Traveling North by Plane, Car, Boat, Bike, Foot, and Hooves

us map

My husband, Danny, and I wrapped up a wild summer filled with travel by heading to Michigan for a wedding. Knowing this would entail a variety of transportation, our children opted out. They couldn’t take the vacation time. After an uneventful flight (Yeah!) from Denver to Detroit, we rented a car and drove up north to the top of the state.

Growing up in the sister state of Wisconsin, “up north,” was synonymous with vacation and cottages on lakes. Now that I think about it since Madison is located in the southernmost part, almost everywhere in the state is north.

mackinac island

After a four-and-a-half hour drive, we arrived in Mackinaw City. We paid a toll then drove over the longest bridge in the western hemisphere, 8,614 feet long, to St. Ignace. The Mackinac Bridge links the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan.


I learned something! Apparently, because Lake Michigan is on the west coast and Lake Huron on the east with the Straits of Mackinac between them, the entire state is a peninsula. The peninsula has a peninsula. I traveled there to ski Indianhead Mountain back in college. We fondly call the U.P. (upper peninsula) inhabitants, Upers which is pronounced – youpers. 


Obligatory lighthouse photo.


The next day, we checked our luggage at the dock. We left our rental car parked in the lot and took a ferry from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island. I witnessed my first peek at Lake Huron. We weren’t all the way north yet.

ferry to Mackinaw

We sat topside to take in the view.


Mackinac is no ordinary island. They only allow bicycles and horse-pulled  carriages for transportation. Since I love horses, the smell of horse apples (manure) didn’t offend me like it did some of my compadres. It competed with the fragrant smell of fudge. Oh yeah. Of the 120 shops, almost half sell the chocolate confection.

fudge shop

And the competing smell…

horses on Mackinaw Island

We soon discovered that carriages in movies are very unrealistic. Have you ever noticed how the horses pulling them are galloping in most scenes? Yeah, well, on Mackinac Island, they rarely trot. The horses would pass walkers along the roadside, then the carriage driver would let them rest. The pedestrians would walk by and wave.


We hoofed it in the rain. Doesn’t that carriage look super slow?

We stayed at The Inn at Stonecliffe located about two miles from town and rode by carriage at night. High heels and horse manure don’t mix. There was a poop patrol who had the futile job of shoveling, but futile is the key word.


The carriage drivers were characters. While riding back late at night after the rehearsal dinner, one told us although the islanders lock their doors in the summer to keep inebriated tourists from wandering into the wrong house, it is a relatively quiet island. No one bothers to lock them in the winter. I mentioned that would save time when borrowing sugar. You could just walk in and help yourself.

horse and carriage

Then he remembered something. “The first gun law in the country originated on Mackinaw Island. Roe v. Wade,” he said. It was all we could do to keep from laughing. He got all riled up and said Roe v. Wade about five more times while giving us the particulars of the case.

I asked him about Mackinac versus Mackinaw. I wondered which was right. He said, “The original word Mackinaw is the Native American word for turtle.”

Danny pointed out since he was such a “reliable” source of information, I better check my facts.


Pond shot a man for prying the roof off his net house.

There was a “Make my day,” case which happened in 1859 when a landowner’s outbuilding was damaged by an angry mob. He shot and killed one of the men. The case was dismissed since he was protecting his property. People v. Pond. Yep. Just like Roe v. Wade.

Michilimackinac was the original Native American word meaning The Great Turtle. Mackinaw means woolen coat and came later. Whether it is spelled Mackinac or Mackinaw, it is always pronounced Mackinaw.

We bicycled seven miles around the island and I realized why the horses needed to rest. There were some steep climbs and cruiser bikes were without granny gears. I wanted to stop and catch my breath, but there was no rest for the weary.

biking around mackinaw

Dodging the piles…

After the wedding, Danny and I took the ferry then drove to Traverse City. We were back in the land of cars.

summer car

Ya think?

