Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world. On the island itself there are three big lakes, Lake Kagawong, Lake Mindemoya and Lake Manitou. On top of that, the island has Bayfield Sound and South Bay and Manitowaning Bay! Needless to say, there is water and shoreline everywhere. Manitoulin Island is in Lake Huron in Canada’s Province of Ontario.
We crossed the border at Sault Ste Marie, Michigan after staying the night there and checking out the cool lock and dam history the night before. We drove across a loooooong bridge into Sault Ste Marie, Canada, went through the border, then headed north for a short while then east.
Our drive into Canada onto the island was quite scenic and we arrived at House at Perivale where Shannon McMullen, the owner of Perivale Gallery generously hosted us! The purpose of our trip was to write about the gallery, guesthouse and Manitoulin Island! Perivale Gallery is the winner of the 2018 Trip Advisor Hall of Fame Award and the gallery receives visitors from all over the world on a regular basis. Visitors come to the gallery to see the variety of paintings, sculpture, woodwork, glass and more!
Mum’s Restaurant & Bakery
After settling in we had dinner with Shannon and her husband Bill and they shared some of the must see places on Manitoulin Island. The next morning we headed for Mindemoya to Mum’s Restaurant & Bakery for breakfast. This diner was recommended by Shannon. Food and service was great and if I could stand the calories, I would have taken baked goods along for the day! We liked the restaurant so well, we went back the next day. They were tourist friendly and answered our extensive questions on directions and museums. We were seeking a tractor museum which won’t shock any of my regular readers. We were saddened to hear that the gentleman that had owned the museum we were looking for had passed on, so we headed to the next stop on our list!
The next stop was to be Bridal Veil Falls in Kagawong, but we got derailed when we found the remnants of a mill, at the Old Mill Heritage Center . A brass placard explained that the mill “is a monument to two major Ontario resource industries. Built to process local spruce into pulp it diverted water-power from the Kagawong River to drive this heavy machinery. Wet pulp was baled and shipped to Michigan to make Sears-Roebuck catalogues. The pulp mill closed with the onset of the Depression but re-opened in 1932 as a hydro-electric plant. Until 1949 it was the sole source of electrical power for Manitoulin Island. Ontario Hydro operated the plant from 1946 until an increasing supply of electricity from the mainland led to its closing in 1961. Thirty years later, local volunteers restored the building for community use.”
There was a museum that sadly wasn’t open on the day we were there that we could have learned more information about this fascinating story. (I learned watching a video on their website about the Dodge heir losing his life on his honeymoon all kinds of interesting information!)
Outside the museum there are several pieces of equipment from the former mill that Keith found quite interesting. Bruce Mercer, who worked in the township office, which is located next door to the museum was kind enough to share a bit of local history with us. He shared a painting that was inside the utility office by famous artist Ivan Wheale of the mill. Information on the painting states, “Erected in 1925 on the shores of Georgian Bay in the Village of Kagawong on Manitoulin Island, the birthplace of Earl C. McDermid, this shale and limestone structure still stands. Incorporated as the Manitoulin Pulp and Paper Company the mill was later converted to a Hydro Generating Plant.”
Bruce, who also serves as the marina manager explained that Kagawong has quite a history. “It was a port by 1870. We shipped livestock, fish and lumber. For years we had pens lined up by the shores for cattle, sheep, pigs, turkey and horses.”
Bruce showed us the dock and the building that serves as the marina store. The marina has pictures from years back including one of the now Mayor Austin Hunt. The picture shows Mayor Hunt back when he was a teen working as a guide. The Mayor is now 92 and one of the longest running politicians in Canada. We took a minute to stop by his general store which was across the street from the marina. Mayor Hunt was in and graciously agreed to visit with us. “Kagawong is tied for being the fourth largest community on the island,” Mayor Hunt said. “The biggest is Little Current.”
Mayor Hunt explained that Manitoulin Island until the late 1800’s was a First Nation Peoples Reservation and it wasn’t until the mid 1800’s that white settlers arrived on the island. Most of the population he explained is on the eastern end of the island and the population swells in the summer months and drops again in the winter. “I have been mayor since 1972, and was on the council before that. All of Manitoulin depend heavily on tourism and summer people. ”
Mayor Hunt said until WWII that there was no highway and that much of the traffic was by boat. “The lake would freeze from Christmas to Easter. The first train traffic was in 1911.”
He said the train carried livestock like the boats. We mentioned that we noticed how the pasture is surrounded by split rail fences and he noted that when he was a boy that wild turkeys mixed among the cattle and there was a plant in Gore Bay that processed poultry including the turkeys. “The plant closed during the War.”
The Mayor was a fascinating fellow and we enjoyed talking with him and appreciated his time!
Across the street from his store was an interesting church, St. John The Evangelist that as part of it’s pulpit includes the bow of a pleasure boat that floundered in a storm in the North Channel. Four lives were lost and they honor those four by including this as part of the nautical theme of this church that was once a warehouse. Built originally in 1898, it was converted to a church in 1936.
We saw a lighthouse in Kagawong that was built in 1894. The lighthouse is also across the street from the marina.
Bridal Veil Falls!
Bridal Veil Falls is one of the sights I kept seeing pictures of on Twitter on Shannon’s page. This was a must see for me. There are two ways to get to it, one a steep staircase, the other a moderate hike. We choose the hike from a parking lot near the mill. It was a fun walk. The waterfall itself is 35 feet in height, fed from interior Lake Kagawong. The water is lovely and the trees kept us shaded and cool on the walk.
The Gore Bay area was a fun stop. We headed to Buoys Eatery which Shannon had also recommended. We had a great view of the North Channel and some awesome pizza. After lunch, we stopped in and out of some little shops. Sadly during our visit most of the museums were not yet open for the season, but we were able to drive down and look at the Janet Head lighthouse that was built in 1879 and automated in 1955. Although we couldn’t go in, we were able to admire this beautiful piece of history from the outside.
After some time in Gore Bay, we headed back to the Perivale Guesthouse for a rest. I made reservations for dinner at Meldrum Bay Inn located at the eastern tip of the island. After some downtime, we headed out on a touring drive and took in glorious scenery along the way. I love the history of this inn. The website states, “Meldrum Bay was once a bustling logging and mill town, named after a small town in Scotland. In times past, ships ferried freight and passengers the eighteen miles across the North Channel from Blind River and from Southern Ontario and Michigan, steamships loaded the locally-milled lumber on the Meldrum Bay docks, and commercial fishermen and yachtsman kept the wharfingers busy. The Inn was built by the Victoria Harbor Company in 1876. In July 1891 Mr. James McDonald from southern Ontario purchased the building and in 1899 leased it to Mr. James Fitzpatrick. Mr. Fitzpatrick named the building the Grand Manitoulin Hotel, and he purchased the hotel in 1906. Over the years the name changed to Meldrum Bay Hotel and Meldrum Bay Inn & Restaurant, however, the spirit of this old lady has not changed yet.”
We celebrated my husband’s birthday dinner at the inn, and the food was excellent as was the beauty of the inn. We walked across the street to a little inlet after dinner and just enjoyed the peace of the boardwalk.
Sunrises, sunsets, pastures with split rail like design fences, no fast food restaurants, First Nation culture, art galleries, history and more await you. If you are looking for a place to go to slow down, get away and rest, this is the place. Manitoulin Island is a place of water and trees, hills and rocky terrain and peace.