Summer Thrills on Manitoulin Island: 6 Things to Do on a Weekend Escape

From hikes to waterfalls to stargazing sessions, discover why this quiet island is the ultimate summer escape for Ontario explorers.

Manitoulin Island, Ontario, is one of the province's best summer destinations. Just a short drive from Sudbury or a scenic ferry ride from the Bruce Peninsula, the world's largest freshwater island is full of vibrant greens and blues and a host of communities to explore. 

Fueled by a mix of curiosity and a longing for adventure, I decided to explore the island for a weekend getaway. With moderate hiking trails, famous waterfalls, and clear night skies it's the perfect option for the weekend explorer—here's how to spend 48 hours in Ontario's island sanctuary of natural beauty and magic. 

Let me take you on a summer tour of Manitoulin!

1. Hiking the Cup and Saucer Trail

Cup and Saucer Trail; a view of a steep cliff face covered in lush green forest, dropping down into a broad green forested valley below, under a brilliant blue sky.
Cup and Saucer Trail has the most other-worldly, breathtaking views. // Photo credit Caroline El Khoury

My adventure kicks off at the Cup and Saucer Trail, Manitoulin's crown jewel of hikes nestled within a 345-acre preserve known for its dramatic landscapes and the thrilling scenic vista at the top. The trail, part of the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy's (EBC) early acquisitions, spans roughly 8 km. It's also a place where history meets nature—the name "Cup and Saucer" reflects the unique geological formations, and the area's rich Indigenous heritage is echoed in the name "Michigiwadinong," meaning "bluff in the shape of a spearhead."

Located easily off Highway 540, just 20 km west of Little Current, the preserve offers accessible adventures for thousands yearly. Visitors are encouraged to support the EBC's conservation efforts through donations and pay as you go parking. The trail has one of the most beautiful lookouts in all of Ontario.

2. Visiting Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls; a wide waterfall that pours over a treed rock cliff into a still, clear pool at the its foot. There are several bathers swimming in the pool.
The stunning Bridal Veil Falls seems almost like a tropical oasis during the summer. // Photo credit Caroline El Khoury

No summer visit to Manitoulin is complete without a stop at Bridal Veil Falls. In stark contrast to its frozen winter state, the falls flow freely, creating a refreshing mist that cools the air around it. Visitors can swim in the natural pool below the falls or simply enjoy the soothing sounds of the water. It's a picturesque spot perfect for a leisurely afternoon picnic or a moment of relaxation.

3. Stargazing at Manitoulin Eco Park

A wooden informational sign surrounded by green bushes that reads "Dark Sky Preserve" and shows visitors various constellations that they could look for. A view of stars through a telescope from the Dark Sky Preserve on Manitoulin Island The night sky filled with stars at the Manitoulin Dark Sky Preserve
Unbeatable summer memories come out of nights spent experiencing the awe-inspiring dark skies at Manitoulin Eco Park. // Photos by Caroline El Khoury

Manitoulin's clear summer nights make it an ideal spot for stargazing, and Manitoulin Eco Park is among the best places to see some of Ontario’s darkest skies. The park's commitment to preserving the dark sky allows for an unobstructed view of the stars and planets. Lying on a blanket under the vast expanse of the Milky Way, you'll feel a connection to the universe that's both humbling and exhilarating. The Eco Park also offers campsites and cabins for booking.

4. Relaxing by the Turquoise Waters of South Baymouth

The lookout at South Baymouth offers a great place to relax and watch the boats go by. The turquoise waters of Lake Huron offer a breathtaking backdrop for photos or a peaceful moment of contemplation. It's the perfect spot for unwinding and soaking in the island's coastal beauty.

 

5. Exploring Misery Bay Provincial Park

Misery Bay Provincial Park is a haven for nature lovers, with its diverse ecosystems coming alive in the summer. The trails invite you to discover secluded beaches, rare plants, and wildlife.  The warm months bring a burst of life to the park, with wildflowers blooming and birds singing, making every hike a nature-lover's dream.

Misery Bay Misery Bay Trail
Misery Bay Beach / Misery Bay Coastal Alvar Trail

6. Strolling Around Gore Bay

A visit to Gore Bay offers a charming slice of island life, with its marina bustling with activity in the summer. Take in the panoramic views from the East Bluff Lookout, offering a sweeping vista of Gore Bay. Then dive into the heart of local culture with a stop at the Split Rail Brewery and for those that have a sweet tooth,  Finnia Chocolate Shop is a must-visit. Gore Bay’s laid-back atmosphere and welcoming community create the perfect backdrop for leisurely walks and browsing local shops.

About Caroline El Khoury

Caroline is an astronomer who graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Physics and Astronomy. Her research focused on studying fast rotating neutron stars called Pulsars and their behaviour in the galaxy. In 2019, she received a research grant to work as an intern at ASTRON in the Netherlands where she got to expand on my research on pulsars—and from there she was inspired not only to continue doing research, but to begin a journey that involves a lot of outreach! Caroline is also passionate about outdoor adventures and hiking and has been working in the outdoor community to bring people closer to the night sky. She took her love of astronomy and hiking and started a social media page (@caroline_elkhoury) where she showcases all her astronomical adventures around Ontario and offers stargazing tours and group hiking series.

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