Marching in Mackinac: The Island of No Cars

Mackinac Island, situated off Lake Huron in Michigan, is renowned for its charming Victorian-era architecture, historic sites, and breathtaking natural beauty. However what sets Mackinac Island apart from other destinations is its lack of cars. In fact this island is the only place in the United States where cars are not allowed, and the only way to get around is by foot, bike, or horse-drawn carriage. 

The absence of cars on Mackinac Island has a profound impact on the atmosphere and environment of the island. For starters, it creates a peaceful and serene environment that is free from the noise and pollution of cars.

The lack of cars also contributes to the preservation of the island’s natural beauty and its historical landmarks, as well as encourages visitors to be more active and explore the island on foot or by bike. Here are a few activities you can do on the island.

Take a Carriage Ride

Photo Credit: Mackinac Island Carriage Tours

Horse-drawn taxi cabs are the best way to get around the island. To request “taxi” service, it is required to contact the dispatch office. Also available are narrated tours of prominent areas such as Surrey Hills, Arch Rock, Fort Mackinac and the Grand Hotel. The tour usually runs for one hour and 45 minutes, providing enough time to time to see many landmarks.

Explore Fort Mackinac

Photo Credit: Getty Images

 Fort Mackinac is one of the most popular historic landmarks on the Island. Take a step back in time and explore some of  the exhibits in the oldest building in Michigan and thirteen other historical structures within the fort. Fort Mackinac operated as a home for soldiers and their families and subsequently became the headquarters for Mackinac National Park.

Visitors can also experience cannon and rifle firing demonstrations that take place at the iconic Fort Mackinac cannon. Don’t forget to take in the beautiful scenery while you’re there. After all, Fort Mackinac is located at the highest point of the island and provides some of the best views of Lake Huron.

Visit the Butterfly Conservatory

Photo Credit- MackinacIsland.Org

The  Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory is a peaceful oasis where you’ll be surrounded by hundreds of free-flying tropical and native butterflies. Enjoy the beauty of nature while learning about the ecology of these gorgeous creatures as you explore the conservatory.

Visit Mackinac State Historic Parks

Mackinac State Historic Parks are a collection of museums and nature parks. In 1895, Mackinac Island State Park was established. Prior to that, it had been Mackinac National Park, the second national park in the United States, for twenty years.

There are numerous areas of interest and monuments around the park, with Fort Mackinac and the historic downtown sites being the most notable.

Michilimackinac State Park, Michigan’s second state park, was founded in 1909. The park is located at the tip of Michigan’s lower peninsula and is bordered on the north by the magnificent Straits of Mackinac.

Colonial Michilimackinac, one of the most important fur trade ports of the 18th century, and the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, originally known as the “Castle on the Straits,” are both located in Michilimackinac State Park.

Today, more than eighty percent of Mackinac Island is State Park property, with the majority of this land remaining in its natural state.

Shop at the Local Markets and Boutiques

Photo Credit: MackinacIsland.Org

A visit to Mackinac Island is not complete without exploring its local markets and boutiques and intriguing art galleries. Just as there are no chain restaurants or hotel franchises, there are no department stores or outlet malls on the Island. With a plethora of shopping options, you’re bound to bring a little piece of Mackinac Island home with you.

Discover the Grand Hotel

Photo Credit: Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island

Visitors can also explore or choose to stay at the Grand Hotel, a historic hotel that has been in operation since 1887. The hotel is famous for its Victorian-era architecture and stunning views of the lake and holds the world record of having the world’s largest porch. The 660 foot long front porch of the Grand Hotel is visible from Lake Huron when approaching the island.

Visit the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse

Old Mackinac Point. Photo Credit: Mackinac Parks

Since 1889, the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse has served as a guiding beacon for mariners navigating the dangerous Straits of Mackinac. This “Castle of the Straits” is a true treasure of the Great Lakes with its authentically restored quarters and exhibits, tours of the lighthouse tower, the Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Museum and more.

Explore the Waters of Lake Huron

Photo Credit: Mackinac Kayak

Visitors can take in the stunning views of Lake Huron and its crystal teal waters by renting a paddleboard or kayak. Take a journey across the lake and admire the sights of Mackinac Island from a different perspective.

Mackinac Island is an unique destination that provides tourists with a glimpse of the past. The absence of automobiles on the island helps preserve the island’s natural beauty and historical sites.

Mackinac Island is a place that will create a lasting impression, whether you are touring the island’s historic attractions , enjoying the stunning scenery via horse carriage, or participating in water activities on Lake Huron.