Manitoulin Island is unique for so many reasons. Located in Northeastern Ontario on Lake Huron, it’s the world’s largest freshwater island. Manitoulin Island, surprisingly, also contains more than 100 inland lakes, some of which have their own islands.
The Island is chock-full of adventures and brand new experiences. Not only is it beautiful, the island is also rich in history and culture that you should definitely take the opportunity to learn about and experience.
There aren’t just lots of things to do and see, there are also a whole host of different places to stay. Book a trip at a lodge or a resort, stay at a historical bed & breakfast, or check out the many different campgrounds with different options for your stay.
If you’re planning a getaway that you want to be both unique and memorable, don’t overlook Manitoulin Island.
1. Canoeing and canoe tours
Manitoulin Island has 108 lakes. Many of these lakes have their own islands. Manitou, Kagawong, and Mindemoya are three of the largest lakes. Manitoulin Island is renowned for its natural beauty. It’s the perfect place to spend a day or a week paddling. Explore the incredibly serene waters of the island. It’s sure to be an experience like no other! You might even want to consider going on a canoe tour while you’re there.
The Canoe Heritage Tour hosted by the Great Spirit Circle Trail is a fun and informative experience.
2. Fish Lake Manitou
Lake Manitou is a pretty fascinating place. At 104 sqkm, it has the distinction of being the largest lake on a lake and also the largest lake on an island. Lake Manitou is located on Manitoulin Island, which is located on Lake Huron. The lake can be pretty exciting to get to. The island is a pretty incredible place to visit, and Lake Manitou is a great fishing destination. The lake is an excellent pike fishery. It’s also a ton of fun to fish for smallmouth bass and perch on the lake as well.
3. Take the ferry
Your adventure to Manitoulin Island can start before you even get there! You should definitely take the ferry, the MS Chi-Cheemaun, from Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula to Manitoulin Island. It’s a four-hour ride and you’ll see all sorts of exciting sights and beautiful scenery along the way. The ship is huge and can hold nearly 650 passengers and has room for over 140 vehicles. The MS Chi-Cheemaun also offers scenic cruises that you can book to discover more of the area, especially the Georgian Bay. The ship is so much more than just a way to get to your destination. Check out their website for information on all their offerings and amenities!
3. The island’s first European settlement
If you love learning about the past or want to experience and learn some of the local history, you should visit Manitowanin, Manitoulin Island’s first European settlement, which was established in 1837.
You can see the oldest Anglican church in Northwest Ontario, St. Paul’s Anglican Church, which was started in 1845. Right across from the church is the historic lighthouse, built in 1886. At the heritage park in you can see the S.S. Norisle, a former cargo and ferry ship, a throwback to the time when Manitowawnin was a major shipping port.
You should also stop in and see the Assiginack Museum, which was constructed of stone in 1878 and turned into a museum in the 1950s.
4. Canada’s only officially recognized Unceded Indian Reserve
Wiikwemkoong on Manitoulin Island is Canada’s only officially recognized Unceded Indian Reserve.
You can learn all about the history of Manitoulin Island and of Wiikwemkoong on The Unceded Journey Tour hosted by Wiikwemkoong Tourism. The tour is hosted by the Anishnaabek people, and from your guide, you’ll learn all about the history of the island, as well as some of the rich history of the Anishnaabek people, and local lore.
You’ll get to see four historic sites to view the plaques and monuments there on the tour as well.
The tours are a different way to experience the island and are utterly fascinating.
5. Point Grondine
A First Nation owned and operated recreational park, Point Grondine has over 18,000 acres of scenic natural wilderness landscape, old growth pine forest, stunning river vistas and six interior lakes to explore. The picturesque water trails flowing along the coast of Georgian Bay invite you to many canoe routes, hiking trails and backcountry campsites located throughout the interior of the park. Hike, canoe or sea kayak along the traditional routes of the Anishnaabek people and be ready to be captivated by this historic and majestic place. Details
6. A quaint lighthouse
Located on the west end of Manitoulin Island is the village of Meldrum Bay. Just 12km west from there, you will find the Mississagi Straights Lighthouse. The quaint building is picture-worthy and nearby, there are a series of walking trails that take you along the island’s scenic shoreline. You can take in the incredible views of Lake Huron. Camping is also available in the area.
