Recently, my family spent a couple of days on Mackinac Island, Michigan while on a trip to see family. If you've ever seen the movie "Somewhere in Time" starring Christoper Reeve and Jane Seymour, you'll understand the allure of this beautiful resort.
Mackinac Island and The Grand Hotel have a timeless charm. Built in 1887 and on the National Historic Landmark registry, this award-winning hotel boasts the world's longest front porch - complete with rocking chairs. There are no motor vehicles allowed on the island. All transportation is by foot, bicycle or horse and carriage. It's amazing how peaceful it is without the hum of cars on the road.
The Grand Hotel is not an inexpensive destination. However, when you consider all that is included, it starts to seem much more reasonable. Included in your reservation are a full breakfast and a five-course dinner in the Main Dining Room (proper attire required: dress, skirt or dress slacks for ladies and coat and tie for gentlemen). Or, you can choose a more casual three-course meal at the adjacent Jockey Club. Alternatively, you will each receive a $20 credit towards dinner at any restaurant on the island. We had a short visit due to family obligations. I would recommend staying for 4 to 5 days. There is plenty to keep you busy.
The only way to get to Mackinac Island is by ferry. We had driven our own car to Mackinaw City, Michigan (located about 2 hours from Traverse City and 4 hours north of Detroit) and utilized Shepler's Ferry to park our car and for transportation. We purchased our Ferry tickets online and paid for parking at the dock. There were cheaper parking options but they involved a shuttle and we just wanted to GO!
Shepler's Ferry runs a very efficient and friendly service. We were met at the gate and someone helped us with our bags, much like Magical Express at Disney World; our bags were put on the Ferry and showed up in our room hours later. Roundtrip fare was $24 per person, pre-paid and parking was $20 per night. Once we disembarked the ferry, we chose to walk to The Grand Hotel - about a 15 minute walk. You could also take a horse and carriage for an additional fee.
The Hotel and Our Room
The Grand Hotel makes quite an impression! First of all, the huge, all white facade accented with American Flags, yellow awnings and their signature red geraniums, high on a hill is simply stunning! And, everywhere you look, beautiful gardens burst with flowers and foliage.
The lower, path level has the check in desk, along with some shops, including: gentlemen's and ladies' clothing, a cut flower stand, and Sadie's Ice Cream. The second floor boasts that famous front porch and "The Parlor" a design achievement that combines vivid greens and reds, plus a grand piano and the Main Dining Room.
All of the 300 plus rooms at The Grand Hotel are unique in decor, size and layout. When you book your room, you simply book a category and there is no way to tell, unless you book a named suite, what the room will hold. We had requested 2 queen beds and a rollaway. Our room was HUGE and exactly as requested. It was decorated in blue and white with the rollaway bed disguised as an ottoman. As part of the nightly, turn-down service, the extra bed was all made up for our daughter, complete with chocolate on her pillow.
You will notice throughout the hotel, that the floors are not quite level, the stairs tilt a bit. It's all a bit shabby chic, emphasis on chic. Though, if you have mobility issues, this may present a challenge on Mackinac Island in general. In the hotel, the elevators sometimes did not work and the stairs were many. We found it charming, however.
Something you should also know when staying here is that there is absolutely NO tipping. Not at your meals. Not at the bar. None. It was very hard to get used to. There isn't even a space to enter a tip on the check at your meals. However, if you dine at a location away from The Grand Hotel, then tipping is expected as usual.
One of the best places to enjoy the hotel and the view is the World's Longest Front Porch. If you can find a chair! Those red geraniums and the American Flags make quite a statement.
Make sure you plan to experience dinner in The Main Dining Room at least once during your visit. There is something very grand about it. Waiters in white coats, everyone dressed up, the band playing and a five course meal - its not to be missed. The menu rotates between three different sets, so you won't get bored. Children can enjoy a buffet just for them. It had peanut butter and jelly sandwich quarters, fruit, broccoli and spaghetti with meatballs and sauce on the side. There was also a selection of desserts.
We enjoyed the breakfast service very much. There was a buffet with fresh fruit, eggs, meats and either pancakes, blintzes or waffles. As the meals are included, we were invited to order off the menu, enjoy the buffet, or both! Breakfast service starts at 7:30 a.m. Complimentary coffee and tea (with china cups and saucers! or take out cups) is available starting at 6:30 a.m. in the Audubon Wine Bar.
We actually preferred the food at The Gate House, located just down the hill. Sitting outside, we enjoyed a huge shrimp appetizer, pretzel rolls with mustard aioli and brie fondue. My daughters enjoyed their seafood pasta and turkey burger entrees. My husband got shrimp tacos and I had the roasted half chicken. All was delicious and I ate too much!!
Other dining options include Sushi Grand, The Jockey Club and Cawthorne's Village Inn.
One thing to note, after 6:30 p.m. gentlemen must be in coats and ties and ladies also suitably dressed in all public areas of the hotel. You can pass through, but you may not sit on the porch or parlor or any other public space with the exception of The Cupola Bar. To get to The Cupola Bar, you take the elevator to the 4th floor and then up one flight of steps to the lower level of the bar, or two flights to the top. The view is lovely and it was a comfortable space to sit and relax. There was a pianist there and people were playing cards or just talking.
Overall, we truly enjoyed our stay at The Grand Hotel. The setting was absolutely beautiful and we wished we had more time to enjoy all that it had to offer.
Watch for future posts about recreation on the island and touring tips!
Mary Graham is a Vacation Specialist with Coasters & Castles Travel. She has visited Walt Disney World more than 20 times over the past 18 years and is an Annual Passholder. She specializes in Disney destinations and would love to help you plan your next adventure!