Everyone wants to wander among the four blocks of shops and restaurants on Main Street. The ferry docks themselves are particularly interesting. At the Arnold Transit dock, you can sneak a peek at the day-to-day grunt work of Mackinac Island , like workers unloading carton after carton of vegetables from the ferry and reloading them by hand onto drays (wagons) for horse-drawn delivery to area restaurants. Even the UPS man does his route on bicycle, pulling a cart loaded with packages.
Once you’ve done the Main Street stroll and nibbled your requisite hunk of fudge (there’s a reason tourists are known as “fudgies”), make the most of your visit by getting off the main drag. You can get a good taste of what the island has to offer on a carriage tour with Mackinac Island Carriage Tours (906/847-3307, www.mict.com , 9 a.m.–4 p.m. daily May–Oct., $23.50 adults, $9 children 5–12), located across from the Arnold Transit ferry dock.
The pleasant narrated tour takes about two hours, rambling along at a relaxing pace past the Grand Hotel , Arch Rock, Skull Cave , Fort Mackinac , and most of the island’s other key sights. This locally owned business is the world’s largest horse and buggy livery, with more than 300 horses, mostly crosses of beefy Percherons, Belgians, and Clydesdales.
One block inland from Main, some of Mackinac’s original residences line up on Market Street. Much quieter than frenetic Main, Market has several interesting stops for visitors. The headquarters of the American Fur Company, John Jacob Astor’s empire, is now the Robert Stuart House Museum (9 a.m.–4 p.m. daily May–late Oct.). The 1817 building retains much of its original decor, including fur company ledgers, fur weighing scales, and other artifacts. The museum is operated by the City of Mackinac Island.
A block west, knowledgeable interpreters demonstrate spinning at Biddle House and blacksmithing at the Benjamin Blacksmith Shop (both 11 a.m.–4 p.m. daily mid-May–late Oct.). These and other historic buildings are part of the state park, and are included with the admission ticket to Fort Mackinac . For current information, stop by the park visitors center across from Marquette Park on Huron Street, or contact Mackinac State Historic Parks (213/436-4100, www.mackinacparks.com , 11 a.m.–4 p.m. daily).
From Marquette Park, follow Fort Street up the hill to the Governor’s Residence at the corner of Fort and East Bluff Road. The state purchased the “cottage” in the 1940s. It is the official summer residence of the governor, though the amount of time actually spent here varies from governor to governor. The house is open for tours on Wednesday mornings.
Some of the island’s more impressive “cottages” line up along East Bluff. Wander east from the governor’s mansion to see some of these Victorian marvels. Happily, most survived the Depression era—when they could be purchased for pennies on the dollar, of course. Today, they’re well cared for and worth $1 million plus. (And remember, most are summer homes only!)