As we began our journey west out of Ontario, we spent seven nights on Manitoulin Island. It’s a beautiful island on Lake Huron with spectacular views from its shores. We would gladly return just for the views at Meldrum Bay.
You can access the island either by ferry or by land. The Chi-Cheemaun ferry runs from Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula to South Baymouth. We crossed onto and off the island at Espanola.
Espanola is large enough to have several chain grocery stores and other stores you might need for your visit to the island. There are grocery stores and other stores on the island, but they are on the smaller side. On the island, we had to visit two grocery stores to get the items we needed. Espanola is also home to a bait shop named “Fishy Fishy Bang Bang” – truly one of the most memorable store names I’ve heard. Yes, I’m one of those people who call “fishy fishy” when out fishing.
There are numerous places to stay on the island. Campgrounds and cabins are the most plentiful. We stayed at two different campgrounds on the island and enjoyed both. I’ll give you some details on them below.
Each of the towns and villages has something to offer. Because we visited during the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions and shops were closed. We really wanted to see the world’s largest peace pipe, dream catcher and pow wow drum at Zhibaahaasing First Nation, but the First Nation was closed to visitors.
Manitoulin is the largest freshwater island in the world and measures 160 km in length. On our visit, we saw numerous deer and sandhill cranes.
The ferry dock for the Chi-Cheemaun is at South Baymouth. Just across the road from the pier is a gift shop and a fish & chips stand. We had lunch at Big Mouth Fish & Chips, which served local whitefish. An interesting spin on fish is their batter had dill in it. On Lake Huron, local whitefish and walleye are common at the chip stands.
Sheguiandah is home to one of the oldest archaeological sites in Canada, the Sheguiandah National Historic Site of Canada. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to visit as we had to book an appointment (I assume due to COVID), and we weren’t having the best weather while we stayed at Batman’s Cottages and Campground.
Batman’s is only a short drive from Little Current and right off Hwy 6. It’s a well-maintained park with friendly and helpful staff. We ended up with a site with two great views of the water. Our site was situated so that we backed toward the beach, and the front faced a road going to the water on the other side of the point.
There is a lighthouse at Providence Bay, but we couldn’t reach it by car as the roads are gated off.
Little Current is one of the larger towns on the island. It has a downtown area with a few touristy type stores, which are worth a wander through. Living in the RV has limited my buying as space for new things is at a premium.
The Heritage Swing Bridge is the link between mainland Ontario and the island. It opens for 15 minutes on the hour to allow boat traffic through; otherwise, it’s closed and ready for vehicle traffic.
Bridal Veil Falls alone is worth the stop in Kagawong. This is a busy spot, and the parking lot is small. Dogs are allowed, but the steps to the falls were beyond Ozzy and his old hips.
We also stopped at the Manitoulin Chocolate Works. We picked up a few confections to satisfy our sweet tooth.
The Old Mill Heritage Centre is an imposing building. It was originally built in 1925 as a pulp mill but switched over to be a hydroelectric plant in 1932. Until 1949, it was the sole source of hydro for Manitoulin Island. It closed in 1961 but has since been restored.
Gore Bay has a boardwalk that runs along the part of the bay.
Split Rail Brewing Co. is also located in Gore Bay. It is one of the two craft breweries on the island and the only one we visited. Al is an IPA drinker but, as usual, ordered a flight to allow him to taste a few of their beers. Of course, the IPA was his favourite.
Just around the corner from the brewery is a little restaurant called Buoy’s Eatery. It’s a busy spot that serves up local meat and fish. I had a fabulous pulled pork sandwich, and Al had one of their speciality burgers. While our food was being prepared, one of the staff (maybe the owner) brought out a large bowl of water for Ozzy. That’s service!
This is our favourite location on Manitoulin Island. We first visited here almost 20 years ago on a motorcycle trip and spent a night at the Meldrum Bay Inn. Ownership of the inn has changed since then, but it is still serving up fabulous meals. We had dinner on the inn’s porch one night, and the food and service were excellent. I had one of the fish dishes, and Al had the chicken.
We parked the RV right across the street at the Breakwater Park Campground. We were able to park facing the water at this quiet little spot. It only has 16 sites, and only five were occupied while we were there. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect campsite than this.
Obviously, we were not able to visit everything on the island but there is definitely enough to do to keep you as busy as you wish. Be sure to “Explore Manitoulin”.
Travel safe and have fun!