Kayaking St. Joseph Island

7 Places to Explore on This Idyllic Northern Ontario Island

To best appreciate the beauty of St. Joseph Island, nestled in the northwestern part of Lake Huron east of Sault Ste. Marie, one needs only two things: a kayak and a camera.

The word kayak literally means “hunter’s boat.” It's a wonderful means to explore all the beautiful inland lakes and outer shores of St. Joseph Island. The kayak is easy to load onto your vehicle and also enables you to get into little bays, rivers and tributaries once you're on the water. You normally would not be able to access these in a larger boat, and you'd miss the beauty of these secret little places teeming with wildlife. The kayak is also very quiet, enabling you to sneak up and capture beautiful wildlife. It also enables you to feel as if you're part of the waterscape, floating inches above the water.

Twin Lakes

Inland, Twin Lakes is teaming with loons, turtles, eagles, turkey vultures, turkeys, deer, sandpipers, beavers, otters, and common terns. It is a beautiful inland lake that is very kayak-friendly, especially on very windy days. Busy Beaver Campground and RV Trailer Park are on Hilton Road. They are open from the May long weekend to September 30 each year. There are 37 campsites. The fall is especially beautiful to kayak on the lake, as the leaves reflecting in the water are mesmerizing. Portage to the upper Twin across the causeway and enjoy the solitude, as it will be just you and nature along the uninhabited shoreline.

Shoal Island Lighthouse

At the end of B Line, is the Shoal Island Lighthouse and the remnants of an old ferry dock are interesting things to explore. Shoal Island Lighthouse had its first appointed keeper of the lighthouse in 1904 with an annual salary of $250. It was destroyed by fire in 1909 and then was rebuilt as the square structure you see today. In 2008 the Government of Canada declared the structure as surplus. The light, however, still shines bright today.

The Old Ferry Docks

The abandoned ferry docks are still visible on St. Joseph Island. Old mock-up pictures of the ferry docks then and now can be seen here. The waters are swift near the current bridge onto the island so be careful when kayaking here. You will find lots of water birds here as well as people fishing both on the shore and in boats. Lighthouses are prevalent here and on the north shore. Two lighthouses can be found on the rocky hillside.

Hilton Beach

In Hilton Beach, Hilton Marina and Hilton Park are very good areas to put your kayak in. Paddling to the right, it isn’t long until the old beautiful rustic cottages end and you are alone along the rocky coastline of the island. You can catch amazing sunrises and sunsets here. Waiting for a calmer day is advised, as it can get quite rough with high winds. Paddling left will take you quite a ways towards Gawas Bay which is more sheltered for kayaking. After a good paddle, you can eat at the Tilt’n Hilton or The Dry Dock. There is the Hilton Beach Tourist Park if you wish to camp, buy ice cream, or get your favourite bait for fishing. If camping isn’t for you, you could book a room at the Hilton Beach Inn.

Gawas Bay

Gawas Bay is a favourite area to kayak. You can put your kayaks in at the Government Dock for $2.00 on your honour in the little wood box. You can stay in the bay or explore the little hidden channels which can take you out to the island bridge, Camp d’Ours Island or to a beautiful area near Whiskey Rock. Gawas Bay has many herons, ducks, and beavers in the area. It's quite rocky and the vegetation is mostly untouched and lush. Kayaking here is a treat because you always happen to wildlife. Have your cameras ready! You will even find another lighthouse near the entrance to Gawas Bay! One of many on the island.

Whiskey Rock

The right of passage for locals is leaping off Whiskey Rock, and kayaking through this area is magical. Whiskey Rock is a magnet for boaters and thrill-seekers of all ages. In the summer, it is a busy place for boaters of motored and non-motored varieties. There is no peace or tranquillity here, as you hear the screams and laughter of jumpers into the beautiful green water. Most jump and go back for more. Few “chicken out” as you can jump from the lower level of rock or for the braver jumpers, leap from the top. The smiles of accomplishment are priceless.

Richards Landing

Richards Landing Marina offers another great spot to put your kayak in. Again, like Hilton Beach, you need a calmer day as the winds can be quite strong here as well. Richards Landing is the largest township on the island. The town offers a number of amenities for visitors including restaurants, grocery stores, and a medical clinic, as well as accommodations like motels and cabins. You can see the island bridge from here and follow the coastline. There is a huge eagle’s nest right across from the marina on the island you can kayak around.

Plan Your Kayak Trip To St. Joseph Island Today

St. Joseph Island is a must for kayaking with its endless shorelines, abundant wildlife and breathtaking landscapes and seascapes for three of the four seasons: spring, summer and fall. For more information about St. Joseph Island, click here or read the island paper, Island Clippings.

Photo credits: heri Minardi Photography

About Sheri Minardi

Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Sheri Minardi is a retired teacher from the Algoma District School Board. Along with a love of teaching, Sheri has a passion for photography. Sheri Minardi Photography captures the magnificent Algoma region through her lens. She loves to set out on adventures to capture wildlife, landscape and still life images. She also does commercial and lifestyle photography. She is a member of the Arts Council of Sault Ste. Marie, the Art Gallery of Algoma, a committee member of the Sylvan Circle Tour, and the admin of Photographers of Northern Ontario and Trading Post for Photographers on Facebook. Sheri is a freelance photographer and writer. To see more of her work, visit www.sheriminardi.com. Sheri is also on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, 500px, ViewBug, Flickr, Google+, and Wordpress.

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