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Mackinac Island is about 8 miles (13 km) in circumference and 3.8 square miles (9.8 km2) in total area. The highest point of the island is the historic Fort Holmes (originally called Fort George by the British before 1815), which is 320 feet (98 m) above lake level and 890 feet (271 m) above sea level. According to the 2000 census, the island has a year-round population of 523. The population grows considerably during the summer as hotels, restaurants, bars and retail shops, open only during the summer season, hire short-term employees to accommodate as many as 15,000 visitors per day.
The island can be reached by private boat, by ferry, by small aircraft, and in the winter, by snowmobile. The airport has a 3,500-foot (1,070 m) paved runway, and charter air service from the mainland is available. In the summer tourist season, ferry service is available from Arnold Transit Company, Shepler's Ferry, and Star Line Ferry to shuttle visitors to the island from St. Ignace and Mackinaw City.
Motorized vehicles have been prohibited on the island since 1898, with the exception of snowmobiles during winter, emergency vehicles, and service vehicles. Travel on the island is either by foot, bicycle, or horse-drawn carriage. Roller skates and roller blades are also allowed, except in the downtown area. Bicycles, roller skates/roller blades, carriages, and saddle horses are available for rent. An 8-mile (13 km) road follows the island's perimeter, and numerous roads, trails and paths cover the interior. The road encircling the island and closely hugging the shoreline is M-185, the United States' only state highway without motorized vehicles.
The island is the location of Mackinac Island State Park, which covers approximately 80 percent of the island and includes Fort Mackinac as well as portions of the island's historic downtown and harbor. No camping is allowed on the island, but numerous hotels and bed and breakfasts are available.
The downtown streets are lined with many retail stores, candy shops, and restaurants. A popular item at the candy shops is the locally produced and nationally known "Mackinac Island Fudge", leading to tourists sometimes being referred to as "fudgies". Many shops sell a variety of fudge, and some of the confectioners have been operating for more than a century. The popularity of the fudge has led to the sales and marketing of Mackinac Island fudge not only throughout Michigan, but outside the state of Michigan as well.