If you haven’t ridden through tree-lined paths and along slopped streets in a horse-drawn carriage, then my dog Victor has one on you.
Yes, horse-drawn carriage is the primary method of transportation on Mackinac Island in Northern Michigan where cars can’t go but many, many people do, especially in the summer. Many people and their dogs, which is why the carriages are dog-friendly. (Check out Day One adventures here).
Ok, horses are the second most popular form of transportation – the first is bikes, if you can peddle up hill. On the island, housekeeping and maintenance workers cycle from guest house to B&Bs to service rooms and sometimes carry luggage from the ferry terminal to visitors’ rooms. Road cleaners ride bikes with bins, picking up about 1400 pounds of horse poop a day. And tourists peddle up and down the streets visiting State Park sites and Fort Mackinac.
You can rent bikes virtually everywhere, including at Mission Point Resort, and yes, you can rent a trailer that attaches to the back for the dog. Some places located along Main Street even rent safer hard-sided travelling cases that pull behind the bikes in case soft shells are too risky for your pup.
But if you can’t ride or walk, or are tired of both, book a private carriage ride.
Many people do and really, it’s the best way to experience a Michigan island that Ford Motor Company forgot … or has been banned from since the early 1900s. A law was passed prohibiting cars the moment the first Model T rolled off the production line.
Logan was our driver, picking us up with his team Sonny and May, Percheron Standard-bred crosses. In peak season, there’s 600 horses on the island, including 300 with the company Logan works for and in the winter, most take winter vacations off island. (See our horse experience on horsetrotting.net).
We start along the standard route – past the Mackinac Fort, past million-dollar Victorian vacation properties (livable summer only), and past the summer residence of the Michigan Governor – then we off-road it. Sonny and May pull us through wide heavily tree-lined trails (80 percent of the island is state park) and even past the stables where they spend their evenings.
The Grand Hotel is on the list of must see sights – this historical property was the first palatial accommodation built on the island in 1887, boasts no two guest rooms the same, lists a host of famous people and diplomats on its roster, and is so popular it charges a $10 admission fee to non-registered guests.
The Grand Hotel is also not dog-friendly. So, we didn’t go in.
Instead we continued our carriage ride ‘downtown’ along Market and Main Streets lined with tourist shops and fudge makers – fudge is big here – all independently owned. No chains are allowed on the island either (but somehow Starbucks snuck in).
Did Victor like the carriage ride?
I pictured him sitting on the seat beside me perky and looking around. Instead, he laid on the floor of the carriage and fell asleep – much like he does in the car. Apparently, that’s his preferred state while in a moving vehicle. He’ s likely exhausted from running along the Straits of Mackinac’s shoreline then through the grounds of Fort Mackinac (more on that soon).
Mackinac Island, especially in the shoulder season, might be the best (car-free) place to unwind with your pup – if he’s not afraid of horses.
Up next: How to have dinner in the dining room when travelling with a dog.