We explored the Warren Dunes State Park.

top of the sand dunes

We found a lovely little town and the Cherry Republic which sold cherry “pop” (soda), cherry wine, cherry salsa, and of course chocolate covered cherries.

cherry republic

A cherry pit spitting arena with rules.

cherry pit spitting

And the rules…

cherry pit spitting rules

When buying (what else?), cherry pie, the man behind the counter asked, “Have you been up north yet?” He was referring to a twenty-mile loop, you guessed it, just north from there.

up north t-shirt

We laughed so hard. Danny had to buy a t-shirt.

We were up north the whole time! I guess it’s all relative.

Things to See and Do in Northern Michigan and Mackinaw Island, traveling by plane, boat, bike, foot and hooves. Shopping and lighthouse, Travel tips, Travel North America, summer bucket list, dream vacations #MackinawIsland #Northern Michigan #TravelNorthAmerica #traveltips #Travel

Where would you like to travel next summer?

85 thoughts on “Traveling North by Plane, Car, Boat, Bike, Foot, and Hooves

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  1. reads like you had a Grand time! How long were you UP NORTH? Even though I’ve driven across the Golden Gate Bridge AND the Bay Bridge and survived the 1989 Loma Prieta quake – the Mackinac Bridge gives me the WILLIES! Nothing beats the fudge you find UP NORTH… glad you had a blast – have a wonderful week!


    1. We were UP NORTH for 5 days. It really was a travel adventure! From Mackinac the length of the bridge is pretty dramatic. It was just far enough away to not show up well in photos.
      I loved this quaint island and the small towns “up north.”
      Thanks Clay! You too!


  2. What a fun trip! Variety is the spice of life. Even in England there is a funny up north saying. Basically north of London is up north.


    1. When I was researching, I found that little expression!
      My mo still asks, “Did you have fun up north?” after we come home from the mountains which are west of us… 🙂
      Great to see you Catherine!


  3. I want to when you sleep? :0

    We have two teenagers, so I can think that far ahead. This summer we visited Cancun, Aspen, Taos and Dallas. We loved all for different reasons.


    1. Nice! We usually make it to Aspen at least once, but we decided to go to Telluride for our anniversary this fall instead!
      I haven’t been to Dallas, but may go to a conference there sometime.
      Thanks Marcy!


  4. You’re so right – living in Wisconsin, “up north” means somewhere like Crandon or Eagle River. Or Bayshore, if you really want to get wacky. 😉 Glad you had fun – who wouldn’t, with such beautiful scenery and “reliable” tour guides! 🙂


    1. Right? We did have a fun time and traveling was a huge part of the adventure! Now we say, “We’re going “up” to the mountains.”
      Thanks DMS! I hope you get to experience a little travel in your future.


  5. Definitely had to buy that shirt!!!!! Really enjoyed the regional phrases.

    Mackinac sounds like my kind of place: ferry ride over, horses, chocolate…probably cooler. (Kids growing up there probably don’t appreciate it, though).
    Have a nephew with family that lives up that way…maybe need to go visiting..
    Thanks for all the pictures – your tours are always fun with odd facts mixed with humor.


    1. Thanks Phil! I didn’t see a school on the island, but there may be some families who tough it out. I would think it would be pretty isolating in winter.
      You should definitely go for a visit! It won’t disappoint. 🙂
      The other popular t-shirt: Lake Michigan – Unsalted.


  6. Why is it people love fudge so much? I used to do craft shows and yes I sold fudge — but I sold PMS fudge hahaha.. cherries and cashews to get the salty and sweet going.. This looked lovely.. I never travel except going for two weeks to see my sweetie in CA at the end of the month


  7. Hey, I’ve been to ALL those places – even the cherry place! We used to go to Mackinaw Island every summer when I was a kid, then went to Traverse City for about 5 summers in a row when our kids were teenagers. I’m sorry I haven’t been back to either recently – 30 years since my last trip to Mackinaw!

    Hope you had a wonderful time


    1. You’ll have to go back! It was wonderful. I expected it to be overdone and gaudy, but it was really lovely. Traverse City was more built up and fancylike, but the beaches!
      I bet your kids would love it and the fall color will be spectacular. Maybe a road trip is in your future….


