"" Writer's Wanderings: A Mackinac Island Carriage Tour

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

A Mackinac Island Carriage Tour

 As we searched for a place to have breakfast, we realized how close to the end of the season we were. Normally the season runs a little better through October but because of the COVIC issues and the decrease in business, many places were closing a little earlier--even a couple of the fudge shops!

A line began forming for the carriage tours though as people awaited the opening of the ticket booth at 9:30. A lady started filling up buckets of water for the horses and made sure they had a chance to get a drink before beginning their trip through the island as the carriages began to line up as well to take on passengers.

We bought our tickets ($30.50/person) and boarded the second carriage that pulled up. Once each row was filled (one family or group/row because of COVID) we started down the main street of town and began our tour. Our tour guide and driver was a student who would soon be going back to her college on the mainland in a week or so. She grew up with horses so she was able to learn quickly how to handle the draft horses and the carriage. The hard part she said was learning how to do all the harnessing.

The tour went through some of the back streets of town, took us past the Grand Hotel and into the state park which takes up quite a large area of the island. It was beautiful and serene and we had been blessed with another sunny day so the fall leaves were spectacular. 

Our horses were a black Percheron draft named Don and a brown Belgian draft named Jumbo. We stopped at the corner near where the stables and carriages are kept for the company. Interestingly she had told us that there was one doctor on the island but as our horses took another drink from the trough nearby, she pointed out the veterinary office and said there were four veterinarians on duty during the season. Have no doubt. The horses are important.

The clippity clop through the park was restful with the sun filtering through the trees and lighting up the golds and reds of the leaves. When we reached the famous Arch Rock, we got out and had about fifteen minutes to walk around and take pictures. The arch towers 146' above the water and is about 50 feet wide. It is made of limestone and believed to have been formed some time after the glacial period when the levels of Lake Huron were so high. 

Our tour also took us past the Governor's summer house. It was built in 1902 and sits on a bluff looking out on the Straits of Mackinac. In 1944, the Mackinac Island State Park Commission purchased the home and it has been used by Michigan's governors as a place of summer residence and hosted several important events and people including John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, George HW Bush, Gerald Ford and Harry Truman. Tours of the lower floor of the mansion are usually available Wednesdays to the public. The upper floors are private.


As we neared the end of the tour, we were offered the opportunity to get off at the fort (and save a walk back up the hill) or the Governor's mansion (in case we wanted a short walk back to town as the horses would take a little longer to get around) or at the Grand Hotel or you could stay in the carriage and get off where we'd started. 

We chose to get off at the Grand Hotel. It was next on our list to visit and we knew it would save us a walk uphill and a little time as well. The Grand Hotel. The jewel of the island. Would it be worth the $10 entry fee?

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