Please hop up in the horse-drawn carriage. Let’s tour Mackinac Island!

Bicycles for rent, blue bicycles for rent…

Ladies and gentlefolk, thank you for coming to Mackinac Island!

Please step up on the carriage, careful now, there you go, have a seat.

Let’s start our tour, shall we?

First, let me introduce you to the horses pulling this carriage today.

Our first horse is Fudge.  Say hello to Fudge, everyone!

Mackinac Island horses (I didn’t ask their names)

The other fella up here is Biddle, named after one of our famous island houses, say hello to Biddle.

The third horse, to the right, yep, that one, is Don Juan.  Don’t ask where some of these guys get their names.  Someone has a sense of humor, don’t they?

Oh come on, Don Juan, don’t do that during introductions!


OK, folks, glad to see you on your carriage ride around Mackinac Island.

I’ll point out the sights as we go.

(Disclaimer, OK, OK, you newbies to Lake Superior Spirit,  I am not REALLY a carriage driver on Mackinac Island.  I’m a creative blogger living in the Upper Peninsula who enjoyed a carriage ride on the island during a visit last week.  But it’s fun to pretend, isn’t it?  Don’t you love to pretend?)

Hey there Biddle, Fudge, keep a’going now…

First, some general history.

Mackinac Island lies halfway between Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas.  Yep, in Lake Huron, in the eastern end of the Straights of Mackinac.  It is about eight miles in circumference and 3.8 total square miles.  After our carriage ride, consider renting a bicycle and touring around.  You will thoroughly enjoy!

They even rent bicycles built for two.  You and your lovely partner will enjoy cycling together, yes you will, don’t hesitate!

Bicyclists wave at us!

You must rent bicycles, instead of cars, because motorized vehicles have been prohibited on the island since 1898, with the exception of snowmobiles in the winter, emergency and service vehicles.

Service vehicle

Giddyup, Biddle!  Giddyup, Fudge!  Giddyup, Don Juan!

I would like to introduce myself to you.  My name is Kathy and I am your carriage driver today.  I work with these horses every summer, no, no one else drives them, they are my horses, c’mon Biddle, don’t worry folks, these horses love to take folks ’round the island.

The population of Mackinac Island grows considerably each summer, as you know.  As many as 15,000 visitors can visit us in a single day–we appreciate all of you!   In the winter, the population of the island declines to about 492 residents.  (More than the population of Arvon Township in the western Upper Peninsula, where whence your driver hails.)

Bikes parked along Main Street

I’m sure you know that Mackinac Island was home to Native Americans before the European exploration in the 1700’s.  Some folks even refer to this island as Turtle Island, because a turtle holds the land above water.  OK, I know many of you may not believe you’re riding on the back of a turtle.  That’s OK.  The turtle doesn’t care if you believe. C’mon, Biddle, don’t dally!  Let’s keep a’going!

You all know the ways you can reach the isle, don’t you?  You can swim.  OK, I know many of you aren’t up for the six-mile swim.  Most of you rode a ferry or boat to reach here today. Perhaps some of you arrived by aircraft.  I know none of you appeared via snowmobile–as current 75 degree temperatures do not create the ice necessary to form an ice bridge from the mainland of Michigan.

Look at that ferry go!

How many came across on Shepler’s Ferry Service? That’s  the ferry I used to get to the island.  Lots of mainlanders from St. Ignace and Mackinac City utilize the ships daily to work in restaurants, the fort built during the Revolutionary War, the shops.  Did you enjoy your ferry ride?  Safe and efficient, wasn’t it?  Hey Fudge, c’mon, Buddy, keep a’going!

Where were we on our carriage tour?  Ah yes.  Eighty percent of the island consists of Mackinac Island State Park.  An eight-mile road covers the island’s perimeter.  That’s where you’ll go on your bicyle-built-for-two ride after we finish our carriage ride.   You’re all up for an eight mile bike ride, aren’t you?  You’ll remember this for the rest of your lives; don’t be hesitant!

