Updated: Oct 4, 2020
I have lived in Toronto for five years and I have only just made the journey to Manitoulin Island. I have no idea what took me so long to visit, it is gorgeous! If you're looking to get away from the grind, I highly recommend an adventure across the water!
Manitoulin Island is around a six hour drive from the city, or three hours to Tobermorey, then a two hour ferry to South Beymouth, which is a beautiful (albeit more expensive) way to arrive. Our adventure to the island came hot off the back of a weird journey to Northern Ontario, so we decided to drive in. This way we got to see the swing bridge, which is a cool feat of engineering.
Manitoulin is the largest freshwater island in the world, so you'll definitely need a car to make your way around all 2,766 km² of it!
Kicking Mule Ranch
We stayed at an awesome "theme" ranch on the island, styled to look like something out of an old Western movie. Yeehaww! We booked "The Blacksmiths Bunkie", which had THE BEST swing door. I might be 30, but I am still down to pretend to be a horse and/or cowboy from time to time. If you aren't, then I am sorry you feel that way! Our bunkie had a lovely comfortable bed and electricity for lighting and phone charging. I am still undecided if a mist I spotted in the night was a ghost or the work of my overactive imagination!
The ranch also has yurts and wagons that people book and our host was kind enough to give us a tour of a few. Each spot comes with its own fire pit, so we had some fun sitting by the flames and toasting marshmallows, obviously!
Seasonal guests included ponies Gigi and Bucky. I am DELIGHTED to report that I got to feed them both!
Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls is a popular spot on Manitoulin Island; it is a natural 35ft waterfall that is both impressive and soul aligning to look at. It was pretty busy at the falls, which was stressful in the era of COVID, but there was a quiet trail nearby leading to Kagawong village. The trail winds next to a lovely stream dotted with fairy cottages and art works from local creators. I highly recommend a ramble; it is just as magical as the cascading water.
Gore Bay is a short drive from Bridal Veil Falls, so it is easy to make a day trip out of both. Gore Bay is a small town with plenty of lovely little waterside lookouts and a rocky pier that is perfect for boat watching and collecting your thoughts. We ordered takeout from Buoys Eatery and sat on a swing by the water to eat it. There isn't a whole load to do here, but it is perfect for a peaceful summer afternoon stop.
Split Rail Brewing Company
Split Rail Brewing Company was the highlight attraction of Gore Bay for me, so it gets its own subheading. Their are two breweries on Manitoulin Island and this is the only one we were able to visit during our short trip, but it was excellent! I LOVE a flight of beer at the best of times, but enjoying sips on a rustic patio makes the whole beer drinking experiencing even better! There weren't any sours on the menu that afternoon, which is always a sad time for a tarte tart like me, but I very much enjoyed my array of pale ales, copper ales, IPAs and stouts.
If you're in the business for a good ice cream and a white sandy stretch of beach, Providence Bay is the place for you. There is a lovely boardwalk trail for those who want to stretch their legs between tanning sessions, or who want a little brisk sea (lake) air in the autumn and winter. It really is hard to get your head around the fact that the vast body of sparkling blue water is actually Lake Huron, rather than an actual ocean! The water is safe to swim in, but I didn't fancy de-robing on account of a savage mosquito attack on my bum cheeks. I opted for a tasteful paddle instead!
Cup and Saucer Trail
Manitoulin Island has a handful of excellent hiking spots to choose from, but in my opinion the Cup and Saucer Trail is the premium pick. The terrain is varied; well maintained paths lead into woodlands, steps lead further rocky scrambles and at the payoff is a vista with sweeping views of the island. Wow!
The trail takes you to the top of the vast Niagara Escarpment and allows views of Lake Huron and lots of other smaller lakes contained within the island. Ontario has so many lakes that barely any of them have names! The English girl in me finds this baffling as I come from a land where even lamp posts are named after some fat ancient lord or landowner plucked from our dense history. All natural beauty in my homeland has been pinpointed and sign posted, whereas in Canada, especially on Manitoulin Island, it is unassuming and waiting to be discovered around every corner!
There is so much of Canada to see. There's a pretty sweeping understatement for you. Despite the swathes of unadventured land calling me across the country, I would definitely go back to Manitoulin Island if I got the chance. It in itself is the size of an English county and the whole place just felt so...peaceful. I am always happy to be alive, but I was especially happy here!