Our first trip to Mackinac Island, Michigan is what I am calling a “doggie-moon”. With all of the traveling we do throughout the year, we decided to plan a trip where we could take our dachshund, Jorge. After much internet research on pet friendly Midwest destinations, we settled on Mackinac Island. Never having been there before, I was hesitant that it might be a tourist trap, but thankfully I was wrong. The island experience is what you make it and if you only day trip over and spend a few hours on Main Street, you will really miss out on the magic of the place.
We stayed for two nights at Park Place Suites www.miparkplacesuites.com which is perfectly located on Market Street right across from the post office. Our suite, the Honeymoon Suite (renamed the Doggiemoon Suite) was perfect and Jorge settled in immediately. The room was immaculate and smelled clean and fresh. We spent an afternoon after a long bike ride sitting on the white picket fence-lined yard and patio area people watching and sipping Cabernet. Complete relaxation. Not wanting to interrupt this feeling, we decided that instead of heading to some of the pet friendly restaurants for dinner, we would order out and dine on our patio.
I headed one block over to the Yankee Rebel Tavern where they have great food with the option of take out. Twenty minutes and one tasty Bloody Mary later (you work up a thirst waiting for your order!) I returned to my husband and Jorge on the patio with two orders of Shrimp and Mussels Diablo over angel hair pasta. We enjoyed our dinners, continued our people watching, and sipped our wine while Jorge napped in his bed on the lawn. An after dinner stroll and, of course, a little fudge for dessert followed and as we settled into bed, exhausted from biking, walking, and eating, we heard the sound of taps being played at 10 pm at nearby Fort Mackinac. The perfect ending to a perfect day!
Both days on the island were spent doing a great deal of biking. Thanks to Foster and Smith’s bicycle basket made just for small dogs, Jorge was able to tour the island as well. He loved the wind blowing his ears and all of the comments made by those we passed by. The first day we biked the trail that circles the island and the second day we biked trails on the interior, passing through the lush green forests of the island and past the beautiful “cottages”. Be ready for some hills on the interior trails!
The dining scene on the island had a lot of variety from hot dogs to gourmet food. The key for us was to find the best food we could at restaurants that offered pet friendly patios. The first restaurant we visited was Bistro on the Greens www.missionpoint.com/restaurants/bistro located along the bike trail at the Mission Point Resort. This place had a stunning location overlooking the putting greens and beautiful landscaping as well as the Straits of Mackinac and Round Island lighthouse. This is where we had the absolute best service of any restaurant. Our server, Rhoan, led us to a great table on the patio near a landscaped pond, and quickly brought Jorge a bowl of water. Soon three other tables filled around us and each group had a least one dog. These dogs were great! All dogs on the patio sat nicely by their owners (Jorge preferred to sprawl out and sunbathe) and were on their very best behavior, unlike some of the children dining on the terrace above! Ha, ha, ha…. We had a delicious lunch of hummus with veggie chips, crab and heirloom tomato terrine with lemon vinaigrette and avocado cream, and a beef and bleu salad with espresso seared beef tenderloin, baby greens, blue cheese, roasted tomatoes, and balsamic vinaigrette. I didn’t want to leave, but the fudge shops of Main Street were calling us.
The other two restaurants we visited were both places operated by Grand Hotel—the Fort Mackinac Tea Room and The Jockey Club at the Grand Stand. At the Tea Room, we were led to a table located on a narrow porch clinging to the side of the hill overlooking the town and the marina. In my opinion, the best view on the island. Here we had a nice lunch of hummus and pitas followed by roast beef sandwiches with sweet peppers and horseradish mayo on rosemary focaccia. While we ate, Jorge napped on the porch to save up energy for our after lunch tour of the fort. The pet friendly Fort Mackinac has several buildings with exhibits and also live performances by the staff clad in period military clothing demonstrating the firing of the cannon and rifles. The fort is also a great vantage point to watch the freighters go by if your timing is right.
Our final dinner was at The Jockey Club overlooking both The Jewel golf course and Grand Hotel. We had a table on the patio which allowed for great people watching as well. As this was our “fanciest” restaurant of the trip and it was cooling down at night, Jorge donned his preppy sweater for the event. Here we enjoyed delectable entrees—for me, citrus dill crusted sea bass with beurre blanc over bamboo rice and roasted root vegetables—for my husband, a blackened New York strip with blue cheese sauce and crispy shallots over roasted baby potatoes and vegetables. As always our dinner was followed by a stroll and more fudge appreciation.
All in all I would give Mackinac Island a 10 as a pet friendly destination. Jorge received loads of attention everywhere we went because “everyone loves a wiener dog!” His favorite things were running through Marquette Park, going on bike rides, and basically joining us everywhere we went. Some tips for bringing your dog on vacation—do plenty of research ahead of time to find inns, restaurants, and attractions that are pet friendly. Also, be a responsible owner by bringing along plastic bags for picking up after your dog and keep him on a short leash, being respectful of those who may not be dog lovers. Also, if your dog is not well behaved at home, taking them on a vacation with you may not be the best choice. That said, every dog I saw on the island was very well behaved!
A big thanks to the dog friendly spots I mentioned earlier and also to the Budget Host Inn, Shepler’s Ferry, and The Gangplank restaurant in St. Ignace, MI where Jorge received very warm welcomes!