Fudge, Fort and Fido: One Dog's Mackinac Island Adventure

They say every dog has his day, but in this case Charlie Wolf got two days on Michigan's favorite getaway, Mackinac Island.

Editor's note: Rochester Patch Columnist Laura Cassar first told us about her adopted rescue dog in . Since then, she has been occasionally chronicling her dog's adventures around town. 

We love to get away.

We hate to leave our .

Fortunately we discovered this summer that Mackinac Island is a dog-friendly destination allowing us to eat fudge, tour forts and enjoy Pure Michigan without stressing out the furry member of our family, .

How to get there, where to stay

All three of the ferry lines (Arnold, Shepler's and Star Line) that service Mackinac Island allow well-behaved, leashed dogs to ride the ferry free of charge.

We took the Arnold line since it was closest to our hotel on the island, Mission Point Resort. I recommend ordering your tickets in advance online for special savings (for example: buy two adult tickets, get one child ticket free) and less hassle at the dock. Roundtrip tickets on Arnold are typically $24 for adults and $12 for children.

Charlie Wolf loved the ferry ride. It's a large boat and a smooth ride. For the less furry passengers, we got an unexpected surprise on our 11:30 ride— the ferry took a special detour to go under the Mackinaw Bridge! That was a treat I had never experienced before. A crew member told me they do it — unannounced — twice a day.

Once on the island (it's about a 15 minute ride), we made our way up to Mission Point Resort. Businesses all along the way had water bowls out front for the visiting dogs, something Charlie Wolf really appreciated on a hot summer day.

Mission Point allows dogs for an additional $50 pet fee. They also currently offer a "Pooch at the Point" package. This package includes:

  • Room for two nights
  • Ferry tickets
  • Breakfast
  • Pet Fee
  • A pet gift upon arrival

Because it was our first time on the island with Charlie Wolf, we only wanted to commit to one night. Our first-floor room, a garden double, was clean and comfortable. Like most places on the island, it does not have air conditioning but a ceiing fan and an additional window fan kept the room extremely comfortable.

While rates vary based on seasonal demand, our room had a rate of $229. When fees and taxes were added it was $282. 

Where to eat?

As a summertime destination, Mackinac Island has a lot of outdoor eating options and many of them welcome dogs.

With a hotel room, we could always leave Charlie Wolf behind with his bowl but we did take him out to enjoy the island's dining scene.

Charlie Wolf enjoyed watching putt-putt golf and being hand-fed bacon at Bistro on the Greens. The Verandah Carriage House Dining Room had an amazing view and colorful water bowl just for him. 

Other island restaurants that are flagged as pet-friendly are:

  • Chillin' & Grillin' Waterfront Cafe
  • Dog House at Windermere Point
  • Feedbag at Surrey Hills
  • Fort Mackinac Tea Room
  • Starbucks (yes, the island doesn't have cars, but it has a Starbucks)
  • Cannonball Drive In
  • Harbour View B&BQ
  • Mr. B's
  • Jockey Club at Grand Stand
  • Mary's Bistro

What's a dog to do?

Well, what is a dog to do on Mackinac Island?

First: get petted a lot!

Many seasonal workers and other vacationers left dogs behind so when they see yours, they'll want to pet it. Charlie Wolf is quite a "people person" so he loved the attention.

Charlie Wolf also enjoyed taking the sightseeing tour on the Mackinac Island Carriage Tours. 

And here's an example of how truly dog-friendly Mackinac Island is: Not only was Charlie Wolf allowed on the tour, the lady at the ticket window gave him three Milk Bones to take on the ride!

Charlie Wolf curled up at our feet and truly enjoyed the ride. He was totally at peace with the horses, even when we were seated in the first row right behind them. Our driver, Joe, turned around to pet Charlie Wolf often, commenting on what a great dog he was. (Smart, Joe, we tipped him well after the tour!)

Standard tour tickets are $24.50 for adults and $10 for children. Charlie Wolf was of a size to ride for free. Some larger dogs that might require a seat are charged child prices.

Marquette Park, in front of Fort Mackinac, was another Charlie Wolf favorite. Whether we were curled up under a tree reading "The Long Winter" by Laura Ingalls Wilder, cruising across the monkey bars or running across the field, Charlie Wolf was thrilled to be a part of it.

"This sure beats the kennel," his tail seemed to wag.

Say 'Cheese'

What's a trip to Mackinac Island without the required (at least in my book) old-fashioned family photo?

And just because you're the family member with a tail doesn't mean you're off the hook. (If that were the case, my eldest would figure out a way to grow one.)

Professor Harry's is happy to have your pet join the picture. Pets are charged as an additional person, but our photographer was willing to "meow" enthusiastically at Charlie Wolf to get him to gaze at the camera with just the right pained expression.

One caveat

If there was one element of Mackinac Island that Charlie Wolf would give two paws down to it would be those noises coming out of Fort Mackinac. The booms of the cannons and the rifle practice can all be a bit much for a dog to take. If your dog doesn't like fireworks or thunderstorms it is something to consider.

For that reason, we let Charlie Wolf have some down time back at the hotel while we toured the Fort. Adult Fort tickets are $11 and child tickets are $6.50.

Until next time....

On our second day, exhausted from fun and full of fudge, we boarded the 4:30 p.m. ferry for home.

What a thrill to discover one of our favorite Michigan destinations can be enjoyed by all our family members. We shall return, and next time for two nights!

Kristin Bull (Editor) July 27, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Thanks for sharing your adventures with Charlie Wolf, Laura!
Angie Pimlott July 27, 2012 at 11:14 PM
We love the smiles and positive responses our well-behaved and well-traveled dog elicits. You may also want to visit the Lake Michigan shoreline from Saugatuck to Muskegon. Several restaurants in Saugatuck and Grand Haven allow dogs on the public side of their patio dining. We also recommend the dog beach off Sherman Rd. in Muskegon. You will encounter every manner of dog from the tiniest in a bikini(really) to Great Danes. While our dog is more into dog-watching, many dogs play fetch into Lake Michigan. We have never witnessed aggressive behavior; however, your mouth may tire from smiling at the dogs just being dogs and having a great time. If you want to venture outside Michigan, Hilton Head Island is dog paradise. In addition to beautiful beaches (especially in spring and fall when dogs are allowed off leash), some restaurants provide a dog menu. Traveling with a dog has limitations; however, it also has opportunities to meet strangers who can't resist petting a cute pooch and striking a conversation.
Laura Cassar July 28, 2012 at 11:16 AM
Awesome suggestions, Angie! Thank you!


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