Local visionaries sometimes brainstorm about how to make Traverse City more accessible to travelers.
Efforts are underway to create a rail passenger line from Ann Arbor to Traverse City. Airlines keep adding service to Cherry Capital Airport. Electric car charging stations are popping up everywhere. Self-driving cars are inching closer to reality.
People arrive here every day — depending on season — via car, airplane, bus, motorcycle, boat and bicycle.
I don't think getting travelers to our town is that big a problem. We're only a little more than 200 miles from Detroit, 320 from Chicago — each a reasonable day's drive. A commercial flight from New York City can deliver visitors here in less than four hours.
Sure, Traverse City isn't as easy to reach as some destinations close to major metropolitan areas. But an email I received last week helped put into perspective the issue of Traverse City's distance from major population centers.
My column a couple of weeks ago mentioned, in passing, Pitcairn Island of "Mutiny on the Bounty" book and movie fame. The HMS Bounty was sunk in 1790 just off Pitcairn. Its wreckage was rediscovered in 1957 and still can be visited by scuba divers.
Soon after the column was published online, I received an email from the office of Pitcairn Islands Tourism. It suggested I might be interested in a special yacht charter being planned around a June solar eclipse.
It turns out Pitcairn works hard to market itself as a tourist destination. But its visitor numbers don't approach those of Traverse City. Transportation is a bit of a barrier for the remote Pacific island. You can't get there by car, or by plane. A slow boat is the only option.
Pitcairn Island is 1,200 miles from Easter Island, 1,700 miles from the equator, 3,400 miles from the edge of Antarctica, 3,500 miles from South America and 5,500 miles from Traverse City. Administrative headquarters for the island, a British territory, are 3,300 miles away in Auckland, New Zealand.
The quickest travel route for Michigan residents includes a commercial flight from Chicago to Tahiti. With two intermediate stops, that portion of the journey takes between 24 and 48 hours. Then you grab a commuter plane to fly 1,000 miles to an airstrip on tiny Totegegie Island. From there you charter a yacht for a 300-mile, 32-hour ocean cruise to Pitcairn. Alternatively, you can take a slightly different route and complete the final leg of the journey aboard a cargo ship that has 12 berths and makes 21 sailings each year.
You need to plan ahead to visit Pitcairn. You need to block out a big chunk of time on your calendar. You need to dig deep into your wallet.
When you get to Pitcairn, you either bunk aboard your vessel or arrange to stay in one of the 12 homestay options on the island.
Pitcairn has fewer than 50 permanent residents and is the smallest and most remote inhabited place on Earth. The island is about a mile wide and two miles long. That's considerably smaller than Leelanau County's South Manitou Island, which is about three miles wide and three miles long.
The main track on Pitcairn, which leads up the volcanic slope from the harbor and is traveled either on foot or atop a single-seat ATV, is called "The Hill of Difficulty."
Traverse City, by comparison, can be reached via land or air, is home to many lodging options and has easy-to-navigate roads, bike paths and foot trails. Transportation-wise, we've got it made.
Tourists who visit Traverse City come from all over the world.
That's also true of Pitcairn. About 30 percent of the remote island's visitors hail from North America, 30 percent Europe, 30 percent Australia or New Zealand, and 10 percent from Asia. But Pitcairn's visitor numbers are miniscule compared to Traverse City's or South Manitou's. The tourist agency likes to say that — in some years — more people climb Mount Everest than visit the island.
The Pitcairn tourism agency's coordinator lives on the island, but gets marketing help from a few folks in North America and one person in Australia.
More information about Pitcairn, and the June eclipse excursion, is available at www.visitpitcairn.pn. I don't feel guilty about mentioning the cruise because I don't think Pitcairn will pull very many tourists away from Traverse City.
After all, northwest Lower Michigan is closer — to basically everywhere on Earth.
Contact Business Editor Dan Nielsen at 231-933-1467 or email@example.com.