Manitoulin Island, located in the north channel of Lake Huron on the Ontario side, is the largest freshwater island in the world at 2,766 square kilometres. The island attracts visitors from around the world as it is a nature lover's paradise with its rugged landscape, extensive hiking trails and 108 inland lakes. During the summer months, the village of Kagawong is one of the most popular places to visit on the island.
The word Kagawong comes from the Ojibwe language and means "where mists rise from the falling waters" - a nod to the ever-popular Bridal Veil Falls. Kagawong advertises itself as Ontario's Prettiest Village and there's no denying that it is a lovely spot. The village's population is only around 500 during the off-season but those numbers soar during the summer when cottagers move in and day-trippers arrive by car or boat. We have a cottage in the village that has been in the family for decades so spend quite a bit of time enjoying summers in the village. These are our recommendations for 5 things to do in Kagawong this summer.
Bridal Veil Falls
The main attraction drawing day visitors to Kagawong is Bridal Veil Falls which is located along Highway 540 near the entrance to the village. This lovely falls, which is about 10-12 metres high, is formed by the Kagawong River cascading over a limestone cliff into a plunge pool below and is named for its resemblance to a bridal veil. There is a parking lot and a picnic area with restrooms near the top of the falls. Visitors arriving from the parking lot use a sturdy metal staircase to descend to the base of the falls. The falls can also be reached via a walking trail from the village that follows alongside the river through a forested area. Visitors often wade or swim in the basin of the falls (depending on water levels at the time) or walk on the rocks behind the falls for another vantage point.
Rent a Canoe or Kayak
One of my 14 year-old daughter's favourite things to do in the village is rent a kayak from North Wind Adventure located at the Kagawong marina. They also have canoes and stand-up paddle boards available to rent by the hour, half-day, day or week from their shop at the marina. Rentals may also be arranged at a second location across from Bridal Veil Falls for anyone who would prefer to paddle on the Kagawong River instead of the lake.
If everyone in your family isn't interested in heading out on the water then they can enjoy the public beach next to the marina while waiting. There's a lovely sand beach and a small slide in the water that kids love. There's also an outlet of Farquhar's Dairy (the best ice cream in Northeastern Ontario) at the marina.
Visit the Sailor's Church
A must-see for visitors to Kagawong, is St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, also known as "the Sailor's Church". Located along the shores of the North Channel next to the marina, the quaint little church is more than 120 years old and has an interesting history. The unique little church has nautical themed stained glass windows and features anchors and life preservers as decor. The pulpit in the church is shaped like the bow of a boat and was built from the wreckage of a ship that sunk in Mudge Bay more than 50 years ago.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
If a craving for something sweet hits while visiting Kagawong, then head directly to Manitoulin Chocolate Works and you will not be disappointed. Located in one of the village's historic buildings, Manitoulin Chocolate Works has been selling delicious handmade chocolates, other treats and freshly roasted coffee since 1998. All the products are delicious and made with the finest and freshest ingredients but we recommend the Peanut Smoothie Bar, the Mint Meltaway, and the Chocolate-Dipped Oreos. If you're looking for a unique souvenir then you can't go wrong with the custom-made chocolate shaped like Manitoulin Island available in milk or dark chocolate.
Visit the Heritage Museum
Another worthwhile stop is The Old Mill Heritage Centre, located in downtown Kagawong along the waterfront. The centre used to be a pulp mill providing paper for Sears Roebuck catalogues in Michigan and now is home to an art gallery, the municipal office and the Old Mill Heritage Centre Museum. The museum has an interesting collection of artifacts and multi-media exhibits relating to the history of this area. As part of the Canada 150 anniversary celebrations this summer, the museum has also mounted an exhibit on former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson including many items on loan from the National Archives. The Nobel Peace Prize recipient was the Member of Parliament for Algoma East (a large riding which includes Manitoulin Island) from 1948 until his retirement in 1968.
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Additional information about Kagawong and other communities on Manitoulin Island can be found on the Manitoulin Tourism website.
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