View of the island from the fort

Before you leave the island, be sure to buy some Fudge.  We’re famous for our fudge.  OK, we may call you “fudgies” after you’ve left, but that’s because you buy so darn much.  We love you.  We really do.  Please buy fudge for Aunt Marge and Uncle Scott.  Don’t eat it all on the ferry before you dock at St. Ignace or Mackinac City, no.  You will get sick.  One is meant to eat fudge slowly.  Slowly.  Make your fudge last until next summer when you return to us!

Buy your fudge downtown, folks.

Shall we resume our history lesson?

Pre-historic fishing camps existed on the island.  Archeologists have discovered fishhooks, pottery and other artifacts from at least AD 900 (700 years before European exploration, mind you!)  It is a sacred place to the Anishinabe (Ojibway) natives who consider it to be the home of Gitchee Manitou, the Great Spirit.   The natives say a Great Flood washed through the region, and Mackinac appeared first above the receding waters.  They say the Great Hare created it.

(I do not know how to reconcile the Great Hare and the turtle stories.  You decide.  It’s either a turtle, a hare, or both.  Personally, I vote for both.  In my story the island is held up by the back of a turtle who has an agreement with a hare.  Do not quote me.  I am an innocent carriage driver who really has no clue.)

The impressive Arch Rock

Who is that down below the impressive Arch Rock?

From up above we take pictures of the people taking pictures of the impressive Arch Rock down below

The first European to visit the turtle/hare island, you ask?  He was Jean Nicolet, a 1634 French-Canadian explorer.  Jesuits formed missions here in 1670 and the region soon became an import French fur trading center.

OK, I have to fast-forward past the Treaty of Ghent (Google it, history buffs!) to John Jacob Aster because we have, no kidding, a daughter living in Astoria, NYC.   John J. Aster’s fur trading company was centered on Mackinac Island after the War of 1812 and made rich, I say rich, from beaver pelts.

Here is the rumor.  Shhhh….don’t tell.  One of John Jacob’s sons came to the isle and within a few months made himself filthy rich with pelts of wild animals.  He sent so much money back to his papa living in NYC that MY daughter can now proudly proclaim that her burg in Astoria, Queens, shimmers in wealth created by Mackinac Island (and Upper Peninsula) fur pelts.

Gentle eye of horse

Go figure.  It’s a small world.  Giddyup, Biddle!  Giddyup, Fudge!  Giddyup, Don Juan!  C’mon, you guys, we’re almost home.

OK, any questions from you riders?

No questions at all?

Carriage ride

If you get home and want to review more Mackinac Island facts and history, please check out Wikipedia.  Or check out  Or Pure Michigan’s site about the island.  Or maybe  Or maybe you can subscribe to Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog, don’t you think?

We’re coming up on the Grand Hotel now!  Three hundred eighty-five rooms and none are the same!  If you don’t want to take that ferry back to the mainland of Michigan tonight, how about staying at the Grand or one of our other wonderful hotels?

You can enter the hotel and ooooh and ahhhh for the reasonable cost of $10!  (Unless, like your tour guide, you come with a baby and four-year old about 25 years ago, and appear so bedraggled with exhausted children that they THINK you’re staying there and let you enter for FREE.)

The magnificent Grand Hotel

Thank you for accompanying me on this carriage ride.  You guys are the BEST!  Please come again.  Please enjoy the rest of your time on our island.  It’s OK to pet the horses as you leave.  Just make sure they see you first–don’t approach from behind.

It’s been my pleasure to serve you today.  If you have any questions–well, if you have any factual questions–please contact Bree at her Mackinac Island blog.  I am headed outa here,  4 1/2 hours west of this turtle island toward the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Goodbye Fudge, Goodbye Biddle!  Goodbye, Don Juan!  It’s been great knowing you.

(Dear readers, you should always allow yourself the opportunity of pretending to be something other than yourselves.  It’s tons of fun!  And now I know what it’s like being a carriage driver on Mackinac Island.)

