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Michigan Field Trip: This Island Was Made for Bicycling

July 17, 2012 at 6:24 PM | by | ()

Summertime, and the livin' is easy. So you're thinking of a late season trip so long as there's blue water involved, hm? Believe it or not, Michigan's got beaches, blue water and budget-friendly destinations. This week we'll be looking at the ways and places in which you can chill out while diving into the state's Upper Peninsula.

Did you know: The entirety of Mackinac Island is both a National Park and a National Historic Landmark?

Did you know: Mackinac Island State Park was only the second National Park established, following Yellowstone?

Did you know: There are over 70 miles of paved and natural trails for biking on the island, and all trails are completely free of motor vehicles?

Stepping off the Shepler's Ferry, the very first thing to greet us on Mackinac Island was a sunburnt tourist man wobbling on his beach cruiser bike, shouting a warning: "first timer here, watch out!" We jumped back onto the sidewalk, but secretly our hopes for mankind were renewed; here is a place where Americans get up off their butts and get to pedaling, enjoying the outdoors. Sure, it's the only option other than hailing a slow-moving horse carriage, but still—progress.

The absence of motor vehicles on Mackinac means several things: the air is super clean and fresh, the streetscape isn't dotted with parking lots and gas stations, everywhere has free bike parking and the well-maintained paved roads are super-safe. It also means that all those multi-million dollar mansion-cottages you'll bike by don't have garages, but horse stables instead.

The best place to start is Mile Marker 0, located on the road in front of Marquette Park (with Fort Mackinac on the hill above). This way, if you complete the full 9-mile perimeter of the island and still want to pedal some more, you can head up to Fort Mackinac and rest from the uphill climb at the awesome Tea Room within the Fort, nearby the Michigan Governor's Summer Residence, overlooking the entire harbor. It takes about 2 hours for everything, biking at a leisurely pace.

All of the ferry companies we mentioned yesterday will transport your bike for a little extra money. If your hotel or B&B doesn't have its own bike rental, go with the family-owned Ryba's, located just a minute's walk from where the ferries offload. Bike rentals start at $5/hour or $30/day and they rent everything from mountain bikes to bicycles-built-for-two, to tagalongs for babies/small children.

Notable sights on your ride:
· Tons of Victorian "painted lady"-style historical homes
· Water so blue and clear it could be Bermuda instead (wear you swimsuit and pull over for a dip)
· The utility dock near the half-way point, where people go to jump off into the water or just get a good photo of Mackinac Bridge in the distance
· The very cool abandoned log-built resort (see gallery above)
· The school towards the end of your ride. Yes, kids go to school on the island and yes, they have an awesome water view.
· Murdick's Fudge. You'll eventually buy fudge on Mackinac Island. Better do at the original.

Lake Shore Dr continues to that green dotted road to form a bike path around the whole island. Plus all roads pictured are only for bikes and horse carriages.

Disclosure: We were on Mackinac as a guest of Pure Michigan, but all photo and opinions are completely our own.

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher/Jaunted & Google Maps]

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