We recently had an opportunity to spend five days on Manitoulin Island, the largest island on a freshwater lake in the world. It is a truly special place that is blessed with some of the most beautiful and diverse natural features we’ve encountered in Canada.
In fact, we fell so in love with this place it may become an annual excursion.
Manitoulin is a sacred place for the Anishnabe people. Oral traditions tell us that when the Great Spirit Gitchi Manitou created the earth, he set aside the bluest sparkling water, the brightest twinkling stars, and the most beautiful forests and animals. The Great Spirit put all these beautiful pieces together on an island he created with quartz rock called Manitou Minissing. He set the island on a great inland sea (Lake Huron) and allowed it to drift north until he stopped it at the rocky shoreline by hurling a bolt of lightning down. He then turned the island slightly to the south to protect it from north winds and reserved this place for himself and other spirits as their Island of the Spirits retreat. This is a sacred place where, by tradition, the great leaders and warriors and medicine men were buried.
There is a feeling about this place, a sense of unrushed peace and tranquility that invites you to slow down and just enjoy the serene beauty. People who live here call this “Island Time”, and it reminds us of the delicious, healthier pace of life and perspective that we feel when we travel in Latin America or Thailand.
There are over a hundred lakes, so if you're into kayaking there's lots of opportunity. We spent our time exploring the many trails of the island. The nature viewing was pretty special! Deer, vultures, hummingbirds, woodpeckers and grouse are pretty common sights. We also spotted two Golden Eagles on two separate days, and had an incredible close fly past by an American Bald Eagle. We also had the luck of viewing a mother bear and her three cubs along the Bebamikawe Memorial Trail.
The food options on this island are great too. The lakes in this region are renowned for their fresh-water fish so indulge in the whitefish, pickerel and rainbow trout when you get a chance. In general the cuisine tends to be simple - lots of burgers, pizza and fish and chips, as well as old-school pasta dishes. In our experience, it was all very well prepared.
Before visiting it's important to know that the island is a big place - driving from end to end can take two hours. For this reason we try to stay near the centre of the island, in Mindemoia, making access to different experiences much easier.
Our Preferred Accommodations:
Times to Visit:
The busiest season is from mid-July to mid-August. We hear from islanders that Manitoulin loses some of its relaxed pace at the height of tourist season. If it's an option, try to visit during slower times to really get a sense of the vibe that makes this place so special. Late-September and early-October are great times to admire the fall colours painting the landscape.
We’ve tried to capture some of the beauty of the place, as well as some of the delicious food we enjoyed. We hope they give you at least a taste of the place.
We've compiled a list of places we have been, as well as recommendations from people during our visit and stunning viewpoints!
Another Great Read: 25 of the Best Things to Do on Manitoulin Island