At the dawn of the automobile era, many small communities were concerned that noisy, smelly newfangled automobiles would scare the horses that most people depended upon, and the village of Mackinac was no exception. The village council resolved on July 6, 1898, that “the running of horseless carriages be prohibited within the limits of the village.” One resident was quoted as referring to cars as “mechanical monsters.”
Most of the rest of the island is state parkland, and the Mackinac Island State Park Commission followed suit in 1901, imposing a ban after Earl C. Anthony, a “summer cottager” who brought a car to the island, scared and injured some horses and several carriages were damaged.
Those bans soon fell away in mainland communities, but on Mackinac Island they have stuck to this day, helping to preserve it as a picturesque oasis of Victorian “cottages,” locally owned shops and natural beauty with a year-round population of about 470. The former fur trading outpost has become a hugely popular vacation spot for Midwestern families during the summer months, attracting nearly one million visitors a year.
Besides being car-free, the island is also known for its fudge. It has 15 fudge stores, and the tourists who frequent them are called “fudgies.”
The island can be reached only by air, by ferry or by boat, and people get around on foot, on bikes or by horse. There are more than 600 horses on the island during the summer season, and 1,400 bikes available to rent, according to the Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau. Electric bikes are permitted with proof of disability. The island’s golf course has motorized carts, but they must remain on the golf course property at all times.
Despite the uproar in some quarters over Mr. Pence’s visit, some Michigan natives said they understood why security concerns might have necessitated a break with tradition.
“The idea of cars on Mackinac Island makes me wince,” Alicia Rancilio, a journalist from the state, wrote on Twitter. “But I do recognize security issues like this may require them.”