In less than two hours, the Chi’Cheemaun ferry takes you from the northern tip of Bruce Peninsula to South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island. The island has an important native population, it’s an area they’ve inhabited for a very long time.
Our attempts to discover more about the native Ojibwe culture was frustrated when we arrived late Friday afternoon at the cultural centre in M’Chigeeng. To visit, you need to make an appointment and the centre is closed on weekends, so we missed out.
We were able to visit Lillian’s Crafts, a museum and native shop just down the street. The shop offers the customary moccasins, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and various souvenirs. It also offers some fine art work and crafts made by local artisans and lots of items to make pow-wow regalia.
It’s the little museum at the back that is a must-see. It has a collection of over 100 quill boxes, decorative boxes made mostly by women using porcupine quills. It’s a traditional craft unique to this island. I was fascinated by the artistry and the beauty displayed. Down to the smallest details, birds, animals, plants and geometric patterns are expertly depicted.
It’s the private collection of Lillian herself and many of the artists represented have passed on. I was so impressed the first day I went that I forgot to take pictures. I returned the next day arriving just as they were closing. I was kindly allowed in when I explained why I’d come back.
The Cup and Saucer trail took us to the top of this northern section of the Niagara Escarpment. From the various lookouts, you can see east and south over Lake Manitou, the largest lake on the island, and all the way to the horizon. We hiked the red and blue trail sections for a total of 9km through cedar forests, some pin and large sections of deciduous trees, with lots of new maple saplings. It’s the island’s most popular trail so if you go, go early to avoid the crowds. We started at 7 am and met nearly no one until we rejoined the red trail on our way back.
On a perfect summer afternoon, Ken and I rented stand-up paddleboards on Providence Bay, a large cup-shaped bay on the south side of the island. It’s a popular beach with shallow, gin-clear water and fine sand. We rented our boards from SUP Manitoulin, a pop-up shop run by Rob, an Ottawa ex-pat with a passion for watersports. We had a great chat about surfing and big waves in Hawaii.
There are two microbreweries on the island and we visited both, Split Rail Brewing Co.and Manitoulin Brewing Company. The vibe at Manitoulin was better since they had great soul music pumping out of the speakers and a food truck with delicious burgers and brisket on offer. As to the beers, I like what I sampled at both places.
There’s lots more to do on the island but the West beckons and we left the island feeling we’d done it justice.