Back in 2015 I wanted to do something with the long weekend for Thanksgiving and drive out to see some nature. We had our family dinner planned for the Monday evening so the Saturday and Sunday were completely clear for some adventuring. Panning around Google maps led me looking north and I noticed Manitoulin island which I had never paid any mind to. I have a special place in my heart for islands (don’t ask; I have no idea why either) so it seemed like it would be fun to see what’s going on up there. My wife was ok with it, though she didn’t really have a clue as to where we’re even going so I put together an itinerary and we were off.
Getting there from Toronto can be done one of two ways - you can drive up the 400 and ON-69 to Sudbury, and cross the swing bridge in Little Current, entering the island from the North (approximately a 6 hour drive) or you can go up to Tobermory in the Bruce Penninsula (3.5 hours) then take a roughly two hour journey on the Chi-Cheemaun ferry to South Baymouth. All in all the time ends up being around the same. Note that the ferry is quite large so you can bring some pretty big vehicles on-board like RVs. We opted to do a full loop and enter in via Sudbury and go home via the ferry. This was a great decision because it allowed us to see more things on the trip - I would definitely recommend doing it that way.
The route up through Sudbury
We stopped at the Big Nickel in Sudbury which was, exactly as advertised, a big nickel (5c coin). Not exactly mind blowing but we needed to stretch our legs anyway. We continued over to Manitoulin from the North and passed over the swing bridge at Little Current.
I had read about the Bridal Veil Falls online and knew we had to make a stop to see it. The falls were even better than I had hoped - being able to walk right under the waterfall was a treat and a great photo opportunity but at this time the shallow water under the fall was completely full of gigantic plump fish (probably salmon? I’m not an fisherman) that were probably trying to get up the waterfall to lay eggs. Seeing hundreds of these fish just sitting in the water and roaming about (there were many “no fishing” signs so nobody was bothering them) was really cool. Moreover, I didn’t realize it when I was planning my trip but there’s actually a nice little trail that goes down the river through the woods which was very pretty.
We headed to our cabin rental, which was a nice little home away from home, and it came with kayaks for us to use for free. After settling down and unpacking, we realized that the evening had blessed us with a completely quiet, wind-free environment with plenty of sunlight as it set so we set out on the kayaks. The combination of pristine clear water and the sand at the bottom meant near perfect visibility to the bottom of Georgian Bay (at least as far as we went out into the lake) which was a treat - I love peering through the water from above. If we had gone in the summer instead of October this would have definitely been a perfect swimming spot.
Things to do on the island
Over the few days we were up there we did a few activities and we enjoyed all of them. My personal favorite was the “Cup & Saucer Trail”. It’s a beautiful, rugged trail that leads you through fantastic views of the trees and water. If you go like we did in the autumn, you might get to enjoy the beautiful variety of colors from the leaves. There are some neat cliffs and rock formations along the trail that made the hike a little bit more challenging and interesting.
You can also go horseback riding which was not something I am particularly into but my wife enjoyed a lot. We took the horses down a trail through the forest and a bit of open fields.
There’s some great eats on the island as well. The waters around Manitoulin are famous for their whitefish which is quite tasty and there’s Manitoulin Brewing Co. which makes some kick ass beers.
If you want to get some souveniers there’s the Ten Mile Trading Post and there’s many shops around the South Baymouth ferry terminal. My favorite were these little treasure boxes cut out of stone - my wife uses one for jewelry and we still have it years later.
The Route Back
On the way back we took the ferry which was awesome, unless you get seasick like my wife did. The ferry is huge and has an on-board restaurant as well as an excellent upper deck from which to view the lake. It was a very relaxing ride with a great panoramic view of Georgian Bay.
When you get to Tobermory there’s a lot of sights to see including the famous Flowerpot Island which is accessible via tour boats, and some shipwrecks underwater that you can see from various glass-bottom boat tours or just by Kayaking over them.
All in all, I loved our trip and am hoping to go again sometime in the future. Would definitely recommend!