The Largest Car-Free Place In U.S.: Mackinac Island

Biking on M-185 -- the only US state highway with no motorized vehicles

Mackinac Island lies between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan within the Straights of Mackinac, a strip of water separating the peninsulas as well as connecting the Great Lakes of Huron and Michigan. This 3.8-square mile island is part of the state of Michigan and has evolved from a strategic commercial and military center into a modern resort with National Historic Landmark status.

One fascinating feature of Mackinac Island is its car-free policy. The ban on motor vehicles began in the late 19th century, and exceptions are made only for emergency vehicles, service vehicles, and snowmobiles. Residents and tourists get around via horse-drawn carriage, bicycle, and foot travel. Outside of downtown, roller skates and inline skates are also permitted. Encircling the island is an eight-mile car-free highway, and crisscrossing roads are also in place.

Getting to Mackinac means taking a ferry, private boat, or small plane. In winter, snowmobiles can traverse the frozen water between the mainland and the island.

Covering 80% of the island is Mackinac Island State Park. The park provides a cost-free and quiet respite where visitors can enjoy a variety of plants and wildlife. The conservation efforts of the park are a major reason why cars have remained prohibited. In downtown, the absence of motor vehicles boosts the charm and authenticity of the historic architecture.

When summer comes, the island’s 600 permanent residents are joined by a daily swell of over 10,000 tourists. Popular attractions include art galleries, War of 1812 battle reenactment, Lilac Festival (June), lighthouse, hiking, sailing, horseback tours, shopping, and sampling the famous local fudge. Another prominent attraction is the Grand Hotel, a 385-room lodge with the world’s largest porch (660 feet) and a 500,000-gallon swimming pool.

Find out more on the official website of Mackinac Island.

Comments

  1. says

    I haven’t been there since I was a small child. It was one of my first memories riding in the front basket of my parents rented tandem bike. My sister rode on the back rack. the era before helmet laws and child bike safety legislation.

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