When booking your visit to enjoy the small town feel of Michigan’s Jewel, consider looking into one of the famed Mackinac Island carriage tours.
At the heart of travel is seeing, hearing, experiencing, and living in a new world. Online searches will yield agencies, tour groups, curated lists, and all kinds of resources to help you identify what’s worth discovering on your next adventure.
You’ll learn so much about the town’s historic sights and feel its unique charm through the lens of your animated tour guide on the carriage tour. The Mackinac Island Carriage Tour is one of the easiest fun ways to enjoy the island and to quickly learn about its history. This should not be missed as it is a top bucket list item on the island.
Mackinac Island, Michigan, also known as “The Jewel of the Great Lakes”, is accessible primarily by ferry. Since you won’t find any automotive vehicles permitted on the Island, it makes alternative methods of transportation like a unique horse-drawn carriage ride that much more enticing.
Many use bicycles to travel throughout Mackinac, but where else can you find horse-drawn carriages as the preferred form of travel and leisure?
In a day and age where we can open our phones and have a car ready to pick us up within minutes, there’s something nostalgic and charming about the slower pace of a guided horse-drawn carriage leading your way. Putting Mackinac Island Carriage Tours at the front of the pack for activities.
Like the idea of traveling without much of a plan? Booking a Mackinac Island carriage tour will give you all the can’t-miss sights to see, neatly curated for you to sit back, relax, and enjoy.
The Mackinac Island Carriage Tour makes stops at the Surrey Hills Museum, Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory, Arch Rock, Fort Mackinac Avenue of Flags, and the Grand Hotel.
Mackinac Island Carriage Tours generally run approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes, just enough time to take in a variety of venues around the Island.
The route extends beyond the Island’s Downtown area, so you’ll get a feel for what else is around. You can ask your tour guide for any insights on the tour stops, as well as how else you should spend the rest of your day on Mackinac.
Some of their employees return year after year seasonally, enjoying the atmosphere of leading the horse-drawn carriage tours for visitors to the Island. After your tour, you’ll be on your own to enjoy Mackinac as you see fit.
Mackinac Island Carriage Tours: Planning
The carriage tours are pet friendly! Mackinac Island Carriage Tours welcomes small dogs on a lap, while they suggest larger dogs may require purchase of a child ticket.
While reservations for general tours are not accepted, if you find that a member of your party requires a handicapped accessible carriage, please call Mackinac Island Carriage Tours at least 48 hours in advance to ensure they can accommodate your request.
The Mackinac Island Carriage Tour takes a precise route, designed to give their guests an enjoyable experience with a variety of sights to see. Below you’ll find what stops the tour includes.
Surrey Hills Museum
After roughly 30 minutes on your first carriage, you’ll arrive at the first stop on your tour, the Surrey Hills Museum.
An antique carriage museum with a working blacksmith shop, this small venue is a nice place to walk around. There’s even a horse-drawn hearse still used today as well as an antique fire department pumper. There are on-site gift shops, and you’ll find lunch or snack items available for purchase.
Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory
Butterflies have such a whimsical, entrancing nature. If you’re traveling with children, they’ll love to see these beautiful insects enjoying their natural habitat.
If not, your inner child at heart will enjoy the many species that reside here. You’ll generally see 75-100 different kinds of butterfly species in the conservatory, while many different butterflies are received throughout the season.
Butterflies have a very short lifespan, some as few as 3-10 days, so the conservatory receives shipments weekly to replenish their exhibit.
Surrounded by natural beauty, you might find love is in the air when visiting the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory.
The venue is equipped for intimate weddings (under 40 guests, according to their website) with a water fountain, wrought iron gazebo, and more in the beautiful glassed-in conservatory. With space for small gatherings or a special elopement, this is a truly unique wedding venue found on Mackinac Island.
There is an additional admission fee for the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory, which can also be purchased as a combination ticket with your Carriage Tour.
This next stop, a brief one at approximately five minutes, is a photographic landmark on Mackinac Island.
A natural limestone formation found on natural works of art and postcards of the Island, you will take in transcendent views of Lake Huron and surrounding scenery at this tour stop.
Fort Mackinac Avenue of Flags
One of several State Historic Parks found on Mackinac, take a step back in time as you enjoy this unique venue.
History is epitomized as you hear canons roaring, rifles firing, soldier’s feet stomping, and the grounds evoking the spirit of this former outpost and home for military families. There are a variety of exhibits offered throughout the property’s fourteen buildings, including Military Medicine at Mackinac: 1780-1895 among others.
Admission to Fort Mackinac is separate from the Carriage Tours. Adults enter for $13.00, and children ages 5-12 are $7.75. This admission is also valid for the Historic Downtown Mackinac as well as The Richard & Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum.
For your final stop on the Mackinac Island Carriage Tours, you have the option of concluding back at Surrey Hills and again boarding a two-horse smaller carriage back to Downtown Mackinac, or you can continue on to the famous Grand Hotel.
You’ll have the option of continuing on your own through a short walk back to town or arranging for a private horse-drawn taxi service.
The Grand Hotel, one of Mackinac’s true luxury resorts, sits on a stately property with gorgeous views of the lakes and Island.
You could opt to end your carriage tour with a lovely Afternoon Tea in the Parlor, or an elegant meal at one of their restaurants. For much more information on this gorgeous property, please see my Places to Stay on Mackinac Island post.
- The Mackinac Island Carriage Tours are very popular during peak season (summer). If you’re able to begin your tour first thing in the morning, this is one of the best times. Waiting until mid-day may have you in a 2+ hour line just for the next available carriage tour.
