“We love pets here,” Dominick Miller, Marketing Manager of Mackinac State Historic Park says regarding Fort Mackinac. “Once someone brought a guinea pig with them, which was a little odd, but mostly we get dogs here.”
There’s two places you must see when visiting Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan: The Historic State Park and Fort Mackinac. “You don’t visit Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower,” Miller says, referring to the Fort. Don’t bother visiting the island without exploring the island’s most significant historic site – containing the oldest building in the state.
Definitely, don’t miss visiting the fort or the park if you’re on Mackinac Island with a dog.
And definitely, visit Mackinac Island with your dog.
You’ll have to take a ferry from the mainland (see previous post). If you don’t know, no cars are allowed on Mackinaw Island since 1898. Horse-draw carriage is the private taxi, public shuttle and method of moving anything, including dogs. Check out our island carriage ride experience here.
I’m here staying at Mission Point, the only resort with dog-friendly rooms on the island, and one of our first stops (after running across the car-free streets) is Fort Mackinac – first built by the British in 1780 to defend the Straits of Mackinac, then a busy thoroughfare of the fur trade, and active during the War of 1812.
The oldest public building in the state is part of the Fort, along with 13 other historic structures that tell the story of 115 years of military training and battles, medical treatment and family life within the fort.
There’s a lot of history here, and not just military. In 1895, the U.S. army removed soldiers from the site and transferred the fort and park to the state, creating both Michigan’s first state park and the Mackinac Island State Park Commission. The Tea Room at the fort, operated by the historic Grand Hotel located on the island, is open daily for lunch and dogs are allowed on the bluff-side patio offering the best view of the island harbour.
Of course, I did have to keep Victor on a leash at some point, and since he pulls, a harness is the best option, particularly travelling. We’ve tried a few (see here), but this time we’re testing out the Alcott Adventure Harness, one of the easiest harnesses to use yet. It’s light weight and adjustable – Victor was one size larger than I first thought – and reflective. Blue is the most popular colour, but I selected bright yellow to increase Vic’s visibility. Matching leashes are available – also reflective. Check it out on Amazon.com (affiliate link)
To get to the fort, we walk from Mission Point and through the state park, mostly uphill. Eighty percent of the island is state park, and many privately owned stately Victorian homes are located within park land. Consequently, there’s miles of hiking trails and natural landscape to experience; however, be prepared to encounter horse-drawn carriages and carts through the wider pathways.
One of the easiest walks south east from Mission Point Resort is following Lake Shore Blvd., along the shoreline to Arch Rock, a naturally occurring rounded archway best viewed from the bluff above. (Wooden stairs take you up if your dog can handle stairs). You’ll also pass Dwightwood natural springs trickling from the rock side, which Victor wouldn’t drink from (a puddle, different story).
Despite the windy day when we visited, Victor couldn’t have been happier running madly along the shoreline trail sniffing every rock and cranny with only one auto in sight – the park commission is allowed several pickup trucks for practical purposes. Otherwise, Mackinac Island might be Victor’s favourite destination to date.
Note: admission ($13 per adult) to Fort Mackinac includes free access to the Mackinac Art Museum and other historic buildings located downtown.
(We were guests of Mission Point Resort in October 2018. All opinions are honest and our own).