Big Welcome in Little Current

If you're entering Canada via the North Channel, you'll want to make a stop at the gateway to the prize of Northern Ontario: Manitoulin Island

The town of Little Current bills itself as the Gateway to Manitoulin Island. Considering the only land access to the island is the iconic swing bridge on the east end of town, it’s an apt description. The town is quite literally the gateway to the world’s largest freshwater island, and has been since its founding in 1879.

Not only is Little Current home to the only road onto the island, it’s also a Port of Entry for Canada. Many visitors arrive by water throughout the summer boating season. An evening stroll along the boardwalk will reveal boats from all over the Great Lakes Basin and the East Coast of Canada, as well as the United States.

Facilities

The North Channel is considered to be one of the best freshwater boating regions in the world, and Little Current is one of its best-equipped facilities, so there is plenty of boating activity.

Spider Bay Marina offers 80 seasonal slips and 50 transient docks with 30-amp power. The marina also has an excellent boat launch and plenty of parking. There is a $5 fee for both launching and recovering your boat. There’s a fuel dock with a six-foot draft, and pump-out services are available.

Besides the marina, the downtown docks offer even more space for boaters, with another fuel dock and plenty of water depth for even the biggest yachts. Little Current serves as a cruise ship port, and it’s no surprise to sail into the town docks and see the 325-foot Pearl Mist moored at the pier.

Where to Eat and What to Do

The North 46 Restaurant is at the east end of town, inside the Manitoulin Hotel & Conference Centre, just a short 10-minute walk from the town docks. You’ll find plenty of parking for your vehicle and boat trailer. Inside, you’ll be treated to a family dining experience with a full menu featuring local native cuisine. North 46 also has an outdoor patio, which offers a view of the North Channel and the iconic swing bridge.

For lighter fare, the Anchor Inn is right on the main strip, just across the street from the waterfront, and offers a selection of pub fare and a full-service bar and lounge.

If you have access to a vehicle during your visit to Little Current, there are two things you’ll need to see while you’re here. Ten minutes outside of town, you'll find the Cup and Saucer hiking trail. This 12-km network of trails leads up to the summit, where you’ll find one of the most scenic vistas on the entire island atop the island's highest point.

Photo by
Michael M

For another amazing sight, head further down the road to the small settlement of Kagawong and enjoy the natural beauty of Bridal Veil Falls. You can admire the falls from the lookout above, or wend your way down the path to the bottom, where you can go behind the falls or cool off with a dip in the pool. Be sure to wear foot protection if you’re venturing into the waters to avoid injury from the sharp rocks.

If you’re sticking closer to town, Little Current’s main street is home to many stores and shops, some with a long and rich history. Turner’s of Little Current opened its doors in the late 19th century and is still operating today, in fact still run by the Turner family. Should you decide to stop by, and you should, don’t forget to visit the upper level of the store. You’ll find a wonderful selection of merchandise and a small museum full of interesting artefacts from the early days of Little Current.

At the west end of town, you’ll find Low Island Park with its playground and beach area. There’s also a baseball diamond, a skateboard park and several walking trails that offer a view of the North Channel.

Where to Stay

Boaters looking for overnight accommodations in Little Current have several options. If you’re looking for a comfortable, upscale experience, the Manitoulin Hotel & Conference Centre houses 58 rooms and is the only hotel on the island. It’s a well-appointed facility with a heated outdoor pool, full restaurant and bar.

View of the Manitoulin Hotel & Conference Centre from the water

There are several smaller motels in town, including the Hawberry Motel with 22 pet-free rooms. There’s no on-site restaurant, but the Hawberry’s central location means that most of the town’s eateries are only a short walk away.

From the swing bridge in the east to Low Island Park in the west, this historic town needs to be on your list of boating destinations. There are plenty of things to see, just as many things to do, and no shortage of amenities for boaters of all kinds.

Whether you’re trailering a small fishing boat, carrying a canoe on the roof of your vehicle, or cruising up the North Channel in an 80-foot yacht, Little Current will certainly be a welcome harbour on your journey.

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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