Mackinac Island, Michigan – have you ever heard of this quiet, car-free island which can only be reached by ferry and is filled with hiking and biking trails, horse drawn carriages, fudge shops and Victorian architecture? My dad grew up in Michigan, so he made sure to introduce us to “the jewel of the Great Lakes” during summer trips up north, and many of our family’s best memories have been made on the island. This summer, my parents decided it was time to add to those great memories by hosting all of us (8 adults and 2 children) on a 4 day/3 night stay at the Grand Hotel’s Masco Cottage.
The Grand Hotel is the first distinguishable landmark when approaching Mackinac Island by ferry, boasting the longest front porch in the world, it’s hard to miss! The facility, opened in 1887, is beautiful with old-world charm and top-notch hospitality. The rooms are opulent and excessive in décor, each one uniquely filled with eccentric prints and colors; none of the 397 rooms are decorated the same. The Masco Cottage is part of the Grand Hotel, in fact, they call it their “Grandest Accommodation of All.” It is a four-bedroom summer cottage accessed by a private walkway just off the east wing of the Grand Hotel. It has a kitchen, its own spacious porch and outdoor lounge area, a fully stocked bar, nightly hours d’oeuvres served in the cottage before dinner, and a private hot tub. While the Masco Cottage is the lap of luxury, it really was a perfect lodging situation for our family of 8 adults and 2 children – we spent so much time together in the family room, out on the porch and in the hot tub.
All guests at the Grand Hotel dine together in the hotel’s massive dining room each night and everyone is expected to dress for dinner, cocktail attire at minimum. Dinner is five delicious courses with rotating menus so that you don’t have to eat the same thing when staying multiple nights. Don’t miss the famous Grand Pecan Ball for dessert! The lunch buffet in the Grand Dining Room is also a big hit, it is open to non-guests so be sure to check it out even if you’re not staying on site. After dinner, guests are welcome for live music and dancing in the Cupola Bar, which can be fun for all ages.
Since Mackinac Island is only accessible by ferry, and the lake freezes over in the winter, the island is a summer tourist destination (April – October). Weather on Mackinac Island tends to be sunny and 70s during summer days, dropping to the 50s or even 40s at night. The island has an 8-mile, paved bike path around its perimeter and plenty more paths crisscrossing the interior. A bike ride is a great, leisurely way to explore the island and there are plenty of places from which to rent bikes scattered around town, including on-site at the Grand Hotel. We parked our bikes at the base just below Arch Rock and climbed the fifty meters of stairs up to admire it. There are many ways to get to arch rock that do not include steep, inclined stairs, so don’t miss this spectacular, natural work of art. Another fun way to see the island, and to hear some of its fascinating history, is via horse-drawn carriage tour. Our whole family did this together and it suitable for all ages and abilities, we reserved through the Grand Hotel.
If you’re into golf, The Jewel course is BEAUTIFUL! Even if you’re not into golf, riding along in the cart is a wonderful way to spend a day on the island. The views are amazing and allow you to see the island from vantages to which you wouldn’t otherwise have access. For our crew, the boys rented clubs and played while the girls just rode along for a good time. Of note, this is essentially two different courses – the front nine vs. the back nine – and you are required to take a horse drawn carriage from one course to the other since they’re a couple of miles apart and motor vehicles are not allowed on the roads; the transit between takes upwards of an hour. For this reason, many people only play nine holes or play the front nine one day and the back nine the next. It is hard to say which course is superior if you had to choose just one, both are immaculately maintained and offer sweeping vantages so you can’t go wrong with either!
For history buffs, Fort Mackinac is perched on the highest part of the island. The fort fires their cannon and offers costumed demonstrations and other programs throughout every day. Fort Michilimackinac on the mainland in Mackinaw City could be a complementary activity to include; while we didn’t stop on this trip, we did enjoy visiting as kids. The sweetest and most famous treat on the island has to be the fudge, there are many different shops offering a wide variety of flavors. Stop in each one for samples and decide for yourself which is the best to bring home! The island is also known for the film Somewhere in Time which is set at the Grand Hotel and filmed in different locations around the island, there is even a full weekend in the fall dedicated to the movie fans.
While the Grand Hotel is the only place that we’ve stayed on the island, there are plenty of other accommodation options including smaller hotels and bed & breakfast cottages. Whether a quick day trip or a leisurely weekend, we love this magical island and are certain that you will too! Do you have a favorite, lesser known vacation spot? Leave it in the comments section below, we’d love to check it out!
P.S. This trip was extra special to our family as this summer marked 5 years since my brother, Trey, passed away. Here are some photos of our last family vacation to Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel where he was with us.