So in all the many, many, many times I have come to Mackinac I have never done the guided carriage tour. Shocking I know. I’ll be honest the first couple times I was more interested in partying then actually taking in the history. Well with age comes the peace of mind you aren’t FOMO. I actually search, stalk and plan out things I haven’t done on the island. This time was the guided tour. It is run by Mackinac Island Carriage Tours. This is located downtown or you can prepurchase online through the ferry website.
Ok so in order to go it’s an interesting process. They will allow you to purchase tickets 🎟 but your time might not be for the current time. For example: if you arrive at the ticket stand at 9:25 and the next tour is leaving in 5 minutes- that doesn’t mean you get that. They ask how many in your party and will tell someone in charge of the order. When there is room they will then put you on that carriage. At the window you have the option to include the butterfly house- it is on the stop before you change carriages (I’ll explain) Do it. This is a great little gem they have created on this island. Plus how often do you see butterflies 🦋 up close & personal??
Ok once you get in line and ticket handed to the employee- hang onto it. They squeeze you in nicely to accommodate a lot. Sometimes the line of people waiting to load tour and waiting for tickets can be overwhelming. It runs smoothly and quickly. On a side note next to the carriage tour ticket kiosk is the Island information kiosk. Be sure to get a map of the island for references. Ok another thing, I bought my ticket online with my Star Line ferry ticket. When you do this (I didn’t know) you have to still go to the office and show your ticket. They then will add you to the time slot you are assigned. So in better detail- my friends were in line, got their tickets. Now it was a rainy day and we lucked out and were able to get on the next tour. But had I not known prior that I needed to go to the kiosk still I might not have been on their tour. I couldn’t get in line with them with my already purchased ticket- it would throw the numbers off. Make sense? I hope so.
The tour starts. The driver interacts a lot with the group. Introduces you to the horses and about themselves. Along the way they tell you the history of some of the sights you pass. This is an 1 hour 45 minute tour ( this doesn’t include the time you stop at middle of it)You head up Fort st after getting of Main St. Your driver will tell some funny jokes along the way to keep you interested. You turn down Market st and eventually heading up Cadotte Ave past the Grand. This then is when you start to truly get more inland on the tour. Finally ending up at Surrey Hills Museum. Here they boast a large collection of antique carriages. Gift shops are around along with their infamous donuts 🍩. Now folks I am not a blueberry donut fan BUT these are unreal. They have other flavors but they are know for the blueberry 🫐.
Along with the Surrey Hills Museum you can head down to the Grand Hotel stables. On one side is the horses for the Grand and on the other side is old carriages used throughout history. It really is interesting to see these classics.
A blacksmith is nearby too. Forge a Memory, step into the forge, pick-up the hammer, hit some hot steel and leave with a handforged knife and sheath. There are 4 different knife sizes to choose from and a blade will take between 20 minutes and one hour to heat, forge, sand and buff. The price of the experience will depend on the size of the knife.
Wings of Mackinac is a climate controlled facility that hosts 200 species of butterflies. They talk to you when you first arrive to watch out to not step on the butterflies and or touch them due to their delicate bodies. It is fun to watch them eat off ripened bananas or flowers.
Once you have finished exploring you then get your ticket out to continue on with the tour. Here you get on a green and white carriage that has 3 horses pulling you. From here you head to Arch Rock. They also have a great time interacting with you. I’m sure this has to be hard considering how quiet some groups can be. I tipped both drivers too. It’s a hard job to do and a lot are college students.
After you leave the rock – you head towards Fort Mackinac. When you are on the carriage look to you left (same side of fort) you will see a sign saying – Somewhere in Time gazebo & Annes Tablet. They don’t stop for that but put a bookmark in.
Next they give you options to either exit at the fort, or at Fort St next to Governor’s Mansion or continue on back up to Surrey Hill where you will then get back on a 2 horse carriage. They will drop you off at Grand Hotel (10.00 fee to walk the grounds) or downtown. We opted to walk the hill down from Mansion. Only because it could have been another 45 minute (we were hungry).
So on any day this tour is everything for those starting to explore the island for the 1st or if the weather is less than ideal. I loved it for the history you learn all about but because it allows you to see the island in new ways.