On July 6, 1898, the Village Council of Mackinac Island made a pivotal decision: “Resolved: That the running of horseless carriages be prohibited within the limits of the village of Mackinac.” This proclamation set a precedent for the Lake Huron’s Mackinac Island (pronounced MAK-in-aw) and turned it into a rare American town that resisted the automobile’s encroachment.
As the automobile gained popularity and ubiquity over the years, Mackinac Island remained resolute in its prohibition, resulting in it being the only city in the United States where cars are still outlawed.
Around 500 permanent residents and approximately 14,500 seasonal visitors navigate this unique island on foot, bicycle, or horseback. The prohibition extends to vehicles like scooters, ATVs, and golf carts, with few exceptions such as motorized wheelchairs, emergency vehicles, and snowmobiles during winter. An iconic feature of the island is the Lake Shore Boulevard (M-185), the only state highway in the U.S where cars are prohibited.
Mackinac Island‘s commitment to its automobile ban seems quite fitting considering the island’s old-world charm and relentless preservation efforts. The entire island, covering an area of 3.8 square miles, is a recognized National Historic Landmark and over 80 percent of it is preserved as Mackinac Island State Park. The park offers more than 70 miles of hiking and biking trails for visitors to immerse themselves in Mackinac’s natural splendor. Landmarks like Fort Mackinac, Colonial Michilmackinac, and Historic Downtown exemplify the island’s historical importance and architectural authenticity. The Grand Hotel, another significant landmark, has hosted five U.S. presidents, various dignitaries, and cultural figures such as Mark Twain and Thomas Edison, who performed the first public demonstration of the phonograph on the hotel’s renowned 660-foot porch.
Unique Attractions on and around Mackinac Island, Michigan
Skull Cave, despite its small size and modest appearance, has a dark history filled with human remains. Initially carved by natural processes of the extinct Lake Algonquin, it was used as a resting place for the dead by local Native Americans in the 18th century. Discovered by a fur trader named Alexander Henry during Pontiac’s Rebellion in 1763, the cave was filled with human skulls and bones. Today, the cave is bone-free but remains a popular tourist attraction for its eerie past.
Mackinac Island, Michigan, 49757
The Mackinac Bridge
Locally known as “Big Mac”, The Mackinac Bridge is the fourth-longest suspension bridge worldwide, joining the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. The bridge is five miles long, with towers reaching over 500 feet above the strait, supporting 42,000 miles of cable. The bridge typically prohibits pedestrians but makes an exception for the annual “Bridge Walk”.
Mackinac County, Michigan
The Wacky Taxidermy & Miniatures Museum
The Wacky Taxidermy & Miniatures Museum is a tribute to vintage roadside attractions, featuring over 60 dioramas and miniature scenes. The museum, owned by artists Brandon and Julie Howey, amalgamates the appeal of miniatures with the unique charm of taxidermy mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and raccoons dressed in anthropomorphic fashion.
272 S Huron Ave
Mackinaw City, Michigan, 49701
St. Ignace Mystery Spot
The St. Ignace Mystery Spot, often considered a tourist trap, continues to amaze visitors with its strange physical sensations and optical illusions. Discovered by surveyors in the 1950s when their equipment malfunctioned within a 300-foot diameter circle, the spot has since attracted thousands of visitors curious to experience the mystery. Apart from the main attraction, the site also offers guided tours, miniature golf, a forest maze, and a zip line ride. It was voted Michigan’s number one unusual attraction by the readers of Michigan Living magazine.
150 Martin Lake Road
St. Ignace, Michigan, 49781