7. A day at the lake
Lake Mindemoya is the smallest of Manitoulin’s great inland lakes, but that doesn’t stop it from being a hotspot of things to do. The Lake is home to Treasure Island, which you can spot from shore. The lake is known to be a great fishery with trout, smallmouth bass, walleye, perch, and pike. The lake has a beautiful beach and the waters are known to be just right for swimming. If you want to stay in the area, there are also cabins for rent, and campgrounds, if you want that more authentic summer experience.
8. Savour a home-cooked meal
If you’re searching for that perfect and unique place to dine on Manitoulin, look no further than the Garden’s Gate restaurant. The restaurant was actually once an antique farmhouse. All of the food is made from scratch using locally grown produce and meats. The restaurant also has a wide variety of 50 craft beers, all from Ontario’s microbreweries, and a selection of wines, also made in Ontario. The food is amazing and the desserts, which are also made from scratch, are out of this world! You might want to enjoy one and get one to go.
9. Try the fish and chips
Every once in a while you stumble on a hidden gem while you’re out exploring. We’ll save you the hard work and the stumbling and just tell you that the Lake Huron Fish and Chips Co. is absolutely excellent! This little slice of heaven is located in Providence Bay. If you’re heading out for a day on the beach or doing some exploring in the area, definitely stop in for lunch or dinner. The restaurant does have tables inside, but they also have picnic tables for outdoor eating. The menu is varied, but the fish and chips are unanimously delicious.
10. Enjoy a beverage
Looking for the perfect afternoon activity? Check out the Split Rail Brewing Co. The brewery has been delighting taste buds for five years now. Located in an old fishery plant, they’re actually open all year round. Not only is it the perfect way to sample the local fare, there is a food truck on site seasonally to curb your hunger. Not sure which beer is the right one for you? The brewery’s tasting room will help you decide. You can also buy beer to go, or go on a tour of the brewery.
11. Take in all the fun of a festival
The Haweater Festival, held the first weekend in August, is held annually to celebrate the Hawberries which grow wild and abundant on Manitoulin Island. The island is so well known for the berries, that the residents who live there are often known as “Haweaters.” The festival has included parades, craft shows, chain saw carving, BBQ’s, live music, classic cars cruises, water sports, slo-pitch tournaments, soap box racing, and so much more in the past! If you want to rake in the festival this year, keep checking for an updated schedule of events.
12. A unique camping experience
Forest camping features sites nestled amongst the scenic forest. Tipi-tenting is a popular and unique option for spending your nights. The dark sky campground is located in the dark sky preserve, where you can watch the night skies come alive and see the stars in a whole new way.
You can camp out here in the more private wilderness sites, or rent one of the cabins for a little more comfort. The park is an eco-park, so it is off grid, but if you’re in a bind, they do have WIFI and a charging station available. The park also features a ton of things to do including nature hikes, mini-golf, a solar heated pool, a playground, an interpretive centre, and of course, the dark sky preserve.
13. Enjoy a unique experience
Manitoulin Island is known for its rich Aboriginal culture. The Great Spirit Circle Trail allows you to experience Manitoulin Island from an authentic Aboriginal perspective.
Take in wilderness adventures and enjoy interpretive tours hosted by Aboriginal people. You’ll get a true understanding of the rich history and the culture of the Anishnawbek- the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Pottawatomi peoples. Go on rustic adventures or take a relaxing day trip, stay overnight, sample some of the traditional regional cuisine, and participate in the many different educational cultural activities.
You can enjoy this incredibly unique experience all while immersed in the incredible natural beauty of the area.
15. An island on a lake on an island on a lake
See the largest island on a lake on an island in a lake. Treasure Island is a large island on Lake Mindemoya. If you’re a canoe or kayak enthusiast, you can paddle out to see the island. It was originally named Mindemoya, but the named was changed to Treasure Island by a tourist operator. You can also see the island’s profile on the eastern shore of Lake Mindemoya from the beach. If you’re planning on going, keep an eye out for the island!
16. Get up close and personal with a waterfall
The village of Kagawong boasts some amazing hiking trails and the even more spectacular Bridal Veil Falls.
