Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada. A Great Place to go on Vacation!
In the spacious country of Canada, within the gorgeous province of Ontario, nestled in Lake Huron, you will find the largest fresh water island in the world. Manitoulin Island, or Spirit Island as it is translated from Ojibway, measures 2,766 km2 (1,068 sq mi). Lake Manitou, a lake on Manitoulin Island, is the largest lake on an island in the world. Treasure Island, located in Lake Mindemoya, is the largest Island in a lake on an island in the world!
The current population of Manitoulin Island is about 12,000 people and it increases during the summer months by up to 1/4 at any given time, this due to the people that flock to its natural beauty and abundance of summer activities. There is so much to see and do while visiting this jewel that it could take a lifetime to discover all its hidden possibilities. This article is intended to introduce you to some great things to see and do while there, allowing you to take advantage of as many of them as possible on your vacation.
Video of the Swing Bridge in Little Current Ontario Swinging
You Can Drive There
Since Manitoulin Island is..... an island, you may wonder how you get onto it. There are a few ways on and off the island. Depending on how you want to travel.
The swing bridge which is located in Little Current operates year round. The bridge was originally erected in 1913 by the Algoma Eastern Railway and in 1930 the control of the bridge was given to the Canadian Pacific Railway or CPR. For many years the bridge was only open to rail traffic, but in 1946 an agreement was reached to allow vehicle traffic to also cross via the bridge. When this happened the bridge went from being open all the time (except when trains needed to cross), to closed all the time (except when boats needed to pass).
There is no longer train traffic on the bridge as in the 1980s the tracks were removed and the bridge was designated for vehicle traffic. The bridge still swings for boat traffic through the spring, summer and fall months depending on when the ice in the North Channel is clear and boat traffic starts. A representative employed by the Ministry of Transportation works in the bridge to swing it every hour during the day, this takes approx 15 minutes for a full swing completion.
You Can Hop on the Chi-Cheemaun
Another way to get onto Manitoulin Island that is seasonal is the MS Chi-Cheemaun Ferry, which is operated by the Owen Sound Transportation Company. It travels from Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula to South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island from mid-May to mid-October yearly depending on water levels in Lake Huron. When water levels are too low, the ship can not safely dock and therefore will not sail. In 2013 this caused a delay in the start of the sailing season. The ship sails 2 times per day in each direction through May and October, as well as 4 times per day in each direction June through September. Some of the sailings can be booked in advance using a credit card online, while others are on a show up and get in line basis. Further information on sailing times can be found in the link below.
Chi-Cheemaun and Local Airport Informational Links
Like to Sail? You Should Sail Here!
If you spend your summer on the water as many do, you should set sail for Manitoulin Island. With marinas all over the island you will find something to do in every port.
Once you have arrived on Manitoulin Island there are many different towns to visit and attractions to enjoy depending on what you are interested in. Camping, swimming, hiking, museums, food and festivals are all there for you to take in. One of the big draws of visiting Manitoulin Island is the seclusion. Most places you travel to have malls and franchises everywhere for you to take advantage of. Manitoulin Island is practically franchise free! You will find the usual; gas stations, grocery stores and liquor/beer stores. However you will not find any; McDonald's, Wendy's, coffee chains, or other fast food establishments. What you will find are fantastic family run restaurants with high standards and amazing food. Friendly smiles from staff who enjoy their jobs and owners who are usually right there to greet you at the door. It is truly a different experience.
Whether you have arrive via the Chi-Cheemaun or are driving to this little village there are a few things you will want to take in while there.
If you didn't arrive via the Chi-Cheemaun you may want to schedule your visit for the time it will be docking. As the ship docks it opens up to let cars on and off, if you haven't witnessed this it's pretty cool.
You can also visit the marina while there. It has docking space for up to 70 boats as well as all the necessities for boaters such as showers, fuel, electrical hook-ups and chartered fishing if you are interested in a fishing trip, just make sure to call and reserve your charter before going.
The Little School House and Museum is a great place to visit while there. In the 1980s it was designated as Manitoulin Islands first historical building. It has served as a schoolhouse, library and the museum which it currently functions as. Go in and experience the rich heritage of Tehkummah Township. The museum is open daily between May and October from 9:30 am - 4:30 pm.
If you are looking for a place to camp you should check out John Budd Memorial Park. For a fee you can camp with the option for electricity or no electricity and sewer and water hookups if you have a camper. There is a picnic area and a pavilion area as well.
