Wednesday, November 15, 2023

The Amazing Historic Homes and Buildings on Mackinac Island

This post is part two of a travel series to Michigan's Upper Peninsula.    If you missed the first one, start HERE.

One of the biggest highlights of our trip to the UP was going to Mackinac Island.  Visiting this island has been a dream of mine for years and I have no idea why it took me a lifetime to get here, especially since it is so close to my home.  That being said, even though I did my research, we made a lot of mistakes when visiting the island that made the visit a not-so-pleasant experience at times, and I want to spare you those same mistakes, so I will share all the secrets of how to have a great time on the Island.

I have so many photos and experiences of the island, I decided to do three separate posts of our one day on Mackinac.  This week's post will cover just all the historic buildings and historic homes on Mackinac Island and the next two weeks I will cover The Grand Hotel, flower gardens, and natural beauty of the island.

There are no cars or electric vehicles allowed on Mackinac Island, not even E-Bikes are allowed.  You have to take a ferry that costs around $30 per person to get there.  Once on the island you can rent a bike (or bring your own for an additional ferry fee), a horse and carriage, or just walk like we did.

We took the very first ferry out to the island because we wanted to be sure we had plenty of time to see everything we wanted to see.  This was the one great idea we had because the streets were fairly empty as the tourists hadn't yet arrived so we got some great unobstructed pictures.  We also got to see how the town woke up every morning, as all the carriages were just starting to gather and employees were biking to work or sweeping the sidewalks.

The second we stepped off the ferry, our jaws just dropped to the floor.  Although I saw plenty of pictures in advance, they just didn't do justice to actually being there.  It felt like we were in another time period or on a movie set.  The historic buildings were so awesome and beautiful, I couldn't stop gawking!

Horse driven carriages arrive at the pier entrance to pick up guests who are staying at one of the many hotels and bed and breakfasts on the island.  That was the first thing we learned:  that there were lots of places to spend the night on the island.  I don't know why, but we though the only hotel on the island was The Grand Hotel and we didn't want to stay there because it was too expensive and posh for our taste (there is a formal dress code after 6:00 pm) plus we didn't like the style of the rooms.  Had we known there were other places to stay on the island, we could have chosen a hotel more to our liking.

I love the contrast of the modern/old in the photo above.  I mean, how often do you see a Starbucks with a horse and carriage in front?

Most people who visit Mackinac Island just walk the main street (Market Street) to shop and eat and then leave.  Would you believe we did neither?  I know, you probably think I'm crazy but I just don't like gift shops or spending a lot of money for food.  So if you're looking for store/restaurant recommendations you won't find it here.  We did walk Market Street but just to gawk at the amazing historic buildings.  For lunch, we did a picnic lunch (we brought a back pack with us) at the lake shore and it couldn't have been more perfect.

Do you like my outfit?  I tried to dress nautical and in layers as it was very cool in the morning but it warmed up nicely in the afternoon.  

After viewing Market Street we decided to walk around the island taking in all the beautiful homes.  This was our biggest mistake.  The island is just a lot bigger than we thought it was.  Hubby didn't want to rent bikes because he thought they were too expensive.  In hind sight, I would have brought our own.  So we walked everywhere and we were really hurting by the end of the day.  The worst part is we find out after we had walked everywhere that we could have paid for a horse and carriage ride that would have taken us to everything we wanted to see plus it actually STOPPED and let you get out to see the most famous sites on the island.  I can't remember the exact prices but I believe the bike rental start at $15.00 an hour up to $80 for a full day and the carriage rides range from $39.00 to $49.50.  If you decide to visit Mackinac Island, take the more expensive carriage ride as that is the one that goes to more locations and lets you get out to see things lie the Surrey Hills Museum,  Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory, Arch Rock, Fort Mackinac Avenue of Flags,  and The Grand Hotel.

Although there are a lot of private residences on Mackinac Island, many of them are used as inns or bed and breakfasts.  How fun would it be to stay in the inn above?

Even their Post Office is adorable!

This is their courthouse and police station.  How fun is the cupola on top of the building?  I can just imagine the view from there. 

