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The Grand Hotel - Mackinaw Island, MI

Timeless beauty, historic surroundings. Bombastic!


The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island, Michigan: Located on care-free and car-free island of Mackinaw Island is the iconic Grand Hotel. The Grand Hotel opened its doors in 1887 as a summer retreat for travelers from near and far. Over the years it has grown in size and in reputation. And, being a Michigan native, The Grand Hotel has always been on my list of must visit hotels. This fall I took the drive from Chicago to visit this magnificent hotel.

First Impression/Hotel Lobby: We started at Shepler’s ferry landing where our car and luggage were given to the valet (part of being a guest of this hotel). It was explained our luggage would be delivered directly to our room within two hours from ferry departure (and it was), as well as our car brought to the luggage pick-up area upon return to the mainland (and it was).

On the island, we took the optional horse drawn wagon ride from the dock to the front lobby (not the beautiful antique carriage although that may have been available with an advanced booking – not sure) for $4.75/person (or could have walked since our luggage was taken care of) - we took the ride to get the experience.

We didn’t see the lobby until after check-in and going to our room. It is brightly decorated in greens, reds, pinks. Beautiful antique furniture throughout, kept true to the original era it was built. High tea served also in an area of the lobby, John, my husband, eyed the traditional tea silver service pieces kept on the side table. The lobby is unique and inviting.

Reception: The front desk/check-in is in the lower level of the hotel, not via the actual front steps leading up to the front porch and front door, kind of a let down of the excited expectation to get the grandeur of a beautiful lobby upon first walking in, but at least the wagon lets you off right at the door for the check-in area. The front desk is small, two agents mainly, old key system cubby behind them, big sign above desk stating no tipping of hotel employees allowed other than outside restaurants (also knew this a head of time via web site). The agent was finishing a transaction while we stood waiting, no eye contact or greeting until she was done (a few minutes), otherwise this experience was the usual. Breakfast and dinner included in rate we chose, this was explained with the appropriate vouchers; nothing too exciting for the check-in experience.

The Room: The room was picked out a head of time (based on rate) via internet so no surprises as to the size, comfortable king bed, we were right above the front drive with a nice view of the grounds and the Lake. Nicely decorated, appropriate era décor, large floral prints in rich greens (their signature), large antique dresser, antique wardrobe to hang clothes, small sitting area in front of window which was nice to sit and read, standard full size bathroom - very spacious, their own signature toiletries, all bath fixtures modern, clean and kept well.

Room Service: The Grand Hotel offers room service from 7:30 - 9:30 for breakfast, and lunch, dinner and snacks from 11AM - 10PM. They charge an extra $5.00 per person for this option. Since we had a limited number of days at The Grand, we took every chance we could to get out of our room and experience the rest of the hotel. So I am unable to comment on the performance of room service.

Housekeeping: Daily unless DND on the door, turn-down with mint chocolate on pillow.

Concierge: Located in the main part of the lobby, two desks put back to back with agents, they inquire as to whether you are a hotel guest first before providing you the requested information (although they didn’t ask for our “passport” card given to us on check-in, as the public is only allowed in the building for a $10 fee, thus the card, we had to show it coming/going out the far end doorway, but not the front door interestingly), the staff person was not as personable as I would have expected though.

Restaurant: There is one dining room where breakfast and dinner is served, it’s huge (seats up to 1,000), very nicely decorated, extremely well run, check-in at hostess podium, she directs you to the maitre’d who then hands you off to a floor captain that escorts you to your seat. The menu is prix fix with options for all courses (breakfast was 4 courses, dinner was 5). Nice china, silver, linens and glassware (what I would expect of this caliber); wait staff was not as personable as I would have liked (not much interaction other than taking your order), we asked our wine steward what the numbers next to their name meant and it was how many years service they were there (it was his first year but our waiters 16th, he also pointed out the maitre’d was 41 yrs), service was very timely – well oiled high end banquet style service. The menu was good, fairly representative of local fare, but also of classic cuisine from the original era of the hotel – very happy with the selections.

Coffee/tea (very nice service) and after dinner drinks were offered in the main lobby until the ballroom opened for dancing. One of the nice things was you didn’t have to sign up for a time to dine, they provided you the hours of service and you just showed up. The disadvantage to going late to dinner however was as the room was clearing out the staff was promptly clearing and re-setting for breakfast which was noisy and distracting (although I understand the efficiency behind it).

The Cuppola was a bar at the very top of the building (the round section you see in the picture in the center of the building), and is the best place on the island for a view especially of the bridge/sunset; however the décor felt as if you were in an ice cream parlor. There was a beautiful antiqued glass chandelier with the signature geranium flower that dangled between the upper level into the main bar area.

Pool/spa/activities: The pool was already drained getting ready for winter – John felt for a full-service hotel that was going to close in two more weeks, this shouldn’t have been the case, as it was a bit of an eye sore frankly.

We did not visit the spa but they have one.

They have bike rentals on property which we rented right after check-in and they were nice bikes (gears and good breaks which are crucial for this place with the hills). There were other activities mentioned in a brochure we were given, some history walks but the others I didn’t pay much attention to, I noticed a child’s play room area upon our walk-a-bout. They have a lot of historical pictures, articles etc. scattered all over the hotel and you could easily take several hours reading through all of them. They also have an art gallery on premise. The ballroom was used for day activities related to an in-house group at the time we were there, but at night it was opened for dancing to a small band after dinner service ceased.

Check-out: We returned keys to the front desk on our way out, friendly staff person, offered review of the charges and receipt as well as direction to their luggage handling area where they took care of shuttling our bags to our next destination which was another Inn on the island for us, at no additional charge.

Overall Impression: After our stay at The Grand Hotel I can see why it has been a must visit when in Michigan, or even for those that are visiting from abroad. Its rare to find a hotel of its caliber, with so much history and such a spectacular atmosphere. I can imagine what The Grand Hotel was like years ago as I don’t think much has changed. It still offers the grandeur and style, and the exclusivity of a high-end hotel on an enchanted island.

My rating for The Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island in Michigan is an astounding Bombastic!

By Judy Turner-O'Connell, contributor to Bombastic Life.

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