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Our History

Established in 1972, Palmetto Carriage Works is the oldest carriage company in historic Charleston, S.C. Family-owned and operated, the company offers guided horse and mule-drawn tours of Charleston’s downtown and residential historic district for the thousands of visitors hoping to take in the charm and history of the city in a more authentic way.

The company’s hour long tours are narrated by experienced guides who have been in the industry for years. Tours are lively, educational, and historically accurate, allowing guests to see the highlights of Charleston’s past and to learn about areas not often seen by many tourists. Charleston’s beauty and charm are well preserved, thanks to strict preservation laws, and the neighborhoods of downtown Charleston are a remarkable place to hear and witness the ever unfolding history of the Holy City.

The philosophy at Palmetto Carriage Works is that the employees make the tour. From the ground crew that assists in the carriage loading to the guide that gives the tour, experienced personnel are committed to having every single guest leave with a positive impression of the city after each and every carriage ride.

Palmetto Carriage Works takes safety very seriously, starting with driver safety training, experienced animal care, and set, established protocols for daily carriage operation. While Palmetto Carriage Works strives to give all of its customers the best experience, ensuring the safety of the animals, tour guides and customers are always the first priority.

Tours run seven days a week, from 9 a.m. until the last run, which leaves between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m. each day. All tours depart from the Big Red Barn just beside the City Market. Open to the public, the Big Red Barn also offers guests the opportunity to interact with the animals. Palmetto Carriage Works is committed to maintaining a comprehensive carriage animal welfare program, in many cases offering a second career to “unwanted horses.” The company limits the number of hours each animal can work per day to eight, though most only average a five hour day. All are given at least a 15 minute break between tours, and their temperatures are taken after every tour, year-round. The company regularly rotates its stock, ensuring that all of its animals spend more than three months each year at its farm on Johns Island, located about 20 miles away.

Notably, Palmetto Carriage Works is the exclusive carriage provider for the Mills House Hotel and Charming Inns. The company has also been named by Southern Living Magazine for offering one of the “five best ways to explore historic downtown.” Private carriages are available by appointment.

Carriage tours have been offered as a leisurely means of exploring Charleston since 1945 when Mayor Joe Riley’s father and business partner brought them to the city. Today, carriage companies and tourism officials maintain strong lines of communication to minimize impact on the city and to promote the welfare and safety of animals, tourists, and residents. In addition, Palmetto Carriage Works is committed to helping to maintain both a safe community through a comprehensive driver safety training program, a detailed check system on the animals, equipment and carriage before and after every tour, and established procedures in place to care for the working animals. As a long-standing leader in the carriage industry, Palmetto Carriage Works is sensitive to neighborhood concerns and the well-being of the animals, and is devoted to offering a memorable way for visitors and residents to embrace this popular historic city.

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