ALL ABOUT TRAVELLING
The Middle Lands of Manitoulin Island
HOW-TO TRAVEL THE MIDDLE LANDS
Heading southwest on Hwy 540 from AOK we follow the shoreline travelling through farmland and escarpment, and soon come to Honora Bay. This beautiful countryside makes for amazing trails for the Honora Bay Riding Stables, who offer trail rides as well as summer camp for horse lovers.
Next we arrive at the intersection of Hwy 540 and the western entrance to Bidwell Road, which quickly leads back to Green Bay and beyond. Just across the highway is the cemetery and log cabin church among the pines of the long forgotten settler community of Cold Springs.
A few hundred yards south of the Bidwell Road exit on Hwy 540 is the entrance to the Cup and Saucer - Michigiwadinong Trail, one of Northern Ontario’s premiere attractions and well worth the visit. The Cup and Saucer - Michigiwadinong Trail has become iconic of Manitoulin Island.
Just before descending into the valley of West Bay and the community of M’Chigeeng First Nation, we come to Weengushk Film Institute, one of the many unique national professional training programs on Manitoulin Island. It shouldn't be surprising that professional artists choose Manitoulin Island as a home base for training, the environment itself is an inspiration. We also find the Pochenko Clown Training of the Manitoulin Conservatory of Performance Training near Evansville, the Indigenous Arts Training at the Debajehmujig Storytellers in Manitowaning and Wikwemikong, and Manitoulin Permaculture in the Honora Bay area.
Descending the hill into M’Chigeeng you will notice a series of billboards representing the artists and crafters of the community, and the location of their studios. M’Chigeeng has a reputation for its visual artists, and evidence of this is throughout the community. Visit the round Catholic Church and let the tour guide tell you about the artists represented. Cross the street and visit the Ojibway Cultural Foundation and discover what exhibitions are currently being presented, and ask about the studio’s and shops of the local artists.
The stop sign at the intersection in M’Chigeeng is a good place to get your bearings, and you can pull over at the convenience store and gas station. Looking down Hwy 551 to the left you can see the Ojibway Cultural Foundation and across the street the round church. This route will take us south through the community of M’Chigeeng and onward to Mindemoya and Providence Bay. But before heading there, we will go straight through on Hwy 540 to the Village of Kagawong.
The historic village of Kagawong is one of Manitoulin’s most picturesque. Part of Kagawong’s appeal lies in its geography. The village is built into a valley with its downtown sitting adjacent to the waters of Mudge Bay. The North Channel lies in the distance. The trail and flower-lined Kagawong River flows into the bay from spectacular Bridal Veil Falls. It is from this stroke of nature that the village takes its name, Kagawong, meaning in Ojibwe “where the mists rise from the falling waters”. The architecture of the homes and businesses is timeless and beautiful.
The area around the top of the falls and the beginning of the Kagawong River’s journey to Horseshoe Bay and Lake Kagawong, is lovely, convenient, and busy! From water craft rentals to a General Store, from groceries to live bait this is certainly one of the visitor hot spots on the Island.
Another approach with many great surprises, is to drive directly down into the village and park at the Old Mill and Museum parking lot. From here you can enjoy the museum and the shops of the village, the art gallery and the beach, but also you must check out the Rivers End Trail and Park.
For those hiking down from the falls this is where they will end, but it is also a beautiful and inspiring start. Local artists and environmentalists have joined with partners and funders to restore the health of the river ecology and manage the erosion of banks, but also to add some inspirational art to contemplate and raise your spirits.
Besides the natural beauty of Kagawong, visitors will enjoy the sense of community to be found here. A pavilion and giant chess board lie next to the sand beach and a number of unique shops line the village’s main street.
From Kagawong we could continue on 540 West to Gore Bay and beyond, but we are going to retreat back to M’Chigeeng so we can resume our journey south through the Middle Lands.
