THE MACKINAC AREA
This historic area was settled over 300 years ago by Father Marquette, who's first mission and grave is located in St. Ignace at the Mission Museum downtown. In addition, there is a Father Marquette Memorial overlooking the straights near the beginning of the Mackinac Bridge.
St. Ignace is now 330 years old and has witnessed settlement and growth in the area from the local Native Americans to the British and French. St. Helene Island in front of this cabin used to be location of one of the busiest towns on the Great Lakes when most transportation was done by ship and boat. The island now is abandoned, an automated lighthouse under renovation remains.
Historic sites remain in St. Ignace, where a current archeological dig is going on behind the Mission. Mackinac Island has many historic sites preserved as well as Mackinac City on the south side of the bridge.
The Mackinac Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the world and was completed in 1956. This is one of the few bridges in the world that can be painted a light color owing to a lack of air pollution in this area.
AROUND THE CABIN
Swimming in front in Lake Michigan is a pleasure. The lake deepens gently and the beach is stone so you'll need your water shoes.
Pt. LaBarbe Road is nice for walks and for roller blading. There are many wild flowers all during the summer. You can also walk along the beach. The limestone is great for fossil hunting. Roll some rocks over in shallow water to see if you can find any crayfish.
Make a campfire on the beach, unless there is strong on-shore wind or have a fire in the fireplace. Wood is along the side of the cabin.
The kids have found some clay on the beach just east of the cabin that they use to make small pots and things. Let dry, then bake near the campfire. The kids also enjoy exploring the cedar woods.
A windy day is great for grabbing a blanket and laying on the lounge chairs.
Jogging: A nice four mile route is up Pt. LaBarbe Road to US 2, then west on US 2 to the other end of Pt. LaBarbe and back. You can also go out the Boulevard Road off Pt. LaBarbe and turn around.
Golf: St. Ignace has a nice 9 hole course with great views. The golf course is located on a road (next to the Big Boy restaurant) which intersects US 2 heading toward town. You'll see it between the highway and the lake before the bridge and there's a small sign there.
The Sand Dunes: This long sand beach with (relatively) warm water is a favorite spot in the summer. Go west on U.S. 2 for about 7 miles. You will come to a long stretch of road with sand dunes and a nice sand beach along the right, with other cars stopped. Park and enjoy. Bring a picnic. The swimming is great with gentle waves and the beach is entirely sand.
Tourist Traps: There are "Tourist Shops" around town that kids seem to love. Miniature golf is on the north side of town on US 2. The architecture of these shops is also interesting - see the one downtown St. Ignace across from the Father Marquette and Indian Museum. The out side is cedar bark and the inside is intricately fastened birch bark.
Herbon Pottery: A local potter with some neat stuff. This is mostly on sale on the store on Mackinac Island at the Arnold Line Dock, however, the studio is in St. Ignace, up behind the Star Line Docks near the State Police Station. They will ship home for you.
Mackinac Island: This is a must destination for everyone. Take the ferry over (there are several in St. Ignace), sail the boat over, or fly your plane and take a horse drawn taxi to town. Although the island has significant history going back over 300 years of white man occupation (missionaries, British, French, etc.), it is most known for its development during the Victorian era which spawned many elaborate cottages for wealthy mid-westerners and the famous Grand Hotel. As such, the island was frozen in time in the early 1900s, and no cars will be found on the island. The city is located around the harbor and has a lot of the tourist stuff to do. You may want to do a carriage tour of the island to see some of the interesting points, then rent bicycles to explore or ride around the island. See the fort, the Grand Hotel, etc. Take an interesting walking tour of the east bluff cottages (above mission point) and the west bluff cottages (behind the Grand, access via the Annex road) For lunch, there is a good barbecue. offered at Brian‰s Barbecue. on Main Street on the way to Mission Point, just beyond the marina and park. The best fudge is from Murdocks and Mays.
Mackinac City: This city on the south side of the bridge has an interesting fort - Fort Michilimackinac. This fort has continuous working displays of soldiers and residents of the era as well as a continual archeological dig. The main street is also a well done Victorian era with many interesting shops. The Hudson Bay Company has many interesting things. I suggest the fresh Whitefish lunch at Scalawags on Main Street in the Village Square.