There are a variety of places to grab a bite to eat while you are there too and different ways to enjoy your food. Chill out on a patio, relax in a dining room or grab your food to go and find a nice place for a picnic. One of the items you just have to try is the local whitefish and fries, but if you are not a fish fan you will be able to choose other menu items as well. Also while you are there stop and get some ice cream from one of the local establishments. I would defiantly recommend getting a flavour from the Farquhar's ice creams which are made in Northern Ontario and are just to die for!
This little township of Tehkummah, situated between; Mindemoya, Manitowaning and South Baymouth has a few must see offerings while on your trip to Manitoulin Island.
Make sure to add Gorden's Park to your list of places to stay and/or go to while in this area. They have a little bit of everything for pretty much anyone in an enchanting forest setting. If you are looking for a B&B with all the comforts of home, look no further. Want to camp outdoors? Choose from your own tent or an onsite tipi tent if you would prefer a different experience. Want something a little more private? Ask about their private cabins. Browse though the interpretative centre before heading out on a hike though various terrains and trails throughout the eco resort. There are literally days worth of fun to be had here, with mini putt and an onsite pool for lounging or swimming. Nights on Manitoulin Island are usually pretty quiet, most places close early and everyone settles down. Here however you can take part in a Star Party! I haven't been to one, but I know some who have and they just keep going back. It is amazing what you can see in a Dark Sky Preserve at night. Bring binoculars. a telescope or just use your eyes and enjoy the night as you will never see it in the city. I've included a link below with all the details of activities for you to browse.
If you are looking for dinner in this area then look no further then the Garden Gate Restaurant. The lovely flower beds are a wonderful setting for a delicious meal. The staff is friendly and inviting and the owners work tirelessly to provide as much local product in their food as possible. After enjoying your meal be sure to browse their selection of times to take home with you. You won't be disappointed.
Manitowaning Is another town you should stop by on your vacation. Situated mid-way between Little Current and South Baymouth, right on the shores of Lake Huron this little village was established in 1836.
Make sure to visit the S.S. Norisle while in this little hamlet. The ship sailed from 1946-1974 carrying passengers and cargo and has since been retired as a museum. This ship has also served as a training ground for navy cadets. At one point there was a plan to drag the ship to deeper water and sink, creating a dive site for people to enjoy. Locals banded together to save the ship from being sunk and it is still docked at the Assiginack Museum Complex for tourists and locals alike to enjoy.
The lighthouse, established in 1886 is another tourist attraction in Manitowaning. Although the building itself is closed to tourists you can still approach, enjoy the view and take gorgeous photos. The lighthouse was operated by a keeper until the 1960s when the last keeper retired and the lighthouse was automated. It is still in operation today using this automated system.
Also visit the Assiginack Museum while in Manitowaning. Located in an amazing old stone building which once was a jail. It has been transformed over the years to a municipal building, library and finally the museum today. Along with the museum there are a grouping of historical buildings open for tourists to explore and delight in.
If you are looking for something a little bit faster in pace, you should check out the rodeo, held in late June. Their Facebook pages boasts, "bull riding, roping, bronc riding, barrels, and many more events. Fri evening hosts native dancing, and a redneck truck pull, Saturday vaulting demo, horse show ( Speed events) ( presented by Manitoulin Horse Club) a full afternoon of rodeo activities, western themed dance, and then again fun and excitement of the rodeo on Sunday. More activities will be posted as they are approved and added." For updated information please feel free to visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Manitoulin-Rodeo/321471424633584 .
The Trip Between Towns
During your drive between towns on the island make sure to take note of the various rest stops and picnic locations. These are clearly marked on the road for your convenience. Most of these stops have picturesque views and stunning local wildlife to appreciate while you snack and take a break in nature. Many also include well maintained bathroom facilities.
This town founded in the 1860s has the largest population on Manitoulin Island with a total of 1,523 people calling Little Current home in 2011.
One of the greatest draws for Little Current are the annual Haweater Festival which takes place during the August civic weekend yearly (the first weekend in August). The weekend is has loads of activities for the whole family to relish in with; concerts, recreational sports activities, a dance, a street festival and fireworks that round out the weekend.
There is also a wonderful beach located in Little Current called Low Island Park. Take a swim and enjoy the beautiful view that surrounds the area.
Another big draw for Little Current is the Country Fest Music Festival, which has been nominated for Festival of the Year Award 4 years in a row at the Canadian Country Music Awards. Excellent acts such as; Blue Rodeo, Charlie Major and Paul Brant have been included in line-ups . There are even places to camp right on site for tents and RV's.