Hwy 541 South will take us through M’Chigeeng First Nation until we join the shores of Mindemoya Lake on the right. In doing so we pass the Rockville Road turn-off which will take us to Newby’s Bay of Lake Manitou. Highway 541 will continue to take us past Ketchankookem Trail and Lakeshore Road which wind around Mindemoya Lake and is the location of many great cottages and resorts for family vacations. There is also a public boat ramp into Lake Mindemoya as well as a fine golf course.
In fact, positioned centrally to the Island’s three largest lakes, it’s no wonder Mindemoya has the feel of a vacation town - a place where cottagers and vacationers come in for supplies, for a meal or a fresh cup of coffee. It also feels like it is at the centre. Mindemoya – In the Middle. From hair care to pet care, you can find it here. The community is also a great place to stay active, with organized tournaments and bonspiels throughout the year from golf to baseball to curling and hockey.
The intersection in the middle of town of Hwy 542 and 551 is pretty much set to the compass:
North on 551 (Yonge Street) to M’Chigeeng, Kagawong, Little Current and Bidwell Road.
South on Yonge Street to Blue Road and Government Road.
East on 542 to Big Lake, Sandfield, Tehkummah and South Baymouth.
West on 542/551 combined towards Silver Water, Gore Bay, Evansville and Meldrum Bay.
From this intersection most things are walking distance – including the Welcome Centre and Pioneer Museum where you can find out about all of the events and attractions in the Municipality of Central Manitoulin.
Heading West on 542 out of Mindemoya we again meet the shore of beautiful Mindemoya Lake and follow it for a bit before heading inland and through the pastoral agricultural lands. At the intersection of 542 and Monument Road we find the Manitoulin Cenotaph and the War Memorial. This is a beautiful and fitting setting for peaceful contemplation. In the names forever remembered in the granite inscriptions of this memorial park we find male and female, young and old, native and non-native, farmer and fisherman.
Within a few minutes further west on Hwy 542/551 we come to a stop sign at Dryden’s Corner and this is where the highways part again. Hwy 542 will take us to Spring Bay and beyond to the Western Lands of Manitoulin, but first we will take a trip south on 551 to Providence Bay.
After stopping at Manitoulin Meat Boss just past Dryden’s Corner on 551, we continue south towards the shores of Lake Huron and Providence Bay. It is interesting to see this area from above – over the centuries the shoreline continues to move south as either the Island is rising or the water is getting lower. You can see the sand dune beaches of previous Providence Bay shorelines one arc after another, for hundreds of meters inland. Arriving at the edge of the village we come first to the Agricultural Fairgrounds and home to the annual Providence Bay Fair. This is event is iconic Manitoulin/Northern Ontario rural entertainment. The fair was established in 1884 and has been running ever since. Now a three day event, visit their website of the same name to find out a bit about their history and the kinds of events held. The midway is a must!
Providence Bay is undergoing a bit of renaissance with several new businesses opening and some beautiful town landscaping. It is still a favourite place to go with a family or a large group - the playground on the beach, the boardwalk, the Discovery Centre, the restaurants, cafe and snack bar. The village has a community hall and a curling rink which hosts a variety of events throughout the year, and there is a range of accommodations from campgrounds and cottage rentals to the Island’s only hostel – The Auberge Inn.
Jumping back to Dryden’s Corner, we will now continue our final stretch of road in the Middle Lands as we travel through Spring Bay. This rural community can boast of some well-established art galleries, lakeside resorts and restaurants. In the village itself a convenience store and gas station with propane, ice, bait, and anything else you need.
The secondary roads are beautiful drives through country side and along lake-shore. Always an opportunity to see wildlife, or to just pull over and enjoy your surroundings. Perivale Road East or West is a good example, as is Poplar Road which winds its way over hills and around bends – a great bike ride and little traffic. Like Tehkummah, we are now entering another region with a growing Amish community so be cautious of horse drawn carriages.
From this location on the Island, if we were headed to Meldrum Bay we would take the Union Road exit and head directly for Evansville where we can join Hwy 540. However, we want to begin our travels of The Western Lands in Gore Bay, so we will continue on 542 to the very end where it meets Hwy 540. This is the entrance to Gore Bay.