Manitoulin Island Magic: A Guide to Gore Bay
Tucked along the shores of Manitoulin Island and bathed in the clear, chilly water of Lake Huron, Gore Bay is one of Northern Ontario’s sweetest small towns. This pretty community offers visitors a perfect blend of outdoor adventure, rich heritage, and phenomenal food. Whether you love chocolate and culture, splash pads and pizza, or hikes and history, Gore Bay will keep you coming back for more.
Explore The Shore and Great Outdoors
What’s the best thing to do in Gore Bay? Why, hang out in, on, and around the bay itself, of course! Both the young and the young at heart will love the excitement at Splash N Go Adventure Park. This huge inflatable splash park encourages visitors to run, jump, and crawl through obstacles. However, if you prefer your water adventures to be less boisterous, kayaking and canoeing are popular shore activities.
If you’d rather look at the water than be on it, perhaps a hike with a view is more your style. The East Bluff Lookout (also known as the Harold Noble Memorial Park) offers spectacular views and a one-kilometre hike along the Noble Nature Trail. This trail easily connects with the two-kilometre, shoreline-hugging Boardwalk Trail. It ends very close to the Split Rail Brewery (below), which will be more than happy to serve you a refreshing pint after your trek.
Whether you prefer to explore on land or sea, reserve time to visit the Janet Head Lighthouse. This recognized federal heritage building, constructed in 1879, served as a channel light and harbour light to maritime traffic coming in and out of Gore Bay and makes for a beautiful photo opportunity.
Embrace Culture and Community
Culture and community spirit flourish in Gore Bay, which is home to two museums. The Gore Bay Museum was the Manitoulin District Jail and the jailer’s residence until 1945. Today, this former jail is a place you don’t want to leave, as it’s filled with fascinating history about early settlers.
Nearby, the William Purvis Marine Museum (which occupies the third floor of the Harbour Centre) preserves and promotes the marine history of the Great Lakes. When you’re there, take time to browse around the rest of the Harbour Centre. It’s open year-round as a centre of art, innovation, and creativity. The Harbour Centre is also a fantastic shopping destination. The Raven Nest is an incredibly cool place. This fascinating little shop is the “go-to place for all things metaphysical and new age.”
Finally, if you’re visiting in July, taking in a show at the Gore Bay Summer Theatre should be a top priority. This award-winning theatre features a range of plays every July and specializes in the work of Norm Foster.
Feast On Local Flavours
Gore Bay is one of Northern Ontario’s unsung foodie towns. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more delicious destination.
Head to New Grain Artisan Bakery and Kitchen to try sophisticated, innovative fare. Their mandate is to create dishes “made with a focus on highlighting the produce and bounty of Manitoulin Island.” To that end, they work with 80% local produce. Their menu frequently changes to reflect local harvests. In the peak summer months, reservations are highly recommended.
Finnia Chocolate and Cacao is another destination offering wildly creative and luxurious products, though you might want to avoid heading here for dinner. Then again, maybe you should! Finnia is Northern Ontario’s only purveyor of bean-to-bar chocolate, specializing in vegan chocolate. It’s worth making the trip to Manitoulin Island for their gourmet hot chocolate alone.
Finnia’s next-door neighbour, Split Rail Brewing, creates high-quality, small-batch beer and soda. The company has humble origins – it started in a garage in 2010 – but thanks to solid community support, it soon opened the island’s first craft brewery. Their Hawberry Ale is a Manitoulin must-try!
Across the road is one of Gore Bay’s newest kids on the block – in more ways than one! Purvis Fish & Chips opened in the summer of 2021 under the leadership of Gore Bay resident and college student Avery Sheppard. From autumn ‘till spring, Sheppard attends university, and once summer hits, she’s in the kitchen and on the floor of her nautical-themed fish and chips shop.
Other yummy delights in the area include The CodMothers (which offers family-friendly meals and daily specials), Loco Beanz Coffee House (the place to go for your java fix, along with wraps, paninis, and breakfast sandwiches), and Campbell’s Drive-In (this seasonal, family-run establishment offers mozza sticks, hot dogs, bacon burgers, pizza, fish dinners, and more.)
How To Get To Gore Bay
Gore Bay is located on Manitoulin Island and is about two hours southwest of Sudbury and four hours east of Sault Ste Marie. Those travelling from southern Ontario can connect to Manitoulin Island via the MS Chi-Cheemaun ferry which sails out of Tobermory. Gore Bay itself is accessible via Highway 540A and Highway 540B. There’s also a municipal airport in town, but it doesn’t service commercial airplanes, only private ones.
The Best Time To Visit Gore Bay
Gore Bay is gorgeous year-round! Many restaurants are closed or operate in a limited capacity from mid-autumn to mid-spring, so it pays to plan ahead if you visit during the low season.
Summer visitors should note that accommodations book quickly and many restaurants recommend reservations.
Places To Stay in Gore Bay
Accommodation options in Gore Bay include the aptly named Inn At Gore Bay. This newly renovated boutique motel offers ten waterfront rooms and an on-site restaurant.
For something more formal, consider The Queen’s Inn. This property named all its rooms after royal women and was designated one of Ontario’s top ten bed and breakfasts by Cottage Life magazine. It’s open from May to October.
Families, groups, and those who prefer to take care of their own meals will appreciate the McLaughlin Hotel Apartments. These spacious furnished units offer apartment-style accommodations with well-supplied kitchens.