Tucked between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, in the Straits of Mackinac waters, is a small island that some say is frozen in time. Approximately 4 square miles in size, the island is home to less than 500 year-round residents, who rely on horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, and snowmobiles to get around, since motor vehicles were banned from the island at the end of the nineteenth century.
While the resort destination bustles in the summer months—with ferries bringing thousands of passengers to the island each day—winter brings frigid temperatures and decreased ferry service, making it hard for residents to access everyday needs.
“When you think about shopping, we can’t jump in our car and shop,” said Margaret Doud, mayor of Mackinac Island. “We need to be able to go online and find what we need, and a day or two later, it’s at our doorstep.”
A woman loads Amazon packages on to a carriage pulled by two horses.
Mackinac Island is one of the unique locations that Amazon delivers to. Without access to traditional delivery vans on the island, we leverage our interconnected logistics network and strong third-party carrier partnerships to transport and deliver packages directly to customer doorsteps on the island—by horse and dray carriage.
A woman rides a horse and dray carriage to deliver Amazon packages to the people that live on Mackinac Island.
For instance, if an order is placed for delivery to the island’s iconic Main Street—packed with bicycle rentals, fudge shops, and gift shops—it would follow quite an interesting path. The moment a customer clicks “Buy Now” (on apple-flavored horse treats for all those carriage-towing breeds, let’s say), one of our employees working at a Michigan fulfillment center packages the item. Then it travels via line-haul truck to either a sort center or delivery station in Mid-Michigan, before making its way to one of our carrier partners warehouses in Rudyard, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
From Rudyard, the package is transported to a loading dock in nearby St. Ignace, where it’s loaded onto a ferry bound for Mackinac Island. During the wintertime, this ferry can take up to one-and-a-half hours to make its way through the icy waters.
Amazon packages are ready to be loaded on to the Mackinac ferry.
Once on the island, the package arrives in the hands of someone like Sara Chambers, who has lived on Mackinac Island her entire life. As the individual in charge of overseeing the horses and operations, Sara has supported island deliveries for more than 20 years.
“My family has been on Mackinac Island for seven generations. While living here has its challenges, it’s a wonder that ordering and receiving the things we need isn’t one of them,” said Chambers. “The hundreds of horses that live on Mackinac Island are truly special. We rely on them heavily for deliveries as well as transportation; they’re really the heroes of this magical spot.”
Chambers, like most of the year-round residents, is one of many that bundled up on Main Street one Friday in December beneath falling snowflakes to celebrate the island’s holiday tree lighting ceremony. The community gathered around the tree to sip hot cocoa and sing holiday carols, culminating with “O Christmas Tree,” as a child flipped the switch on the community’s iconic Main Street tree.
Mackinac Island may be a small town, but the warmth of the season glows especially bright here. Amazon is proud to support the communities where we serve, and we recently donated $25,000 to the community foundation, for the betterment of the Mackinac Island School, Hospital, and Church.
“My fondest memories on this island are [of] sledding down the hills or tobogganing on the golf course,” said Mayor Doud. “The memories this community have stay with us our whole lives. It’s a very special place and we love sharing it.”