Mackinac Island, Michigan

Photo: Notorious4life [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Notorious4life [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Are you a fudgie? You will be when you visit Mackinac Island this spring. Don’t worry, it’s not a bad thing. The Michigan island is known for its delicious fudge. Few people leave the island without bringing home—or, at least sampling—the sugary candy. Hence, your new nickname. Sure, you can eat the expected flavors, like chocolate or peanut butter. Or you could try caramel sea salt, maple walnut, or cranberry at Murdick’s Fudge, which has been open since 1887. Tempted yet?

Mackinac Island is located between Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula. It’s in the Straits of Mackinac, which separate two of the Great Lakes, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. This was Ojibwe land until European fur traders arrived in the 17th century. The island was later a strategic position for the British during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. By the end of the century, the forts were abandoned and the second-home owners moved in. It’s been a popular summer destination ever since.

Having boarded a ferry in Mackinaw City on the mainland, you’re now approaching the island, which looks much like it did 100 years ago. The harbor is filled with little sailboats. Wooden houses have clapboard siding and perfectly manicured lawns. Main Street and Market Street are lined with small shops. Mission Church is the oldest church in the state. Horse-drawn carriages queue in the street. This is a walking and biking place—only emergency vehicles are allowed on the island. And most of the land—80% to be exact—is protected as a state park.

Photo: Mission Point Resort
Photo: Mission Point Resort

After walking around the center of town, head to Fort Mackinac. The well-preserved fort, built by the British in 1780, sits on a bluff overlooking Main Street and the harbor. Uninhabited Round Island, with its red-and-white lighthouse, is in the distance. Explore the stone walls, the canons, and the old barracks. Costumed reenactors fire rifles and play bugles. You opt for a cold drink and the view from the Tea Room. Follow the coastline and hike to Arch Rock, a natural limestone bridge. Visit Fort Holmes, the highest point on the island, and Skull Cave, which was once filled with human remains. You hear horse hoofs clacking in the distance. Then stop at the Surrey Hills Carriage Museum to see antique carriages and the working blacksmith shop.

Eventually, you reach the Grand Hotel. The Victorian hotel, built after the Civil War, is surrounded by an emerald lawn and blooming flowers. If it weren’t for the couple texting on the long, pillared verandah, you’d feel like you had stepped back into the late 1800s. Minus the three-dollar-a-night room rate. Climb up to the Cupola Bar for panoramic views and a glass of Riesling. A Bald Eagle swoops by the window.

Walk back into town for an al fresco dinner—the whitefish and the perch are fresh from the lake—at the Carriage House. But hold off on dessert. There are new fudge flavors you’ve been waiting to try all day.

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