You Won't Believe This Gorgeous Island Is Just Off the Coast of Michigan

The “Jewel of the Great Lakes” is known for its Victorian homes, preserved Native American buildings, and old-school charm.

In the age of globalization, it's increasingly difficult to find a place that feels wholly unique. But off the coast of Michigan is a secret hideaway with charms all its own.

Mackinac Island West Bluff Victorian Cottage
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Known as the "Jewel of the Great Lakes," Mackinac Island (pronounced Mack-in-aw) has maintained its singular atmosphere by banning two things: cars and chain hotels. Everything is stuck a bit in the past. Horses and buggies clomp down the streets. A fudge shop churns out sweets with recipes from the 19th century. Hidden in a Revolutionary War-era fort is the oldest building in all of Michigan.

The island occupies approximately four square miles in Lake Huron — within those four square miles, you'll find historic architecture, undisturbed nature, and a thriving nightlife scene.

Buildings on Mackinac island date back to the 1700s. The entire island was named a National Historic Landmark in 1960 for its remarkable preservation of Native American buildings, Victorian homes, and Arts and Crafts cottages.

Vacationers take on Market Street on Mackinac Island that is lined with shops and restaurants.
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Since 1875, Mackinac Island has been protected land and as part of its early protections, cars were banned on the island. Today, visitors and residents get around via bike. It's also possible to rent out a horse and buggy for an old-timey tour or a late-night crawl back to your hotel.

A visit to Mackinac Island State Park, which makes up approximately 80 percent of the island, will yield opportunities to explore historic fort buildings, follow the Native American Cultural History Trail, or hike through the woods to elaborate limestone caves.

Arch Rock, Mackinac Island, Michigan
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It won't be possible to rack up loyalty hotel points on a trip to Mackinac Island; all the hotels here are independently owned and operated. An overnight stay is considered an integral part of the Mackinac experience. The Grand Hotel is the best option for those looking for historic luxury. Since 1887, the hotel has welcomed fabulous clientele, including stars from the golden age of Hollywood as well as Christopher Plummer, Christopher Reeve, and Jane Seymour, who came here to film the movie "Somewhere in Time." For those who prefer something on the smaller side, there are plenty of bed and breakfasts throughout the island offering a firsthand look at Mackinac culture.

If possible, schedule a visit in early June when Mackinac Island hosts the 10-day Lilac Festival. The entire affair culminates in the Lilac Festival Grand Parade, an annual tradition since 1949. The horse-drawn parade is even recognized by the Library of Congress as a local legacy event.

It's also the perfect time to enjoy a day or two out on beautiful Lake Huron.

Lake Huron, Mackinac Island, Michigan
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Lake Huron, Michigan Upper Peninsula
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Before leaving, scoop up a box of Mackinac Island Fudge, one of the area's most famous exports. While the island does not claim to be the birthplace of fudge, it has decried itself as America's Fudge Capital, with approximately 10,000 pounds of fudge leaving the island every day. The recipes haven't changed much since the 19th century, so a bite of Mackinac Island Fudge is still as decadent as it was in pre-diet times.

Many travelers extend their trip by visiting Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, located on the south shore of Lake Superior, for even more unbelievable Michigan scenery. There, you can paddle through the Lovers Leap Arch or take a sunset cruise by the Battleship Row rocks.

Lake Huron, Michigan Upper Peninsula
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Lake Huron, Michigan Upper Peninsula
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Whenever you visit, be prepared: a trip to this part of Michigan is unlikely to feel like anywhere you've been before.

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