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Exploring Ontario’s Hidden Gem – Manitoulin Island

As you cross over the swing bridge into Manitoulin Island into Little Current (or maybe you have come from Tobermory on the Chi-Cheemung) you are greeted with views of the crystal clear blue almost Caribbean like waters that is Georgian Bay. You have now entered the largest fresh water island in the world, Manitoulin Island and your adventure has only begun.  There are endless opportunities to do on Manitoulin Island from hiking, biking, boating, swimming, relaxing and so much more.

We had never been to Manitoulin before. Chris had boated to the island as a kid but never really got the opportunity to explore the island to its fullest so we decided to drive the entire island while on our time here and we were not disappointed.  We stayed in South Baymouth at South Bay Resort on one of their beautiful waterfront campsites. From here we began our trip around the island heading west towards the most western point on the island, Meldrum Bay. The majority of the drive between South Baymouth and Meldrum bay is on the interior of the island passing some of the inland lakes but it is mainly flat farmland which offers an incredibly peaceful and relaxing drive.


What to see from South Baymouth to Meldrum Bay:

Our first stop enroute to Meldrum Bay was the beautiful waterfront town of Providence Bay. We pulled over along the shores of Lake Huron and were instanstly greeted by a warm breeze off Lake Huron and the beautiful rocky coastline and Caribbean like blue waters. This is the perfect place to spend a full day or even more relaxing on the beach or swimming in the waters. For our full guide on what to do while visiting Providence Bay check it out here. From Providence Bay we headed up Highway 542 and then 540 West towards Evansville.

Providence Bay Beach on Manitoulin Island, Ontario.

Shortly after passing through Evansville we pulled off to go for a hike in Misery Bay Provincial Park. This beautiful 860 Hectares provincial park is the only provincial park on the island and is day use only. With over 16km of hiking trails you could spend a full day exploring the park. Unfortunately with the water levels being very high in Misery Bay we were not able to cross the beach to continue along to the remainder of the trails. Misery Bay Provincial Park is perfect for both hiking as well as spending the day on the beach and swimming in the warm bay. To read more about our time in Misery Bay Provincial Park check it out here.

Exploring Misery Bay Provincial Park on Manitoulin Island, Ontario.

After departing Misery Bay we began straight to Meldrum Bay to visit the Mississagi Lighthouse. It is just under an hour drive on windy roads to Mississagi Lighthouse. Once you turn onto the road for Mississagi Lighthouse the road turns to gravel for the last 6km.  The lengthy drive is 100% worth it for the incredible views that the shoreline of the Mississagi Straight has to offer.  If you have ever been to Tobermory the Mississagi Straight along the Mississagi Lighthouse Trail look exactly like Bruce Peninsula National Parks coast line with the massive boulders, clear waters but without all the tourists. To learn more about visiting the Mississagi Lighthouse read about it here.

Mississagi Lighthouse on Manitoulin Island, Ontario.

 

Leaving Mississagi Lighthouse we stopped in to visit the Worlds Largest Dream Catcher and Peace Pipe in Zhiibaahaasing First Nation located right in their community square. 15 minutes off Highway 540 was worth the short detour to see these unique items. From here to get to the next area of the island you have to backtrack on Highway 540 to Evansville and then head north on Highway 540 towards Barrie Island and Gore Bay.

Dreamcather park on Manitoulin Island, Ontario.


Meldrum Bay to M’Chigeeng First Nation:

Gore Bay is the quintessential little cottage town on the North Channel. This town has something for everyone from the large marina for boaters, Split Rail Brewing Company is located here in town, the beautiful wooden boardwalk that follows the North Channel through Gore Bay, Janet Head Lighthouse and so much more. Our entire adventures in Gore Bay can be found here.

Janet Head Lighthouse with the sun setting behind it in Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island, Ontario.

From Gore Bay we headed towards Kagawong along Highway 540 which is best known for being home to Bridal Veil Falls. Here you could spend hours hiking around the falls, swimming in the pool of water coming from the falls and relaxing in the warm summer sun. After cooling down at Bridal Veil Falls we headed off 15 minutes down the road passed the town of M’Chigeeng First Nation to climb one of Ontarios Top 5 Hikes, The Cup and Saucer.

