Mackinaw City, a historic hub on Lake Huron, is the very last stop on I-75 before you hit the Big Mac - maybe that's why you can stock up on just about everything in this quaint downtown. The fun is right on Central Avenue, where restaurants, boutiques and fudge shops line the street practically all the way down to the water. First stop? Island Bookstore & Coffee Shop (215 E. Central Ave., 888-421-READ, islandbookstore.com). Perk up with freshly brewed java while perusing scores of titles celebrating Michigan. Brush up on local history with a book about lighthouse legends, the Mackinac Bridge or the ill-fated Edmund Fitzgerald.
A few doors down, duck into Coffman Hardware (227 Central Ave., 231-436-5550, coffmancaseknives.com) for campfire-perfect enamelware, tin John Deere signs and books on cast iron cooking alongside more typical hardware store essentials. But the real treat here is the vast collection of hunting knives and pocketknives, many with beautiful handles carved out of bone, horn and wood. Then, for decidedly more kid-friendly finds, head to Mackinaw Kite Co. (307 E. Central Ave., 800-622-4655, mackite.com) and be dazzled by dozens of colorful kites - think birds, ships, dragons and one particularly wild-looking purple octopus.
Cross the street to wander Mackinaw Crossings (mackinawcrossings.com), a re-created Victorian shopping village with shops and cafes tucked around every corner. Make sure to set aside time to explore the new Mackinaw Outfitters (231-436-4066, mackinawoutfittersstore.com) a 30,000-square-foot outdoor super store featuring a 40-foot Mackinac Bridge-themed climbing wall and a 10,000-gallon aquarium stocked with native Great Lakes species.
Just thinking about all those adventures works up an appetite. Dinner is in a restored 19th-century railroad station at The Historic Depot Restaurant (248 S. Huron, 231-436-7060).
Emily Bingham is assistant editor at Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine.
This article was first published in June 2007, and was updated for the web February 2008.