  8. Boy does this bring back childhood memories for me! Beautiful Country to travel, explore and adventure. I would love to take my hubbie to see Michigan, since I grew up in Detroit and traveled to the UP and Mackinac area while growing up and into my 20’s. You can take that bridge though – not a favorite of mine. Thanks so much for sharing 🙂 Happy Day!


    1. I bet it hasn’t changed too much. There is so much to see and do. Clay recommended a place on the way back called Frankenmuth that was a trip too! It was a little Bavaria.
      Happy day to you Renee! 🙂


  9. Macinaw Island is in the top ten of my travel bucket list. Your tour makes me want to move it up to the top five. I have travel plans for next year, Maui and Bainbridge Island.


  10. What a fun adventure, Susie. Very interesting how people live in that island with just bikes and horses. Pretty cool. 🙂 Glad you have had a good summer, I’ve missed you! I know you are busy unplugging and writing away. 🙂


    1. Hey Maria!
      It was a very unique and interesting place. I loved it.
      We had a crazy summer, but I’ll be home until the end of the month. Whew! Traveling did make the season seem a lot longer!
      I’ve thought about you often! I hope all is well, you empty nester! You can see that we embrace it now. 🙂


  11. Yay, my home state! “Up north” always meant and always will mean cottages and lakes for me too. Mackinaw Island is nice but too much a tourist trap isn’t it? Your husband was so close to his yooper home eh! Great photos and post Susie!


    1. The actual town was so small that I didn’t feel trapped at all. I was expecting more of an onslaught, but it was quaint!
      Danny’s home is in Madison, but you gotta love those UPers!


  12. That is so funny!!! I can totally relate as EVERYTHING is up North to me (except Mexico). And since our headquarters is in Milwaukee, I know UP NORTH is getting near freakin’ Canada. LOL. Looks like a great trip! A town with no cars sounds healthy – maybe more bikes, less horses though. 🙂


    1. Great to see you Angelia!
      Yep. We used that term and had to laugh when we just weren’t there YET! Too funny!
      It was very healthy and I loved the horses. The bonus? No rush hour!!


  13. We used to hold our family reunions at Mackinaw! (And I recognized Kilwins as the fudge/candy/icecream shop) Warren Dunes was also a regular summertime jaunt back in the day. Thanks for bringing me old summertime nostalgia! Looks like you guys had a great time, too!


  14. Glad you had fun in my home, Susie! (I’m actually near the capital, but ALL of Michigan is my home–the good parts and the bad ones!)

    I feel that “up north” is anywhere north of Clare, as that’s where the population tends to spread out. (I’ve never researched it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if most of us are packed below that imaginary line!) However, when people say they have a place “up north”, they generally mean somewhere in the UP! Waaay too far for me! (I know of only one family that has a cottage in northern lower. Does that tell you anything?)


    1. I traveled to the UP to ski and it was fantastic compared to the little hills outside Madison. I have memories of staying in lake cottages in Wisconsin. I would love to do that again! I never minded roadtripping to Northern Wisconsin since it was always so beautiful. After moving to Colorado, we have driven back to Wisconsin many times! Talk about waaay too far! 🙂


  15. Awesome! I dream of doing a road trip but since I can’t drive it scuppers that idea. Trains may be an option but not as much freedom, but travelling across USA on train is something I’ve looked into. Have my first ever trip to the States next month, 8 days in NYC, I can’t wait.


      1. Haha! No idea about fashion, I’m a terrible gay man!

        I guess I have to see a show but will rock up on a day and see what’s on. Have some gigs planned, only small venues to see something loud. other than that I plan on just mooching about soaking up the atmosphere and seeing what happens.

        I’ve never been so everyone given me lots of tips but usually hate tourist crowds so rented an apartment in East Village and will live as a New Yorker for a week.


        1. How fantastic! I would love an immersion trip. There is a place in Times Square that sells tickets the day of the show. It’s a big booth right near the Marriot Marquis. You probably already heard about it. Anyway, there is a big discount since they want to fill the theater. The restaurants are heaven! Have fun!!!


          1. Thanks for the tip, we have similar in London so figured there would be, just aswell, looked at normal prices and they were about three times the price of London theatre and I thought ours were expensive!


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