Cold Days, Cozy Nights, and Snowy Adventures: Winter on Manitoulin Island

by | Dec 21, 2021 | Big Blog, Nature and Outdoors | 0 comments

Manitoulin Island is a great destination for a getaway. Its wide open roads, beautiful scenery, great camping options, plus infinite beaches and bays and many ice cream shops make it a one-stop shop for summer fun. Add museums, cafes, theatre, arts and culture and you can spend a weekend or a whole season uncovering its riches.

But have you ever visited Manitoulin in winter? The bustle of the summer season disappears – and the beauty remains. From breathtaking ice sculptures at Bridal Veil Falls to the quiet solitude of a day on the trails – not to mention the excellent stargazing – the island becomes a peaceful winter wonderland of outdoor adventure.



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Behind the falls at Bridal Veil, photo Peter Baumgarten


Getting There 

And getting there is part of the adventure! In winter, the historic swing bridge across the North Channel becomes the only access to the island from the mainland. Built in 1913, this unique bridge is the only one of its kind in Ontario. The drive to the bridge from Espanola down highway 6 is one of the prettiest in Northeastern Ontario, with long sweeping curves through quartz cliffs and the stunning, sparkling flats along Great La Cloche Island and Goat Island. Make sure you’ve got winter tires on and a winter safety kit in your trunk!




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A Swing Bridge sunset, photo Terence Hayes


Nordic Skiing

Once you’re on the island, it’s time to choose your own adventure. Try some Nordic (also known as cross-country) skiing at the Manitoulin Island Nordic Ski Club. Breathe in the fresh crisp air and enjoy 10 km of groomed hilly trails just 14km from Little Current. 


Manitoulin is also a top destination for snowshoers, so make sure to check out the Cup & Saucer Trail, one of Ontario’s most popular trails, with over 12 km of hardwood bush to explore. McLean’s Park in the township of Assiginack offers 100 acres of unique woodland, with four well-groomed trails running through beautiful snow covered forests.




Looking to hit the trails but with a little more speed? Manitoulin Island has over 500 km of well maintained snowmobile trails that will take you through the snowy bush all over the island, and give you some incredible views across the frozen lakes. Trails generally open in January when there’s enough snow on the ground.



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Ice Fishing

Don’t leave the island before you hit the frozen lakes for some incredible ice fishing. Manitoulin itself is the largest freshwater island in the world, but within the island are a hundred smaller lakes, just jumping with fish. With some of the best ice fishing conditions in Ontario, Lake Huron and the North Channel are a winter angler’s dream! In addition to the inland lakes, you can certainly fill your day out with a variety of species including perch, rainbow trout, walleye, whitefish, northern pike and even salmon or steelhead. Dress warm and cast the day away! If you’re a beginner or feel like a little company, check out an ice fishing charter from Wass Tours. Fully guided snowmobile and ATV trips are also available. 

Need to know what’s in season? Fish Ontario provides all the details on Ontario Fishing Regulations for zone 10. 




After a day on the trails, curl up in front of your woodstove in a private Stargazing cabin at Manitoulin Eco Park DarkSky Preserve,  located in Tehkummah just 35 minutes from the Little Current swing bridge. On the best nights, visitors get to see exceptional dark skies showing 7.5+ magnitude stars. In winter, you may even see the Northern Lights, as the best time to catch the aurora borealis is from October to March.



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Manitoulin Skies, photo Amanda Thirkill


Warm Up with a Hot Drink

Manitoulin’s first specialty and locally owned coffee house, Loco Beanz, is known for their grilled panini and sandwiches as well as signature hot drinks. Another local café is the Manitoulin Coffee Co. with locally roasted beans imported from small-scale farmers. The Island Jar serves hot drinks, smoothies and a lunch menu.



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Keep it Cozy

If you aren’t quite ready to leave after your day on the island, relax at the Manitoulin Hotel & Conference Centre in Little Current and dine at North 46 Restaurant. You’ll have stunning views of LaCloche Mountain range and the North Channel of Lake Huron. North 46 Restaurant offers a unique dining experience that is sure to end your day in a delicious way!


If you’re up for a little more adventure, head out to the very western tip of the island and the Meldrum Bay Inn and Restaurant. The Inn has welcomed visitors for almost 150 years! A perfect stay for a quiet cozy night to end your day before tomorrow’s adventure.




About Northeastern Ontario Tourism

Northeastern Ontario Tourism (NeONT) is a not-for profit organization dedicated to promoting the region as a premier travel destination with the goal of increasing tourism revenue for our Partners, and the region as a whole.