There are also many great places to eat while you are in town. Take a trip to 3 Cows and a Cone by the swing bridge and enjoy some ice cream or some sweet treats. You can also choose a chip wagon option, items such as fish and chips, chicken fingers or poutine are available at these and then relax outdoors with your meal at picnic table. Want a place where your family can sit and dine in a friendly atmosphere? Check out the Edgewater on the Dock, Anchor Inn or Gary's Family Restaurant. No matter where you choose to eat, you certainly won't be sorry.
The tiny town of Providence Bay is host to many big events throughout the summer on Manitoulin Island. The start of these event is Canada Day, July 1st. The day normally includes family fun at the Harbour View Interpretive Centre. Stop in and have some ice cream, or see the free museum set up for you and your family to take in. Round out a wonderful day with some fireworks at dusk.
Next on the list is the Ride Manitoulin Bike Rally, which is ranked one of the top motorcycle rallies in Ontario, Canada. The weekend event includes many exciting events for bikers and non-bikers alike such as; a poker run, ladies ride, adventure ride, live music, vendors booths and yummy food. There is even on site camping for a modest fee. One of the things about this event that caught my attention is that the proceeds go to local charities on Manitoulin Island, so it is a win-win for everyone! Below there is a link to the Ride Manitoulin webpage if you would like more details or to register for the event.
Also on the line up for the summer season in Providence Bay is the Tattoo Expo. This is an excellent event which features; a Miss Inkin the Bay Pageant, award winning tattoo artists, fashion shows, live music, great food and vendors, as well as piercings right on site. So whether you are an enthusiast or just a curious this is the place for you! I have included I link to their Facebook page for up to date information.
Another great event that takes place in Providence Bay over the summer is the Providence Bay Fair. This is a jammed packed weekend full of; agriculture, music, games, rides, horse events and so much more. There is something there for every member of the family, young and old alike. Want to relax outside and enjoy some excitement? Watch the horse pull or the motocross races. Feel like having a thrill yourself? Take a ride on the midway. Walk though countless vendors of items some made right on Manitoulin Island, just look for the Made on Manitoulin label! Enjoy the yummy food or place a game of chance at the midway and test your luck. Make sure to check out the links for specific information on this years offerings.
Even if you choose to go and visit Providence Bay when none of the events mentioned are taking place you will be awestruck. The amazing view from its crescent sand beach will drop your jaw as you take in the site while either strolling down the beach or boardwalk. Sunset is especially breathtaking. Take a swim in beautiful Lake Huron to cool off or in the river if you want some warmer water to wade in. Not a swimmer just build a castle in the endless beach of sand. There is also an impressive play structure for kids of all ages that includes exercise equipment if you feel like getting a work out without jumping in the water. One of the unique aspects of this play structure is that it is wheelchair accessible, even though it is on a sand beach! This is accomplished though special mats placed on the sand. When sand gets on the mats it filters though back under the mat.
Looking for a dinner that is a little more up class then why not check out The School House Restaurant. The restaurant is located in the original Providence Bay elementary school house which is over a century old. They are open every day except Monday for supper only and request that you call to make reservations if possible. The link below has their phone number if you are interested in reserving a table.
This charming little town situated between M'Chigeen and Gore Bay is a superb place to spend the day. Enjoy the serene hiking trail which will lead you through beautiful forested areas and finally end at Bridal Veil Falls. Take a dip in the refreshing water or just relax and enjoy the splendor. Make your way back down the hiking trails and to the beautiful sanded beach to enjoy a game of volleyball or play with the kids on the play structures. Take another dip in the cool water of Lake Huron if the day calls for it.
Also across the road from the falls there is a place to rent kayaks and water-bikes. Either of these would be a challenging and fun way to spend an afternoon.
There are a few local businesses to visit in the area as well if you have a sweet tooth. Manitoulin Chocolate Works is a great place to stop in and enjoy a delicious handcrafted delicacy and a wonderful cup of coffee. If sugary treats are more to your liking, head to BOO-BAH-LOU candy shop where you will find treats of all kinds. Last time I was there I picked up candy that I hadn't seen since I was a kid, great memories in the making right there.
There are a variety of local eateries to tantalize your taste buds while in Kagawong. Riverside Takeout Restaurant is a great place to go after spending time at Bridal Veil Falls as it is just across the street. Enjoy wonderful fresh whitefish and fries or a delicious burger and poutine if that's more up your alley. If you are looking for heavenly food look no further then The Island Chill Vegetarian Eatery. This is the only vegetarian restaurant on Manitoulin Island, although other establishments offer vegetarian options. All reviews for this place say that it is just awesome and offers a great selection of tasty choices. If you are looking for a soup and sandwich or a coffee and something sweet, try the Main Street Cafe. You won't be disappointed the the offerings or the atmosphere. and their coffee is excellent.
