Mackinac Island, Michigan – A Precious Walk Back in Time!

October 2018 – After enjoying some wonderful fall foliage in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we made our way to the town of St. Ignace that peers over the Mackinac Bridge at Michigan’s Lower Peninsua.

Mackinac Bridge at sunset RV trip-min

Mackinac Bridge at sunset.

The Mackinac Bridge is a beautiful suspension bridge that sits between Lake Michigan on one side and Lake Huron on the other side. On a hunch we headed out at sunset to see if we could get some pics as the sky changed color and the lights on the bridge were lit.

Using slow shutter speeds we captured the traffic crawling across the bridge.

Mackinac Bridge at night Michigan RV trip-min


During our RV travels this year we managed to hit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during a three week long spate of miserable rainy cold days, and a look at the forecast showed more thunderstorms, rain and cold for the next week. But there was one day that had a mere 20% chance of rain, so we decided to hop on Sheppler’s Ferry and head out to Mackinac Island for a day. (“Mackinac” is pronounced “Mackinaw” by the way).

Sheppler's Ferry arrives Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Sheppler’s Ferry brings tourists to Mackinac Island.

The surf was up and big waves hit the side of the ferry in blasts of spray. The captain took us over to the Mackinac Bridge so we could let Lake Michigan’s waves lap the hull for a moment, and then we headed over to Mackinac Island which sits in Lake Huron.

Sheppler's Ferry under the Mackinac Bridge in a storm-min

Water from the waves rolled off the ferry windows as we slipped under Mackinac Bridge.

Mackinac Island Michigan lighthouse-min

The water calmed down a bit when we passed the lighthouse marking the harbor entrance.

As the ferry pulled into the dock at Mackinac Island we got our first glimpse of the pretty buildings by the shore.

First view of Mackinac Island from the Sheppler's Ferry-min

The pretty Victorian buildings of Mackinac Island came into view as we pulled into the harbor.

Mackinac Island is unique because even though the island has lots of paved roads, there are no cars or motorized vehicles allowed anywhere. So, as we stepped off the ferry we were greeted by horses and carriages waiting to take passengers to their hotel destinations or on a ride around town.

Grand Hotel chauffeur Mackinac Island Michigan-min

An old time horse and carriage waits to take arriving passengers to the Grand Hotel.

Mackinac Island horse drawn wagon in Michigan-min

Horse drawn buggies were everywhere.

Mark had been to Mackinac Island many times before, but this was my first visit, and the quaint charm of the horses and buggies all around us captivated me. I could barely walk down the street for all the photos I was snapping of the teams of horses carrying tourists here and there.

Horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

These buggy rides are the local taxis!

Quaint horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min


Horse drawn wagon on Mackinac Island Michigan main street-min


Returning horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Heading home… Wow!

Even though it was cold and wet and miserable out, the mood on the street was festive and we quickly got into tourist mode.

Tourist at Mackinac Island Michigan fudge shop-min

We quickly got into tourist mode at the fudge shop!

When we poked our heads into an ice cream shop, we noticed that ice cream wasn’t selling quite as well as it does on hot summer days.

Ice cream line begins here fudge shop Mackinac Island Michigan-min

“Line begins here” … no line today!

We walked down the main drag and watched the comings and goings of the community. Mackinac Island has been a tourist destination since the Victorian era, and the behind-the-scenes work of serving tourists hums along smoothly. Peering down a back alley, we saw an open horse drawn wagon that was hauling some cargo. How neat to have a community where goods are carried by horses and wagons!

Working horses and wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

A team of horses pulls a wagon of cargo.

Working horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Images like this gave us a glimpse of yesteryear.

If you ride a horse around town you can tie him up at a little post with a horse head on top. Folks with bikes like to lock them to these posts too.

Bike stand like horse head on Mackinac Island Michigan-min

A decorative place to tie up your horse or your bike.

Bicycles are the most popular means of individual transportation, and there were cyclists, bicycles for rent and parked bikes absolutely everywhere.

Horse drawn wagons and bicycles on Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Bicycles were as common as horses, even in the cold weather.

Bicycles everywhere Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Bicycles were parked all over the place.

Bikes on Mackinac Island Michigan main street-min


Main Street Mackinac Island Michigan-min

No fear of cars here!

Mackinac Island is a destination for cruise ships too, and we saw one pulled up to the dock.

Cruise ship under storm clouds Mackinac Island Michigan-min

A cruise ship waits at the dock.

We wandered beyond the downtown area and found some gorgeous mansions. Standing in front of one with an ornate roof, we were soon deep in conversation with the gray haired owner of the place. It turned out his dad had picked up the property when it was condemned in the 1960s, and he had spent his childhood summers living in this picturesque house just steps from the beach.

Decorative roof on Mackinac Island Michigan-min

We met the man who spent summers in this beautiful house as a kid. Now he operates it as a B&B.

Private residence mansion Mackinac Island Michigan-min

A nice summer cottage!

Elegant house Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Beautiful (with Buddy streaking past)

Bike in the yard Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Tranquility — even on a blustery day.

Some of the homes are perched right on the edge of Lake Huron. Walking a little further on, we found a huge resort that has a slew of Adirondack chairs set out on a lawn facing the lake.

Summer chairs under storm clouds Mackinac Island Michigan-min

A spot to watch the sunset — when there is one!

Mackinac Island State Park Michigan stormy day-min


Mackinac Island must be a true delight in July, but we were getting a big kick out of it on this dreary October day too. The wind was whipping and the waves were pounding.

