Michigan Part 3: Relaxing on Mackinac Island

Where: Mackinac Island, Michigan

Trip Date: 6/20-6/24/17

Mackinac Island, MI Map

We are making progress.

The third installment of our Michigan road trip. You can find the previous articles HERE and HERE.


Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse

After departing Traverse City we headed even farther north towards Mackinaw City at the very tip of the Lower Peninsula where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron come together. Although we were only in Mackinaw City for one afternoon, I did—of course—manage to visit one of the many lighthouses in the area. (Yes, only one, but don’t worry, I will be back in a couple of weeks to see more.)

We actually found Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse unintentionally when we happened to see a sign for it while on the highway. Since we had a few hours to kill we decided we might as well visit. The 50-foot lighthouse was built in 1892 as a navigational aid for ships passing through the Straits of Mackinac (I should take this opportunity to mention that Mackinac is pronounced exactly the same as Mackinaw for some reason, despite the spelling). It was decommissioned in 1957 when the Mackinac Bridge was built, from which new navigational aids were much more visible.

Old Mackinac Point Light

Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse just after it stopped raining.

The stone construction of the lighthouse was very reminiscent of an old castle, very different from any other lighthouse I have drawn, even in Michigan.

Mackinac Island

The next morning we repacked our bags and caught a ferry over to Mackinac Island, a popular resort island located between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. After a quick twenty-minute ride across the straits we were walking up the docks to Main Street. The town was quite a site—people everywhere, bicycles lining the streets, horse drawn carriages slowly trotting by. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the island. All transport is done on foot, bicycle, or horse. Walking through town there was this strange, ever-present juxtaposition between new and old. I could see crates being loaded on to a horse-drawn cart for delivery, and in the shop window next door was a sign advertising fidget spinners. It definitely took some getting used to.

We located our hotel some time later, a little way out of town next to a beautiful old Sainte Anne Church. The building itself was constructed in 1874, although the parish can trace its roots back to the foundation of Roman Catholicism in the area in 1670.

Sainte Anne Church

Sainte Anne Church.

Arch Rock

Later that afternoon I set out on foot to wander around the island a bit. At a little less than four square miles Mackinac Island is a place in which it is hard to get lost. After an hour or so I found myself at Arch Rock, a beautiful natural rock formation formed over thousands of years by the slow trickling of water through the limestone.

Arch Rock

Arch Rock as I drew it while trying not to be bumped by dozens of other tourists trying to get pictures.

Arch Rock in color

A more colorful painting of Arch Rock.

However, it is still eroding, and it is estimated that the arch will collapse within the next thirty years. While this is sad, it is also nature.

A Carriage Tour

Our first full day on the island was a bit dampened by a persistent rain, so we spent the first part of the morning wandering through shops downtown and sampling fudge. There were at least six different fudge shops within a quarter mile stretch of Main Street.

Once it had failed to stop raining by mid-afternoon we decided to take a carriage tour in the hopes that we could see some more of the island and still remain somewhat dry. That plan was somewhat successful, although it was hard to see much with all the rain. While waiting for a carriage change at the midway point of the tour I managed to do a quick doodle of an antique horse-drawn hearse that was used on the island for many years.


A horse-drawn hearse.

Fort Holmes

The weather cleared up immensely the next day. With hardly a cloud in the sky, we rented a couple of bikes and took a ride on the eight-mile long road that circles the island. It has been years since I have ridden a bike for any length of time, especially one with such a stiff seat. Lets just say that my butt was not pleased.

About half way around the island we made a four-mile detour to find Fort Holmes, a reconstructed fort located at the highest point on the island (reconstructed after the previous two or three had been struck by lightning and burned to the ground). The view was gorgeous—nearly a full view around the entire island.

Mackinac Bridge from Fort Holmes

A view of the Mackinac Bridge from Fort Holmes (I may have sketched it a bit larger than life so it could be seen better).

Round Island Lighthouse

When I first arrived on Mackinac Island I was very excited to see a lighthouse (of course) sitting on a tiny spit of land across from the docks. I was much less excited to discover that this spit of land was not actually connected to Mackinac Island and I had no way to get to it without chartering a private boat. So I spent the rest of the trip photographing it from every point at which I could see it across the water.

I was able to discover a bit about it, however. Round Island Lighthouse—located on Round Island (an island that is not actually very round)—was built in 1895. Parts of its machinery were used for scrap during World War II, and it was eventually decommissioned and abandoned in 1947.

Round Island Lighthouse

Round Island Lighthouse from the ferry.

I was finally able to get a decent picture of the lighthouse from the ferry on the way back to the mainland. If the ferry had sat still long enough I would have done my sketch from life, as I normally like to do with each light. But alas, that is not what ferries do, so I had to settle for using a photograph.


Next Week:

Back to my usual quota of lighthouses, and maybe even a sunken ship.

By | 2017-07-06T23:10:57+00:00 July 7th, 2017|History, Michigan, Travel|8 Comments

About the Author:

James is an artist and illustrator currently working in Georgia.


  1. Ernestine Cochran July 7, 2017 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    Sounds like you guys are having a fun summer. Love your illustrations.

    • James McInvale July 7, 2017 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      Thank you! We are having a lot of fun.

  2. Patty July 8, 2017 at 9:27 am - Reply

    Thanks for the clarification on the spelling/pronunciation of Mackinac! Would love to visit there, especially Fudge Street!

  3. jeanne d. July 9, 2017 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    thanks very much indeed for allowing me to ‘travel’ with you McInvale’s! I will be following you all the way home.

  4. Nancy Maxwell James July 10, 2017 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    I followed a link from Mackinac Island’s Dockporter Association page to your web site. I really love seeing the beautiful sketches. As a native Michigander (and artist) this area has been my favorite go to place since I was a little girl. Your art really brings these special places to life!

    • James McInvale July 12, 2017 at 11:18 pm - Reply

      Thank you! It is a beautiful place and so inspiring!

  5. Lori Randolph July 10, 2017 at 10:09 pm - Reply

    Grandfather built the Round Island Light house and the antique Hearst you sketched is still used on the Island (or one just like it) as both my Father and Mother were both transported in it in the past 6 months to their final resting place in the cemetery in the middle of the Island. Absolutely beautiful drawings. You captured it all perfectly….

    • James McInvale July 12, 2017 at 11:21 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much! Mackinac Island is such a beautiful place, I wish I could have stayed longer, there was so much to draw and paint.

Leave A Comment