By ANICK JESDANUN
MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — Producers of the 1980 movie “Somewhere in Time” didn’t need to build elaborate sets to depict the tale of a playwright who travels back to 1912 to find romance. They simply filmed on Mackinac Island, a Great Lakes enclave that retains its Victorian-era charm thanks to its ban on motor vehicles.
Motor vehicles have been banned on the island since the start of the 20th century after an automobile frightened some of the horses. These days, people still travel by horse-drawn carriage, as well as by bike and by foot.
Mackinac Island, located off the Straits of Mackinac separating Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, was an important outpost in the region’s fur trade, but that gave way to fishing and eventually tourism.
Among the main attractions: the Grand Hotel, a 385-room luxury hotel that played a central role in “Somewhere in Time.” In fact, fans of the movie, many in period costumes, descend on the island and the hotel every fall for a weekend of reenactments and a screening.
You get reminders of a bygone era before even leaving the mainland by ferry. Crews cart overnight luggage onto the ferry, the way full-service porters used to at train stations and hotels. The Grand Hotel stands out as your ferry approaches the island. Closer to the dock, you pass a pair of quaint lighthouses, including one featured in the movie.
Once you’re on the island, you have plenty of options. Head to the Mackinac Island State Park Visitor’s Center for an orientation. About 80 percent of the island is controlled by the state park, but staff there can also point you to other things to do, too.
The Grand Hotel is such a draw among tourists that non-guests must pay a $10 admission fee. That allows you to shop, dine or browse an art gallery inside and lets you walk through the flower gardens in front of the hotel. Check out the Cupola Bar on the top floor for a wonderful view of the Straits of Mackinac. There’s a dress code in the evening, so plan accordingly.
It’s free to walk along the streets downtown, where you’ll find shops, churches, museums and other buildings. You’ll also see lots of horses and carriages in lieu of cars.
If you want to ride one, several companies offer tours and taxi service. Tours cost $24.50 and last nearly two hours. You can get off and get on as many times as you like, so you can use it as a bus service to get around. Expect to pay $100 or more an hour for private taxi service. You can also rent horses to ride yourself.