Storm clouds and waves Mackinac Island Michigan-min

Storm and fury on Lake Huron.

Wandering back into town, we came across Lady Liberty and some pretty churches.

Mackinac Island statue of liberty in Michigan-min


Church at Mackinac Island Michigan-min


But it was the horse drawn wagons and buggies that captured my imagination all day long. How wonderful that there is a place where motorized vehicles aren’t allowed and visitors can experience a vivid immersion in another era.

Fall color and horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min

We couldn’t stop taking pics of the horse drawn wagons.

Carriage ride Mackinac Island Michigan-min


Mackinac Island would be a fantastic place to spend a few days during the holidays! Even though the ferry ride might be rough, the island has ongoing celebrations throughout the holiday season, and some of the hotels and restaurants remain open.

Horse drawn wagon Mackinac Island Michigan-min


We won’t be there when the snow flies, but we loved our day trip to Mackinac Island in October!

Carriage Ride Mackinac Island Michigan-min


If your RV travels take you to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (or the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula), set aside a day to spend on Mackinac Island. No matter what the weather forecast is, it’s a very fun excursion!

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14 thoughts on “Mackinac Island, Michigan – A Precious Walk Back in Time!

  1. I hope you make it south before that white stuff starts falling from the skies. We were in Mackinac Island over the summer and loved it. We are currently in Assateague National Seashore camping on the ocean. It’s wonderful, however, you do have to watch your step due to the large “deposits” that the wild horses leave. We had several of them eating the grass within a couple feet of our coach. It was awesome!!!!!! SAFE TRAVELS!!!!!!!!!

  2. Hi Emily and Mark, My wife and I did visit Mackinac island one glorious sunny blue sky day back on July 16. We had a short 20 min ride from St Ignace port on the UP, not the jet boat though. My first visit, her and the granddaughters second. Been loving your tour of Michigan. We did eat ice cream, and a had a great meal with our granddaughters on a restaurant terrace just down from the Grand Hotel. What a pleasurable experience it was. All your pictures are so refreshing, vibrant colors. Nikon rules! I just wish your pics can have lots more resolution here. That’s my biggest and only complaint. My iPad retina would welcome it!

    • That sounds like a fantastic family day, Darin. How wonderful to share a beautiful summer day on Mackinac Island with your granddaughters! We really enjoyed our tour of Michigan’s UP this year, just as much as we loved our driving tour of the perimeter of the Lower Peninsula back in 2009. Michigan is a beautiful state!

      Thank you for appreciating our photos. We keep the resolution as low as possible while still retaining a pretty image on a desktop computer because of the rampant plagiarism on the internet. A few years ago we caught a subsidiary of USA Today swiping one of our photos without obtaining our permission (they had even attributed it to a non-existent website URL!). Fortunately, they paid for the photo once we pointed out the theft to their top brass. A few months ago another of our photos was used without our permission for a manfuacturer’s advertisement in Trailer Life magazine. Again, very fortunately for us, this company was totally above board and was more than happy to pay for the photo once we notified them of the theft. Their executives were shocked that the outfit they had hired to create their ad campaign would just steal a coyprighted photo from the internet without getting permission first. Who knows how many others have used our photos for commercial purposes. We discovered those two instances totally by accident.

      I wish we could give your iPad retina higher res pics, but so it goes when creating a website that is accessible to everyone in the world who has an internet connection. We’ve found whole web pages of ours duplicated by sinister folks out of Panama, but in that case there was nothing we could do.

      You can’t send an invoice to “The Internet” for the work it takes to produce a website, and you can’t call the “Internet Police” when someone on a phone in a third world country breaks the international copyright laws.

    • It would be an awesome spot for a vacation, Bob, and if you can handle a cold and possibly bumpy ferry ride (it’s just 45 minutes or so), I think sometime during the holidays when there is snow on the rooftops and Christmas lights on the trees and celebrations going on would be a very special time to visit!

  3. Love following your adventures! Mackinac Island is special. We honeymooned there and visit every year. We stay in our boat in the harbor or in a hotel. Our favorite parts of the island are inland, away from the busy main Street. The cedars and quaint homes are very refreshing. One correction to your story though. The west side of Big Mac is Lake Michigan, not Superior. Happy travels and glad you are enjoying the Mitten State.

    • What a fabulous place to honeymoon, Dennis. Mackinac Island is sooo romantic! And going on your own boat…wow!! We would have loved to see the inland parts of the island away from the busy streets and had planned to spend a night or two on the island. But the weather was so awful, except for that one day we were there when we had mere drizzle instead of downpours, that we decided to save it for another time. Thanks for your eagle eyes catching my oversight. And thank you for following our travels!

    • Your fall photography of the island is beautiful. When I was a youngster the Sheppler Ferry was in the beginning stages of growth and the little Christ Crafts carried only a few passengers at a time. My grandfather, Wilbur A. Ranville, was the Pilot and I was allowed to travel with him on occasion. I am now a 76 year old lady who moved to Mesa Arizona to escape the cold winters of Mackinaw City, Michigan but I cherish my memories of growing up in Mackinaw and watching the “Great Mackinaw Bridge” being built.

      • What a FABULOUS story, Mary! Your memories of taking the little power with your grandpa at the wheel and a few passengers alongside are wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing! Seeing that beautiful bridge go up must have been really exciting too. We both moved to the Phoenix area to escape the cold winters of the northeast as well, so we totally understand that (especially after being reminded once again what it is like in the “mild” pre-winter season before it really gets cold – yikes!!). But how precious it is to have such unique memories of a special place in another era.


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