I just spent another week on Manitoulin Island and as always it was heaven. This is about as remote as you can get within a day's drive from Toronto and there are plenty of things to see and do.
We were here for the August long weekend and after a hiatus of two years the Wikwemikong Annual Cultural Festival (a.k.a. pow-wow) made a roaring come-back. It is one of the largest, longest running Pow Wow in North Eastern North America. Experiencing the beautiful costumes, the amazing dances, the spirit of community and resilience is something I would highly recommend.
The best known hike on Manitoulin Island is the Cup & Saucer Trail. It is so popular that when you arrive around mid-day you'd be hard-pressed to find a spot in the parking lot.
The trail leads through forest and then up a ladder up to the escarpment where there are some spectacular viewpoints.
The hike itself is not very difficult. We had kids ages 10-12 with us, some of whom don't hike much, and they had fun. They especially enjoyed the Adventure Trail which leads you under overhanding cliffs, through tunnels and over ladders to the different viewpoints on the east side of the escarpment.
Some of the hikes we did are not well-known. I happened to spot "Fossil Hill Nature Reserve" on the map and we discovered an interesting short trail here that lead past some eroded low cliffs and through mixed forest. For directions, click here.
One of our best walks was short - less than 1 km. the south Baymouth Lookout Trail leads through forest and marsh to the Lake Huron lakeshore. We walked it on a windy day and the views over the water were spectacular. I am told when water levels are high you cannot access the viewpoints along the shore. For directions click here. Because the trail is less than a kilometre from the ferry terminal you can easily walk this trail as you are waiting to board the ferry.
Another delightful way to kill an hour or so is at the South Baymouth Museum and School House. The former will be of interest to history buffs, while the latter delighted our children. They especially had a giggle over the rules teachers had to follow a century or so ago. Would you believe they were not allowed to visit barber shops? Find directions here.
A real favourite of our children was horseback riding. While the name of the ranch, Kicking Mule, perhaps doesn't inspire confidence, the horses are tame without losing their own personalities. Take an hour trail ride through the forest and your kids will lvoe you for it.
For beach time you can't do better than Providence Bay. In fact, it is said to be the best in northern Ontario, what with its 3 kilometre of sand on Lake Huron that sees few visitors.
There is a playground for kids of all ages, an interpretation centre and a few interesting shops and galleries.
Find directions here.
When it comes to eating, Manitoulin has a few good choices. Out by Providence Bay are some good eateries but the one we enjoyed most was Majas Garden Bistro in Mindemoya. While Maja cooks her wonderful meals, her husband serves the guests their lunches in the delightful garden. If, like me, you like to grow your own vegetables, you may get envious browsing their plots. They are lush and produce lots of great food which all ends up on guest plates in the bistro.
For lovers of craft beers there are choices too. Head on over to the Manitoulin Brewing Company in Little Current or the Split Rail Brewing Company in Gore Bay for a taste of their amazing variety of beers.
Manitoulin Island has plenty of backroads for some epic cycling. At 35 kms the Mindemoya Lake Loop leads through the M'Chigeeng First Natioans Reserve and some pretty farmland, past cottages and sandy beaches, with some great picnic spots along the way.
For more serious cycling, the ride out to remote Meldrum Bay at the western tip of the island makes for a great ride, Check out the Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates website for more information.
Whether you come to Manitoulin Island for indigenous culture, beach time, or active adventures, the island has something to offer for everyone. And as it truly is a haven of peace and tranquility, I look forward to coming again soon.