Explore the Sandy Sable Islands

Looking out at nothing but water with your feet in powdery sand it's hard to believe you're above the 49th parallel. Dramatically different from the rest of Lake of the Woods, the Sable Islands (and the beaches there) are a fantastic place to explore.

Near the south end of Lake of the Woods lies Sables Islands, an elongated barrier sandbar featuring marshes and rounded sand dunes. The dunes are part of the Sable Islands Provincial Nature Reserve. Not to be confused with Sable Island National Park east of Nova Scotia. 

The sand dunes at Sable Islands

What’s there to do on Sable Islands? Explore!

The south end of Lake of the Woods is much different than the central and north parts of the lake. The Big Traverse Bay is relatively shallow (about 35’ deep at the maximum depth) and has no weeds or rocky reefs. There are beaches everywhere around the Morson area and many sandbars as well. Unlike much of the surrounding area, there aren’t any massive rock cliffs towering over the water. In fact, standing on the sand dunes and looking towards the Big Traverse, you feel like you're in the Caribbean. The water is shallow and crystal clear and the view goes on for days. 

Nothing but water as far as the eye can see

You can walk for a long time exploring the sand dunes. This year the water was a bit more shallow than the last time I visited which allowed for better exploring. The sand is soft and powdery. It’s really fun to walk around in the shallow water, find cool driftwood, go birdwatching, climb the sand dunes, or have a picnic lunch.

Soft powdery sand on the Sable Islands

In my two visits to Sable Islands, we stayed nearby overnight to do some camping, but many of my friends who live in Kenora have left early in the morning, spent some time at the islands, and then headed home for a beautiful sunset boat ride. So depending on where you are staying on Lake of the Woods, it may be an hour or two outing or it may take the whole day. Just make sure it's a calm one. The waves coming from the Big Traverse can get pretty wild on a windy day.

Sable Island is roughly 10 km (6.2 m) long and is low enough in some parts that it becomes two or three islands in high water. It's part of the Lake of the Woods Sand Spit Archipelago which consists of Sable Islands, Burton Island, and Windy Point in Canada as well as Pine, Currys, and Tern islands, Morris and Rocky Points, and Zippel Spit in the United States. Burton Island is covered in birds, and while occasionally smelly because of all the bird droppings, you can see many types of birds including pelicans. The fishing is great around the island too. 

The area is an IBA (Important Bird Area). 256 bird species have been identified in Sable Islands Provincial Nature Preserve and 137 of those have been recorded as nesting. Sandhill cranes can be seen and at least one sandhill nesting crane nest has been documented. The dunes are regarded as suitable nesting habitats for the endangered piping plover and they are periodically observed on the island. It is an important staging area for migratory birds using the Central Flyway, resulting in the congregation of thousands of birds between the Sable Islands and the mouth of the Rainy River in early spring.

Sun, sand, and fresh air on the Sable Islands

So, if you’ve been saying for years that you’re going to take a boat ride to Sable Islands, go and check it off your bucket list. It’s truly like you are in a different world. 

Here is a map showing where some of the towns are accommodations are near Sable Islands. You can also search for accommodations all over Sunset Country by using our accommodation finder.

About Erin Rody

I grew up on Black Sturgeon Lake in Northwestern Ontario. I am a staff writer for the Sunset Country Travel Association. Through my articles I hope to entice you to visit the wonderful region I call home. We are all about outdoor adventure; with 70,000 lakes and rivers and a whole lot of forests how can we not be? Whether you like to fish, hunt, canoe, kayak, boat or go camping, Sunset Country has something for you. Enjoy!

Recommended Articles

New Restrictions on What You Can Bring into Canada

Keep up to dates with the changes.

A Guide to Sunset Country Museums

Learn while you visit!

8 facts you didn't know about moose

Just how big is a moose anyway?

Renew Your Outdoors Card, Online!

It's never been easier to buy your Ontario fishing license and Outdoors Card

White Otter Castle: The Incredible Story of the Mansion in the Middle of Nowhere

Imagine single-handedly building this massive structure in the middle of the wilderness?

Giant Pike on Ice

Tips & techniques for catching big pike through the ice.

Shed Hunting 101

How to find antlers this spring in Sunset Country 

Secluded Cottage Rentals

You won't believe what's available at some of these remote lodges!

Curious as to which fish species are in your favourite lake?

Use this interactive map to find out.

Black Spruce 101

Things You Probably Didn't Know About This Boreal Icon

A Beginner's Guide to Ice Fishing in Canada

(With a few tips for the seasoned fishermen too!)

Fabulous ice-out fishing for lake trout!

Here's what the pros use for tackle.

How many fish do you think are in the English River System?

Too many to count! Find out more about this fantastic fishery.

Ice Road Etiquette

The Do's and Don'ts of Sunset Country's Ice Roads

6 Road Trips from Minneapolis to Northwestern Ontario

From fishing and wildlife sightings to culture, good eats and of course sunsets, there’s lots to discover.

Tips from a Fishing Legend

Big Bass, Walleye, Muskie and So Much More

3 Bannock Recipes

These recipes are sure to impress on your next camping trip.

4 of the Best Hunting Trips in Ontario

Bear, moose, deer, and duck—check out these incredible hunting opportunities.

Rent an Ice Hut in Sunset Country

Make the most of winter in Northwestern Ontario with a unique ice fishing experience

5 Essential Boreal Experiences in Ontario's Sunset Country

Freshwater fishing, forest hiking, and sunset views await in this pristine paradise