If you’re looking for an outdoor experience, you can spend hours walking and soaking up the sights. The falls are located just outside the village and easily accessed from the highway. The parking lot offers access to the falls and the trail system. The falls are 35 feet high and you can even swim or splash around in the fall’s basin! There are several different observation platforms where you can take in the falls and you can also walk behind them.
It’s truly quite a unique experience that you won’t soon forget.
17. Experience the Cup and Saucer
The Cup and Saucer Trail is located 18km from Little Current. The trail is famous for the incredible scenery and views it offers. You’ll get to see and experience 70 meter high cliffs, which boast an incredible view of the surrounding area. There are over 12km of trails with varying degrees of difficulty, so you can walk or hike at your own pace. Some of the trails can be completed in as little as half an hour while others take up to five hours to complete. It will be easy for you to see why the trails are such a popular destination on Manitoulin Island. Be sure to bring your camera to help memorialize the incredible experience.
18. A sandy getaway
If your ideal vacation includes hitting the beach and just doing some relaxing, or spending the day with the family building sandcastles, soaking up the sun, and splashing in a pristine lake, Providence Bay Beach is the place to be. The beach is nestled on the southern shore of Manitoulin Island and boasts some incredible views of Lake Huron. There are a few different playgrounds in the area as well as picnic tables. The beach has actually been touted as being one of the best beaches in all of Northeastern Ontario. You can judge for yourself when you get here.
19. See the lighthouses
If you’ve always wanted to see lighthouses, you don’t have to venture out to the far east coast. Manitoulin Island actually has a whole host of different lighthouses you can see. There’s the Janet Head Lighthouse, the Mississagi Lighthouse, the Kagawong Lighthouse, the strawberry island lighthouse, the Manitowaning Lighthouse, the Little Current Lighthouse, the South Baymouth Range Lighthouse, and the Michael’s Bay Lighthouse. It would be pretty amazing to go on a day trip just to see and photograph every single lighthouse on the island.
20. Drive across the iconic Swing Bridge
The iconic Swing Bridge at Little Current was originally built for use by the railway, but in the 1940’s it began to be used by public traffic. The bridge spans the North Channel between mainland Ontario and Manitoulin Island.
Now that the bridge is over a century old and is still in use, the safety of the bridge is being discussed. If you want to see the amazing bridge, you really should plan on doing it now, before it’s replaced, which could be happening down the road.
You can read all about the bridge and the possible changes in store by browsing the articles from the link below.
21. Visit the local galleries
Whether you’re an art collector, looking for that perfect piece to compliment your décor back home, or just want to experience the works of local artisans, you should visit one of the different galleries on the island. From sculpture or glasswork to paintings and quilts and everything in between, there is so much that will astound and amaze you. It’s a great way to appreciate the talent of local artists, and learn a little bit more about the culture and history of the island while you’re at it.
23. Take a hike
If you have a day to go exploring, or if you love hiking, then you should definitely check out Misery Bay Provincial Park. The park is day use only, but boasts over 15km of excellent hiking trails. The trails offer superb views of Lake Huron and of the scenic landscape of Manitoulin Island. At the eco-friendly visitor centre you can learn all about the eco-system in the park and the rare plants that are present there.
23. Eat Local
24. Twin Peaks Bed and Breakfast
Manitoulin Island can be quite rustic, and that charm and natural rugged beauty draw people every year, but what if roughing it really isn’t your thing? Don’t worry! The Twin Peaks Bed and Breakfast is the perfect place to stay. You can explore Manitoulin Island and adventure in style and still come home at the end of the day to a beautiful Victorian inspired home with all the modern comforts. Twin Peaks Bed and Breakfast is located near Mindemoya, which has a whole host of exciting things to do. If you do want to do some more rustic exploring and get back to nature, many of the island’s spectacular natural wonders, sandy beaches, and superb hiking trails are just twenty minutes away.
25. Fish Lake Huron
Anglers of all ages are experience levels are sure to love the thrill of fishing Lake Huron. If you’ve been intimidated by the lake’s large size in the past, never fear! There are a ton of different outfitters and charters in the area that can take the guesswork and the scariness out of fishing. You can’t stay right on the lake and not consider fishing for at least one day. Lake Huron is known best as an excellent salmon fishery, but you can also catch lake trout, brown trout, perch, smallmouth bass, walleye, largemouth bass, pumpkinseeds, pike, and others.