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Manitoulin Island is large island in northern Lake Huron in the province of Ontario. It is the largest freshwater island in the world. 12,600 people live permanently on the island.


Bridal Veil Falls on the island


In 1952 archeologist Thomas E. Lee discovered Sheguiandah on the island, a prehistoric site. During excavation, he found artifacts of the Paleo-Indian and Archaic periods, dating at least to 10,000 BCE and possibly to 30,000 years ago. Additional studies were undertaken by a team he led from the National Museum of Canada in succeeding years. Popular interest in the finds was so high that it contributed to Ontario's passing legislation in 1953 to protect its archeological sites.

A team performed excavations again in the early 1990s, applying new methods of analysis from botany and other scientific disciplines. They concluded the site was at least 9500 years old, making it one of the most significant in Ontario.

Manitoulin means spirit island in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe language). The island is considered sacred by the Native Anishinaabe people, who identify as the "People of the Three Fires." This loose confederation is made up of the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi tribes.

The North Channel was part of the route used by the French colonial voyageurs and coureurs des bois to reach Lake Superior. The first known European to settle on the island was Father Joseph Poncet, a French Jesuit, who set up a mission near Wiikwemkoong in 1648. The Jesuits called the island "Isle de Ste-Marie". The endemic Eurasian infectious disease carried by the visitors had a devastating effect on the island's population, as most Natives had no natural immunity to the new diseases. They suffered so many deaths in the ensuing epidemics of smallpox, measles and other diseases, that their societies were disrupted.

In addition, the Five Nations of the Iroquois began raiding the island and area to try to control the fur trade with the French. As part of what was called the Beaver Wars, the Iroquois drove the Anishinaabe people from the island by 1650. According to Anishinaabe oral tradition, to purify the island from disease, the people burned their settlements as they left. The island was mostly uninhabited for nearly 150 years.

Native people (Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi) began to return to the island following the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States. They ceded the island to the British Crown in 1836; the government set aside the land as a refuge for Natives. In 1838 Jean-Baptiste Proulx re-established a Roman Catholic mission. The Jesuits took over the mission in 1845.

In 1862, the government opened up the island to settlement by non-Native people by the Manitoulin Island treaty. As the Wikwemikong chief did not accept this treaty, his people's reserve was held back from being offered for development. That reserve remains unceded. On August 7, 1975 the Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve reasserted their claim to sovereignty over the islands off the east end of Manitoulin Island, declaring, "Wikwemikong Band has jurisdiction over its reservation lands and surrounding waters."

The province erected an Ontario Historical Plaque on the grounds of the Assiginack Museum to commemorate the Manitoulin Treaties' role in Ontario's history.

Get in[edit]

The swing bridge at Little Current, at the northeastern tip of the island, connects Manitoulin to Ontario's highway network. From there, it is a little less than 2 hours by car to Sudbury and almost six hours by car to Toronto.

From mid-May to mid-October,a ferry called the MS Chi-Cheemaun travels from Tobermory to the village of South Baymouth, at the southeastern tip of the island.

Get around[edit]

Map of Manitoulin Island

There are lots of cyclists on the island but there are no trail systems (Trans Canada Trail). Please ensure that safety procedures are taken as you will have to share the road with cars. There are extensive back roads that are quieter and less traveled than the main highway roads.


  • 1 Providence Bay. The second-largest freshwater beach in Ontario. Free.
  • 2 Treasure Island (Mindemoya). Island in Lake Mindemoya said to be the world's largest island in a lake on an island in a lake. Treasure Island (Q7836693) on Wikidata Treasure_Island_(Ontario) on Wikipedia
  • 3 Misery Bay Nature Reserve Park, P.O. Box 114, Gore Bay (35 km west of Gore Bay, 2 km south of Hwy 540, on Misery Bay Park Road). On an ancient flat rock sea bottom. This unique feature, known as an alvar, presents unusual geological viewing opportunities. The Great Lakes Basin has the only alvars found in North America, and most of the alvars found in the world. Manitoulin Island is on the northern rim of this large land feature. The Manitoulin cluster of alvars are the most significant alvars found anywhere in the world. Of special interest to some will be the relict remains of inland beaches left on the rocks at Misery Bay Park by the retreat of three different great prehistoric lakes. The park centre building is constructed on the most ancient of these relict shorelines. Free.


There is some great hiking on Manitoulin Island the most famous of which is the Cup and Saucer Hiking Trail. Don’t miss out on the spectacular views at McLean’s Mountain Lookout and the Mississagi Lighthouse trail. Bridal Veil Falls and Trail has a picnic area that features huge millstones once used in the Kagawong gristmill. There is also the oddly named Mounted Animal Trail.

Numerous festivals, museums, special events and Pow Wows take place each year such as the Haweater Weekend in Little Current and the Wikwemikong Cultural Festival & Pow Wow, which features international Native Dance competitions, as well as local arts and crafts. The Great Spirit Circle Trail hosts walks where you can discover local plant species and their uses. Join the story telling at the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation.




  • 1 Manitoulin Chocolate Works, 160 Main Street (Kagawong), +1 705 282-0961. 10AM-5PM. The business was born from the inspiration of two sisters with the creative entrepreneurial spirit. It is the only one of its kind and the chocolates created there are naturally just as special.


Go next[edit]

Routes through Manitoulin Island
Ends at Ontario 17.svgTCH-blank.svgEspanola  N Ontario 6.svg S  → ferry → TobermoryOwen Sound

This rural area travel guide to Manitoulin Island is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.