While visiting Gore Bay on the northern shores of Manitoulin Island there are a few sights that are a must see.
The museum which was converted from the old jailhouse in 1958 displays a wide variety of historical artifacts for you to behold. Stop in for a visit into the areas past.
Another sight from a prior era is available for you viewing pleasure. The lighthouse at Janet Head is now a gift shop and interpretive centre, however it was a functioning lighthouse for many years. The view of the bay from the lighthouse is beautiful and a must see.
The Gore Bay Summer Theater is fun for the whole family too. Throughout the summer various performances are put on for locals and tourists alike. Sit back and enjoy the show Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the month of July and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in the month of August. For further information they can be contacted at 1-800-529-5518.
Feel like having a lunch with a view? Visit Harold Noble Memorial Park on East Bluff for a panoramic view of beautiful Gore Bay. See everything from the bay to the fields.
After lunch take a leisurely walk on the boardwalk. Take in the preserved wetlands and all their diversity. If you are a shutter bug, make sure to have your camera available for the various wildlife you will see on your journey. Ducks, bugs, butterflies, fish and tadpoles are just a few of the creatures you can expect to encounter.
Another highly anticipated even to soon be added to Gore Bay will be the Harbour Days Festival. Full details have not been released at the time of this article, however it promises to be a fun filled family weekend. The link below is to another article about the Harbour Days Festival.
While in Gore Bay there are many places to satiate your appetite one of which is Buoys Eatery and Takeout Restaurant. As with many places on Manitoulin Island the whitefish is to die for, however they have lots to choose from on the menu. Whether you are looking for pizza, pasta or salad its all there with a view that will keep you coming back. If you are looking for another amazing view while you eat you should also check out Cafe on the Bay. Make sure to make a reservation if you are headed there for dinner though, as seats fill up fast. If you are up for a round of golf, head to the Manitoulin Island Country Club after and have a bite to eat. The establishment is recently under new management and promises and enjoyable dining experience for all its patrons. Want a family dining experience in a diner setting, head on over to Twin Bluff's Restaurant. Excellent food and friendly staff make you feel right at home. There are also a few take-out type options in Gore Bay that have locals and visitors excited when summer rolls around. Campbell's Drive-In and B&J Restaurant and Ice Cream will have you jumping for joy over their burgers, fresh fries and ice cream throughout the summer months!
This little town is centrally located on Manitoulin Island making it a great place to stay during your vacation. While in Mindemoya you will want to check out the two local museums. The first is Jack Seabrook's Farm Museum which boasts the largest private collection of farm equipment in Northern Ontario. Make sure that you have time to wander because there are seven different buildings full for your to explore and photograph. After your stroll make sure you check out the Hawberry Habit, everything in the store is handmade with love on Manitoulin Island.
Another museum to visit is the Pioneer Museum. Travel back to a simpler time in this village recreated to resemble an old Manitoulin pioneer village. Explore the buildings and artifacts related to; fishing, farming and logging that were all a vibrant part of the local past.
Make sure that you take time to wander the town and explore all the little shops along the way. Many of the shops in Mindemoya have items either made by the owners of the shops or on Manitoulin Island. Don't forget to pick up some souvenirs for family and friends.
If you like to hike this is the place to go. Within a few km of each other like the M'chigeeng Aboriginal Hiking Trails and the Cup and Saucer Hiking Trails. To hike both, for a moderate hiker, you will probably need more then 1 day but it is well worth the hike for the views you will see. Be extremely careful taking children on these hikes because in some places there are shear cliffs of up to 70 meters high.
The M'chigeeng Aboriginal Hiking Trail is the shorter of the two trails with the total walk being about 2 - 3 hours depending on which of the two available trails you choose to hike. The beginning of the trail is behind the ballpark, off Highway 551, just South of Highway 540 and you are able to park your car at this location to proceed with your hike.
The Cup and Saucer Hiking Trails may take a bit longer to traverse, however they are well worth the hike. This set of trails gives you a diverse hiking experience, with trails ranking form beginner to advanced and taking from 15 minutes to approx 4 hours to complete. So whether you want to take a short stroll in the bush or do some serious climbing, this trail will offer what you are looking for.
Make sure while you are in M'chigeeng that you stop by the local shops to see and purchase items crafted by local artisans. There are various items available including; dream catchers, moccasin, paintings, quill boxes and much more.
If you are going to be in the area during Labour Day Weekend, make sure to go to the M'chigeeng Traditional Pow-Wow. Witnessing the dazzling clothing, dancing, and drumming are a must for any visitor. Also make sure to sample the local food and peruse the vendors that come from all over North America.
