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Stonecliffe overlooks the bluffs of Mackinac Island

Published June 3, 2012   Battle Creek Enquirer

The everyday worries blew away with the wind on the top deck of the ferry. Holding hands, my husband and I looked forward to a weekend at a romantic spot on Mackinac Island, The Inn at Stonecliffe.

Disembarking from the ferry, we looked for a taxi—horse drawn, of course. Our bags went on ahead of us. No cars allowed on the Island, adding to the time traveling sensibility. In the summertime there are more horses on the Island, some 600, than full time Island residents (around 500).

The horses clip-clopped their way through the town and then up the bluff past the Grand Hotel until we arrived at Stonecliffe.  High on a bluff, the view across the wide green lawn was spectacular.

The mansion was the dream of a poor Irish immigrant, Michael Cudahy. Cudahy dropped out of school at 14 and made his fortune in California real estate before returning to the Island to build the house for his family. In 1904, construction was completed on the Cudahy Manor, which the family named Stonecliffe.

The Manor has served as a school, a ski lodge and a conference center, but now it greets visitors as an elegant bed and breakfast. We choose one of the 16 rooms in the Manor House, the Bridgeview room, looking out on the water. You can also stay in a suite in the Summerhouse if you are traveling with children.

We made dinner reservations at the Cudahy Chophouse, which honors the house’s builder and his first job working in a slaughterhouse before working his way up to owner. My husband chose the New York strip, while I picked the straits of Mackinac white fish, which seemed only fitting. Dinner was a romantic interlude with great food and a lovely bottle of wine, perfectly aligned with our intentions for the weekend.

After the filling continental breakfast the next morning, we rented bikes and started on the 8.2 mile trek around the Island. Luckily, the ride starts downhill, because neither of us had ridden since last summer. Most of the route is flat past Arch Rock and Devil’s Kitchen.  We took it slowly, having the gift of time and no place to be.

Across the lawn from the Inn is one of the three restaurants operated by the Grand Hotel, called The Woods. The Tudor building featured a charming Bavarian vibe and was built by the second owners of the Inn as playhouse for their children.  Being rich must be so much fun! The Appenzeller Cheese, Beer and White Onion Soup and Käsespätzle, a noodle and cheese dish, were as tasty as you’d eat in Germany. Delicious rosemary rubbed rack of lamb called out to my husband. The oldest operating duckpin bowling alley is on the other side of the building, but we settled for a nightcap in the cozy bar.

Fudge is synonymous with Mackinac Island. While we were too early in the season for the Fudge Festival they hold every August, we took our tasting responsibility seriously. After six different shops we found my favorite at Sanders, plain old-fashioned creamy melt-in-your mouth fudge. It’s impossible to imagine all the varieties spread out across the shops, from cherry to blueberry to rocky road and white maple. Indulging your fudge fantasy is more than possible and for just a few dollars a half-pound!

Leaving the Island was hard. We’d stepped back in time, before cars and before kids for a small respite from our daily lives.

If you go:

The Inn at Stonecliffe

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