"Wisconsin-Happy Festival State", by Eve Phillips. My husband and I love to travel in the state of Wisconsin where we live and get great pictures on the way. My name is Laurie Kutil and photography has become a great passion of mine since 2010. One thing I have learned in researching each town before visiting it is that, "Every town has it's story". When I do uncover those stories by connecting with local residents, our experience becomes so much richer. In turn, sharing the stories with you brings me joy :)
We finished our day in Mackinaw City by exploring The Icebreaker Mackinaw, a decommissioned Coast Guard ship built to keep an open waterway in the winter. It is open May through early October, admission is $11 for adults, ages 6-17 are $6. Get your tickets at the end of the pier in the ticket building. It looks like a buoy. There is also a ship propeller on display. The marker above is also nearby.
We began our walk towards the ship, there were informational signs along the way.
Al served in the Navy in the 1980’s, and he informed me that rank and decorations for service are the same in Coast Guard. Al showed me the decoration he earned during his years of service.
We approach the gangway and are welcomed aboard. The staff are friendly and are there to answer any questions you might have.
We began with an orientation before our self-guided tour. We saw a short film about the ship and it’s important role keeping the seaways open during WW II and after. The citizens of Mackinaw City didn’t want this ship to be sitting in a scrapyard after it was decommissioned. They banded together and purchased the ship and converted it into a maritime museum. We are so glad they did! The way between levels are essentially ladders, watch your step!
The Ward Room
Chief Petty Officer Mess
1st Class Petty Officer’s Lounge
Berthing Crew Quarters for the Women Crew Members
Watch your step!
If this ship were operating, you would get a pair of ear plugs before entering the Engine Room, our next stop. Jim told us about how the engine worked.
The engine room was impressive even silent, we could imagine the power it would have running. We went back up the ladder to the Main Deck again. The route is clearly marked with arrowed signs. Saw this plaque commemorating 50 years of ice breaking on the wall. Congratulations on a half-century of fine service to the fleet!
Since I am a cook, the galley was of particular interest to me. I took a picture through the plexiglass. There was a small monitor with a video describing kitchen operations. One of the docents answering people’s questions in this area offered to take me inside the kitchen, thanks! This kitchen is bigger than I expected for being on board a ship, very impressive!
After the galley went out to the deck. we are looking to the former Railroad Dock area of the marina. On shore is a marker describing it.
Now we enter the Enlisted Crew area.
Executive Officer Office
Now we head upstairs to the deck and Pilot House. What a great view up here!
And now the view from the deck! Ferries, freighters and parasailing all at the same time. This is a very busy place in the summer!
Our tour is at a conclusion. Allow yourself at least 2 hours to explore the ship, and be sure to pick a memento at the Ship Store. If you don’t have time to take the tour, you can still stop in the store.
We highly recommend coming here for the tour. We learned a lot and had a great time. It’s not every day you get to see the inside of a Coast Guard Icebreaker.
The Icebreaker Mackinaw is in need of a complete repainting to preserve the hull. A Gofundme
account has been set up for donations. Please help if you can!
Headlands International Dark Sky Park is one of the few Dark Sky certified sites in the United States. If you can’t get here, this Light Pollution Map can help you find your local spot of darkness. We just went to see it in the day on our visit. It is open 24/7 365, free admission. Donations are happily accepted!
There are big things going on here, making this special park more accessible for workshops and events in the future. We could not see the whole park due to the new Observatory under construction right now, a telescope will be housed there and rooms for groups to gather.
We walked down to the shore where the sky viewing is located. To keep the skies dark, only red flashlights are allowed. We got our red LED flashlights from Ebay. Here is the Bortle Dark Sky Scale, the Headlands darkness levels can be found here.
Now to the shoreline!
After passing though the gap in the trees, we see the new Observatory building under construction. I look forward to seeing it completed next year!
