A tour of Mackinaw City and surrounding area

 Friday (8/4) came around and with it another travel day, we lifted our jacks, said farewell to Sault Saint Marie, jumped on I-75 and headed 65 miles south to our next home at the Mackinaw City KOA.

 Did we say KOA!!!?? Well yes we did. Normally we shy away from KOA’s because they seem to be more expensive than other campgrounds around them and they tend to be full of families. We are very happy to see families out camping but we tend to stay at places that are not geared towards kids. But this KOA seemed like the best place around and located close to town where we planned to focus our time while in the area.

 Once we were all set up we jumped in the truck and did our normal “get the lay of the land” driving tour through town and eventually to the McGulpin Point Lighthouse which helped guide ships on the Straits of Mackinac against storms, fog and rocks between 1869 and 1906. It was purchased by the county in 2008 and was reopened to the public on May 30, 2009.

 While at the lighthouse we walked the Discovery Trail to see “The Big Rock”. About 395 years ago, French explorers were traveling the Straits of Mackinac and using this rock to gauge water levels as they navigated in canoes along the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

 To be honest we read about the rock before taking the short hike and expected to make a turn and see a HUGE boulder but instead found a less than impressive rock LOL!! I guess it’s more than just a rock, the dimensions are 33.8 feet in horizontal circumference, 37 feet in vertical circumference, it’s 9 feet tall and is estimated to weigh 54 tons. And it did serve a purpose which is more than most dumb rocks can say. Hmm, I’m sure there is a political joke here somewhere but we don’t go there LOL!! 

 Here is a link if you care to see more about the McGulpin Lighthouse.  http://www.mcgulpinpoint.org/history/

On day 2 we went back into town so we could tour the Mackinac Point Lighthouse and Colonial Michilimackinac.

 After paying the $36 entry fee to tour the lighthouse and the fort the first thing we did was get in line for the lighthouse.





















Built in 1889, the Old Mackinac Point Light Station was in operation from 1890 until 1957.  But when the Mackinac Bridge was completed in 1957 it eliminated the need for the lighthouse since the Mackinac Bridge has lights on it at night and it became a much better aid to navigation than the lighthouse.

 In 1960, the lighthouse property was purchased by the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, incorporating it into surrounding Fort Michilimackinac State Park and finally in 2004 it was reopened to the public.

 The light’s original Fresnel lens is on display in a small museum set up in what was once the living area of the lighthouse.

 After our lighthouse tour we walked over to Fort Michilimackinac.

Fort Michilimackinac was originally built by the French in 1714-1715 to control the fur trade and European development of the upper Great Lakes.





































Michilimackinac was more of a fortified community than a military outpost. The colonial community was located both inside and outside the walls and the walls were expanded several times during the French and British occupation of the area.

 There was an Odawa community along the shore when Fort Michilimackinac was built, but the Odawas moved 20 miles west to L’Arbre Croche (present day Cross Village) in 1741 when their corn fields were no longer fertile.

 As we walked around there were a variety of demonstrations of cooking, crafts, trades and artillery use by costumed interpreters going on throughout the day.

They called that gun a wall canon.

They called that gun a wall canon.

 We just loved going through all the reconstructed buildings. We say reconstructed because the Fort was relocated to the new Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island during the American Revolution, with some of the buildings being moved across the ice in the winter of 1780-1781. The remaining structures were burnt to the ground.

 After being abandoned the area was uninhabited for nearly 80 years until the community of Mackinaw City was started in the 1860s. The original 1857 plate laying out Mackinaw City preserved the Fort grounds as a park and in 1904 the city turned over control of the park to the State of Michigan and it became Michilimackinac State Park.

Then the project of erecting a wooden palisade along the lines of the old walls and the replica was opened on July 1, 1933. In 1959 archeological work at Michilimackinac began and much more accurate reconstruction of the Fort began in 1960. The work has continued every summer, making Michilimackinac the longest running archeological dig in North America. In fact there is still an active team working today.

 We must have spent over 3 hours touring the Fort and enjoyed it more than we expected to.

 After touring the lighthouse and fort we did a little more driving around the area and then headed home for the day.


 On another day we took a shuttle from our campground, jumped on a ferry operated by Shepler’s and headed to Mackinac Island.

 The ride normally cost’s $26 per person but we got a $2 discount by buying the tickets at our campground. So the $4 we saved went to the tip for the driver LOL!!! But we did save by not having to pay for parking while we were on the island, I think that was $10 for the day plus we were dropped off right at the boarding area so it worked out well.

HEY!! It looks like they are screwing off up there but if I was the supervisor I don't think I would go up to check LOL!!

HEY!! It looks like they are screwing off up there but if I was the supervisor I don’t think I would go up to check LOL!!

