Gore Bay—The Best Boating on Manitoulin Island

With all the amenities you could ever want, including one of the best marinas on the Great Lakes, a farmer's market, first-rate places to eat and places to stay, the beautiful and secluded little town of Gore Bay has been drawing boaters to its placid waters for years.

As I sat on the outdoor patio at Buoy’s Eatery in Gore Bay, enjoying a perfect panzerotti and an ice-cold ginger ale, I was able to take in a view of the entire waterfront. Despite having spent the entire morning walking the boardwalk and piers, exploring the chandlery and admiring the boats, it wasn’t until lunchtime that I realized how great Gore Bay is for boaters.

A view of Buoy's Eatery from the water

Manitoulin's Best Marina

Being one of only two towns on the entirety of Manitoulin Island, Gore Bay is home to a small, permanent population, but those numbers swell significantly once boating season arrives. Most of that increased activity is centred around the town marina. From the impressive limestone breakwater that shelters the harbour from the open waters of the North Channel, to the landmark Red Roof Pavilion, the Gore Bay marina offers every amenity a boater would need.

As the home port for Canadian Yacht Charters, and its fleet of sixteen boats, including sailboats, catamarans and trawlers, the marina is equipped to deal with boats of all sizes. The new docks were installed in 2007 and can accommodate vessels up to 80 feet in length. 

Gore Bay dock and marine store courtesy of Champ III

CYC operates a full chandlery right on the waterfront, next to the fuel dock. It’s well stocked and staffed with experienced sailors, who are also responsible for maintaining the fleet of charter boats. There are canoes, kayaks and paddleboards available for rent, along with several bicycles, ideal for transient boaters who want to explore the surrounding wilderness or stock up on groceries and supplies from the downtown merchants.

Waterside groceries make Gore Bay great for a quick stop, but don't be surprised if you want to linger around this friendly small town.

The fuel dock offers both gas and diesel, with full pump out services. Due to the layout of the harbour, my advice is to radio ahead if you’re bringing a large vessel in for fuel. More than one or two boats at the fuel dock might make for some uncomfortable manoeuvring for less experienced skippers. You can find marina staff on VHF channel 68.

Launching by Trailer

If you are bringing your boat to Gore Bay on a trailer, you’ll find a small boat launch is available. My first thought was that it seemed narrow, but it’s very well maintained with piers on both sides, so there should be minimal effects from wind and currents. There’s a $5 fee for launching, collected in a box on the honour system and there is plenty of free parking at the south end of the marina.

The always-calm waters at the Gore Bay boat launch

Things to Do

When it’s time to get off the boat, Gore Bay offers a variety of activities and events for the whole family. The Farmers Market and Fish Market is open every Friday, which I think is a welcome change for this traditionally Saturday morning event. Manitoulin Island produces some of the best freshwater fish in the world and you’ll not want to miss the opportunity to try it. For the more active adventurer, there's a hiking trail along the bluffs on the east side of the bay that offers a spectacular view of the harbour and marina.

Sunset at Misery Bay Provincial Park

For an even better experience, you’ll want to head out to Misery Bay Provincial Park, about a 25-minute drive from Gore Bay. Here you’ll find several short hiking trails winding through the woodlands and old beaches. You’ll also discover one of the more interesting geological features of Manitoulin Island, the alvars: a rare area of exposed limestone with no soil that you’ll find only in Northern Europe, or here, in the Great Lakes Basin.

Stay Awhile

If you need a place to spend the night, I suggest stopping by the Queen’s Inn. Located just across the street from the marina waterfront, this charming combination of country inn and bed and breakfast has been restored to its original glory. In the late nineteenth century, this building served as one of the three original hotels in Gore Bay. The Queen’s Inn has been ranked as one of the 10-Best bed and breakfasts in all of Ontario by Cottage Life magazine.

The beautiful Queen's Inn 

If you find yourself in Gore Bay on the second-last weekend in July, you’ll get to experience their family-focused summer festival, Harbour Days. Last year’s festival drew in hundreds of people from all over the area for a full weekend of activities including food, shows, theatre, slow-pitch baseball and live music. This year’s festival is promising to be even better. It’s happening the weekend of July 22-24.

As I finished my lunch, I realized I’ve now lived on Manitoulin Island for over a year and this was only my second visit to Gore Bay. During the short walk back to my vehicle, I decided that I would be back soon. Not only is Gore Bay a great place for boaters and outdoor enthusiasts, it’s quite likely the best haven for boaters on the entire island.

About Steve Sansford

Steve has spent most of his life in and around boats. His father was a marine mechanic and Steve studied Marine Navigation in college. He currently holds several Transport Canada navigation and safety ratings. His work has been published in Powerboating Canada magazine and various other online outlets. Check out his Instagram feed for updates on his latest adventures.

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