Geared up for Riding on Manitoulin

With minimal traffic, lots of twisties, and loads of sights to see, it's no wonder this crew keeps coming back to ride Manitoulin year after year.

"Unseasonal". Is that what they call this?

My riding buddies and I have just pulled off the road and are sitting with our motorcycles at one of the many shaded picnic areas on Manitoulin Island. Our helmets are off and the sweat is rolling down our faces, our greying hair soaked.

We didn't expect the temps to be close to 30 degrees the first week of June when we planned this ride last year. But the date was noted on our family calendars, so if it's on the calendar, it's a go.

Destination? Manitoulin.

This is our annual motorcycle adventure tour of Manitoulin Island. I've been riding with the same group of guys for over ten years. We've met at various organized rides and riding get-togethers over the years and just clicked. We have a similar level of riding skills and the same unique (I'm being nice) sense of humour. They all live in different towns and cities in Ontario and make the trek to our family "camp." Some driving for over 8 hours to get here. 8 hours? What's the lure? Sure, they come for the riding, (there are some great roads to explore), and the camaraderie, but also the amazing vistas, small-town charm and the lack of traffic that Manitoulin Island offers. 

getting to manitoulin on your bike

Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world. There are two ways to access it. From the north, take #17 to #6. The road between Espanola and Little Current is arguably one of the best in Ontario! Numerous smooth corners are mixed in with elevation changes which also includes some amazing scenic rock formations. From the south, you can take the MS Chi-Cheemaun ferry from Tobermory. This gives you a break from the drive and also returns some spectacular scenery on the way. As a motorcyclist, you will get the privilege of first on and first off. Tie-downs (rope) are supplied, but I recommend bringing a pair of your own quality tie-downs.

brews, sweets, and bluffs

Providence Bay offers sandy beaches and great views.

Although Manitoulin Island measures just 160 kilometres across, it is packed with some unique business. It has not one, but two breweries. Split-Rail Brewery in Gore Bay and Manitoulin Brewing Co. in Little Current. Each location has an outdoor patio so you can sample their finest ales in the warm sun. Great for quenching your thirst after a hot day of riding. 

Enjoy some local beers on Split Rail's patio with water views. 

Manitoulin is also the home to two award-winning chocolate companies. Finnia Chocolate & Cacao in Gore Bay (located in the same building as Split-Rail) and Manitoulin Chocolate Works in Kagawong. Great places to satisfy that sweet tooth craving.

The Gore Bay Lighthouse is a scenic spot to stop.

Many visitors to Manitoulin Island are familiar with the East Bluff Lookout in Gore Bay, but did you know there is another one just down the road? If you continue a couple more kilometres, you will find Hindman Memorial Park. It's a nice little picnic area that also offers a great panoramic view of Gore Bay.

fresh island fish for dinner

There are many great eateries on the island available to satisfy your hunger. A new one opened this summer at the Red Roof Pavilion in Gore Bay (by the marina). It is now home to Purvis Fish and Chips. Purvis Fisheries has been in the fishing industry for 5 generations, so if anyone knows a thing about tasty fish, it's them.

A smooth ride to the west side

Light traffic and lots of twisties on the way to Meldrum Bay. 

"It's worth the ride to Meldrum Bay". A familiar saying that is heard by anyone that has ridden there. The gravel spots are now paved, so it's a smooth ride. The reward is a road full of twisties and elevation changes. Traffic is light. Once you arrive, you will be treated to an impressive panoramic view over the North Channel. Meldrum Bay is home to the historic Meldrum Bay Inn. The Inn was built in the 1870s and the owners have kept the look and feel of the past. It is a frequent award winner of Trip Advisor's Certificate of Excellence. Only dinner is served and a reservation is required. 

Sunset on the beach after a day of riding. 

After a full day of riding, we wind down by sitting around the campfire and reviewing the events of the day. Overhead, an amazing light show entertains us. There is very little light pollution on Manitoulin, so the night skies come alive! Constellations and satellites illuminate with great intensity. On a clear night, the Milky Way runs from overhead, all the way down to the water. Mesmerizing! The most pain of this riding weekend occurs in our necks from constantly looking up. 

The evening also returns us with a symphony of audio delights. The soft crashing of waves lulls me to sleep and the distinctive call of the loon supplied the wake-up call. I'll take that over any alarm clock.

memories to last a lifetime, or at least until next summer when we do it again

My riding crew. See you all next year!

As our annual riding adventure comes to a close, the drive home is filled with unforgettable memories of a place that some say time forgot, and that is just fine with us. We are already looking forward to next year's adventure.

About Randy Smith

Randy Smith moved to Manitoulin Island to slow life down and embrace "island time." He is a motorcycle rider, writer, photographer, and outdoor enthusiast—on 2 feet or 2 wheels. 

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