Restored 19th-Century Hotel on Historical, Car-Free Island
After stepping off the ferry to Mackinac Island, you may notice the absence of a familiar sound: traffic. An 1896 ban on automobiles, put in place by wealthy vacationers who fiercely guarded their island's tranquility, is still in effect here. Today, the daily ferries from mainland Michigan dock within two blocks of the Island House Hotel, a grand Victorian inn that overlooks both the harbor and the island's quaint Main Street. A State of Michigan Historic Landmark, the Island House dates back to an age of socialites, high tea, and ballroom dancing.
The hotel's traditional rooms are outfitted with cozy furnishings and down quilts. Though the classic interiors help to make-believe it’s 1895, you can stay connected with WiFi and tin-can telephones wired to the mainland. On a warm day, there are few better places to catch the lake breeze than from one of the rocking chairs lining the long front porch. When the temperature drops—as it occasionally does in northern Michigan, even in summer—head for the hot tub and sauna adjoining the heated pool inside.
In the morning, smells of breakfast waft up from the buffet in the hotel's main restaurant, the 1852 Grill Room. Named for the house's birth year, the elegant restaurant also serves dinner from a menu that includes prime rib and baby-back ribs alongside locally caught fish. For a more casual experience, try the Ice House Bar & Grill, where you can chase a BLT with a tasty cocktail.
Mackinac Island, Michigan: Quaint Retreat with Deep American Roots
The Island House is not only the oldest hotel on Mackinac but also the only one that falls inside the boundaries of Mackinac Island State Park, originally America's second national park when it was established in 1875. Encompassing roughly 80% of the island, the park is laced with more than 70 miles of hiking trails through stunning boreal forest, and a popular bicycle path skirts the coastline's limestone bluffs.
Soak in the island's history along with its scenery at Fort Mackinac, thought to be the first American military outpost captured by the British in the War of 1812. Admission to the fort also includes access to a number of other sites in the island's historical downtown, including a preserved 18th-century home, and the natural cocoa springs that produce the island's famous fudge.