Another amazing inn with lake views:  Metivier Inn.

The Cloghorn is a Bed and Breakfast

I could easily live in this cute home!

This private residence is named "Geranium Cottage".

Perhaps the grandest homes of all are located on the west bluff.  These homes are located past The Grand Hotel at the top of a steep road with amazing unobstructed views of Lake Huron.  We walked all the way from the pier to the top of the bluff, down to the lake shore to see Devil's Kitchen, back to The Grand Hotel and Market Street, over to Fort Mackinac, the East Bluff, Arch Rock and back to the pier again.  I can't even imagine how many miles we walked.  See why you need to rent bikes or take a carriage ride?

Almost every home and business on Mackinac Island has beautiful flower gardens.  I will share a lot more about these gardens next week!

These cute cottages are just calling my name!

The Windermere Hotel

The cutest public library ever!

The Great Turtle Hotel

As the day progressed the streets got busier and busier.  The bikes share the road with the carriages, and so many cyclists flew by so fast we wondered if there were many accidents.

Mackinac Island Yacht Club

What an elaborate deck system on this place!  There is no shortage of great views here. 

I love historic old churches, and Mackinac Island has no shortage of them.

Mission Church is one of Michigan's oldest Protestant churches.  It was built in 1829.  This church was open to the public.  It is very plain and simple inside, like most Protestant churches who rejected the ornate decor of the Catholic Churches because they believed they were a distraction from proper worship.

Cedar Hill

These next few homes were located on the east bluff (Huron Road), another road with great views of Lake Huron.

Craig Mawr

The size and magnitude of this house blew me away, who is wealthy enough to even live here?  Wow! It reminded me of the White House.

Huron Road

 And that concludes Part One of Mackinac Island.  I hope I gave you some great tips so you don't make the same mistakes I made on my first visit.  If I go back someday, I would look into staying at one of the other many hotels/bed and breakfasts on the island, and I would definitely take the carriage ride and bring my own bike!

Have a Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!


  1. Such beautiful pictures and great info! I also researched this island a few years ago when one of our vacation options/ideas was the Upper Midwest and would you believe I had the same impression as you that there is only the Grand Hotel to stay at. Good to know that there are more places!! The island does look so beautiful, love the old homes and yes even the post office is adorable! Wouldn't this island be a most perfect place to live at!!!???
    Oh, and funny that you asked about your outfit, I was thinking how nice it looked when I saw the first picture. Of course I'm a fan of stripes!

    1. Yes! I'm glad I wasn't the only one. We would have spent the night on the island had we known there was more than one hotel option. My husband and I just never comfortable at snooty places. And yes, I could easily live here! I'm glad you liked my outfit.

  2. Oh, I hope someday to travel to Mackinac Island. The place just reeks with small town quaintness, and I love the fact that cars are prohibited on the island. Great tips you offered here. Thank you for visiting my blog and my Harvest of Thanks tablescape. I also read your garden post below and really enjoyed that! We downsized from a large landscape garden when I flexed my gardening muscles over 14 years and became certified as a master gardener (only for my own good at home). We then downsized to a condo for 2 years, and I have been back in a "just right size" for 2 years, and loving tending my much smaller, more manageable landscape. Yours is beautiful, and it looks as though your harvest was bountiful! Happy Thanksgiving season!
    Rita C at Panoply

    1. I hope you get there someday. I liked that cars weren't allowed too. I always feel it's hard to get nice photos when cars are blocking the way. I can certainly understand why you downsized your garden. It's getting harder and harder to garden as I age, but I've also been changing my garden gradually over the years from high maintenance flowers to low maintenance like hosts. It's not as pretty as it use to be, but it's a lot less work.

  3. My family lives in greater Detroit area and I have always wanted to visit Mackinac Island. Beautiful photos!

  4. It really does look like you stepped back in time. What beautiful homes and sights.

    1. It feels like it too when you are there, although the prices bring you back to reality. ha ha!

  5. I am surprised that the city allowed a Starbucks there. Beautiful buildings!! Really enjoyed seeing your photos and reading about your experience there.


