Summer may be long gone, but even the cold weather can’t slow down the action here on Manitoulin Island. It’s a winter playground, and the conditions attract all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts to our backyard! Now is a great time to have a unique experience on the Island – try one (or all!) of the top five winter activities!
Surrounding Manitoulin is some of the best ice fishing conditions in Ontario (after all, it is an island!). Lake Huron and the North Channel are a paradise for winter anglers, and beneath the thick winter ice, you may snag yourself some perch, rainbow trout, lake trout, walleye, whitefish, northern pike, or even some salmon or steelhead.
You don’t even have to venture too far – with over 100 lakes just on the Island itself, we have more than enough space for those who don’t let the cold keep them off the water!
Manitoulin Island is a top destination for snowshoers. Specifically, most people come out to experience McLean’s Park in the Township of Assiginack. McLean’s Park is a 100-acre area with four well-groomed trails running through beautiful forests. These trails stand out because they take enthusiasts through a nice mix of woodland scenery, with signage on the trails pointing out the different types of deciduous and evergreen trees. Some species, like the ironwood tree, are found in very few spots on the Island!
While you won’t find many downhill ski-worthy hills here, Manitoulin Island is a great spot for another activity: Nordic skiing, better known as cross-country skiing! This low-impact aerobic exercise lets more people cruise about and see the Island. Some of the best cross-country skiing terrains are located here, maintained by local volunteer haweaters who have a passion for the great outdoors.
You’ll find the Manitoulin Nordic Ski Club roughly 14 kilometres west of Little Current in an area back from the road, letting the members connect to some incredible trails. They look after over 10 kilometres of hilly trails, allowing skiers to explore the wondrous paths with ease and safety in mind. $5 will give you access to all the trails – this helps the Club raise the necessary money to keep these areas open!
Manitoulin Island has over 500 kilometres of gorgeous, well-maintained snowmobile trails that take people through the snowy bush and provide incredible lakeside views. The routes usually open in January, when the temperatures are right for keeping enough snow on the ground to support sleds.
In a characteristic show of community, many local landowners allow snowmobilers to use their property to connect the trails, unifying residents and sledders with the promise of fresh powder and a clear path. Don’t take your snowmobile off the trails and onto private land without permission!
Do you love the night sky and don’t mind bundling up? Clear winter nights on Manitoulin Island give skywatchers some of the best views of the galaxy anywhere in the country. You may even see the Northern Lights, as the best time to catch the aurora borealis is from October to March. It’s a beautiful phenomenon, so grab a thermos of hot cocoa and make the trek over to the Dark Sky Preserve in Gordon’s Park!