Petoskey and Harbor Springs: These towns are located 45 minutes southwest of St. Ignace. Take the bridge then exit onto 31 (or 131 for the most scenic shore route) to Petoskey and Harbor Springs. Petoskey has been a summer cottage colony called Bay View, and good (and expensive) shopping with many stores operating here during the summer and Palm Springs during the winter. Harbor Springs is a scenic small town on the other side of the bay from Petoskey with good shops and restaurants. See if you can find the farm stand famous for its miniature vegetables (called the Bluffs) located just up behind town.
Sault St. Marie (or the Soo): These towns (there is an American and Canadian Soo) are located 50 miles north on I-75. The American Soo has a 15,000 population, while the Canadian Soo has a 100,000 population. This area was a prime potential target during W.W.II due to the munitions depot and the importance of the locks. You should go here to see the locks between the St. Marie‰s River and Lake Superior. You can take a lock tour, or just go to the park to see the ships up close. There is a very interesting ship museum (located inside the freighter Valley Camp). Make sure to have lunch or dinner at the Antlers. The Canadian Soo has the Bush Plane and Firefighters Museum.
Traverse City: This large town is located about two hours drive south, but could provide some urban relief if needed. Many stores and outlets, a small zoo, lots of people, and home to my two brothers and their families.
The Les Cheneaux Islands (The 'Snows') : This scenic area includes the small towns of Cedarville and Hessell. The best pasties and baked goods are at the Hessell bakery while many other restaurants in the area offer fresh fish and other good food. The area is comprised of many islands and old summer homes (small cottages and large mansions) with many classic boats - Chris Crafts, Garwoods, etc. There is a classic boat festival in August.
We do most of our cooking and eating at the cabin. Good groceries are available at Glen's Market on the way into town. Some fruit and vegetable stands are around towards the end of summer.
You should try the local Whitefish. Buy this at the Mackinac Fish Market, across the side street from Glens Grocery Store (towards town). Also, pick up some smoked fish for an appetizer. Either broil the Whitefish (put it skin side down on aluminum foil on a baking tray), or have a fish boil: Use the large fish pot, put a small coating of dish soap on the outside and bottom of the pot (to wash the smoke off later), and fill it about 2/3 full of water with the basket to boil on the fire. When boiling, add 1 cup of salt and some boiling potatoes. After about 10 minutes, add carrots and onions. After 10 more minutes, add your fish and boil about three minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Eat with tarter sauce and lemon!
Another local food, good for lunch and picnics, is the Pastie. Pronounce this with a short 'a'(PASS-TEE) - the long 'a' version is found in Las Vegas. This food was originally used by the Cornish miners for their lunch. It is a pastry pie filled with potatoes, meat, onions, sometimes carrots and seasonings. Good pasties can be purchased at the bakery in town, however, the best we have tasted are from the Hessell Bakery. Usually served with ketchup in this area.
In addition to the usual fast food joints on US 2, you may want to try a real drive in called Clyde's also on US 2. Just wait in your car and the waitresses will take your order and deliver it with a tray that attaches to the side of your car. Their burgers, fries, and malts are great.
Good ice cream can be found at Marshall‰s in St. Ignace.
Eating Out: There aren't many restaurants in St. Ignace, but there are some nearby that we can recommend.
Locally, the Galley in St. Ignace is OK, especially for local fish.
In Mackinac City, going towards Cheyboygan, Soodies has both good local whitefish and very good steaks with a great view of Lake Huron.
In Cross Village, on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, the Leggs Inn is an old stone and log restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining and specializes in Hungarian food.
In Hessell, the Hessell Bay Inn has wonderful whitefish and other good food and has an outdoor patio overlooking the Hessell harbor.
There is a casino in St. Ignace, just north of town on the Mackinac Trail. This is run by the local Indian tribe and has slots, craps, roulette and blackjack. See if you can win some of my money back.
Radio stations in the area include an oldies station, WAIR on 92.5 and a good station on 94.3 called 'Fudgy 94' after all the 'fudgies', the name given to all you tourists who flock here to buy fudge.
A new mall in Mackinac city has lots of shopping, a movie theater and restaurants as well as a laser show each evening.
There are weekly concerts on the green in Mackinac City.
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