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Circle Tours: Ontario’s Manitoulin Island

What to See & Do on Manitoulin Island?

Manitoulin Island is a wonder that is the world’s largest freshwater island (in other words, the largest island in a lake, on a continent), but its Manitou Lake is also the largest lake on an island in a lake in the world.  Visit this island via the TransCanada highway wet of Sudbury (the closest major airport) and on approach  view the LaCloche Mountains with their white quartzite slopes to the east and the North Channel sailor’s paradise to the west.

Espanola & Manitoulin Island

The rail line at this point connects Sudbury with the Great Lakes, and their coal resources. It also links to quartzite flux, necessary for smelting, that was found in the LaCloche Mountains in this area. The LaCloche Mountains are estimated to be over 3.5 billion years old, and are one of the oldest mountain ranges on Earth. Believed to have once been higher than today’s Rocky Mountains, they remain among the highest altitudes in Ontario. Killarney Provincial Park is located in the range and is very popular among tourists, who also like the “Heaven’s Gate Trail”, along the length of the range from Willisville to Massey.

The Spanish River was one of the first northern rivers to become industrialized, with a pulp mill built here in 1905, with hydroelectric dams further up the river.

Little Current, Manitoulin - Swing Bridge open- sliver (Cover Photo)
Little Current, Manitoulin - Swing Bridge open- sliver (Cover Photo)

Manitoulin Island, has an area of 1588 square miles, and is the world’s largest freshwater island (in other words, the largest island in a lake, on a continent), but its Maintou Lake is also the largest lake on an island in a lake in the world. This island has very little glacial debris and has very little arable land suitable for cultivation. The rugged land, especially between Espanola and Little Current was a favourite of the Group of Seven painters. On the island, South Baymouth is the dock for a ferry that connects to Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula, and some of the world’s best scuba diving at Fathom Five National Park.

Manitoulin Island Detour

Start at highway 17 in Espanola, about 75 km west of Sudbury, and head south on Highway 6 to Manitoulin Island. The island ha very little glacial debris, and very little arable land, and on the north shore of Lake Huron lie the LaChloche Mountains, composed of white quartzite, and a favorite painting spot for Group of Seven artists, including AY Jackson. Allow 1 day.
Distances are from the junction with Highway 17

Willisville Lookout

(22 km / 13.5 mi)
A steep trial up to a fire tower provides stunning view of Georgian Bay, Manitoulin Island, and the Bay of Islands

McGregor Bay

(38 km / 23.5 mi)
there are tall solos for a cement factory here, produced from local limestone and shipped around the Great Lakes, via a nearby deepwater harbour at Little La Cloche Island.

Little Current

(57 km / 35 mi)
After crossing a red swing bridge, which allows boats to pass east-west, and road and rail traffic to pass north-south. You will see cedar fences built from cedar trees that grow in the region. The local First Nations suggested to Jacques Cartier that eating cedar would prevent scurvy, 200 years before James Cooks solved the problem for the British Navy.


(63 km / 39 mi)
Continue southeast from Little Current on Highway 6 to Sheguidiandah.
Here, one of the oldest habitations in North America was discovered, dating back to not long after the retreat of the ice sheets. Visit the Howland Centennial Museum here for more details.

Ten Mile Point

(70 km / 43 mi)
Continue on Highway 6
This point offers great views east and north across Georgian Bay toward the La Cloche Mountains

Fishery Research Station

(115 km / 71 mi)
Continue south on Highway 6
This station, just north of South Baymouth studies the changing Lake Huron fishery.

Chi-Cheemaun ferry from Tobermory to Small Baymouth on Manitoulin Island

Chi-Cheemaun ferry from Tobermory to Small Baymouth on Manitoulin Island

South Baymouth

Head a few miles south to the town of South Baymouth and you can see the Chee Chee Maun Ferry which transports vehicular, cyclist, and passenger traffic between Manitoulin island and Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula.


(133 km /81 mi)
north on Highway 6, and then north on Highway 542
On the south end of Manitou Lake, you can see the Hatchfied Fish hatchery. The larger lakes on the island offer a range of fishing opportunities, with many fishing and spawning rivers on the island. The hatchery grows rainbow trout, and Chinook, coho, and kokanee salmon to stock the island’s rivers and lakes.

Providence Bay

(166 km / 102 mi)
head west along 542, through Mindemoya, turning south on 551
This area has prominent sand dunes along the lake shore, with fragile plants stabilizing the dunes against wind and water, but unable to protect against dune buggies, footsteps and fires.

Gore Bay

(206 km / 127 mi)
Head back north ofn 551 until junction with 542, head northwest
Take a cliff walk overlook the North Channel


(224 km / 138 mi)
Head east on Highway 540
Bridal Veil Falls are seen west of Best Bay, on the east side of Highway 540, as the road zigs southward
You can now head east along highway 540 back to Little Current (269 km / 165 mi) and return north to the TransCanada (326 km 200 mi).

Route Map

Arrival Airport : Sudbury

Overnight Stop: Sudbury