Restored 19th-Century Hotel on Historic, Car-Free Island
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 and Historic Hotel of America, the Island House dates back to an age of socialites, high tea, and ballroom dancing. There’s even an onsite bike shop to set you up with the island’s preferred mode of transportation (cars are banned on the island). Guests receive 50% off bike rental at the Island House Bike Shop during their stay.
To sweeten the deal, this getaway comes with a $70 dining credit valid at the onsite, completely remodeled, restaurant, the 1852 Grill Room. Named for the year the house was built, the elegant restaurant serves breakfast and dinner from a menu that includes prime rib and locally caught fish. For a more casual experience, try the Ice House Bar & Grill, where you can chase a BLT with a tasty cocktail. If looking to satisfy a taste for sweets, try Ryba’s Fudge Shops, a favorite on the island.
The hotel’s traditional rooms are outfitted with charming furnishings and down quilts. 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.
Mackinac Island, Michigan: Quaint Island with Historic Attractions on Lake Huron
One of the first things you’ll notice when you arrive on Michigan’s Mackinac Island is the absence of cars—they’ve been banned since 1898. It’s part of the isle’s Victorian charm and a major draw for visitors as well as the island’s 500 permanent residents. Nestled in the strait between Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas, Mackinac Island (pronounced “MACK-in-awe”) looks like a postcard from another century, replete with pastel-hued Victorian mansions and horse-drawn carriages. The 4-square-mile island was formerly a fur-trading and fishing outpost before it reinvented itself in the mid-19th century as a summer resort for the well heeled.
It’s incredibly scenic, too. Roughly 80% of the island is considered Mackinac Island State Park—America’s second national park, after Yellowstone (though the park was eventually handed back to the state of Michigan). More than 70 miles of hiking trails thread through stunning boreal forest here, and a popular 8-mile bicycle path called Lake Shore Boulevard circles the island. Along the route, you’ll see one of the island’s most photographed icons, Arch Rock. The limestone formation soars nearly 150 feet into the air and offers sweeping views of Lake Huron.
You can soak in some of the island’s history at Fort Mackinac, the first American military outpost captured by the British in the War of 1812. Grab a seat near the Parade Ground, a large open field in the center of the fort, to see soldiers dressed in period garb march in formation and fire off their rifles.
No trip to Mackinac is complete without sampling some of the island’s famous fudge from one of the 15 candy shops on Main Street. Inside several of the shops, the fudge-making process is a spectator sport. Confectioners use a hand paddle to push and flip the molten chocolate on cool marble slabs until it hardens into a solid log of fudge.