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How To Plan Your Manitoulin Island Visit

This long-weekend Manitoulin Island itinerary will help you make the most of your visit to one of the most beautiful islands in Ontario.


Aerial shot of Providence Bay Beach on Manitoulin Island

Manitoulin Island is one of the most special places in all of Ontario.

This gorgeous Island stretches across the northern waters of Lake Huron from near Killarney shores to near the Michigan border.

And while life on Manitoulin Island is quiet, this island is the proud holder of many records. Some of these include:

  • The world’s largest pow wow drum
  • The world’s largest dreamcatcher
  • One of the world’s largest peace pipes
  • Manitoulin Island is home to six Indigenous communities
  • The largest island in a freshwater lake in the world.
  • The largest lake within an island on a freshwater lake in the world
  • The largest island within an island within a freshwater lake in the world
  • The island is home to over 100 lakes, some of which even have their own lakes with their own islands. That makes them:

Islands within lakes within islands within lakes within an island, within a lake.

phew.

With all of these amazing places to visit, it can be hard to figure out how to plan your Manitoulin Island itinerary. So the Ultimate Ontario crew is here to help you plan your visit to Manitoulin Island so that you can make the most of your time.

How Do You Get To Manitoulin Island?

Passengers waiting to board the ChiCheemaun Ferry in South Baymouth Ontario
Passengers waiting to board the ChiCheemaun Ferry in South Baymouth – Photo credit: Kevin Wagar

Manitoulin Island is, well, an island. And as islands go, you can be sometimes limited in your options on how to get there.

There are two main ways to get to Manitoulin Island from the mainland. The first is by driving across the Little Current Swing Bridge along HWY 6 coming from Sudbury.

The second way to get to Manitoulin Island is via the Chi Cheemaun Ferry that runs from Tobermory to South Baymouth.

This is run by the Owen Sound Transportation Company that also runs ferries to Pelee Island in Southern Ontario and transports between Moose River and Moosonee in Northern Ontario.

Now, it’s important to know that Manitoulin Island is a BIG place. Getting from Little Current to Meldrum Bay takes a solid one-and-a-half hours. So planning your Manitoulin Island itinerary can help you see the most without wasting a lot of time.

How To Plan Your Visit To Manitoulin Island

Choosing where to base yourself in Manitoulin Island will help you organize your visit. Most of the Manitoulin Island hotels and Airbnbs are on the eastern side of the island near the towns of Little Current, Providence Bay, and South Baymouth.

The Manitoulin Island and Conference Centre makes for an excellent base. It’s in Little Current and is located close to the harbour and the swing bridge.

If you’re looking at camping on Manitoulin Island, the most popular campgrounds are Batman’s Campground near Little Current and Gordons Bay Eco Resort, which is an Ontario dark sky preserve and one of the best places for stargazing in Ontario.

What Not To Miss In Manitoulin Island

There are some incredible things to do on Manitoulin Island. So prepping ahead will help you plan your Manitoulin Island Itinerary to a tee. Let’s get started with what to do.

Cruise the North Channel with North Channel Tours

A woman relaxes on the rocks in front of a North Channel Tours boat
North Channel Tours in the Benjamin Islands – Photo credit: Kevin Wagar

With spectacular Georgian Bay cruises that tour areas such as the Benjamin Islands, Baie Fine Fjord, and tours to the town of Killarney, an excursion with North Channel Tours is one of the best things to do on Manitoulin Island.

There is simply no better way to experience the beauty of Georgian Bay than from the water. And the stops along the way will give you the chance to stretch your legs by hiking remote and beautiful locations, or just taking a dip in the clear Georgian Bay waters.

You’ll want to set out a half-a-day for this Manitoulin Island excursion. You can read more about North Channel Tours here.

Hike the Cup and Saucer Trail

A boy sits atop the Cup and Saucer Trail in M'Chigeeng Ontario
Taking in the views from the Cup and Saucer hike – Photo credit: Kevin Wagar

Rated as one of the most beautiful hikes in Ontario, the Cup and Saucer trail is an adventurous climb up to Manitoulin Islands most spectacular lookout.

