites that look
out over the harbor or onto the quiet neighborhoods behind
Main Street. The lobby was still being completed when I
stayed there, but it contains a large Sanders, a
restaurant, a pretty gift store with marble floors, a
sunglasses shop and an American Indian store. Hotel
registration is in the rear of the lobby. On the upper
levels, rooms surround an airy glass atrium. Suites
feature large bathrooms, flat-screen TVs, a living area
and bedroom with a door between them, periwinkle-blue
satin curtains and bed skirts.
tried to merge the historical feel with the flat-screen
TV," says co-developer and general manager Melanie
Libby. Tourists don’t realize the achievement of
building anything on Mackinac Island, but for the Bicycle
Inn, "we brought over 4 million pounds of concrete by
boat, then pulled it across the street by horse, plus we
brought in another million pounds of wood," says
Libby’s business partner Ira Green.
Bicycle Inn’s 1870s-style neo-classical cream exterior
blends into the streetscape. Developers plan to construct
another hotel directly across the street from this new
hotel by 2015. I’m not sure what that will do to balcony
views, but right now it is charming, with the red-striped
awnings of the Mackinac Island Bike Shop and the turquoise
harbor with its chugging ferries.
the morning, I hear water running. I look down off the
balcony to see a man washing the street, dawn breaking. It’s
a wonderful perspective on Mackinac Island, standing on a
balcony on Main Street as summer tiptoes in.
Sadie at the Grand
at the Grand Hotel, the venerable lodging is showing off
its new Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor. At the east end of the
hotel, Sadie’s is open even to the unwashed masses who
aren’t guests. With a whimsical black-and-red interior,
serving Hudsonville ice cream, it is in honor of Sadie,
the owners’ Scottish terrier who won best in show at the
2010 Westminster Dog Show. The grand opening is June 1.
is also the first year that hotel operations will be
entirely on the shoulders of president R. D. Musser III
and his staff after the semiretired R.D. Musser Jr. passed
away in April. What hasn’t changed at the hotel? The
incredible view from the long front porch. The fine
breakfast. The geranium carpet in the lobby. The courtly
service. The general air of civilization.
Good old Ft. Mackinac
tourists never get up to the fort because they are too
lazy to walk up the steep ramp. Do it. You will never get
better photographs of the island than from Ft. Mackinac.
Plus, you can jolt the kids awake with cannon booms and
rifle blasts this year in honor of the continuing
anniversary of the War of 1812.
Ferry under the Mac
started with just a few ferries, but this year many trips
a day will do a small detour that takes you right under
the awesome Mackinac Bridge en route to or from Mackinac
Island. Don’t miss it. For summer hours and dates, see
Star Line, Arnold Transit and Shepler’s Ferry.
Genteel Silver Birches
along the lake shore about 31/2 miles north of town to see
Silver Birches. The crumbling yet magnificent 1906
Adirondack-style log mansion, which had served as a
resort, was a private house until a couple years ago. It
will be renovated as a resort by its new owner in a
sure-to-be-expensive labor of love. From the road, you can
easily see the mansion and the major work that needs
doing. Locals love to tell about the enormous swimming
pool out back with a tree growing in the middle of it.
may seem old hat, but have some respect for island fudge
makers. It’s hard to make fudge that turns out well and
doesn’t burn, drip to the floor or harden in weird
shapes in front of a snickering crowd (trust me, I tried
it). And just watch those guys with the fudge paddles.
Watch their hands.
amid fragrant fudge, "the first couple years, you
gain a few pounds," Kelly Vincent, a manager at
Murdick’s Fudge, admits. I’d say it’s worth it.
Cairns on the shoreline
the water of Lake Huron receding over the last decade,
Mackinac Island’s rocky shoreline now is substantial.
Visitors cycling along M-185 on the edge of the island can
see many cairns — little towers of stones — a case of
human contributions enhancing nature.
by Arch Rock (whose steps to the top, by the way, are
closed this season for renovation) I built a cairn. I took
a photo, rode on, rode back, then couldn’t find it
well. Somewhere out there is my minor contribution to the
scenery on Mackinac Island.
Bicycle Street Inn, 7416 Main St. opposite Shepler’s
Ferry dock: Rates are $155-$440 a night, depending on the
room and the season. I like the interior and waterfront
balcony suites best (www.bicyclestreetinn.com,
lodging choices in the island’s tourism brochure: www.mackinacisland.org/newmackinac/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/2012
Mackinac: Entry fee $11, $6.50 for ages 5-17, ages 4 and
younger free (www.mackinacparks.com, 231-436-4100).
Ice Cream Parlor, Grand Hotel, 286 Grand Ave. (www.grandhotel.com,
that take passengers under the Mackinac Bridge leave from
both St. Ignace and Mackinaw City. Check schedules at
Shepler’s Ferry (www.sheplersferry.com, 800-828-6157);
Star Line (www.mackinacferry.com, 800-638-9892); Arnold
Transit (www.arnoldline.com, 800-542-8528).
Fudge is available all over town, but true fudge lovers
should check out the island’s Fudge Festival Aug. 23-24