We heard that visiting Manitoulin Island transports you back in time, a time a little slower, a time to breathe in the good air, a time to say good morning when you pass by. That is why we choose to visit Manitoulin with our bicycles – traveling a little slower ourselves and discovering the answer to why cycling on Manitoulin Island should be on your bucket list.
We saw that the hard top back roads are indeed ideal for road cycling as they are in very good condition, with very light traffic on this predominantly flat island. They led us to many wide bays with pristine waters where we often found ourselves the only ones on the beach. We discovered that this lovely island is a place with the right conditions for many different orchids, all sorts of berries, twisted white cedar trees, and fragile little rock moss flowers that crept out from the cracks in the world famous Alvars found at Misery Bay Provincial Park where we hiked one day. This large island still offers room for many different bird species. We often found it to be a place so quiet that we heard the birds’ wings in the air before we spotted them.
In the quaint towns we found many small ‘Mom and Pop’ restaurants that served us home cooked food. We ate Purvis Whitefish fresh out of Lake Huron, and were treated to a feast of wild leeks from the underbrush when we cycled in early spring. We fell in love with this place and decided to come back to cycle in the fall, as we wanted to see the Sandhill cranes gathering and feeding on the fallen grain while awaiting the right winds for their migration to the south.
Our “Manitoulin Island and LaCloche Mountains Cycling Routes and Road Map” that we purchased on the ferry kiosk helped us greatly. In the beginning we followed some of the many route loop suggestions found on the map. After a few days it guided us to find the connections between the many back roads found throughout Manitoulin. While riding in the crisp fall air we were entering vividly coloured Maple bush tunnels, red carpets under our wheels and the bright canopy overhead.
Our spirits were lifted all along the many roads while we admired nature all around us as well as the many art galleries in local artists’ homes we visited tucked away along our rides. We stayed in B&B’s, in motels, and sometimes a couple of nights at cottages right on the lake. We are planning to do some camping next year as we found nearly every little town offers great camping options.
I believe we saw at least 3 golf courses, two horse riding stables as well as canoes, kayaks and sailboats on many of the 108 inland lakes and the famous North Channel. In the Expositor, the local paper, we read about the diverse weekend activities offered all summer long around this wonderful island. Someday we want to experience the largest Pow Wow held on the long weekend in August in Wikwemikong on the same weekend as Haweater weekend in Little Current. We will definitely sign up for one of the Annual Manitoulin Passage Rides that the Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates (MICA) put on the first week in June.
When we stopped at Maja’s organic Bakery to get some healthy lunch snacks, she told us that Hwy 551 will have paved shoulders in 2016 and that Hwy 6 was their first lobbying success when it received paved shoulders in 2011 as a provincial pilot project. How did she know that? Well, it turns out that Maja is the Chair of MICA (Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocates). As cyclists we can only say good things about Manitoulin as a cycling destination and we know we will be back year after year.
The Ferry ride that brought us over from Tobermory is one of the many good memories from our travel to Manitoulin. In Spring and Fall we did not need to make reservations for lodging or the ferry but in the high season you may want to do so.
One of the things on our Manitoulin bucket list is to take a ride with the North Channel Cruise Line out of Little Current. It will bring us and our bicycles over to Killarney to explore the park that was a favourite backdrop for the paintings of the famous Group of Seven.
When we get back to Little Current from Killarney we want to take advantage of the paved shoulders through the LaCloche Mountains all the way to Espanola, as we love to ride in the hills to train. The vistas are quite spectacular throughout these hills, we were told.