things to do manitoulin island

25 things to check out on a road trip from Toronto to Manitoulin Island

From shipwrecks and clear turquoise waters to trendy restaurants and beach towns, there's as much fun to be had on the journey to Manitoulin as on the incredible island itself.

Visiting Manitoulin Island is practically a rite of passage for the city folk to the south, and there are so many worthy stops to make along the way.

Some have a preference for getting there by ferry, others like to drive 'the long way' through Sudbury. Whichever way you go, you'll want to tap into the natural treasures and hidden gems that many Ontarians return to year after year.

Mono Cliffs Provincial Park and an escape room

If you're in the mood for a hike, one of the first stop-worthy places you'll hit as you leave the city is Mono Cliffs Provincial Park.

Located on a stunning stretch of the Niagara escarpment, you can take a short hike along wooden bridge trails through the cliffs of Carriage Trail and get to a satisfying lookout point with the option of hiking further along any of seven other trails.

Nearby, Hockley Valley is another sprawling provincial park to hike or bike through.

For a different vibe entirely, check out the Let Me Out Escape Room which is located in (gasp!) a huge creepy old barn built in the 1870s.

Sauble Beach and the June Motel

About two hours further on the road to Manitoulin, you'll reach an area known as the Bruce Peninsula which is truly among Ontario's most prized ecological treasures, home to incredible scenery and many natural wonders.

Within this region, Sauble Beach is a must-do stop. As the second longest freshwater beach in the world, beach-side fun is never in short supply on its smooth white sands.

In Summer months, pay a visit to the Casero Taco Bus. It's got a friendly, party-atmosphere with seating and rave-worthy food.

The Wellness Refinery is another great option. There you’ll find bright smoothies and nourishing bowls with gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan options.

Ready for some beach-side retail therapy? Stock up on very wearable Sauble Beach gear at Garage Clothing Co.

If you happen to be around in the late afternoon, grab tickets to one of their workshop sessions. You might catch a "customize your kicks" or "macrame plant hanger." These are the types of crafts you legit need in your life.

Want to stay longer? Sauble Beach isn't an easy place to leave. If you plan on staying the night, The June Motel is worth checking out.

Featured on Netflix as part of Motel Makeover and hailed for its Insta-worthy backdrops, you'll want to book well in advance. Then, get yourself a poolside spot for sun and selfies.

Lion's Head and some homemade ice cream

When you're back on the road, make sure to book some time to stop and explore Wiarton (yes, home to Wiarton Willy) and Lion's Head.

Located on the 45th parallel, halfway between the equator and the north pole - Lion's Head is a secret-nook community with more than its share of explorable terrain. After getting your fill of its natural beauty, grab a saucy falafel wrap to go from the Green Door Cafe

Next up, Big Bay General Store is a well-loved place to stop for homemade ice cream. Flavours change with the season (Lavender and Pumpkin flavours both get rave reviews).

It's a quick walk to the shore and pier where you’ll find smooth rocks and crystal clear water - not a bad place to enjoy a scoop or two.

Another random fact - Big Bay is also known as the stone skipping capital of Canada, if you feel like trying it out or brushing up on your talents. 

Tobermory and The Grotto

To catch the Manitoulin ferry, you’ll need to get further North, to the town of Tobermory, famous for its beauty both on land and below.

If snorkeling, scuba-diving, and shipwrecks are on your agenda, you'll want to visit Fathom Five National Marine Park. If you’re not planning to get in that deep, you can also head to Bruce Peninsula National Park, where you can make your way to The Grotto, a natural sea cave and popular attraction.

The whole area has dozens of different hikes and ecological wonders to enjoy, much of it truly awe-inspiring.

If you're not in a hurry to reach Manitoulin, try taking a glass-bottom boat tour on a daytrip to beautiful Flowerpot Island to explore natural rock pillars, caves, and ancient cedars. 

While in Tobermory, don’t miss the fish and chips! You'll find there are quite a few options, but Shipwreck Lee's and The Fish and Chips Place are both sure-fire hits. 

The Manitoulin Ferry

Ready for the ferry? Do reserve a spot in advance, and do check on timing and protocols for the day and season you're travelling.

If you haven’t been to the island before, Manitoulin is a revered part of Ontario, thought of and respected as its own magical universe.

A few places to look into for your itinerary would be Providence Bay, Kagawong, Bridal Veil Falls, and Gore Bay.

You can also learn more about the land and delve into the many aspects of Anishinabek culture of Manitoulin through Wiikwemkoong Tourism.

Last but not least - if you happen to be driving 'around' to Manitoulin without the ferry, you still have quite a few options for catching some natural beauty and good food!  

Sudbury

Tucos Taco Lounge is a must do in Sudbury. They have an amazing indoor space with high ceilings and great atmosphere, including a massive painting of Bill Murray (why not?). 

Another Sudbury lunch or dinner option is Di Gusto Wood Fired Pizza, or stop at one of two reputable breweries, 46 North or Stack Brewhouse, which has Southern BBQ options.

Closer to the city, the town of Schomberg is a charming place to stop, hike, and grab good food. One to take note of is the sprawling mansion-like Schomberg Gastropub, with its  elaborate and sprawling wood deck patio, and highly rated burgers and waffle fries. 

Lead photo by

Yi Jiang


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