  6. I love Mackinac Island! It is one of my favorite places on the planet! We went there for the first time when I was probably nine or ten. I remember it cost $5 to just go up on the porch of the Grand. Needless to say, we didn't do that. There were six of us (four kids and 2 parents), and we stayed in Mackinaw City. Several years ago, we went on a park sponsored bus trip to the Grand. It was amazing! I love the decor, though I know many people find it a little over the top. The food is scrumptious! Did you know a lot of those mansions just up the hill from the Grand didn't used to have furnaces? They were summer homes only. So, if you were to go there now, and see them all bundled up (some have canvas shutters for winterizing), you would know they probably still don't have furnaces and are someone's summer home. I would love to spend the winter up there, but I'm sure it would be only one! We spoke to a blacksmith who lived on island all year. He said he started stocking up for the winter in the summer because there are times the island is cut off from the mainland. I am really hoping to go back some day! Thanks for reminding me of this wonderful place!

    1. I am covering The Grand Hotel next week, but just the outside. We didn't stay there because I really hate the decor. It's just so dated to me. I know that sounds silly being that it is a historic hotel, but as one living in a historic home, there is a way to decorate in a historic style without looking dated if that makes sense. When I looked at the photos of the rooms, it made me wonder how old those bedspreads were! Now they don't charge to go on the front porch, but they charge $10 to view the lobby. Needless to say, we didn't do that, although I did peek through the windows, and I thought the lobby was hideous. ha ha! Glad I didn't pay the $10. The porch also is closed to the public at times, which I will discuss next week. Yes, most of the population of Mackinac Island is summer-only residents, but I do know they have some year long residents too. I think I would enjoy that!

  7. So charming. I love how Starbucks blends right in. Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. Enjoyed seeing your pics. Good to know about the walking dilemma, neither of us could that. Personally, I think they shouldn't allow Starbucks, just keep it old and quaint without all of the modern day commercialization. Thanks so much for linking up at the #UnlimitedLinkParty 139. Pinned.

    1. It would be nice if the island had a free horse and carriage shuttle service that at least went up and down the Main Street all day, especially for handicapped or elderly people. Now that I think of it, I didn't see a lot of older people on the island. But the island is all about making money and they want to rent bikes, carriages, etc. so of course they wouldn't offer a free shuttle service.

  9. What beautiful homes and architecture, Amy. Thanks for sharing. I have never been to that part of the country so I loved all your photos.

  10. Amy, thank you so much for taking me along to Mackinac Island! We've been there several times, but with no idea when we might ever go again. We've done it all: walked (though not as much as you did!), biked, carriage tours, drive-it-yourself horse and carriage rides (my husband drove, and it cracked his sister up because the two of them were definitely not horsey people!), gone for the day and stayed on the mainland, stayed at the Grand Hotel, stayed at other hotels. The bike rental is definitely worth it. If I ever get to visit again, we'll rent the bikes just to see if we can still make the complete circle of the island within an hour (my husband thought I was riding fast to make sure we wouldn't have to pay for a second hour!). Love your outfit with the stripes—very nautical.

    1. Wow! You have done it all! We definitely need to go back now that we've learned from all our mistakes. I want to stay on the island next time, but not the Grand Hotel. I'd be more comfortable in a B&B or smaller hotel. Thanks so much.

  11. Mackinac Island is on my bucket list, so I appreciate you sharing all your pros and cons, Amy.

  12. Those are some really beautiful homes. Thanks for sharing them with us. Very nice.

  13. CONGRATS Amy! Your post is FEATURED at the #UnlimitedLinkParty 140!

  14. What a lovely tour of the island. I have only been there once, but it's been a very long time. What a great adventure. Thanks for sharing this post at the Will Blog for Comments #16 linkup. Come share another post or two at #17 which opens December 4. Have a great week.

  15. These are so stunning! #TrafficJamReboot

  16. There is lots of great information and hints in your blog post. I am putting Mackinaw Island on my bucket list and hope to visit one day. It really looks like a place we would have a great time exploring!


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