Things to do on a summertime visit to the village of Kagawong on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada.
UPDATED – AUGUST 2021
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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.
Read 15 of the Best Things Do To on Manitoulin Island for additional ideas for your Manitoulin Island vacation.
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 fun, family-friendly things to do in Kagawong this summer.
Visit 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 teen daughter’s favourite things to do in the village is rent a kayak and take to the water. In past years, there have also been canoes and stand-up paddle boards available to rent by the hour, half-day, day or week.
Summer 2021 – there are no rentals available due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Enjoy the Public Beach
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 as well as a children’s playground and ice cream cones are available 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.
If you would rather cool off with an ice cream cone then head to Bridal Veil Variety across the street from the falls for a refreshing scoop or two.
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. For the summer of 2021, there is also a special exhibit on the Empress of Ireland ocean liner which sank near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in 1914. Of the 1,477 people on board the ship, 1,012 died making it the worst peacetime marine disaster in Canadian history.
Summer 2021 – Due to COVID-19 restrictions, masks are required inside the museum and the number of guests at one time is limited.
Shop at the Farmer’s Market
During the summer months, visitors and locals can shop for fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, crafts and more at the Kagawong Farmer’s Market open on Wednesdays 10 am – 3 pm.
Billings Connection Trail
If you’re interested in learning more about the history and heritage of the area then be sure to check out the Billings Connection Trail. Created in 2017, the trail’s plaques highlight the heritage and history of the Anishinaabeg and settler residents and also include a series of outdoor public sculptures. Many are located in the village and can be seen on foot while those elsewhere in the township are easier to reach by car or bicycle.
Complimentary trilingual maps (English, French and Anishinaabemowin) showing all the spots on the Billings Connections Trail are available – we picked one up at the museum.
Shopping in Kagawong
Artisans by the Bay is a newly opened shop in the Marina featuring local arts, crafts and souvenirs. Another charming shop is Fiddleheads at The Carter House which carries a selection of souvenirs and local products as well as antiques.
Grab a Bite To Eat
Summer 2021 – Main Street Cafe is open as a drive-through Main Street Express restaurant only.
One of our favourite places to eat on the island is Main Street Cafe, located in an old school house on the hill, as you’re coming into Kagawong. The cozy cafe has a fun music theme with interesting memorabilia that the owner has collected hanging on the walls. The cafe offers a menu of breakfast sandwiches available until 11 am and delicious lunchtime paninis and other sandwiches.
Currently open 11am – 3pm for lunch only. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Where to Stay in Kagawong
The Carter House is a lovely adults-only bed and breakfast located in a heritage home just steps from Bridal Veil Falls. The guest rooms have been extensively renovated and feature private ensuite bathrooms, queen-size beds and free wifi. Gourmet breakfast can be enjoyed in the dining room or outside on the wraparound porch.
Looking for a hotel elsewhere on Manitoulin Island? Check rates and reviews on TripAdvisor.
Additional information about Kagawong and other communities on Manitoulin Island can be found on the Manitoulin Tourism website.
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