Pronunciation: The ending 'c' in Mackinac is said like a 'w'. Thus, both Mackinac and Mackinaw are pronounced the same. Enough said.
Location: Mackinac City is at the top of Michigan's lower peninsula, and Mackinac Island is in the straits, about 5 miles Northeast of the City. You take a ferry from the City or St. Ignace in the upper peninsula to the island. There are 3 different lines, all have their own attractions, same rate. There are different parking options - day only, overnight, covered, valet. Valet is very useful if you have a lot of luggage and are staying over on the island. Our favorite is the Arnold Catamaran. They offer a AAA discount. There are no cars on the island except for emergency vehicles. Everything is by foot, horse or bike. You can rent bikes, horses, and carriages, or take a tour. There are nearby airports in Pellston, St. Ignace, and an air strip on the island.
General: The Mackinaw area is not cheap. Hotels will vary a great deal by time of the year, day of week, location of hotel, type of room. It is not unusual to spend $150-$300 per night during July or August on a weekend. Rates drop after Labor Day and are lower before mid-June. Food, gifts, etc. are slightly higher on the island as everything has to be shipped over by boat or plane. It's also hard to stick to a diet as there is rich food and fudge everywhere. You also need to book hotels early as they fill up fast. If you delay you either end up with nothing, something you don't want or something very expensive. Most have a 3-10 day cancellation policy so if you're not sure, book anyway and you can always cancel.
We usually stay the first night in Mackinaw City and then get an early start over to the island. If at all possible, try to stay over at least one night on Mackinac Island, it is a whole different place after the tourists leave, and now with the price of hotels in Mackinaw City, you can stay on the island for about the same price. Call many hotels on the island for prices, also ask for packages, especially early or late season. Many also advertise specials in the Detroit and Chicago Sunday papers and AAA magazine. All have have brochures available to mail. Grand Hotel has good packages throughout the year. Sometimes they add an extra night either free or at a very low price.
Weather: It can vary a great deal. We've seen it bright and sunny and shirt sleeve weather in mid May and freezing cold in late May. Dan saw snow in the woods in early May in 1981. The weather reports this fall indicated snow in the area in late October. It is usually wise to take a jacket and long pants, maybe even a lightweight pair of gloves. If you are a day visitor, there are lockers available where you can store extra clothes in case of sudden range or change of weather. Fall is very nice, particularly on the island in the woods. Winter is also very nice, peaceful, like a living Christmas card.
Important Dates: You should be aware that some of the historic buildings don't open until June 15, and on the mainland that's when they start archaeological digs. Most state run facilities close in middle September. Boats start running as early in the year as they can. This usually means sometime in April. They continue to run until January 2nd, or when the straits freeze over, whichever comes first.
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