The Straits of Mackinac, where lakes Michigan and Huron meet, also marks the intersection of history and fun. Civilized outings to colonial landmarks and Victorian-era hotels balance bikes or hikes through parklands.
Two ferry lines shuttle across the Straits of Mackinac to Mackinac Island, a carless haven where horse-drawn carriages clip-clop through town and past Grand Hotel, known for its 660-foot porch and gracious hospitality.
Dozens of shops fill the downtown, including plenty of places to buy fudge.
You’ll find decent salads and sandwiches—and unbeatable views of the harbor—at the Fort Mackinac Tea Room.
For a great family deal, buy a season-long membership to the Mackinac State Historic Parks, which includes Fort Mackinac, with structures that are more than 225 years old.
Grab dinner at the Bavarian-style lodge Woods or at one of the restaurants at Mission Point Resort.
Michigan preserves more than 80 percent of the island as parkland; a bike makes exploring the parks easy. (Bike rentals are available along the main street.)
Or head back to the Lower Peninsula to immerse yourself in history, this time at the reconstructed fort and fur-trading village Colonial Michilimackinac and Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park, a reconstructed sawmill and nature park south of Mackinaw City.
Downtown, Mackinaw Crossings features options for shopping, dining on fresh perch and walleye at Scalawags Whitefish and Chips, and entertainment for kids on the playground.
Add a day
Cross the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula and admire the pristine water among the Les Cheneaux Islands, east of St. Ignace.
The 36 islands are a haven for paddlers; Woods and Water Ecotours leads guided hiking, biking and kayaking trips out of Hessel. The tiny laid-back town is home of the first Chris-Craft dealership. See the polished wooden treasures during the annual summer show.
Grab a simple lunch on the screened-in deck at the Islander Bar.
More information: (888) 784-7328; michigan.org
Grand Hotel For more than 125 years, the world-famous hotel has been recognized as the place to stay on Mackinac Island. It merits the splurge for its attention to detail, one-of-a-kind rooms, and lavish meals in the dining room, where jackets and ties are required for men and dresses, skirts or pantsuits are recommended for women (after 6:30 p.m.).
One way to get the experience for less cash? Nonhotel guests can explore the grounds for $10 or enjoy lunch or afternoon tea. (800) 334-7263; grandhotel.com
The Mighty Mac Stretching 5 miles across the Straits of Mackinac, the Mackinac Bridge connects Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas—and serves as a gateway to those two beautiful, different worlds.
One side of the suspension bridge closes to vehicle traffic on Labor Day for the annual Mackinac Bridge Walk. (906) 643-7600; mackinacbridge.org