Visit the Centennial Museum of Sheguiandah in this beautiful village and be taken back to a time of the pioneers. At this site you can also see artifacts from one of Canada's oldest archeological sites. Amazing artifacts were found at the Sheguiandah archaeological site that put the little village on the map as having the oldest traces of man in Ontario, from approx 10 000 years ago. There has been much debate over whether artifacts older than this reside at the site, however nothing has been removed from the ground in over 50 years.
A great place to stop and shop in Sheguiandah is the Manitoulin Soap Factory. I've included a link to their website below. All their items including; soaps, lotions, shampoos, sugar scrubs and much more are made right in house with vegetable oils. Their items are never tested on animals and are all completely biodegradable. You can also get items either; fragrance free, containing essential oils or with fragrance depending on what you are looking for.
Each year in Wikwemikong a traditional powwow is held that is a must see. Various activities take place including; song, dance and drumming. Traditional food is also available to try to a must if attending the festivities. Visitors from all walks of life are encouraged to attend and enjoy the full weekend of events, usually held in mid-June.
Crystal Shawanda, 2013 Canadian Country Female Artist of the Year is from Wikwemikong, Ontario. During the civic long weekend in August 2013 she is hosting a concert on her family farm to help bring awareness to local artists from a variety genres of music.
Another event taking place during the civic long weekend in August is the Wikwemikong Cultural Festival. The pow-wow features authentic native song and dance preformed by some of the finest artists from all across North America. I have included a link with more information below.
In September the community hosts a fall fair to celebrate the wonderful offerings of the surrounding farms. There is a parade, horse pull and baseball tournament as well as delicious food from the community.
Places to Stay
If you are going to Manitoulin Island you will defiantly need a place to stay. It is about a 2 - 2.5 hour drive to the nearest big city. There are many different choices for accommodations; motel, tent and trailer park, hotel. Below I will discuss them and add locations of recommend places to stay while there. I will be honest, I haven't stayed in any of these places as I have family there and stay with them when I visit. However I have went over many reviews online and have chosen places based on their reviews. Always beware of fine print when renting a place to stay on vacation.
Wayside Motel. Located at 15462b Hwy 6, Manitowaning.
Silver Birches Resort. Located at 110 Bay Street, Little Current. The Cost per night is approx $124 - $160 per night.
The Hawberry Motel. Located at 36 Meredith St.,Little Current.
The Anchor Inn. Located at 1 Water Street, Little Current.
The Wagon Wheel Motel. Located at 18 Walcot, Little Current.
The Buckhorn Motel. Located at 21076 Hwy #6, South Baymouth.
B&B / Inns
It's hard to choose just B&B's to recommend on Manitoulin Island as almost all of them have fantastic reviews online. I have included a few that stood out when reading these reviews and hope that this information is helpful to those visiting the area. This seems to be the way to go when visiting Manitoulin Island, you could B&B your way from town to town and have a fantastic vacation.
On the Bay Bed and Breakfast. Located at 12 Mutchmor Street, Providence Bay.
Red Rooster Inn B&B. Located at 5382 hwy 552, Providence Bay.
Willow Shores B&B. Located at 29 Purple Martin Lane, Manitowaning.
The Meldrum Bay Inn. Located at 25959 Hwy 540, Meldrum Bay.
White Sea Resort. Located at 25528 Highway 540, Meldrum Bay.
Solitudes B&B. Located at 99 8th Con | RR1, Kagawong.
The Queen's Inn. Located at 19 Water Street, Gore Bay.
Thorburn House. Located at 1 Thorburn & Borron St., Gore Bay.
The Garlic Patch Bed & Breakfast. Located at Devils Elbow Road | Sheguiandah.
The Country Inn. Located at 6 Town Line Road | Sheguiandah.
The Shaftesbury Inn. Located at 19 Robinson, Little Current.
Whites Point B&B. Located at 522 Whites Point Road, Little Current.
Southbay Gallery & Guesthouse B&B. Located at 15 Given Road, South Baymouth.
Rockgarden Terrace Resort. Located at 1358 Monument Road, Spring Bay.
- Fun Things to Do This Summer With Your Kids
Summer, the time that kids wait all year for. No more homework, school work or getting up at 7 am to get on the bus. It can be a hectic time of year. Some parents work all summer and have to put their kids in daycare or something like it. While...
- Things to Remember When Going Camping
Tips for people when heading out into the wilderness. It includes a special section on children and extra precautions that must be taken with little ones in the wild.