Also this interesting structure I thought was another lighthouse. We found out the next day after we crossed that it was a lookout tower attraction, $1.00 admission as part of a souvenir store called Curio Fair. Maybe we can stop there on our next visit.
What a good time and we learned a lot about the early history at this crucial Straits of Mackinac Lighhouse. Stop in if you can!
Our day in Mackinaw City would not be complete without a visit to the Mackinaw Bridge Museum to learn more about this important connection between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. It is open spring through fall, closes in winter. Residents and visitors alike love their bridge and are not shy about showing it. Our first view of the bridge as we approached Mackinaw City sparked the same reaction in us. The bridge celebrates its 60th birthday in 2017.
The agency charged with the upkeep of the bridge and safety of people crossing is the Mackinac Bridge Authority. They have offices in both St. Ignace and Mackinaw City.
There is a $4.00 toll payable on the St. Ignace side, which helps pay for maintenance and professional drivers. They drive people across the bridge in bad conditions or if you have a fear of bridges. Tune your radio to 530 or 1610 AM to hear a broadcast on bridge conditions. If there are good conditions, you hear a welcoming message to the Upper Peninsula (U.P.).
On Day 2 of our trip, we headed to Mackinaw City to catch the Arnold ferry to Mackinac Island. Our first view of the Mackinac Bridge really built up our excitement! Residents and visitors alike LOVE their bridge and are not shy about showing it. The Mackinac Bridge Authority, located in both Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, takes care of the bridge and the many people crossing it every day. There is a $4.00 toll payable on the St. Ignace side, which helps pay for maintenance and professional drivers. They drive people across the bridge in bad conditions or if you have a fear of bridges. Tune your radio to 530 or 1610 AM to hear a broadcast on bridge conditions. If there are good conditions, you hear a welcoming message to the Upper Peninsula (U.P.).
The next day dawned with a beautiful sunrise outside of our hotel, the Super 8 Beachfront. After breakfast there we began our day of fun!
Our first attraction was the Mackinaw Bridge Museum downtown, they opened at 8 AM. This museum is quite large, you need at least an hour to explore it. Two videos are playing, showing the building of the bridge. You can buy them both together for $30 for a great souvenir. Having a meal at Mama Mia’s Pizza sounds like a good pairing with a visit here too!
This museum is located in Mackinaw City’s main shopping district. To us it resembled Broadway Street in the Wisconsin Dells. In the center of it all is Mackinaw Crossings. There you will also find their historic train depot, now a restaurant.
Mackinaw City has a great many historical markers, more than we had time to see. Some of them are interactive, there are audio clips to go with each marker. It is part of the Mackinaw City Historical Pathway. This is what the signs look like.
We walked on the trail to the shore, from here you could see the new telescope building going up. It should be done by next summer! This is where you look at the blackest sky possible. If you wish to do some stargazing in your area, use this light pollution map as a guide.
It was lunch time, we headed to one of the city’s favorite places, Darrow’s Family Restaurant. The Darrow family also were the Mackinac Bridge builders as well. It was pretty busy!
We also paid a visit to Wawatam Park, named after a brave Indian Chief who lived in this area. You can see Mackinac Island in the background behind the wood carving of the Chief. There is also a historical pathways sign here.
We also went to the Gary R. Williams Memorial Park, where we got day and night pictures of the Mackinac Bridge. A freighter passed under the bridge at night while we were there.
We also enjoyed visiting the Icebreaker Mackinaw Maritime Museum, a retired Coast Guard Ship. What a great tour and view from the deck! This was the last attraction we visited that day.
Two freighters passing in front of Mackinac Island!
We finished our day with dinner at the Dixie Saloon, located at the endpoint of the famous Dixie Highway. It follows most of the outline of Michigan. I have been near the beginning of this highway when I lived in Illinois. It passes through Chicago Heights. The restaurant does not have free wi-fi, but you can pick up a signal from the nearby Shepler’s Ferry.
This rounds out our only full day in Mackinaw City. We had views of other attractions we may get to on a future visit.