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. I had heard about the island while growing up and didn’t think I’d ever get the opportunity. Nothing like a destination wedding to take one on an adventure!
      You’ll have to visit someday!


    2. You should! It was such a beautiful and largely untouched island. You would think it would be really built out, but I was amazed at the amount of hiking trails and wilderness. 🙂


    1. We did! I had checked the weather before we went. It was cool and gorgeous the first day, then the rain came in. The wedding had to wait for a half hour, but the sun peeked out and it cleared up! Living in a semi-arid state, I always appreciate moisture.


  1. HA! That T-shirt cracked me up. You know any place that has that many shops selling chocolate fudge has to be good. 120? Yeah … that’s my kind of place and all while riding around in bikes or by slow horse ride? Nice … without the poop smell of course. Nice pics 🙂


  2. I don’t tend to travel much anymore, but if I did, I want to revisit Portland, OR and see my son. Mollie Player is up in Washington and promised me lunch if I ever got up that way. Sounds like a fun time to me.


    1. I’ve never been to Portland, but would love to visit someday. I hope you get the chance!
      We had a wonderful time exploring the island and catching up with relatives.
      Thanks Scott!


  3. Sounds like quite the adventure! I think I wouldn’t mind being in a land without cars for a little while. I would have to decide on gas fumes versus manure fumes. There are times I’m sure the car in front of me is burning manure. As a Canadian I would have to say “Up North” is definitely relative.


  4. Loved this post – my childhood, just like Pego said. Dad was a boater and for many summers our destination was “the” Island, with stops along the Lake Huron shore. LOVED that place, still do, but haven’t been on the island for so many years.
    My husband and I rented a home right on Lake Superior in the UP the 3rd week of August. A little town called Paradise. So I visited the mighty Mac and lighthouses all around the eastern UP. It is beautiful. Sounds like you had a blast!


    1. I’m so glad you found my post!
      I bet it hasn’t changed too much. The town is quaint, the fort is still manned by the scouts, and horses rule! What a great trip! It is so pristine and quiet.
      Your trip sounds like a wild adventure. There is so much to see and do!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It is quite a unique place. I didn’t miss cars at all! It was quiet and pristine. I would have liked to hike the trails, but we ran out of time. We’ll have to go back!
      Thanks for stopping by and taking a virtual vacation!


  5. I’ve been to that island before when I was young and did a family vacation driving all around Lake Superior. It doesn’t seem to have changed much in the last 20 years. I like that and I’m glad you had a great trip!


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