Manitoulin Island Get-away
Awestruck by our vacation amid the natural beauty and simplicity of Manitoulin Island, our family has quickly made this gorgeous island a new favourite destination. Motivated to relive memories from my childhood, I booked a week at the very same campground that my family visited when I was a child. Happily, nothing had changed since my last stay at Mindemoya Court Cottages. The property is impeccably maintained with quaint little cottages surrounded by wide-open space and a small dock perfect for swimming and watching sunsets. The cabins are simple and understated, with no TV but a great sunporch for drinking your coffee.
Although Manitoulin Island is close to home, to me it seems so exotic. The striking landscape and unique culture makes it feel like a real departure from home. The Island is ruled by nature – deer, fox and mink are commonplace sights. We weren’t on the island for 24 hours before all three of these species had crossed our path.
During our week-long stay we established some favourite places to share with you. This list is not exhaustive, and we have already planned another trip to catch some of the spots that we missed the first time around. But if you’re planning a summer trip, these are nine great reasons to head to Manitoulin Island.
Must-See Destinations on Manitoulin Island
1. The Chi-Cheemaun is a comfortable and scenic way to enjoy crossing Lake Huron. This reliable ferry offers a great view of the crystal blue water from both decks. If you time your trip right you can even take a dinner cruise and watch the sunset as you make your crossing. Another pleasant surprise was the atmosphere around the harbour in Tobermory. What a fun spot to hang out while your car is in queue for the ferry! The combination of boutiques, dive shops and fish and chip huts gave the whole place an almost Caribbean feel. A special mention to the Marco Polo Trading Co. which carries an extraordinary inventory of fashion and home accessories. Also, stop off at The Sweet Shop and try their caramel corn. It’s delicious!
2. Providence Bay has the largest sandy beach on Manitoulin Island. It’s well-equipped with a visitor centre and a snack shop as well as one of THE best play parks on the Island (if you have young children in your family don’t miss this). Pack your cooler for the day and enjoy the water, walking along the boardwalk or head uptown to the Lake Huron Fish and Chip Co. at 20 McNevin St. for a bite to eat.
3. Gore Bay offers visitors beautiful views of the Gore Bay harbour from several different vantage points. Standing dockside in the marina you can see the beautiful cliffs of the North Channel to Lake Huron. If you drive around the harbour and follow the signs to the East Bluff lookout you’ll come upon Harold Noble Memorial Park which gives you another panoramic view of the Gore Bay harbour from a much higher elevation. And if all that makes you hungry, just pop in to the landmark restaurant Cafe By the Bay, located right at the Gore Bay harbour, where the food is every bit as delightful as the 360-degree vistas.
4. Wildflowers are only one aspect of the natural beauty of Manitoulin Island. I had no idea there were so many different types of dragonflies in Ontario, nor that there are over a dozen different species on Manitoulin alone. If you love the calm and quiet of nature, then bring your binoculars and your hiking boots, because this will be a highlight.
5. Farquar’s Ice Cream is a legendary on Manitoulin. My personal vacation policy is that I get to enjoy one ice cream cone every day, so I had lots of opportunities to try all the Farquar’s flavours. You can’t miss the retro ice cream signs that are everywhere on the island. Also, if you stop to buy milk at the local grocery stores you can find Farquar’s products in the dairy section. The flagship Farquar’s ice cream store (with 21 flavours) is in Little Current.
6. Bridal Veil Falls is a little piece of heaven on Manitoulin Island. It was here, while standing in the water at the base of the falls, that I actually fell in love with Manitoulin. In that moment, entranced by the water, I felt as though I could have been anywhere in the world. But that’s only partially true since Bridal Veil falls are only found in seven other countries. Fortunately, we have five Bridal Veil Falls in Canada, but the next nearest one is in Temagami. These falls are easily accessed by parking your car at the top and walking down a short flight of stairs. If you are travelling with kids bring a bucket and a net. The Kagawong river is teeming with interesting things for the little ones to catch. Try going behind the falls to give yourself a “mudscrub” with the moist clay, then diving into the falls to rinse off.
7. Kagawong Beach is just down the road from Bridal Veil Falls, off Hwy. 540. It’s a pretty little beach with this waterslide on the edge of the water. Beside the beach is a boathouse that sells antiques and ice cream and the Old Mill Heritage Centre which houses a museum and public washrooms. This stop is the perfect place to end the day after lots of sun and exercise.
8. Hiking the Cup and Saucer Trail is a real adventure. Climbing rock walls and mossy ledges, we reached a precipice that juts out hundreds of feet over a panoramic view of the island. This is not a trail to be missed as it can be done in short or long form and the views are spectacular.
9. On Misery Bay beach you will feel like a castaway on a remote desert island. With yards and yards of warm, shallow water and rippled sand, you can spend hours here and quite possibly have the place to yourself. Little ones will love catching minnows with a net or building sand castles, and grown-ups will love the long walk across this ethereal bay. The hike in to Misery Bay is about one kilometre on a very accessible people-friendly trail. Don’t miss this stop either, it’s incredibly memorable.