If you live in Ontario, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of Manitoulin Island and said to yourself: “Oh, I must visit there one day!” That’s exactly how our family felt, so we were sure to include it in our list of places to stop for our family’s summer roadtrip 2015.
To say we enjoyed our stay on the Island is an understatement. We only had three nights on the island, but could have easily spent far more time exploring, hiking, and visiting its beautiful beaches.
We had been staying at Killbear Provincial Park. That meant that our drive to Manitoulin Island would take approximately 4 hours. We were looking forward to a nice, leisurely drive and then pulling into our camp site with plenty of time to set up before dark.
And then this happened …
Yep, a flat tire on the trailer. This delayed things quite a bit.
By the time we got to Manitoulin, the sun was ready to set, so we had to pop up the tent-trailer in quick fashion. We had chosen to book into the Providence Bay Tent and Trailer Park because Providence Bay is quite central on the island and we’d heard the beach was great there.
It did not disappoint! Manitoulin Island is an island in Lake Huron. And Lake Huron is so huge that it feels like you are at the ocean.
Day One: Seeing and Doing All the Things!
The next day was full of sunshine and we were ready to explore! We popped into a few towns and museums, but ended up being completely drawn into the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation.
We lucked out to have arrived on a day when there was a traditional basket weaving workshop taking place. We were told that these workshops were offered so that community members could join in and learn skills that have often been lost over the years. Despite being clearly visitors to Manitoulin Island, we were warmly welcomed and learned a number of techniques (that clearly required a lot of practice to master!).
Also at this same center was a museum that housed artifacts from previous generations. A number of bands live on Manitoulin, so the history is very rich. However, we were particularly struck and saddened to learn about the residential school systems and their impact on the Island families.
We must have spent about 2 to 3 hours in this one spot. We learned so much and all walked away feeling grateful to have stumbled into this center.
Next up, we drove over to Bridal Veils Falls. These falls are incredibly beautiful, and also incredibly easy to access since they are right off of a main highway. It was a treat to be there in full sunshine, with kids laughing and squealing, and the powerful sound of the rushing water.
Just around the corner from the falls was a village called Kagawong. This village was my happy spot!
I found a picnic bench facing its picturesque beach and zoned out for a bit while the rest of the family poked around the local market nearby. Oh, and did I mention there’s a chocolatier and a candy shop too? Yes, it’s a must visit spot!
From here, we kept touring and drove up to a lookout at Gore Bay. We just kept saying, “Wow! It really feels like we’re facing the ocean.” You simply cannot see the other side of Lake Huron, so the endless horizon tricks the mind.
In the town at Gore Bay, we grabbed a must needed (and delicious!) coffee and gave our tootsies a little rest.
By this point, I had connected with a long-time blogging friend who lived on the Island and she was kind enough to extend a spontaneous invite for us to visit her farm for a bonfire and a glass of wine after dinner. (Hooray! I was so excited to see Christine and meet her husband and daughter in real life! The last time I’d seen Christine had been in the Spring at the BConnected Conference.)
My kids couldn’t believe their luck because they love farms. Meanwhile, my hubby grew up on farms and was equally happy to receive such a warm invite.
Christine gave us a tour of the farm, including her lovely collection of both hens and roosters. Stella now has her heart set of having her own chickens someday soon. The farm itself is massive but her home is the heart of it, with beautiful outdoor sitting areas and a large bonfire pit to enjoy with friends. Speaking of friends, Christine had another blogging friend up for the bonfire too: Cassie from Curiosity Box, and her husband and two sons.
I’d love to share a photo of all of us together, but I didn’t manage to get a good one. We are either shoving our faces with smores or looking far too devilish with the firelight reflecting on our faces …. haha! We could have stayed all night, but Max quickly started zoning out and dreaming of sleepy time (and I was not long off from his state). So, big hugs were had, and off we went to rest up for another day touring the Island.
But … but! We didn’t want to miss the Perseids Meteors, which happens once a year in August. Once we arrived back to our camp site at Providence Bay, we wrapped the kids up in sleeping bags and headed out to the beach (with some red wine in tow). We tilted our heads back and couldn’t believe the sight before our eyes! I think we counted 23 different meteors before finally admitting that we needed to go to bed.
Day Two: Hiking then Relaxing
Our bonfire date at Christine’s had confirmed our desire to hike at Misery Bay Provincial Park–everyone said it was a “must do.” We woke up and got ourselves up and out to the trail first thing. (Stella is now wearing shoes the same size as mine!)
Despite its terrible name, Misery Bay is really spectacular. The Park offers 15 kms of hiking trails, with the opportunity to experience the rare alvar ecosystems. We chose an 8 km route that offered inland forest, coastline along Lake Huron, and the alvar ecosystems.
Again, yes, it really felt (and looked!) like we were at the ocean in some spots.
After our hike, we headed back to Providence Bay. Despite being camped right in front of this beach, we hadn’t spent any time on it! One of its awesome features is a long boardwalk. It started right our front of our camping ground and led all the way to a community center and fabulous park for kids of all ages.
While the kids ran around the park, I set up my camp chair, pulled out my book and had a nice relax.
For our last dinner on Manitoulin Island, we had our heart set on a quaint looking fish and chip shop right by the beach. Not only did Lake Huron Fish & Chips look cute, but it sure smelled delicious!
We sat outside on the restaurant’s picnic tables and relaxed with trivia pursuit (great idea to kill time, isn’t it?!) and some old fashion soda pop. When our food arrived, it was fabulous! If you come to Manitoulin, have a meal here … seriously. SO GOOD.
We then turned on our heels and headed right back to the beach to catch the sunset. And it was a spectacular one at that!
Thank you for the beautiful memories, Manitoulin!