The Cup and Saucer Trail is located just east of the town of M’Chigeeng along HWY 540. The entire hike covers about 14-km, but it can be done in sections.

If you’re hiking to the viewpoints, give yourself two hours to get up and enjoy the views. Add an extra hour if you choose to take the thrilling Adventure route up to the top.

Walk Behind Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls cascades over a rock wall on Manitoulin Island
Bridal Veil Falls in Kagawong – Photo credit: Kevin Wagar

Located in the town of Kagawong in Central Manitoulin Island, Bridal Veil Falls is one of the highlights of any Manitoulin Island itinerary.

This fast-flowing waterfall is 11 metres tall and pours down into a picturesque pool which many locals use as a swimming spot. You can even walk behind the falls along the stone ridge. Just be careful as the rocks can be slippery and loose.

Give yourself at least 30 minutes to explore Bridal Veil Falls. More if you’d like to enjoy a swim.

Fish Lake Manitou

Sunset over Lake Manitou on a Manitoulin Island itinerary
Sunset over Lake Manitou – Photo credit: Kevin Wagar

Manitoulin Island is an anglers paradise. You’ll find local fishing spots throughout the island. And with over 100 lakes, that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

But, one of my favourite spots for fishing on Manitoulin Island is Lake Manitou itself, which holds the title as the largest lake within an island within a freshwater lake.

Head out in the morning when the waters are calm and fish for Lake Trout, which has been a local staple of the aboriginals since long before Europeans arrived.

If you head out in the morning, you’re likely to fill up your catch within a few hours.

Spend The Day in Providence Bay

Providence Bay Beach on Manitoulin Island
Providence Bay Beach – Photo credit: Kevin Wagar

The town of Providence Bay might just be my favourite town on Manitoulin Island. The colourful murals, beautiful beach, and fun, cottage-country vibe make it one of the most popular towns on the island.

Take a stroll along Providence Bay Beach, stop at some of the local stores, and treat yourself to the best fish and chips on the island at Lake Huron Fish and Chips.

Providence Bay is a lounging kind of town. You can see the town in an hour. But you’ll want to stay longer.

Enjoy A Classic Manitoulin Breakfast At Mum’s Cafe

Breakfast at Mums Bakery in Mindemoya
Breakfast at Mums Bakery in Mindemoya – Photo credit: Kevin Wagar

Mum’s Bakery in the town of Mindemoya is an iconic cafe that should be part of any visit to Manitoulin Island.

Sure you could come here for lunch or dinner, but it’s the Mum’s Bakery breakfasts that draw the most visitors. It could be the diner classics that draw them in, but it’s probably the freshly baked apple fritters that clinches it.

The amazing pastries and baked goods are often sold out by 10 am. So head there early.

Explore The Ojibwe Cultural Foundation In M’Chigeeng

Tobacco sage and cedar
Tobacco, sage, and cedar and the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation – Photo credit: Kevin Wagar

Located in the M’Chigeeng First Nation, the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation is a museum, gallery, and learning space focused on preserving Anishinaabe language, culture, and spirituality.

On display, you’ll find spectacular artwork including porcupine quill boxes, sweetgrass baskets, and antler carvings. You’ll also find ancient scrolls that outline Anishinaabe spiritual knowledge as well as information on the residential school system.

Similar to the Longhouse in Six Nations Ontario, this eye-opening Manitoulin attraction will open your mind as well as your spirit.

Enjoy Some Craft Beer At Manitoulin Island Brewery Co.

Manitoulin Island Brewing Co sign
Manitoulin Island Brewing Co in Little Current – Photo credit: Kevin Wagar

At Ultimate Ontario, we LOVE our local Ontario craft breweries. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Manitoulin Island Brewery Co. in Little Current makes onto our Manitoulin Island Itinerary.

Sit on their relaxed patio and enjoy a flight of beer, each with a unique Canadiana-theme. Personally, their swing bridge is a summer favourite. And anyone who remembers 4 on the Floor will get a kick out of their Mr. Canoehead Lager.

