Disclosure: I received a complimentary tour to assist in writing this article. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Every year between May and October, the steady “clip-clop” sound of horse hooves echoes throughout Mackinac Island. In a land void of cars, horse and carriage rides have become as iconic to summer tourists as they have to year-round residents.
Of course, if you’re planning a Mackinac Island vacation and are in the process of narrowing down your activity list, you may be wondering if booking a ride with Mackinac Island Carriage Tours is worth considering. Having recently taken the tour for the first time, I’m here to tell you that this excursion should be near the top of your agenda! Read on to find out why a Mackinac Island Carriage Tour might just be the best part of your trip.
1. It’s A Great Starting Place If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going
Arriving on Mackinac Island feels surprisingly similar to walking into Disney World: it’s beautiful, it’s magical . . . and it can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many sights to take in, and if you’re anything like me, you want to see it all! That’s the great thing about taking a carriage tour—the ticket kiosk is situated on Main Street (not far from the ferry drop-off), so all you need to do is sign up for the next available tour and wait for your carriage to arrive (how very Cinderella-like!). There are even benches nearby, so you can rest as you wait. If you have a little more time than you bargained for, do some shopping next door or across the street. There are plenty of stores to visit and since they’re nearby, there’s no danger in getting lost.
Once your tour begins, you’ll start off through parts of downtown you may not have seen (there are several historical buildings in addition to the rows of stores, restaurants, and hotels that line the front of the island). Next, it’s up the hill past the famous Grand Hotel, and onward to view the stables and other key sites on Mackinac Island (but more on that in a moment!).
2. The Tour Guides Are Awesome
|Our tour guide, waving enthusiastically at another passing carriage. You can tell by the other driver's smile that our guide was quite the character!|
Your driver, as good as he may be at maneuvering a horse-drawn carriage, is also a wealth of knowledge—so pay attention and ask lots of questions! You’ll learn island history, get tidbits on local life, and maybe even enjoy a comedy show. Our guide, for instance, had us rolling with laughter as he interacted with the group, teased passersby, and delivered an unending supply of horse jokes (you’ll have an . . . interesting view while sitting behind the quadrupeds). While it may be difficult to say goodbye to your initial guide when you reach the Surrey Hills stop (I’ll talk about that next), you’ll be united with a new guide (and another brain to pick) for the second leg of your tour.
3. You'll Enjoy Pit Stops at the Surrey Hills Museum, Grand Hotel Stables, and Wings of Mackinac
|Inside the Grand Hotel Stables - love the colors here!|
As I mentioned earlier, your tour includes a stop that will allow you to explore the Surrey Hills Carriage Museum, Grand Hotel stables, and Wings of Mackinac butterfly conservatory (conservatory optional with carriage tour admission). During this time, you’ll be able to shop for souvenirs, admire antique carriages, take a selfie with Mackinac Island horses, or hang out with butterflies until you’re ready to continue your tour. The duration you spend at each stop is up to you, so take your time and enjoy everything at your own pace!
|So many beautiful butterflies and flowers inside Wings of Mackinac . . . some butterflies would even land on your head, shoulders, or hands! It's amazing to be surrounded by hundreds of these delicate creatures.|
4. You'll See Forested Areas of the Island
The next part of your tour takes place on a larger carriage and focuses on quieter, more secluded areas of the island. You’ll roll through Mackinac Island State Park, learning more about the island’s forests and historic cemeteries. The next stop, Arch Rock, is one of my favorite parts of the tour because of the gorgeous views of Lake Huron! Take lots of photos, but make sure you return to your carriage at the time your guide specifies—there’s no guarantee that later carriages will have extra room, and it’s a long walk back to town!
|Looking down through Arch Rock - amazing!|
|Loved this gorgeous view of Lake Huron from Arch Rock!|
5. Your Drop-Off Spot Is Totally Up To You
As your tour winds down, you’ll have the choice of riding back downtown or getting off at Fort Mackinac (separate admission required). We opted for the latter, and went right into exploring the historic landmark (more about this in a future post). This made for a great transition into the rest of our afternoon, and saved us from unnecessarily retracing our steps (and from re-climbing a couple very large hills). A built-in taxi service to your next destination--can't beat that! :)
Have you taken a Mackinac Island Carriage Tour? What was your favorite part of the experience?
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