Considered by the locals The Beach, Providence Bay is famous for an obvious reason.
About 6 hours north from Toronto, located on a picturesque, southern side of Manitoulin Island, Providence Bay is the perfect place for a getaway. Looking upon Huron Lake, one of the Great Lakes of North America, the bay offers one of the longest sandy beaches I’ve ever seen in Ontario. Early natives, Ojibwe people called the place Bebikodawangog, which translates as ‘where the sands curve around the bay’.
But it wasn’t the sandy beach that attracted the first European settlers here, but the stands of untouched timber, like pretty much in the whole area. This bay was even more precious to them, as it offered access to Lake Huron.
The legend of a burning boat says that years later, survivors of a shipwreck reached the beach and called the bay “Providence” as an act of pious gratitude.
Coming from Hwy 551, I got mesmerized immediately by the beach. I could feel the breeze, and the soft breath of the sky while we were getting closer to the main intersection of the little town. Mild weather, perfect for a stroll, we found quickly our motel where we parked the car, and soon we’re gone to discover the place.
The beach is remarkable. Although it is pretty narrow, it is stretching for about two kms along the shore. With a big playground, where kids and adults are equally enjoying, and great facilities, we found the beach quite empty at that hour in the afternoon when we arrived. I was able to say the water was quite cold, as all the other Great Lakes, but you could mirror into it however.
Sand Dunes on Manitoulin Island were formed by the retreating glaciers 10,000 years ago. As the ice receded it left mounds of sand and boulders. The wind and wave action later formed these dunes. Sand dunes of the Great Lakes region are the largest freshwater coastal dunes in the world. While the dunes from Providence Bay are very small, others, such as Grand Sable Dunes along the southern shore of Lake Superior are about 100 m height.
With time, dunes became stabilized with a variety of grasses, shrubs, or even trees. It is a very fragile ecosystem, and can be easily destroyed, reason a boardwalk has been build for an evening stroll along the shore.
Birdwatching can be done just about anywhere along the shore. If you like to watch wild life, then this is a great place to do it. Just look around, either in the morning, or evening, you will be able to spot waterfowls around. We have easily spotted a gang of playful mergansers just strolling along the shore.
Fishing is another type of entertainment in the bay. Boating at sunrise, or later in the evening can offer beautiful moments and views from distance.
Fossils hunting is an interesting hobby one can do here. Providence Bay was a different place 450 million years ago. Instead of the cold northern Lake Huron, this area was a tropical sea south of the equator. Some of the creatures living here were Halysites (chain corals) and Favosites (Honeycomb corals). While I was searching for a lost lighthouse, my daughter found these 2 fossils.
Searching for the Providence lighthouse was my intention of our stay here. I was once again disappointed when I found that Hwy 551 is blocked by a private property, therefore the only way to reach the end of the peninsula, where the lighthouse would be. But my awesome family went above and beyond, and came up with this idea to give a try, walking on the boulders, along the rocky shore. Although it was getting late, and my daughter was wearing slippers, we kept climbing, jumping from a boulder to another, finding ways through dense bushes, going around the big and deep gaps of the rocks. Of course, the crystal-clear water and the sun were offering an amazing show, and were a continuous distraction, but we managed to arrive and find the lighthouse before the sun set. Another lighthouse added to the lighthouse tour we’ve done around Manitoulin Island.
Enjoying the sun, and the water reflections are definitely two of the best activities in Providence Bay, as we rarely found such colours, shades, and peacefulness. It is the perfect place to have some fun, to recharge your batteries, and to soak up all the special energy of this serene place.
Tip(s) of the day:
- Make sure you’re getting a map from the Tourism Centre in Little Current, or the ferry terminal, as you can get a lot of useful information how you can get to Providence Bay, and not only;
- Get your camera ready, as you can see some wildlife along the road or near the lakes;
- Although the roads in Manitoulin Island might look empty, ensure you drive carefully, as some wildlife might jump in front of your car;
- Don’t forget your fishing rod if you would like to go fishing in one of the bays, or lakes throughout the island;
- Sturdy footwear is recommended if you are going hiking, or searching for new adventures;
- Providence Bay offers an amazing beach, with a big playground, take your time to sun bath, or go for a swim;
- You can also watch the little video, hope you’ll enjoy it!
~ visited in August 2020