Mackinac Island: Michigan’s Island Paradise Located in the Straits of Mackinac this tourist attraction has a rich and colorful history.
When most people think of term Island Oasis they automatically think of an Island complete with with tropical breezes, gently swaying palm trees, sweet smelling flowers and sandy beaches where one can linger under an umbrella drinking refreshing drinks, while colorful cabanas decorate the background. However, Michigan has it’s own Island oasis called Mackinac Island.
On this Island you won’t see a single palm tree nor any cabanas worth mentioning. And while you will get breezes they will be far from tropical. You will however, find thousands of sweet smelling flowers, and more bicycles and horses than one could imagine. But, what is really great about this particular Island paradise is that there are no cars, and every where you go on this Island you are engulfed in beauty and a rich sense of history.
Located in The Straits of Mackinac between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas Mackinac Island is an extremely small Island covering only 3.8 square miles. In 1875, the then President Grant designated this a national park making it only the second National park in the entire country at the time. Although no longer carrying the National park designation, 80% of Mackinac Island remains a state park with many trails to hike and explore.
The early native Americans who lived in this region were first struck by the high limestone cliffs they could see rising from the waters of the Great Lakes. Exploring this Island, they found many caves which they would use to bury their dead.
It was on these cliffs that the British would establish a fort in 1780, using the height to great effect to protect the fort from threat of American forces during the Revolutionary war. Later England would give this fort to the American’s by treated, though they would once again claim the fort as their own during the war of 1812.
19th Century Retreat
In the mid to late 19th centuries the well to do from cities such as Detroit and Chicago would travel to Northern Michigan to escape the heat of the cities. Discovering the unique beauty of the Island, many of these people decided to build summer homes on this Island. The Grand hotel was also built in the 19th century to offering lodging to those who wanted to visit the Island but did not want to spend the entire summer there.
When the automobile was first introduced to the country, the residence of this Island retreat found this invention to be smelly frightened the horses that had been part of the Island way of life. They passed legislation that remains today forbidding automobiles and other gasoline motorized vehicle from the Island and in doing so created a situation that would later make Mackinac Island a unique mixture of modern day conveniences and 19th century charm.
A Writer’s Dream Come True
One of the most interesting facets of this Island is that it has become place where both writer’s have penned their greatest works and where movies have made those work come alive.
While sitting on the porch of Mackinac Island’s mission house Edward Everett Hale would write “Man without a country.” which would later become a work read by almost every high school class in America as well as play performed by many amateur and professional theater groups.
It was on this Island that Constance Fenimore Woolson would write her best known book, “Anne” that tells the story of a young girl’s adventures on Mackinac Island.
Mackinac Island would also be used as the backdrop of two haunting love stories. “This time for keeps” a 1949 movie starring Jimmy Durante and Ester Williams and “Somewhere in Time” a 1979 movie starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.
Even Mark Twain paid a visit to the Island giving a lecture at the Grand Hotel for which he received $345.00 quite a fee for that time.
One can understand why writers found inspiration on this Island. Surrounded by so much history and beauty it is also a place where one can find solitude and spend hours gazing out over the waters of Lakes Michigan and Huron. It is a place where one can easily imagine being cut off in the winters when the snow comes and the lakes freeze over. It is a place that stimulates the imagination, soothes the heart and mind and calls to the soul.
A Place of Science and Discovery
It is also a place where archaeologists have discovered some interesting finds of Michigan’s past and where at least one important medical study was done.
At fort Mackinac in the 1800s the fort surgeon William Beaumont was called to tend to a young man who had been shot in the stomach. Beaumont managed to save the young man’s life but the wound never completely closed allowing Beaumont to actually observe how the human stomach digested food. These observations were the beginning of many studies that allowed doctors to better treat stomach ailments.
It is an Island well worth visiting and exploring. A place where on the hottest days of summer you can catch a cool breeze that blows in off the lake and here the faint whisperings of those Native Americans and early settlers that once called this Island their home.