I’ll leave you with more photos to remember our trip:

Worker paints island building

Island police officer

You’re a Lucky Bean to visit the island

Drive yourself horse and buggies for rent

Native American wigwam created for church ceremonies on island

Mackinac Island Beauty

Colorful Mackinac Island art

Hundreds upon thousands of tourist groups arrive at the island. Here is a little group of Brownies ready for their carriage ride. Get on up, girls!

Boy Scouts marching in formation at the island fort

Historical dress at the fort. Gracious lady from a past century.

Meet Sam. Sam is a “real” carriage driver, unlike your blogger, who is just pretending to be one.

Bree of Mackinac Island Blog. One of the best advocates for Mackinac Island!

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

49 Responses to Please hop up in the horse-drawn carriage. Let’s tour Mackinac Island!

  1. You are a fine tour guide, Kathy. What a fun post you’ve created for us. It is, indeed, fun to pretend. Looks like a lovely place to visit. Hope your week is going well.

  2. Reggie says:

    Oh, Kathy, I love-love-LOVE this post. I was right up there in the carriage with you, listening to your tales of the hare and the turtle, and buying fudge and looking at the hotel, and waving at the cyclists… I so hope we’ll have a chance to visit Mackinac Island one day – and hopefully go on a horse-drawn carriage tour!

  3. Oh Kathy – these photos and your lovely guide voice brought back such fond memories of our week-long visit a few years ago. We rented bicycles each day and circled the island COUNTLESS times. During one of these excursions we discovered an itty-bitty airport that captured Len’s rapt attention (he’s a small plane pilot) and we visited it COUNTLESS times, too 🙂

  4. Sara says:

    Husby and I visited Mackinac Island during our UP adventure a couple of summers ago. It was kind of cold and rainy when we went, but lots of fun anyway. We had a good time touring the entire island and especially liked visiting the cemetery. (I’m kind of weird about cemeteries – I find them fascinating.) One thing’s for sure, the fudge on the island is to die for.

    Thanks for taking us on a virtual tour – it was fun to see it all again!

  5. Loved, loved, LOVED Mackinac Island!! That was one of my favorite vacation days last year. We didn’t rent any bikes or go on a carriage ride (just too expensive) and walked around the island. We skipped the Fort, too, but walked around the Grand Hotel (snuck inside, too, even though only paying guests are allowed in there…shhh, don’t tell anyone! ;-)) And of course we walked to Arch Rock.Of course sampling (and buying) some fudge was a must, too! 🙂

  6. Thank you for this wonderful tour of the island!! I’ve only been there once (about 6 years ago), and I have been ACHING to go back! It was, without a doubt, the most peaceful vacation I’ve ever had. My friend and I stayed on the island for 3 nights, and waking up to the sound of a gentle “clip-clop, clip-clop” down the street was amazing. THAT is the kind of life I could get used to! I understand that they now have a Biggby Coffee up there, is that correct? That is my FAVORITE coffee in the world! One thing that surprised me about the island is the cool air. I was worried about the B&B not having air conditioning, but the innkeeper said not to worry about it, we wouldn’t need it – and she was right! The nights were very comfortable, and it never really got humid. I miss being by the water…..

    Thank you for letting me daydream for a minute!! 😉

  7. Sybil says:

    I totally agree with the “pretending” Kathy. I’ve been pretending to be a grown up for over 40 years now.

    I think I must have visited Bree’s blog long ago, because I knew about Mackinac Island. What a wonderful place ! And really no cars ? ‘cept I assume for fire trucks and ambulances ?

    What’s it like for the residents in winter ? I doubt they’re biking. Guess I should go check out Bree’s blog.

    Wish I had the wherewithall to afford a visit. I feel we’re “kindred spirits” as Anne (of Green Gables) would say.

    Anne would have been a great blogger — don’tchathink ?

  8. susan says:

    Hi Kathy,
    What a great tour you provided here! Hubs and I were just sayin’ the other day that we’d like to include a jaunt over there this summer sometime. Hope we make it this year!

