Considering how many times I have visited this state, my exploration of it has been fairly narrow. Sure, we've been to flea markets and antique stores and Port Huron and Frankenmuth but there is so much more to see, which is why I booked a little family trip for us this year. We ultimately decided to visit Mackinac Island, located 270 miles north of my grandmother's house.
We opted to stay at a hotel in Mackinaw City as opposed to one located on the island for a few different reasons. Logistically speaking, it was far easier to not have to transport luggage over to the island. In addition, hotel rates in Mackinaw City are much more cost effective than those on the island.
I want to give a shout out to the state of Michigan for all of the clean rest stops located along Interstate 75. I was surprised to see so many (every 25-45 miles) on a non-toll road.
Because of the word "city" the girls were expecting high rise buildings and Emily was quite disappointed to see standard hotels and restaurants. She was actually mad. After we checked into the hotel, drove around, ate dinner and swam in the pool, she changed her mind and stated, "I'm starting to like this little town."
Mackinaw City is located at the tip of the lower peninsula of Michigan. There are less than 1,000 residents and its main industries are tourism and fudge. The overall vibe is one of relaxation as almost everyone is here on vacation. I found it to be a peaceful, serene place.
Lodging options in Mackinaw City consist of budget chain hotels and independently owned hotels/motels. As a family of five, it can be difficult to find a hotel room with more than two beds. Our other option is to book two rooms, which is twice the expense. I'm sure at some point, we will need two bathrooms but for now, we are fine with just one.
I began my search for a hotel room by looking at available rooms and rates at the chain hotels that I recognized. I was unsuccessful in finding a room where all five of us could comfortably sleep. I then went to TripAdvisor, sorted the hotels by rank and went to the website of the #1 rated hotel, Clearwater Lakeshore Motel. There I found a large room with two queen beds and a sofa bed for a very reasonable price. I was sold. Overall, we were happy with this motel. Our room was spacious and included a large dining table, fridge and microwave. We also had a balcony that overlooked Lake Huron. It was clean, but not fancy. There was a decent size heated indoor pool and free continental breakfast. We appreciated that the motel was located in a quiet section of the city but this did mean that we couldn't walk to any restaurants or the ferry. If you do stay here, my tip would be to request a room on the second floor. We unfortunately had a herd of elephants staying above us, which is one of my pet peeves.
Because we ate breakfast at the hotel both mornings, and lunch and dinner on Mackinac Island, the only meal we needed to consume while in Mackinaw City was dinner on the evening we arrived. Because it was easy to locate, we stupidly decided to eat at Nonna Lisa's Italian Ristorante. It is rated #7 for restaurants on TripAdvisor but only has 3.5 stars. I rely on overall reviews on TripAdvisor when planning and typically find them to be quite accurate. The service at the restaurant was decent but the food was just okay. The pizza is supposed to be wood-fired but it looked absolutely nothing like the pizza on their website. In fact, I would bet that the pizza crusts are pre-made and frozen. There was also far too much cheese and barely any sauce. I checked out pizzas on other guests' tables and they all looked the same as ours. I actually suspect that it had been microwaved (gasped) and then thrown in a regular oven for a few minutes. Not the worst restaurant in the world but for the price, not one that I would recommend.
If you're looking for ice cream, check out Mickey's. They have a huge selection of flavors and portions are enormous. Trust me, you only need the child size, which they do serve to adults.
What is there to do in Mackinaw City?
Relax and stare at Lake Huron. Watch the sun set. You don't need to do a thing, which holds a special sort of beauty.
All photos of Lake Huron were taken from our balcony or the beach outside of our room.