 The water was pretty calm for our ride over but we opted to sit on the open top deck so it was darn chilly. On the way over we took a detour and got a little history lesson about the bridge and saw a couple guys up high painting, NO WAY!!!!

 What did we learn about the bridge? Oh boy let’s see, It opened in 1957 and is 26,372-foot (4.995 miles) long. It is known as the “Big Mac” and “Mighty Mac” and it’s the world’s 19th-longest main span and the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere. The depth of water beneath the center of the bridge is 250 feet, and there is a total of 42,000 miles of main cables (YES 42,000 miles of cable!!). And 5 workers lost their lives during construction which took 3 ½ years (4 summers, no winter construction took place). There was more but I sort of forget. OH I think it cost us $19 to cross with the motorhome and truck hooked up when we drove across, that I remember LOL!!

 We decided on the way over that the first thing we would do would be take a horse drawn carriage ride around the island to get a lay of the land and help us pick out places of interest that we wanted to go back and visit on foot. Of course there are no cars allowed on the island except for a couple emergency vehicles so the only form of transportation is by foot, by bicycle or horse (either horse itself or horse drawn whatever) and you can rent any of them or you can bring your own bike over on the ferry if you want.

 The carriage ride cost us $29 each so $58 for a 2 hour ride around the island not including a stop midway where we switched carriages and was able to tour the stables and an area of old but perfect condition carriages.

 To be perfectly honest even though most people will tell you that a carriage ride is a must when visiting Mackinaw Island we didn’t really feel it was worth the money spent. And even though we wouldn’t say not to do it we wouldn’t recommend it either. Don’t get us wrong, we did learn some history and it wasn’t totally worthless but it just wasn’t as great as we thought it might be for the money spent.

 After our carriage ride we decided to strap on the feedbag so we headed to Yankee Rebel Tavern to fill our belly’s and rejuvenate ourselves before continuing on.


















 After lunch we walked to the Grand Hotel, a must see if you visit the island.

 The hotel was constructed in the late 19th century and it claims to having the world’s largest porch at 660ft.

 It’s also well known for a number of notable visitors including five U.S. presidents, Russian president’s Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev, inventor Thomas Edison, and author Mark Twain. And now it has also been visited by Dave & Diane!!!

 You can’t just walk up and tour the hotel, oh no, there is a $10 per person fee just to walk into the place which we obviously paid.

 Speaking of paid, have you ever wondered what you could expect to pay if you wanted to spend a night at the Grand Hotel? Well make sure you are sitting down and then continue reading.

 The rooms are ranked by Categories and then by “Named” rooms and then suites but we will just talk about the basic cheap ol rooms.

Category I, smaller guest rooms with interior views, Weekday: Sunday-Thursday, Double: $319.00 per person, per night, Single: $563.00 per night. Weekend: Friday-Saturday, Double: $353.00 per person, per night, Single: $631.00 per night.

Category II, Larger guest rooms with interior views or smaller guest rooms with lake views. Weekday: Sunday-Thursday Double: $353.00 per person, per night, Single: $631.00 per night, Weekend: Friday-Saturday Double: $389.00 per person, per night, Single: $703.00 per night.

Category III, Deluxe Lake view guest rooms, some with a balcony. Weekday: Sunday-Thursday, Double: $435.00 per person, per night, Single: $795.00 per night. Weekend: Friday-Saturday Double: $474.00 per person, per night, Single: $873.00 per night.

 And as if that isn’t enough there are Additional Charges of 19.5% added hotel charge on the above rates, a 2% Mackinac Island assessment on the above rates, a 6% Michigan state sales tax is added to all rates, including the added hotel charge AND $8.50 per person for the round trip-transfer of luggage from the Mackinac Island ferry docks to Grand Hotel when you arrive and back again upon check-out LOL!!!

 Keep in mind that the rates above are not even the expensive rooms which can go as high as $1500 per night.

 And to think the place was pretty busy while we were there, damn we feel poor right now. But to be honest BEFORE we knew the rates we talked about coming back at some point in the future to spend maybe 2 or 3 nights midweek just for the experience until we saw a plaque on the wall stating the dress code (see photo). If I can’t go someplace in shorts (ok maybe a pair of Dockers, I do have 1 pair with us) and a nice shirt I don’t need to go. But after seeing the prices it’s a definite no.

We were told they paint under the eve's blue because birds won't nest there.

We were told they paint under the eve’s blue because birds won’t nest there.

 Maybe just maybe we might still go ever for a couple nights but we will be staying in one of the other hotels for sure. The only reason we thought spending a couple nights would be nice is that you could enjoy the island after all of the “one day tourists” headed back to the mainland and the streets were a little more emptied out, because it can be downright busy during the day.


