  9. Claire says:

    This allows me to see Mackinac Isle as it is today so different from 1811-12 in Voyageurs. Great carriage ride with you as driver. Thanks for the fun.
    Claire x

  10. Elisa's Spot says:

    This lightened my day, thank you!

  11. love the island – thanks for sharing

  12. bonnie says:

    Thanks for the tour. Enjoyed the pictures.

  13. P.j. grath says:

    I’m happy to see the horses and hope they have a nice summer breeze while they’re working so hard. Kathy, have you read THE LOON FEATHER? I just did, for the first time. Almost the whole book is set on Mackinac Island, in the early 1800s. If you haven’t read it yet, you must.

    • Lowell says:

      I read THE LOON FEATHER when I was in a one room country school about 60 years ago. Maybe it’s time to read it again.

  14. Carol says:

    Wonderful carriage ride with all that history thrown in being a bonus! Thank you for inviting us to join you. The pictures bring it all to life; I especially like the gentle eye of the horse. So peaceful.

  15. Lori DiNardi says:

    Wonderful. When I grew up in Chicago, we used to always talk about taking a trip to Mackinac Island. Never did. Thank you for taking me on your trip with you. Lovely photos, as always.

  16. I love carriage rides! Your pictures were fantastic! Thanks for the tour!

    I’ve always thought I’d like to be a tour guide here in my home town. Last weekend, I even thought about doing it blog-style like this but you beat me to it! 🙂

  17. lisaspiral says:

    I loved Mackinac Island as a kid and have always wanted to go back. Your tour is almost as nice as being there. Thank you.

  18. Robin says:

    Thank you for taking me to Mackinac Island, Kathy. It’s one of those place I didn’t get to when M and I did our Grand Camping Tour around Lake Michigan (back in the day when we were young and sleeping on the ground was fun). I’ve always wanted to visit. Now I have. 🙂

  19. CMSmith says:

    I think you may have been on a tour or two in your day. Gosh, you bring back great memories. We rode a very fast ferry over to the island and froze. Our first stop was a souvenier shop to buy sweatshirts. We rode bikes around the island. My bike cycle for two consisted of one pedaler (me) and one little rider in a yellow seat behind me. 🙂 Those were the days.

    Thanks for reminding me of a wonderful time. And also for giving me fascinating information that I missed the first time around sans tour guide.

  20. Barb says:

    All those bikes – I’d be packing a picnic and heading for the beach! Lucinda KNOWS that the hare created the island. She says it was one of her illustrious relatives. Do you have a horse drivers license, Kathy? I hear they’re required on the island and that policeman you photographed will be checking your credentials.

  21. Loved the tour not ever having been to the island…I am a wee bit concerned about Don Juan…he must have found a lady friend along the way cause he disappeared in a couple of photos. Did you find him before you left? 🙂

    All in all it made my late afternoon brighter.

  22. Pingback: A Parade, Some Photographs, a Little Personal Stuff . . . and a Mystery Spot! 6.20.2010 « Bree's Mackinac Island Blog

  23. What a great idea for a post! So entertaining! Thanks for the ride!

  24. Karma says:

    Thanks very much for the tour, Kathy. The island looks like a fun place to visit. I love how you chose to tell it from a new point of view – not easy to do, but really neat.

  25. Kathy says:

    The carriage driver thanks you mightily for your comments. It was a pleasure having you along for the ride. 🙂 It’s so interesting how many of you have fond feelings about our beautiful island. You may want to stop at the Butterfly House before you take the ferry back to the mainland. (I have a feeling that a butterfly blog might be coming up on these pages soon. Hopefully not from the point of a view of a butterfly–but you never know. Stranger things have happened!)

  26. Thanks for the trip, I’ll have to visit again someday, maybe in my physical form next time. Mackinac sounds like my kinda place. I’m also inspired by your imaginative performance, and I really feel challenged to get in character myself.

  27. I am a Bree blogger and she invited us to go to your blog and this was so cute! A job well done!

  28. Dawn says:

    These are so wonderful, takes me right there. Love the horse eye.