- If you’re staying overnight on Mackinac Island, your lodging venue may be able to make arrangements for your tour. Inquire upon check-in to expedite your experience.
How much do the Mackinac Island carriage tours cost?
For 2020, the Mackinac Island Carriage Tours run through lat May – October 26th. Tours begin at 9am and run until 3 or 5pm, depending on time of the year. Tours are weather permitting. No reservations are accepted. The starting point is right in the middle of town, and you will see a building labeled “Carriage Tours.”
For adults and seniors, the carriage tour is $30.50. Children 5-12 years old are $11, and children under 5 are free if held on a lap. You can also purchase a Combination Ticket, granting admission to the Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory. These are available for $38.00 adults and seniors, and $14 for children 5-12 years old.
The first part of the tour starts in Downtown Mackinac Island and brings you up to the Surrey Hills Museum.
After a brief stop, you’ll board an open three-horse carriage for the second part of the tour. The duration of the tour is approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. There are stops where you can get off and explore on your own.
Carriage rides on Mackinac Island
In addition to carriage tours, you can get carriage rides on Mackinac Island for just about anything. If you want to take a taxi to just about anywhere on the island or want a private carriage for a wedding, its available.
Carriage Taxi Service
Since you aren’t able to hail a car service from your phone on Mackinac Island (no cars allowed!), you can request a taxi by calling Mackinac Island Carriage Tours directly. Taxi rates vary between which zones you’re traveling.
Appointments can be made to obtain taxi service during the April through November season. Taxi drivers only accept cash, and there are ATMs available throughout the Island as well as at the taxi stand.
Wedding Carriage Rides: utilizing Mackinac Island Carriage Tours without the tour
Imagine arriving to the biggest day of your life in a historic, enchanting horse-drawn carriage. Mackinac Island Carriage Tours makes your dreams come true with private carriages available. You can arrange for bride and groom transportation, for your wedding party, as well as horse-drawn carriage taxi service for your guests. This is a quintessential Mackinac experience your wedding guests will never forget!
Treat yourself to an enriching, enchanting experience when you visit Mackinac Island by taking one of the horse-drawn carriage tours. Departing from Downtown Mackinac, you can step off the ferry and step into a carriage ride. You’ll take in many popular sights along the Downtown area and have the opportunity to visit lesser-known attractions further away from the center of town.
Whether you travel with your family, a partner, a friend, or on your own, you’ll never feel alone as you enjoy the narration of an engaging tour guide while you leisurely take in the charm and sights of Mackinac Island.
Tips for visiting Mackinac Island:
When to visit: Mackinac Island is open year round but the best time to go is between April and October when pretty much everything is open and the island is thriving. The island is essentially a summer destination but is open in the late spring and early to late fall depending on weather.
Please note: the island can and will get very busy during the peak season. IF you know you are planning to visit Mackinac Island, I strongly encourage you to book accommodations in advance to guarantee you can stay where you want and even get a room.
The island isn’t just busy with people staying on the island, plenty of people take the ferry over just for the day. So you will find a lot of people trying to experience the island.
When deciding where to stay on the island you will have a bevy of options. From small mom and pop bed and breakfasts all the way to large scale resorts. While there are benefits to staying at both, I encourage you to think about what you want to get out of your trip. If your only interest is to explore the island and you view lodging as a place to put your head and shower, then I would go with one of the small hotels or bed and breakfasts. If you are a big resort person and love all the added amenities and luxuries within, I suggest staying at The Grand Hotel or on the opposite side of the island, Mission Point Resort.
Getting to the island: you can either fly in from St. Ignace or take a ferry from Mackinaw City or St. Ignance. The ferries on both sides of the state have parking lot facilities for you to park in while you are away (some for a fee). You can load your luggage with tags onto the ferry and when you get to the island, if you are staying a hotel that transports your luggage, you do not have to collect it. If you are staying in lodging that does not transport luggage, you can walk with it to your destination or get a taxi for about $5 bucks per person. Be careful when pulling your luggage as there will be a lot of people and horses .. and poo.
Getting around: there are no cars allowed on the island and everything is done by foot, on a bike or by a horse and carriage. If you rent a bike (and I hope you do) make sure to lock it up. Bikes have disappeared in the past, despite being on an island, and it would suck if it happened to you. Just play it safe.
If you do get a bike, do NOT speed or drink and ride. You can get tickets from the police for this because cars are their mode of transportation on the island.
Medical care: there is in fact a doctor and healthcare staff on the island that is on call around the clock. They are very nice and professional and I only know this from experience. I actually got to ride in one of the the only cars on the island, an ambulance, because I fell so ill and could not walk. So I have completed my Mackinac Island Bucket List by riding in one of the one cars on the island.
Phone service and WiFi: if you are a United States resident, you should have no issue with your phone working. In the 16 years I have been going to the island my phone and internet on my phone has always worked. For WiFi, the hotels and lodging should have it. It runs at a great pace and I have never had issues anywhere I have stayed on the island.
Food options: while the island is small, the food options are aplenty – there are tons of amazing restaurants on Mackinac Island! Some of the popular dishes on the island include Mackinac White Fish and Pecan Balls. You will even find high end dining at The Woods, diner style food at the Chuckwagon, a burger joint, Starbucks, endless fudge and sweets, and so much more. You will not go hungry.
Things to do: one of the very best things to do is the Mackinac Island Carriage Tour! Additional items: ride a bike around the outskirts of the island, Fort Mackinac, butterfly house, bar crawl, catch a sunrise and a sunset, boutique shopping, golfing, picnic in the park, art museums, and so much more.
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