Mackinac Island Vacation Facts
Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw) owes its name to the Anishinaabe-Ojibwe Native American tribes, who called it Michilimackinac, or 'Land of the Great Turtle.' To these tribes, the dome of the island rising out of Lake Huron appeared like a giant turtle shell on the horizon. The people regarded Mackinac Island as the home of the Great Spirit, and used the site as a place for tribal gatherings and burials of chiefs. When European settlers first appeared on Mackinac Island, Native Americans believed the Great Spirit fled to live in the Northern Lights.
Mackinac Island - General Information
Mackinac Island is located between Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas, 7 miles east of the Mackinac Bridge, in Lake Huron. The island is home to 500-600 year-round residents. The climate is mild and maritime, with pleasant summers and cold, frozen winters. Visitors should bring layers of clothing, including sweaters and jackets, for even the summer months have cool nights and mornings. Average May temperatures are 50 degrees and rise to an average temperature of 71 in August.
Mackinac Island - Ban on Motorized Vehicles
Mackinac Island prohibits all motorized vehicles (except for emergency and government vehicles). This regulation has its beginnings in the late 1800s, when Mackinac Island was first becoming a destination for the rich and famous, and carriage companies existed to chauffeur holiday-goers around the island. In 1896, Thomas Chambers, a local carriage driver, asked the Village of Mackinac Island to ban 'horseless carriages' because they startled the horses. In the 1920s, formal regulations were passed to limit all motor vehicles in the interest of public health and safety. Today, Mackinac Island is home to M-185, the nation's only state highway that prohibits motorized vehicles. This scenic 8.2-mile shoreline highway circumnavigates the island and is the perfect route for a bicycle excursion and many photo opportunities.
Mackinac Island - Famous Visitors
Mackinac Island has hosted many famous visitors: French explorers Jean Nicolet and Rene Cavelier LaSalle; authors Everett Hale and Mark Twain; and actors Jimmy Durante, Esther Williams, Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. During the summer of 1929, Gerald Ford came to the island as a Boy Scout. Mackinac Island is also the Governor's summer home, and a red Michigan flag flying from the flagpole on the front lawn means that the Governor is in!
In addition to famous visitors, Mackinac Island has been featured in some famous films. The swimming pool at the stately Grand Hotel was built expressly for the 1946 Esther Williams film This Time for Keeps. Also, the Grand Hotel was the setting for the 1979 love story movie Somewhere in Time.