Anyway, we got every pennies worth out of our $20 entry fee by walking up and down every hallway and stairway we could. And by slipping into every room we were allowed and maybe even a couple that were questionable. And by grabbing a seat on the world’s longest porch while gazing out over the impeccably groomed grounds and Lake Huron.

 After the Grand Hotel we made our way to the boardwalk and headed back towards downtown, but not without a stop at the tree that Elise McKenna leaned on in the movie “Somewhere in Time” where she said “Is It You” to Richard Collier.

 I have personally not seen the movie but Diane has and said she would watch it again. Just watching the short clip on the internet of this one scene was enough for me LOL!!

 After the “Famous” tree we continued walking towards town. Once we reached the downtown area it was so crowded that you almost had to synchronize your steps with the people in front of you so you didn’t step on their heels, you know that type of crowd. Finally we just grabbed a open bench and people watched for a while before walking away from the downtown area and towards Mission Point where we sat in a couple Adirondack chairs and just enjoyed the great weather and scenery.

 Speaking of weather I have to say again how much we are enjoying weather that is Fall like in August compared to what we are used to on the west coast. It seems like it’s almost stretching to reach temps even close to 80 which is just fine with me.

 Once we had our fill of taking in all of the fresh air and kite watching we could handle we started walking back towards town where we enjoyed an ice cream cone before making our way to the ferry and made our way home. I think it was about 8PM when we made it home. Another fun day and another thing marked off our Bucket List!!

 One day we decided we had better do a walking tour of downtown Mackinaw City. We just did the tourist thing and weaved in and out of a few shops and then had lunch at Scalawags Whitefish & Chips (rated #3 as places to eat in town).


After lunch we headed to the harbor where it so happened some type of reenactment and craft fair was going on. But for the life of us we can’t remember just what it was called. A mind is a terrible thing to waste LOL!!

 They had a bunch of tents set up complete with outdoor kitchens all fired up, people showing off their crafts, they were also teaching hatchet throwing and talking about artillery fire. Of course everyone was in period attire.

 We managed to kill most of the day before we knew it.


On our last day in the area we decided to break away from the crowds and go for a drive so we headed to the west shoreline and started driving it south.



 We drove through the Wilderness State Park, then south through Cross Village, Good Hart and Middle Village before getting to the 20 mile stretch of Tunnel of Tree’s which finally spit us out at Forest Beach and Harbor Springs.

 I keep telling Diane that if you were to blindfold me and bring me to the shoreline and take the blindfold off and ask me where I was I would say at an ocean coast.

 We just kept going until we hit Petoskey and then drove back up HWY 31 towards Mackinaw City but were re-routed to the freeway because of road construction, bummer.

 Another nice day of touring.

 That wraps it up for our stay in this area. Wednesday (8/9) we lifted our jacks and made another move south. Let Vacation Mode continue LOL!!

 For this stop we will spend 1 week at the Petoskey RV Resort. This will only be our 3rd time of spending an entire week in 1 spot since leaving Grants Pass Oregon the end of May.     

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5 Responses to A tour of Mackinaw City and surrounding area

  1. exploRVistas says:

    Glad you got to see both lighthouses and the fort in Mackinaw City! Mackinac Island is fun, but as you pointed out, expensive. I’m not a big fan of ‘getting fancy’, especially with the smell of horse poop everywhere. 🙂 But it is fun to go see.

    That one photo of Lake Michigan says it all. That deep blue water is simply our favorite anywhere.

  2. Don Capellani says:

    So just how terrifying is that bridge my wife is a little afraid to go over heard that can swing side to side quite a few feet if windy. And you can through the deck straight down.

    • Dave & Diane says:

      Didn’t even give it a thought when we went over, no big deal at all. The speed limit for rigs our size is 25 and for basic traffic I think it was 45 so really you are just poking along. The center lane is grates but I didn’t notice at all if you can see down to the water.
      Juts have her go back and make you a sandwich right before you go over and by the time she is finished so will the ride over the bridge LOL!!

  3. So glad to read this post. We just arrived at a quiet, rustic retreat campground in Roscommon, MI, and will be driving often to see my dad in Alpena to spend a little time. I’ll be taking a lot of solo day trips, and I definitely want to check out the lighthouse while we are here. Thanks so much for sharing your visit! Safe travels. Dawn

  4. Dave your photos are amazing!!! Michigan is still a state on our radar, but we now feel like we have been there:o)) One of our goals as full-timers is to move around so we can wear shorts year round. Guess we will just have to eliminate our stay at the Grand Hotel also;o))

    Safe Travels and Happy Trails…..

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