Bi-izhaa (come) to Manitoulin Island, the heart of North America | Great Lakes Guide
Winona Ominika
  • People and the Lakes


    Bi-izhaa (come) to Manitoulin Island, the heart of North America

Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world. The island touches three bodies of water that surround it: Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, and the North Channel.

In translation, Manitoulin Island is the English name. The traditional name is "Mnidoo Mnis", which means "Spirit Island". This is the name used by the Three Fires Confederacy - a long-standing alliance between the Ojibwe (Chippewa), Odawa (Ottawa), and Potawatomi native tribes. Manitoulin Island also marks the home of the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory.

My name is Winona and I am a summer intern for Swim Drink Fish. I am from Manitoulin Island, from a small town called wikwemikoong Unceded Territory. Though I spent much of my childhood in Sudbury, Ontario, my siblings and I would get to come home to Manitoulin every summer.

Being home meant a lot to me. We spent our summers swimming and exploring the island. Summer also marked the arrival of pow wow season, family gatherings, and community events. All were big and special and still are to me today. The island is a place to connect to my culture and roots. Coming back home is what feels good for my soul and my heart.

During the long weekend in August, the First Nations community of Wiikwemikoong hosts their annual “Wikwemikong Pow wow” now called the “Wiikwemikoong Cultural Festival”. This year, 2019, marked their 59th year. The Cultural festival welcomes anyone eager to experience a memorable and engaging cultural event with the Anishaabek people.

The Wiikwemkoong Cultural Festival is one of the largest, longest-running pow wows in North Eastern North America.The Festival is home to a cultural pavilion, opening up arts, crafts, dances, songs, cuisine, performances, and stories to all. Sharing these experiences has opened up the eyes of many visitors, giving an authentic Indigenous experience.

The saying “Our story, through our lens” is put into practice, intriguing visitors and enticing them to come back year after year.

The coming year will be the 60th Annual Cultural Festival, drawing more people to the island for a truly exciting experience. So, start planning your trip for 2020!

Not only can you experience the Cultural Festival, but Manitoulin Island has a wide variety of adventures for you and your friends and family. With the rich cultural feeling and stunning natural landscape, you will surely come back time and time again… that is, if you can bear to leave the island at all.

If you want to visit Manitoulin Island, it is a 6-hour drive north on Highway 69 from Toronto, heading west to Sault Ste Marie. Head south on Highway 6 Espanola until you hit the famous swing bridge, Little Current. Or, you can take my preferred route: drive 4 hours north of Toronto to Tobermory and hop on the Chi-cheemaun. The Chi-cheemaun is an hour and forty minute-long ferry that takes you straight to the island.

Note: The ferry to Manitoulin or Tobermory via Chi-cheemaun must be booked by reservation.

There is so much to explore on Manitoulin Island. There isn’t enough time in a day to do it all! When planning your visit, do your research so that you can get as much packed in as you can during your stay. I have included some links to help with your planning.

Things to do on Manitoulin Island



I encourage families and visitors across the nation to visit Manitoulin Island and explore the vast life of "Mnidoo Mnis" with the people who originated and settled within it.

Venture into the true heart of North America.