July, 2011 – While I first arrived at Straits State Park, I went in to St. Ignace to explore my new “home town.” My main reason for choosing Straits as my home base was because of its proximity to St. Ignace and Mackinaw City, both places where you can hop on a ferry to get to Mackinac Island, the main attraction in my mind.
When I was researching ferry options, I found there were basically three services, all with the same prices with no discernible differences I could see at first glance.
I always find it interesting to learn a little about the people behind the scenes, so when I found Shepler’s Ferry website, I read the About Page. I was impressed with their stated commitment: “First Class Service. Every Guest. Every Day.” So I decided to see how true they were to their mission statement.
So when I got to the dock in St. Ignace for my first trip to the island, I was so glad that I could take my own bike over because I’d heard about how you can bike all around the perimeter of the island. I loved how the crew takes care of everything for you, including boarding and unloading your bike.
Here we’re approaching the reason I’d been dreaming of the island – the Grand Hotel! Ever since I had seen the movie Somewhere in Time I was determined that someday I would visit here and see it all for myself! And I thought it was funny that another Shepler’s Ferry was passing us as we were almost to the island, so I had to share this shot.
I thought it was cool when I found out one of the owners, Chris Shepler, was our captain that day. Here I am getting ready to disembark with my copy of Historic Mackinac Island Visitor’s Guide, already dog-eared with things marked to see. I’m so ready to start my exploration of the island I had been dreaming of seeing for about 31 years!
I wrote about my first trip to Mackinac Island on my blog here. It was really a magical day and one day was definitely not enough. So I went back to take the Mackinac Island Carriage Tour, walked around Wings of Mackinac with butterflies on my hat, and toured fascinating historic Fort Mackinac. The Grand Hotel was the crown jewel of the island and I’ll be devoting a few pages to it when I have more time to write about that grand experience. For now, I posted some pictures on Facebook of hotel scenes and wrote about the Grand Luncheon I enjoyed so much!
On some mornings during the time I was here, they offered a “mini” cruise that was part of their regularly scheduled departures. At no extra charge, they take you under the Mackinac Bridge and, share a little history of this amazing structure. The trip to the island normally takes about 16 minutes and this extra bridge tour adds about 25 minutes to the entire trip.
I had enjoyed the drive over it on my way to St. Ignace, even though I had a few fears about that trip in the motorhome. But I had no problem whatsoever on the day I crossed, and every view I had of it since then was thrilling to me. I just have a fascination with suspension bridges and I was excited to be able to get so close and actually go underneath it!
My short video of it is on YouTube. You can see a car going across the bridge through the grated part of the bridge road. I sure enjoyed this extra little bonus “cruise!”
After taking four separate trips to/from the island, I later told Chris how impressed I was with every member of his crew that I had interacted with.
For example, I met Mollie when she offered to take a picture of me and my friend, Sandy, together. Sandy told me she had taken another ferry service to Mackinac Island before but they didn’t have this “aft deck” where you could be inside but still look out this big open “picture window” and she really liked this and the little bonus cruise under the bridge.
Mollie told me how she’s going to school to learn more about the hospitality industry and just loves her job with the Shepler family. She says Chris’ dad is a big Disney fan and has the same standards for guest service that Walt insisted on and and how they keep their equipment meticulously maintained and clean. I always consider it a good sign when employees are happy in their jobs!
I was sorry I ran out of time and couldn’t take one of their Lighthouse Cruises. I’ve seen a few MI lighthouses from the land and would have loved to see some from the lake – that looks like so much fun! If any readers go, let me know how you liked it in Comments below!
So I definitely recommend Shepler’s as your “Gateway to Mackinac Island” – when you go, please give Chris and the crew my best regards!
I'd love to hear your own experiences about places I've been - and what you think are "must-sees" - and I really value any suggestions and feedback from readers, so please let me have your 2 cents in Comments below: