By Christy Strawser, CBS Detroit
MACKINAC ISLAND (CBS Detroit) When it comes to visiting one of Michigan’s most popular tourist destinations, you — virtually — can’t get there from here.
Patches of ice 3 feet deep separate Mackinac Island from the mainland, leaving ferries no clear path.
And the venerable Grand Hotel opens for the season Friday.
“Right now, there are efforts to get the ferries going, there’s still ice in the Straits between St. Ignace and Mackinac, there are some efforts today to get some ice cutters in that area so that the ferries can start running,” said Tim Hygh, director of the Mackinac Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, on Thursday.
“I see one (Coast Guard) cutter in St. Ignace right now, but they’re not cutting yet,” he added.
Hygh added he’s never seen anything like this at the end of April, adding, “Some of the locals will tell you haven’t seen anything like this since 1972.”
But the tourism must go on.
Ken Hayward, managing director of The Grand Hotel, said Shepler’s Ferry is trying to find a navigable route for Friday, and if they can’t get through, visitors can get to the island another way. Hop on a plane.
“You can fly here from Great Lakes Air, it’s a beautiful seven- minute flight, it’s just part of the adventure of coming to Mackinac Island,” Hygh said.
Hayward said the hotel is staying in regular contact with the people who made 90 reservations for Friday night; urging them to fly over if the ferries aren’t running. Great Lakes Air offers flights from the mainland to Mackinac Island for $28 per person, each way.
“We’ve moved 300 staff here, and all of them were flown over, their personal stuff, office stuff, it’s all been flown in already,” Hayward said.
He’s not worried the deep freeze that settled onto Michigan will leave a bitter aftertaste on the island this spring and summer.
“I’m not worried, we’ve had slow starts before in the spring and I’m sure we’re going to be fine,” Hayward said.
With pre-bookings high, he added the hotel is on track to meet its record-breaking numbers from 2013. The hotel was at 97.3 percent occupancy for the season last year.
“We had an exceptional 2013 and we’re tracking pretty much even with last year,” he said. “It was the best year in hotel history… We just feel like we’re tracking well for that, so we’re optimistic.”
Hygh added it’s better to have early-season weather issues than anything that breaks up the beautiful weather momentum later in the summer.
“If you’re going to miss a week or a couple of days as far as the ferry goes, this is the time to do it,” the director said.