Have you ever gone on vacation to a quaint little resort town and wondered what it would be like to actually live there? Over the years I’ve managed to live in a few of America’s unique and celebrated resort towns and life is certainly interesting and fun. But I’ve never managed to live in a resort town that doesn’t allow motor vehicles. Step inside this small town in Michigan to see what life is like without cars.
Mackinac Island is home to a year-round population of about 600 residents; some of whom live in the heavily-trafficked tourist area of downtown.
In season, the daily population of Mackinac Island soars to a whopping 15,000 people.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to this small island on Lake Huron annually to get a taste of this walking city, the history, the fudge the island is so famous for, and the unique resort flair.
Visitors to Mackinac Island love the novelty of being in a quiet place without the chaos caused by motorized vehicles.
Residents love it too! Mackinac Island placed a ban on motor vehicles way back in 1898 and makes an exception only for emergency responders and snowmobiles. Golf carts are allowed on golf courses. Other than that, residents here get around just like the tourists: by foot, by bike or by carriage.
Life in this tiny car-free town brings a wealth of benefits.
Living in a resort town means access to scores of world-class restaurants any day of the week. Are the weekends too busy with tourists? Try a Tuesday or Wednesday night.
Afterall, it doesn't matter what day you go, the view and the food are going to be the same every day of the week. For instance, The Carriage House Inn Restaurant offers breathtaking views! Locals love views as much as the tourists!
Mackinac Island is three miles long and two miles wide. Sometimes it's just too far to walk from one point to the other. If you live on Mackinac Island, then you've got to be willing to pay the piper for taxi rides when necessary.
In fact, if you live on Mackinac Island and want to have that new recliner delivered from the mainland, then you'll need a carriage mover to do that!
Living in a resort town without cars means many tourists will be passing by your place on foot. Unless you're willing to hear the door knob jiggle all day long as people who think you must be some wacked-out business without a sign, you'll need to find a way to let them know you're not open for business.
The same goes for fending off curiosity seekers. Unless you're willing to scoot down your stairs in your nightie at ten o'clock in the morning and find a curious tourist peeping in your windows (I've had this happen!) you'll need to find some way to let them know your home is a private residence. A tastefully done sign at the end of the walk usually does the trick!
In this small town on an island you'll need to be enthusiastic about giving up the convenience of getting from point A to point B from the comforts of door-to-door delivery via your own car.
On Mackinac Island you'll need to take a ferry back and forth to the mainland and then walk everything you buy all the way back to your door, unless you have your bike or take a carriage. There is one saving grace though. In the winter, the water freezes over to form the "Mackinac Ice Bridge" between this island and St. Ignace. Then you can travel back and forth all you want in your snowmobile for free!
What about kids? And school? Mackinac Island has that covered too. The one public school here has about 100 students from grades K through 12. The graduating class of 2016 reportedly had four students.
In the spring and fall students travel to school by bike and by foot. But in the winter they get to break out snow machines!
Life in the small town of Mackinac Island is pretty normal, for the most part. Even though there are no cars or motor vehicles, except snowmobiles, people still do the same things we do everywhere else.
People go to church.
They take a taxi to go get provisions or just to get around town when needed.
They live in normal houses in quiet little neighborhoods. Here, they're located on the interior of the island. But they don't have a need for driveways. Did you notice there aren't any driveways in the photo above?
And somewhere around town there's always a giant holiday tree to celebrate the season.
No matter where you live, the convenience of a car probably seems relatively important to you. Life for the residents of Mackinac Island seems pretty special to be free of this necessity.
Have you been to Mackinac Island and traveled by foot, bike or carriage? We’d love to know and see
your photos in our comments on Facebook!