Weekend Touring – Toronto to Manitoulin Island and Back
Whoever came up with the idea that a weekend should consist of only two days obviously wasn’t into motorcycle touring. Everybody knows when it comes to touring, three day weekends are where it’s at. A day to get there, a day to explore, and a day to get back. Take Manitoulin Island for example – a personal favourite.
From Toronto it’s a 600 km jaunt one way; so to do it right, three days is the magic number. Or is it? Following a recent conversation with Siri, my virtual assistant from the office in the cloud, the idea of a 2-day, 1-night, Greater Toronto Area to Manitoulin Island excursion materialized.
“Siri, how far to Tobermory?”
“Three and a half hours or 282 km.”
“What time does the ferry depart for Manitoulin Island?”
Hmmmm, sounds doable. Only one way to find out—road trip anyone?
Toronto to Manitoulin Island
Rise and shine! Making the 1:30 pm MS Chi-Cheemaun departure should be no problem but this is a tour not a commute, so an early start means time to explore some roads less traveled along the Georgian Bay and Lake Huron coasts. As expected, the ride up is a pleasure and we take our spots at the front of the loading line with 30 minutes to spare.
Yes, first in line. Not because we are special, as it’s just ferry protocol, but we can’t help feeling just a little like parking lot royalty. Being late September, we took a chance on just showing up but during midsummer, a reservation is strongly recommended.
We park our bike in the belly of the boat. “Maybe you should add another tie-down, might be a rough crossing.” The parking attendants suggestion keeps replaying in my head as we watch grey swells roll by from the comfort of the cafeteria. On a bluebird day, the crossing between Tobermory and Manitoulin is one of the best experiences in the province. Today it’s a little rough, but as you know, it’s all part of the adventure.
Day One – South Baymouth to Little Current
The first ones on are the first ones off, and by 3:30 pm we roll out onto the open roads of Manitoulin Island. There is enough daylight left, even in September, that any destination on the Island is within reach. We take our time meandering north along Highway 6 taking in the sights such as Ten Mile Point, which offers up spectacular views towards Killarney, and the Little Current Swing Bridge, the gateway to Manitoulin Island’s northern exit.
No matter your overnight accommodations preference – beachside, off the beaten path, lodge, or cottage – options are plentiful and varied. We opt for a comfortable bar stool at the Anchor Inn Hotel in Little Current the day’s ‘end of the line’. Bar stool aside, the Anchor Inn’s offer of comfortable accommodations and delicious food are reasons enough to spend the night. The downstairs Pub with locally brewed beers on tap definitely helps to seal the deal.
Day Two – Touring the Island
Day two finds us homeward bound in a roundabout kind of way. The MS Chi-Cheemaun is set to depart for Tobermory at 3:50 pm, leaving us plenty of time to explore the island. We start off with some locally roasted coffee and a breakfast burrito at the coffee house three doors down from the Inn. Then it’s time to see the sights.
Our first stop is at Bridal Veil Falls – perhaps Manitoulin’s most well known tourist stop. The streaming veil of water is spectacular and we get to share the experience on this late September day in the company of no one.
But it’s time to ride! After all that’s why we are here. We make our way west as far as the road will take us along empty roads and under blue sky. The company of water is never far away. A short break in Meldrum Bay leaves us with a relaxed ‘off the beaten trail’ impression (note to self, must come back and stay a while).
Finally, it’s time to turn for the ferry and home, but not before a lunch stop in Gore Bay and a bit of beach time on the south shore in Providence Bay. With already 267 km’s on today’s odometer, we take our place again at the front of the ferry line. The belly of the boat awaits our arrival. The ferry crossing will be a nice break from the saddle before the final stretch home. With the short fall day, we will be well into darkness when we arrive.
I still think all weekends should be three days long, but if two days is all we have it’s nice to know that the GTA to Manitoulin Island via Tobermory and the MS Chi-Cheemaun is not only a possibility, but an exceptionally enjoyable adventure.
What are your favourite weekend motorcycle trips? Share your routes and photos with us in the Facebook comments, or by tagging with #neontario!