Mackinac Island lies perfectly between the two land masses of the State of Michigan. Its natural beauty is certainly compelling, but it is the total ban of automobiles that lends itself to an idyllic setting for a romantic getaway.
Who would have thought that in this day of the Internet, cell phones and instant text messaging, there would be a place so picturesque as to be literally stuck in the turn of the 20th century. You can thank a disgruntled carriage driver, Thomas Chambers, who petitioned the Village of Mackinac Island to ban the "horseless carriages" in 1896 because they startled the horses. Horses prevailed and the rest is history.
The island has a rich history going back before European settlement. It soon became a strategic focal point for the trappers and traders, enough so that a fort was built here and the French and English took turns trying to possess the island. It didn't take long for tourism to take hold and the fudge shops and hotels sprang up to accommodate those looking to escape the heat and monotony of the city. These historic traditions and a bevy of nightly entertainment venues offer your guests plenty to do during their stay.
Today, most of the island is a State Park and also a National Historic District. Victorian mansions peek out over the bluffs with the town lying below. The streets are filled with horse carriages and flowers proliferate amongst the historic inns, shops and restaurants.
The Grand Hotel, like many hotels of its era, was built by transportation companies, enthusiastically setting themselves up to be the beneficiary of the tourism dollar. More remarkable than the four short months it took to build this hotel, or that it is one of only 12 wooden hotels of its age left standing, but that the hotel is thriving.
Today there are 386 rooms, no two decorated alike, by world renowned interior designer Carleton Varney. The lively prosperity of the hotel resounds throughout the huge dining room, ballroom and famous World's longest porch at 660 feet, which are filled with visitors from around the world.
The 1980 film Somewhere in Time, starring Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer, was filmed on location at the Grand Hotel. The movie now has a huge following, with a fan club that meets at the Grand Hotel each October.
The Inn at Stonecliffe was built by Irish born meat packing magnate Michael Cudahy, who came to this country with his family to escape the potato famine. Cudahy was only 14 when he and his brothers dropped out of school to help support the family by working in a slaughterhouse in Chicago. The impoverished immigrant boy turned respected business owner was the first person to ship meat on refrigerated wagons, making meat packing a year round business.
In 1904, he bought 150 acres, making him one of the largest landowners ever on Mackinac Island. Cudahy selected renowned architect Frederick Perkins to design the 47 bedroom Edwardian mansion.
Today the estate with its spectacular grounds, terraced lawn and panoramic views of the Straits of Mackinac and Mackinac Bridge, offer a tranquil respite from the everyday grind.