The Straits of Mackinac separate Lakes Michigan and Huron at the northern end of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, and the area is a popular tourist View from the ferry destination. Mackinac Island is a charming but crowded resort which allows only bicycles and horse-drawn vehicles. Several city employees are constantly busy with wheelbarrows, brooms and shovels keeping the streets clean, while an old horse-drawn water wagon wets them down. There's a restored fort, a few upscale resort hotels, a working blacksmith, many bed and breakfasts, a yacht harbor, a downtown shopping district, a number of summer homes, and a small year-round population.
We took the ferry early in the morning to beat the crowds, and spent a couple of hours walking up and down the harbor. The buildings are beautiful and well-kept, the gardening is terrific, the views of the lake splendid. As we walked we were continuously passed by horse-drawn tourist wagons and families on rented bicycles. The hotel maids were all gaily walking to work at their various establishments, neatly uniformed and aproned, and almost all (judging by their lilting speech) from the West Indies. We paused to read all the historical markers and admire all the statues. The fort was of significance when the British and French were jockeying for control Taxi stand! of the North American fur trade. For those of our readers who like to spend a week or two at a resort, we can't imagine a more attractive setting.
For those who can't stand the Mackinac Island prices, there are some 120 ferries a day (in season). Half go to Mackinaw City, on the lower peninsula, the other half to St. Ignace, on the upper peninsula. We stayed in Mackinaw City, which is fully equipped with a couple of dozen motels, and restaurants to match. It has been sunny and warm, but not hot, making this area look especially attractive.
Local specialties include fudge, poured out on marble slabs in dozens of candy shops, and Cornish pasties, popularized by the miners imported to work the copper and zinc mines on the upper peninsula. Our pasties were filled with a mixture of beef, diced potatoes and onions, freshly baked and smothered with gravy.
While thousands of tourists were exploring Mackinac Island, virtually no one was to be seen at Headlands County Park, formerly the Roger McCormick McCormick Beach House Estate. There was little in the way of descriptive literature, just a park map carved into a large panel of varnished wood near the entrance. We decided to drive through the park roads. We were in a lovely forest, where old trees provided dappled sunlight on a one lane dirt road, still wet from recent rains. The trees hung low overhead, sometimes grazing the top of the truck. There was no one around.
At a fork in the dirt road one sign pointed to Beach House, another to Guest House. We drove to both of them, near the shores of Lake Michigan. The Beach House is of modern brick construction, with stark lines, and a lush lawn. The Guest House is a grey frame building, separated from the Beach House by a hundred yards of forest. Evidently these were the houses used by the McCormicks when they lived and entertained guests here; they're now available for rent to park users.
If we spent two weeks here, we'd rent the Beach House in Headlands County Park instead of mixing with the crowds on Mackinac Island.