Pamela Hamel, Foods by Nature
Manitoulin is a haven for epicurean travellers with a taste for land and lake and yes, everything here is Instagram worthy! You’re on Island time now, so sit back and enjoy this small bite mission to the World’s largest freshwater Island and check out all the offerings at Destination Manitoulin Island. The northern end of the Niagara Escarpment is recognized as a World Biosphere Reserve. With its pristine setting, 100 inland lakes, and a handful of freshwater fisheries whose wild caught and farmed trout can be found on the plates of distinguished five star restaurants. White fish tacos or classic fish & chips from the popular eatery, Lake Huron Fish and Chips, are quintessential to a feast experience in Northeast Ontario.
In every community and in this case, an Island community, you’ll find a person dedicated to growing their own, preserving heirlooms and sharing that bounty and knowledge with the likes of you and me. Meet Maja Mielonen, from Mindemoya. A woman whose hitching adventure landed her on Manitoulin Island nearly 20 years ago. Her mission – to revegetate and naturalize “a ditch” in the middle of the town. She claims milk wash from over a hundred years of dairy farmers’ washing their milk vaults concentrated in the so called ditch gave her a fertile land to cultivate her passions, both gardening and in hospitality. Over the years she set roots by planting fruit bearing trees, from quinze to plums, crab apple and sour cherry. At her garden bistro, patrons explore her kitchen garden, sip creations of blended herbs and fruits for cordial style beverages, sumac lemonade and sorbets. What could be more refreshing on a hot summer day with your cycle trek with Manitoulin Cycling.
A trip to the Maja’s is for earthy menu seekers. She shares her fond memories of a new generation of visitors. Millennials who once came with their parents are now returning with their children for an escape – to take a pause, to simply jump back into the water, hear the birds and generally connect with nature.
After a long day’s pedal or hike, you’ll want to kick back and recharge with a couple of pints on a patio. The Island features two distinctly small batch handcrafted brews – Manitoulin Brewing Company in Little Current and Split Rail Brewing Co., in Gore Bay, Ontario.
Split Rail was founded by two beer loving ladies, Andrea Smith and Elenaor Charlton who created the first brewing company in 2021. After a kick starter campaign and extensive search for an ideal site, Split Rail launched in scenic Gore Bay on the shores of Lake Huron’s North Channel. Be sure to stop at their tasting room for beer samples, merch and brewery tours. Food truck onsite for all the good grub!
Manitoulin Island Brewery has an urban vibe with their galvanized silo donned with patio string lights and high top tables. It’s the perfect setting for the post-day adventure. Be sure to try the Cup + Saucer English ale if you’re pairing tastes and scenic hikes!
Families and groups will find home cooking at its finest with a variety of menus like the Mindemoya Grill and Chill, Carol and Earl’s, School House Restaurant and Garden Gate Family restaurant. Road trippers and picnic goers can find everything they need at The Meat Boss in Providence Bay and many other markets and grocers.
There’s much to see and do on Manitoulin, whether by bike or boat at varying seasons of the year. During Civic weekend, the Haweater Festival in Little Current is full of life. The oddly sounding but authentic, Haweater, is a designation given to a person born on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. This is a celebration marked by the production and sale of Hawberry flavoured products – like ice cream, jelly, and indeed a Haweaters Brew from Manitoulin Brewing.
Ready for a Canadiana spring get-away? Head to the Island’s Maple Ridge Farm for the annual Maple Syrup festival, located on the north shore just west of Gore Bay. Just as wines in the Niagara escarpment can vary, Maple Syrup is no different. The North Shore’s limestone base imparts a wonderful clear flavor for this maple syrup. The sugar house with its billowy steam awaits you.
Treat yourself at Manitoulin Chocolate Works! Whether your taste buds are craving something salty, sweet, crunchy or fruity, the artisan chocolate makers will have a variety of treats to satisfy any craving. Creative confections from their chocolatiers make it hard to find a favorite. At Finnia chocolate they pride themselves with single origin bean-to-bar craft chocolate. Although they don’t offer a store front, the dark stuff can be found at the sugarbush coffee house, the Island Jar, Outfitters Manitoulin Island and Huron Island Time to name a few. A favourite among campers is the Manitoulin Mint Cocoa tea.
An Island escape awaits, there’s much to do and taste. Be sure to share your Island feast on Manitoulin.