Visiting Manitoulin? Here's What You'll Want to Do
For many families, visiting Manitoulin is a favourite summer tradition. You finally get that time off work, the kids are getting antsy after so many weeks free from school, and it’s decided that everyone is in need of a getaway. The island always seems like the best option - and it is, of course. The breath-taking landscapes: the impossibly blue water that stretches on for kilometres, the rolling, tree-covered regions bordering the shores, the sharp, intimidating Niagara Escarpment cutting through the land. It’s the perfect escape.
There’s a lot to do and see all across the Island. So let us take you through some of the biggest attractions the Island has to offer. From Little Current, to South Baymouth, to the most western point, Meldrum Bay.
Little Current Swing Bridge
If you’re driving to the Island, you’ll be passing over the historic Little Current Swing Bridge. It’s been around for over 100 years, and still operates as a passageway for boats to enter the North Channel. Driving over the bridge is a neat experience no matter how many times you do it. Great views of the Channel whiz by through the metal bars of the bridge. It feels as though you’re entering a new world, coming out the other side worry-free and ready to relax.
The bridge swings every hour on the hour from dawn to dusk for about 15 minutes, so if you’re typically impatient it’s probably best to plan your route around those times. However, seeing the bridge swing is pretty interesting to watch. It pivots in the centre, swinging perpendicular to the road and allowing boats to pass through on either side. It makes for a great picture, and many people find themselves stepping outside their car to watch!
3 Cows and a Cone - Little Current
Stopping by 3 Cows and a Cone is a big part of a weekend on the Island! It’s just past the Swing Bridge, and most people can’t resist turning into the parking lot as soon as the sign comes into sight. Whether it’s for some ice cream (from a choice of 32 flavours!) or grabbing some food, it’s definitely the place to be. There’s also a chip truck next door, 3 Cows Fries, that serves things like fish n’ chips or specialty poutines, and it’s equipped with picnic tables that sit underneath the glorious shade of umbrellas.
3 Cows and a Cone always has a fun, buzzing atmosphere, it’s great for families and kids, and you’ll leave surely satisfied with whatever treat you decide to indulge in.
Ten Mile Point Lookout and Trading Post - Sheguiandah
Ten Mile Point is just a 15 minute drive past Little Current - and definitely worth checking out! The lookout point offers a beautiful view of Lake Huron and the La Cloche mountains. You can bask in the beautiful blue view, snap a couple pictures for your scrapbook, and even venture down the steep trail to get a closer look at the Niagara Escarpment. You can also bring a lunch, lounging on the picnic tables if you’re interested in prolonging this gorgeous view.
While you’re there, visit the Ten Mile Point Trading Post and Art Gallery! There’s a great selection of unique, diverse Indigenous crafts and art to appreciate. It’s a special stop on the Island that you won’t forget.
Cup and Saucer Trail - Sheguiandah
The Cup and Saucer Trail always comes up in conversations surrounding the best places to visit on the Island. And, well, that’s for a reason. Named for it’s unique shape, the Cup and Saucer has an amazing set of trails, providing the best view from the Niagara Escarpment - a 450 million-year-old rock formation that cuts through Manitoulin; and it’s also a designated World Biosphere Reserve.
You can choose which trail to embark on - some are easier than others, but you’ll want to make sure to swing by the East lookout, and then just turn right down a path to get to the highest lookout point of the Island. It’s the best view of the wide expanse of forest and water below. There is also an adventure trail that many decide to take on, fit with ladders and even a rope to scale a part of the steep hill. Trust us, if you visit Manitoulin, everyone will ask if you did the Cup and Saucer trail. It’s practically synonymous with Manitoulin.
Bridal Veil Falls - Kagawong
Bridal Veil Falls is a stunning, 35 foot high waterfall that runs from Lake Kagawong into the Kagawong River, flowing toward the North Channel. It’s a popular tourist destination, enticing groups of people from all over to take a dip in the pool, walk behind the rushing falls, and hike the area. There’s a big steel staircase that brings you from the parking lot to the falls below. If you want to continue your adventure, there are trails, immersed in the foliage, that lead you toward the town of Kagawong, offering great views of nature along the way.
Noble Trail and East Bluff Lookout - Gore Bay
Gore Bay is a fun town to visit. And if you like hiking, the Noble trail is right up your alley! It’s a pretty easy trail to walk, and there are rest stations along the way. You’ll find some great lookout points as you trek on through the trail. It runs along the east bluff, bringing you right through some of the best views you’ll see on the Island. At the East Bluff Lookout, pictured below, there’s a nice grassy area set up with picnic tables, where you can sit and enjoy the panoramic view. You’ll have a hard time tearing your eyes away from the amazing view!
Providence Bay Beach - Providence Bay
If you’re looking for a nice way to relax, the beach is the always easiest way to make that happen. The Providence Bay beach is arguably the nicest and most popular beach on Manitoulin. The water is nice and refreshing, the sand is warm between your toes, and there’s something to do for the whole family. There’s a play structure and swings for kids to entertain themselves with, lots of lake to splash and swim around in, a lovely boardwalk to stroll down and explore the views, and - if it’s a nice day - a hot sun to lay under and catch some golden rays.
Chi-Cheemaun Ferry - South Baymouth
A very interesting mode of transportation back from the island is the MS Chi-Cheemaun (it means “Big Canoe” in Ojibwe). This ferry travels across Lake Huron, forming the water connection between South Baymouth and Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula. If you live south of Manitoulin, you could take the ferry back home as opposed to driving. Passengers can drive their car right on the ferry and relax up on the deck, watching the amazing views as you pass by.
If you plan on taking the Chi-Cheemaun home, make sure you’ve scheduled your reservation ahead of time - it can fill up quickly, especially on weekends. Click here to go to the website to check the schedule.
Misery Bay Provincial Park - Evansville
Misery Bay is the only operating provincial park on the Island, with an information centre (designed to be eco-friendly, it runs off solar energy) and bathroom facilities open during the day. There are around 15 kilometres of hiking trails, each offering vastly different scenes of nature. There is a lot to learn about the unique wildlife and ecosystems living in this area, such as the rare alvar populations and wetland environment.
The park sits on an ancient flat rock sea bottom, which refers to the extremely unique alvars - exposed limestone, formed after millions of years of processes, including the sedimentation of ancient sea shell pieces and the rock’s high dissolution from water. It results in little vegetation growth, and a very interesting geographical view of the land.
Mississagi Lighthouse - Meldrum Bay
The Mississagi Lighthouse sits at the Island’s most south-western point. It’s quite the drive - about 2 hours from Little Current, so make sure to fill up your gas tank before you leave! The lighthouse was built in 1873 and utilized for passing ships between Manitoulin and Cockburn Island, where many ships found it tricky to cross, resulting in shipwrecks.
It is now a museum and campground, and many people visit every year to check out this special, remote part of the island. The campground provides beautiful views of Lake Huron. It’s bordered by big, shady trees and has picnic tables scattered throughout as well. The lighthouse museum is an interesting look into the past - they are looking for donations, so feel free to read up on the items they need - and bring them along when you make your trip over! Preserving the Island’s history is not only important for the visitors who want to learn more about Manitoulin, but it’s significant to the Islanders for our story to keep being shared, year after year.
We hope you enjoyed a look into some of our favourite places on the Island. There are so many more amazing things to see, so don’t stop there! The exploration opportunities are endless, so keep your adventure going - take lots of pictures, make tons of memories, and let everyone know the special places you discovered.