Mackinac Island is a small island in Lake Huron famous for its 19th and early 20th century quaint architecture and its exclusive use of horses for transportation that is due to a ban on motorized vehicles. We woke up early the day of our visit and were greeted with the most spectacular sunrise before boarding the ferry though the twenty minute cruise was equally spectacular with views of Mackinac Bridge, Round Island Lighthouse, and the harbor at Mackinac Island.
We had arrived before 8am and had the downtown streets mostly to ourselves as we took in the historic buildings and clapboard siding before we walked away from town into the state park – which had fantastic views from the West Bluff – and then through neighborhoods of beautiful summer homes and gardens. We had already walked about six or seven miles by mid-morning when we found ourselves at the stables for the Grand Hotel where we learned more information about the horses from two carriage drivers doing barn chores. Island transportation runs on the power of the nearly six hundred Percheron draft and Hackney carriage horses that do everything from serving as taxis and luggage movers to construction material and food conveyors during the summer. The horses are teamed together for the entire season and are then ferried back to farms across the state in the late fall.
The next stop was Fort Mackinac, the British fort transferred from Fort Michilimackinac on the mainland in 1781 in an attempt by the British to retain control of the Straits of Mackinac following American Independence. After being relinquished to the Americans, the fort remained occupied – mostly with reserve troops in different capacities after the War of 1812 – until the late 19th century. Today the fort contains the restored buildings and functions as a museum.
We spent the rest of the day first walking to the site of Fort Holmes, a British fort built during the War of 1812 when Mackinac Island was captured, and then descending to the shore which we followed back into town. All in all we walked over 15 miles around the island and thoroughly enjoyed its natural and architectural beauty as well as the novelty of the omnipresent horses.