By Lori Bosworth
Several years ago, I took a solo trip to Manitoulin Island. It wasn’t intentional, the solo part that is. My boyfriend and I had planned the vacation (well, in hindsight, perhaps it was more of my initiation) and we broke up before the trip was scheduled to take place. Since I really wanted to visit this treasured and mysterious island, I decided to venture to Manitoulin Island by myself.
Those close to me know that I am NOT a good highway driver. In fact, some have wondered how I even passed my driver’s licence (it did take two attempts). So the thought of driving six plus hours on my own up to Sudbury and then diverting west to Manitoulin Island produced lots of anxiety on my part. At the time, I was a regular runner and I found that running a long distance before driving on the highway helped reduce my nervousness. So that was my plan.
I left for Manitoulin from Toronto in early July taking the drive up Hwy 69 to Sudbury. My drive went surprisingly well and I noticed the two-lane traffic thinning after Parry Sound. Once I reached Sudbury, I turned west on Hwy 17 until I reached Highway 6 South then drove through Espanola and crossed the swing bridge to Little Current, Manitoulin Island. The bridge swings open from mid-April to October 31 every hour on the hour for 15 minutes from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. for marine traffic.
Manitoulin Island had been on my mind since I heard my co-worker describe the remote beauty, lakeside towns, Aboriginal influences and hidden sand beaches that opened onto Lake Huron. Upon crossing over to the island, I felt an immediate sense of calm and separateness, similar to that which you experience when leaving the mainland to Prince Edward County.
My first stop was Little Current. If you plan to visit, don’t expect many shops and restaurants. There are only a handful of each. I stopped at the Anchor Inn Hotel and Tavern on Water Street and enjoyed a fabulous whitefish dinner. Whitefish is a delicate, delicious fish found in Lake Huron, but many cooks do not know how to cook it nor do they remove all the bones. This fish dinner was superb.
I settled in at Silver Birches Resort in Little Current, opting for a semi-detached motel room with jacuzzi bath and fireplace. The resort also offers secluded cottages and cabins overlooking Lake Huron, as well as an indoor pool and on site restaurant serving Manitoulin Island specialties.
I was advised not to miss hiking on the Cup and Saucer Trail, located 18 km west of Little Current. The trail is part of the Niagara Escarpment and has 70 metre cliffs overlooking the island. You’ll be able to hike on 12 km of hiking and adventure trails.
You also won’t want to miss the Bridal Veil Falls near Kagawong. I visited the falls, which are 35 feet high and swam along with several other visitors in the warm water of the pool at the foot of the falls.
When it was time to leave the island, I decided to take the car ferry at South Baymouth to Tobermory, which is 1 hour and 45 minutes. I definitely recommend taking the ferry since you’ll enjoy a spectacular cruise in Georgian Bay before you reach the mainland and you’ll be able to return to the GTA along the leisurely Hwy 10.
Visiting Manitoulin Island will make you feel like you’ve entered another world, leaving the chaotic frenzy of the city behind. I highly recommend it.