The Other Side of Mackinac Island: When It’s Home

The Other Side of Mackinac Island: When It’s Home
The Other Side of Mackinac Island: When It's Home - Awesome Mitten
Courtesy of Shalee Blackmer

Living and working on Mackinac Island appears to be quite the adventure. Cars, big box stores, and movie theaters are all left behind for several months while workers take the ferry over to their summer home. They spend the summer working in one of the many fudge shops, petite boutiques, or fine restaurants that help give tourists a perfect vacation.  I give every worker on the island an A+, because without them what kind of place would the island be?

Recently on my island adventure, I caught up with Stephanie Blackmer. Stephanie has been living and working on the island for the past 6 summers. During the trip, I got to discover and learn more about what life is like on the island for those that call it “home” instead of “vacation.” Blackmer admits that her original plan was to spend 5 summers there, but she couldn’t say no for an additional year and sees herself here for many more. She stays from early May until early October and has worked everywhere from fudge shops, bars and fine dining restaurants.

The Other Side of Mackinac Island: When It's Home - Awesome Mitten
Courtesy Shalee Blackmer

This summer, Stephanie works at the Carriage House restaurant (attached to the Iroquois Hotel) and has been there for almost her entire time coming to the island. Although she works many hours, she says the time is worth it and she wouldn’t trade it for any other job. I really couldn’t argue with that, while dining at the Carriage House I couldn’t get over the stunning interior of baby blue walls, Mackinac-themed paintings, and a grand piano for entertainment. Not to mention the view of the Lake Huron! Sometimes, five freighters can be spotted throughout the day.

Most of the employers on the island set up housing for employees, which typically will be out of the town area. Some bike and some walk the mile or so distance into town every day. Blackmer said she walks because she has witnessed one too many bike crashes on the island. I can believe that! Town in the summer is swarmed with bicyclists.
However, rain or shine she enjoys the walk and enjoys being on the island in general. Usually, when coming into town she must carry a backpack because the island weather is so unpredictable. It’ll be filled with everything from a raincoat to shorts to sweatshirts and mittens.

The Other Side of Mackinac Island: When It's Home - Awesome Mitten
Courtesy of Shalee Blackmer

I did a quick interview with Blackmer about some other aspects of the island, and she’s here to tell you about them first hand:

Q: What is the best part of living on the island?

A: Seeing the beauty of the island everyday. Coming down the hill in the morning and seeing the kites fluttering over Windermere Point, my view at work, or the Grand lit up at night.

Q: Do you ever get homesick?

A: Summer time in Michigan is my home to me. Campfires, road trips, beaches…but yes I do wish I had more time to spend with  my family.

Q: What is your favorite bar?

A: The first bar I ever went to on Mackinac – the Seabiscuit. Great food from breakfast to late at night, fantastic staff, and always a good drink.

Q: Favorite meal at the Carriage House?

A: I could never pick a favorite dish at the Carriage House because everything is delicious. One of my favorite things to do there is, on a warm sunny day, sit out on the beautiful veranda with some friends, a cheese plate, and a bottle of champagne and just enjoy the beautiful gardens, views, and company.

The Other Side of Mackinac Island: When It's Home - Awesome Mitten
Courtesy of Shalee Blackmer

Q: If you could open one shop on the island, what kind of shop would it be?

A: I would open a store for island employees. Like a condensed version of a day off island.

Q: Best place on the island to relax and reflect?

A: So many relaxing places on the island. One of my favorites is close to my work, which makes is convenient when I’m on break. Sitting on the back porch of the library. Whether I’m reading or just taking in all the beauty, I usually can manage a short nap as well!

Q: Last but certainly not least, what is your favorite fudge shop?

A: I have honestly only ever had fudge from two shops. So I cannot pick one fairly. I have heard that you are supposed to get samples from every shop and then do a blind taste test. That’s really the only way to decide for yourself!

So there you have it! Island secrets from a local. What do you think? Would you ever consider working on the island?

Personally, I think it would be a blast. I’d really love connecting and meeting others who are sharing the same journey. What a great adventure to tell for years to come!

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Hello! I am Shalee Blackmer, an adventurer, writer and travel blogger who enjoys anything that includes adrenaline and maybe a little risk. I grew up in the small mid-Michigan town of Mecosta and love to explore my home state. Camping, hiking, wakeboarding and swimming are just some of my favorite activities. During the summer, you can most likely find me in my hammock on the shore of Lake Michigan. "I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees." -Henry David Thoreau