Where To Stay In Manitoulin Island

Manitoulin Island is one of Ontario’s most beautiful destinations. It’s remote wonders and rural magic offer an escape from the everyday. However, the wide-open spaces also mean that there are few Manitoulin Island hotels that cater to the island’s influx of visitors.

Manitoulin Hotel – Little Current

Located in the island’s largest city, Manitoulin Hotel is one of the newest hotels on Manitoulin Island. The hotel is conveniently located and offers air-conditioned rooms, free Wifi and private parking.

You can find their current rates and availability here.

My Friends Inn – Manitowaning

Situated on the beachfront in Manitowaning on the south of the island, My Friends Inn is a clean and quaint accommodation that offers convenience for those looking to explore. The inn has a pretty garden and a terrace, as well as free WiFi and parking.

You can find their current rates and availability here.

Now It’s Time to Experience Manitoulin Island For Yourself

There are more things to do on Manitoulin Island than meets the eye. From Providence Bay to Little Current and everywhere in between, you can find something for everyone in this beautiful region of Ontario.

Many of these businesses and restaurants are anxious for visitors after a tough year. So let’s support local and make the most of your Manitoulin Island adventure.

Do you have a favourite attraction in Ontario? Head over to the Ultimate Ontario Facebook Community and join the conversation! You’ll find an amazing group of people passionate about Ontario and who love to share their local secrets.

Mike

Thursday 20th of June 2024

Hi Kevin, Members of our family are travelling from England in a couple of weeks time and making our fifth trip to Manitoulin, we love it so much! The one thing we have struggled to find is a good map, showing the trails and wondered if you could sign-post us to any, please? We're looking to explore further :)

Jennie

Sunday 2nd of June 2024

I'm disappointed not to find a link to accomodations!

Kevin Wagar

Saturday 15th of June 2024

Thanks for pointing that out. We've updated the article to include some suggestions.

Lori

Sunday 25th of June 2023

Thanks the valuable info on a Manatoulin island trip. We are planning a road trip to the island towards the end of August from Montreal. We did a trip to the Bruce Peninsula (camping/hiking) about 7 years ago - loved it. Looking for a reasonably priced "homey" accommodation, so if we stay on the eastern section of the island, can we see there entire island (more or less) during day trips from that section? Also, should we bring our kayaks? Are there safe waters to kayak in around the island on some of the lakes? I am thinking we should allow for 4 days on the island, but we could add a fifth if it's needed. What do you suggest? Should we include Killarney on this trip? (We won't be camping this time). Are there accommodations around that area too?Thanks in advance for answering these questions.

Kevin Wagar

Tuesday 27th of June 2023

Hi Lori,

Sounds like a great road trip. Absolutely bring your kayaks, there are many lakes on the island where paddling is an absolute dream. Lake Kagawong and Lake Manitou are especially great at sunset. If you're looking to day trip from a home base, that's very do-able. Manitoulin Island is large, but not inaccessible. There are roads throughout and you can even reach the furthest sections of the island within a couple of hours at most. Mindemoya is very central, although Providence Bay is among the more popular areas thanks to its great beaches and infrastructure. You can also have a look at this post to help you find accommodations.

Alex

Wednesday 26th of April 2023

I don't drive and it looks impossible to see the island unless you have a car. Unfortunately, this applies to most of Canada. I have to travel to Britain, Europe and Latin America to be able to get everywhere in a country by public transport, so I end up by not seeing much of Canada. So sad.

Connor

Wednesday 27th of September 2023

@Kevin Wagar, How would one get to the island with a bike but no car? Is there a bus service? I would love to visit there myself.

Kevin Wagar

Tuesday 2nd of May 2023

Hi Alex,

The island is a really great spot for cycling. It's very flat and bicycles are allowed on the Chee Cheemaun Ferry.

Miss.lynne Boyd

Tuesday 11th of April 2023

Very Nice, Thank you for the info.