  29. Heather says:

    I slowed myself down and read every word…though I do confess I looked harder at the pictures 😉 The Island is a beautiful place, and a nice, if unrealistic, picture of the past. Thanks for the carriage ride – we didn’t take one when we went.

  30. john says:

    Anything worth having is worth waiting for! Finally got a spare minute to climb up and take a ride. You took me away to a wonderful place. This was sunshine on my otherwise gloomy week. You put me up there on the right end of the horse.

  31. bearyweather says:

    Looks like a very quaint and restful place to spend a weekend.

  32. I have never been to Mackinac Island, but now – thanks to your wonderful tour – I feel that I know the place! Thanks for a lovely carriage ride around!

  33. Kathy says:

    Thank you again for all your lovely comments. The horses and I appreciate your patronage! **grin** Please come again to our fair isle.

  34. Dana says:

    Loved this post, Kathy! Any island that is non-motorized is AOK by me, especially as a non-driver of cars. 🙂 Lovely photos, too– I especially enjoyed the one of the horse’s eye.

  35. Joanne says:

    Beautiful post, accompanied by fantastic photos Kathy, and I absolutely love the idea of a whole island with no motorised vehicles! I wonder if the idea could catch on in Australia? (Well, it is an island!) 😉

  36. Bobz says:

    I want to see the island!

  37. Karen says:

    What a nice tour of the island. I have heard of it so often but have not been to Michigan. Thanks for sharing.

  38. Kathy says:

    Once again, thank you for coming along on the ride. I have to get Fudge into the barn now and give the others a good rub-down. Please consider another ride when you visit again!

  39. Chris Roddy says:

    Thanks Kathy.What a wonderfully informative tour I’ve had today. The stories never get old.Mackinac Island.has always been a magical place. I’ll go with the turtle/hare theory as well. I’ve been coming to the U.P. For about 61 yrs now, and I could’nt think of a single place I’d rather be. Naubinway,Mi.

  40. Huffygirl says:

    I love Mackinac Island too and did a few posts about it myself last summer. I encourage visitors to get away from the crowded main roads and bike up the hills into the more remote parts of the island. We’ve had some great bike rides up there, fairly removed from the crowds. It’s a great place for after dark rides too. Nice story and pics.

  41. Thank you for a wonder-filled tour! I love horses, horse-drawn carriages, and quiet places to be. I’ve never been to Macinac – now a visit is on my ‘Bucket List’. I’m new to the blogging scene (actually haven’t started – scared stiff – got the site so that’s a start) so viewing your site has been a wonderful experience. I like your easy style of writing and your sense of humour.

  42. Sartenada says:

    I enjoyed the tour thru Your photos. They all are so beautiful. Especially I enjoyed from photos of Carriage ride. Nowadays they are fresh breeze from the past.

  43. Kathy says:

    Glad you enjoyed. It’s already been a couple of weeks since I was at the island, but am still remembering it fondly. Appreciate you stopping by. Thank you.

  44. rogersachar says:

    Thanks for following Between college and my master’s degree, I worked at Mackinac Island, at the Hotel Iroquois. Fond memories there, brought back by your post.

  45. Brenda Hardie says:

    Hi Kathy, I’m back from my trip now…actually got back on Tuesday but have been so busy catching up on household chores and garden work that I’ve been slow at getting caught up online. Thank you for the lovely glimpse of Mackinac Island….it was a most enjoyable ride. 🙂 I’ve always wanted to go there, maybe it’s something to add to the bucket list for Rick and me. ♥ I see you aren’t responding to comments now so I’ll just go onto the next blog posts and see what else I’ve missed!

  46. Pingback: Can I come over to your house? « Lake Superior Spirit

  47. rachelward11 says:

    We love Mackinac island, we took the kids a couple years ago and they thought the island was a magical place. Your post reminded me that we need to plan another visit ourselves. Thanks for sharing!

Thank you for reading. May you be blessed in your life...may you find joy in the simple things...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s