MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. -- The dining room at the Hotel Iroquois is one of the many places here that conspire to escape the present.
If not back to the 1912 of ''Somewhere in Time," a 1980 cult film set on this island where Great Lakes Huron and Michigan meet, then somewhere into the '50s at least, with cushioned dining chairs and flowered curtains. Combined with the long lake view on a perfect summer day, it is enough.
Mackinac Island was once a fishing ground for natives. Then came French voyageurs and fur traders, soldiers from Britain and the young United States. The arrowhead-shaped island was a strategic outpost during the War of 1812, with a battle fought near the end of the two-year war.
Since, though, it has been preserved for pleasure. It is cherished by folks in Chicago, Detroit, and across the Midwest -- many with lots of money -- as a summer getaway. (Michigan's governor is given use of a residence a short distance from neatly preserved Fort Mackinac.)
The effect, circa 2006, is part movie set, with horse-drawn carriages and hotel rooms named for flowers and dead people, and part college campus, with fresh-faced undergrads carting visitors' bags and hefty parents licking ice cream cones. It works, keeping this literal and figurative island from the press of progress.
There are no cars here. Horses' hooves set the pace. Manure is hosed from streets in early morning. Laughter from bicyclists livens up afternoon. Fog rolls in from the open lake, obscuring the mighty Mackinac Bridge to the west, and even the building next door.
If all of this makes it worth a visit for a day, the blue-laced shoreline and thickly-wooded hills are worth a weekend, or a summer.
The experience, for those not arriving on racing sailboats each year from Port Huron and Chicago, often begins aboard a high-speed ferry. The journey from the nearby mainland ports of Mackinaw City and St. Ignace is reduced to minutes. But even before arrival, with low Bois Blanc Island hazy to the south, and the white lighthouse tidiness of Round Island just opposite the main harbor, the temporal tease of Mackinac Island is strong.
Step from the ferry docks onto Main Street and into the innocence of idleness. Five fudge companies each operate several main street shops. Yes, that means more than a dozen open-air markets offering free samples as workers pour fudge onto marble tables for shaping.
Chain stores are prohibited from the island, so lattes are served at Cafe Monet. Hop aboard a passing horse carriage taxi and ride along the waterfront, past the harbor with million-dollar yachts and the Roman Catholic church built in 1743, to the Butterfly House. There, hundreds of butterflies from around the world bask in midday heat, opening their wings to cool down, taking flight to collect nectar.
For human industry, walk back toward the center of town and the Biddle House, where hosts in costume demonstrate hearth cooking techniques. Or stop in to see some iron pounded at Benjamin Blacksmith Shop. Mission Church is there, too, if not the God-fearing preaching of the long-gone Rev. William Ferry.
But all of this is just diversion, simple things to while away the time between lazy gourmet meals and deep sleep in the cool air of summer nights. For that, there is the Hotel Iroquois, at one end of town, or inns and bed-and-breakfasts tucked all the way to Mission Point. Above them, the Grand Hotel, its white porch the longest in the world, offers hundreds of rooms and several restaurants. Even if you're not a guest, it is worth the entrance fee to walk the grounds.
For day-trippers and those lingering longer, the real draw lies beyond the settled southern shore, where nature looms larger. It is best, then, to rent a bike or a horse, hop in a carriage taxi, or, of course, walk and explore.
Most visitors pedal the flat 8.2-mile shoreline loop, stopping to climb to the solid seascape seen from atop Arch Rock or take a breath-stealing swim near Point aux Pins. But even that, as epic as it is for such a humble tour, misses much.
So follow Cadotte Avenue, past the mansions on West Bluff and through the neighborhoods of box houses for summer workers, into the forest of Mackinac Island State Park. A road leads west, out to The Inn at Stonecliffe and its private perch above the Straits of Mackinac. Another, British Landing Road, heads north, to the historical marker for the ''Battle of 1814" between US and British troops.
But stay to the east, down Crooked Tree Road and then onto Scott's Road, an unpaved footpath. Follow the Swamp Trail, toward Porter Hank's Trail, weaving into stands of evergreen. Stop.
If all is right, you will see no other tourists, hear no clomp of hooves or ticks of clocks. The trees will be swaying and the sunlight sneaking down. Breathe deep the lake air and you will be, in your own time, somewhere.
Contact Tom Haines at firstname.lastname@example.org.