 

Image result for bridal veil falls manitoulinThe Cup and Saucer Hike is not something you want to miss while visiting Manitoulin Island. If there is only a few things you have time to do while visiting the Island this should be one of them. Taking only 1.5-2 hours depending on how long you spend exploring the top it is well worth the climb. To read our full guide on the Cup and Saucer Hiking Trail don’t miss it here.


M’Chigeeng First Nation to South Baymouth:

 

After hiking the Cup and Saucer we continued our journey to Little Current to visit the Heritage Swing Bridge you may have entered to Manitoulin Island on.  There are several view points to look out towards Strawberry Island and its lighthouse. After we grabbed some ice cream we continued on our way back to South Baymouth.

Driving past our campground we drove right into the town of South Baymouth at sunset to see the sky turn aglow and light up the lighthouse that sits on the rocks that guides boaters into the marina.  The boardwalk that loops around the trees overtop of the rocky shoreline offer views of Lake Huron are the perfect place to end your day.  Here in South Baymouth is where the S.S. Chi-Cheemung comes from Tobermory to bring visitors to and from the Island.  The town offers a few great options for food including incredible pizza as well as a pub. On our way out of town we stopped to look at the Little School House Museum, the only one-room school left on the island.  To see more photos from our time in South Baymouth make sure to check them out here!

 

Our drive of the incredible Manitoulin Island make us fall in love with our province all over again. With so much to do on the island you could easily spend a week or longer here and still not see everything. We only scratched the surface with what we were able to see in a few days on the island and cannot wait to come back again. The only area of the island we did not get to explore was the eastern arm, Wiikwemkong Unceeded Territory but will for sure be doing that on our next trip there.


Note: The entire island can be driven in one very full day of driving with limited time spent at each of the stops but we choose to drive the island over three days so we could spend some time at each of the major attractions we were interested in seeing so we could enjoy yourselves and really experience what this hidden gem in Ontario has to offer.

Mississagi Straight: Manitoulin’s Oldest Lighthouse

Standing tall on the rugged shores of the Mississagi Straight at the south-west end of Manitoulin Island is the oldest lighthouse on the island – the Mississagi Lighthouse. Built in 1873 the Mississagi Lighthouse guided ships through the difficult, rocky straight that separates Manitoulin Island from Cockburn Island.  A magnetic reef off Cockburn Island would interfere with ship’s compasses causing far too many shipwrecks. Now today the Mississagi Lighthouse now is home to a museum and campground where is an absolute must visit during your stay to Manitoulin Island.


Getting Here:

From anywhere on Manitoulin Island you want to start heading West towards the far west side of Manitoulin Island. One you hit Evansville you will want to stay heading West on Highway 540. From here you will travel 50km on Highway 540. You will turn left onto Mississagi Road and stay on this road until you reach the campsite. Mississagi Road is a gravel road that lasts for about 8km that can be very dusty so make sure to take it slow.  The Mississagi Lighthouse and Campground have done a wonderful job marking the way on Mississagi Road with mile markers and signage so you ensure you know where you are going.


Mississagi Lighthouse & Campground:

Imagine falling asleep to the sound of the water smashing up onto the rocky shoreline, looking up and seeing the milky way, the next morning waking to the smell of nothing but nature and the views of the Caribbean blue waters of the Mississagi Straight well that is all possible when you stay at the Mississagi Lighthouse and Campground!

Make sure to book early to one of the coveted waterfront sites. They offer a total of 38 sites on the campground from pull in, private unserviced sites, large sites to fit big RV’s. In our opinion the waterfront sites are where you want to stay as they felt more private and offer a view that cannot be beat. The interior forest sites felt very open and barren which you can see from the photo above.


Exploring the Mississagi Lighthouse Trails:

There are a lot of trails that wind along the shoreline, through the thick forest, over the rocks that drop into the crystal clear waters of the Mississagi Straight that are all well worth exploring.  We probably spent well over two hours climbing along the rocks, enjoying the view as the water smashed onto the rocky beach area and just relaxing. We were the only people on the trails that day and it felt like we were totally in our own world – so peaceful and perfect!


We could have easily spent a few days at the Mississagi Lighthouse and Campground relaxing, taking in the pure beauty of the area and exploring every inch of this hidden gem.  The drive to the west side of Manitoulin Island might seem far but it is well worth every minute in the car once you arrive you will not want to leave!

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