As a kid, I spent nearly every summer camping with my family on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. We spent the mornings fishing, the afternoons on the beach and the evenings with friends and family around a campfire. Some of my fondest childhood memories came from theses family camping trips.
About 2 years ago, Ste and I decided that we would take a camping trip as a couple, revitalizing this old family tradition of mine. We went with little more than our tent, sleeping bag, and some food. No plan, just an idea that we would find a spot and camp. The problem was we went on the same weekend as the annual Haweater festival and PowWow, so there weren’t that many sites available. We eventually found a spot that seemed nice. Everything was great until it got dark. Then all hell broke loose! It was horrible. People were screaming, drunk, blasting music and partying all night long. Not to mention driving their quads around the campground, drunk and belligerent. It was horrible and not something I wanted to relive, especially with a little one.
But we were bound and determined to relive my Manitoulin Island tradition with Alexie.
This year, I took a very different approach. About 2 months before, I called around to reputable campgrounds and made a reservation at a small tent and trailer park. I spent time planning, packing and preparing so that we were ready to have fun on the August long weekend.
Our campsite was amazing! A small border of shrubs was all that separated us from the beach, which was great since it kept Alexie away from the water. We pitched our tent under some trees, set up our site and then hit the beach. We spent that first evening just relaxing at our site and walking around the area.
The next morning, we got up and headed out for some adventures. We were only a few minutes from the popular Bridal Viel Falls and hiking trail. It was a short but very pleasant hike, especially since Ste was carrying Alexie around on his back.
The island (as Manitoulin is affectionately known by the locals) is spotted with small towns. After our hike, we headed over to the nearby town of Gore Bay for some of the best pizza around at the Buoy’s Restaurant. It is also conveniently located next to the Island’s newest brewery, Split Rail Brewing Company. We stopped by and bought a few bottles before heading back to our campsite for a swim.
That night we celebrated Alexie’s first birthday. We had a bigger party planned for the next weekend but we wanted to do something fun on the actual day of her birth. So after dinner, I pulled out some fresh berries, small angel food cakes and a can of whipped cream. Stack it all up, and we had a super cute little cake. Add a sparkler and sing “Happy Birthday” and she was just tickled pink.
Sunday morning we took our time to pack up, enjoyed a swim and then lunch at our campsite before heading out. We drove to Little Current, where they host the Haweater Festival every August long weekend. This year, they really made an effort to make the festival more family-friendly, with an Australian animal show (which we missed due to Alexie’s nap) and a stunt dog show. Ultimutts, where rescue dogs are trained to do all kinds of tricks, was so much fun. Alexie is currently obsessed with dogs so she loved every second of it.
We wandered around the streets of Little Current for a few hours, checking out the sites, bounce-abouts, and vendors. We stopped for dinner at the Anchor Inn before heading off to watch the sunset.
Around 9pm it was time for our final tradition. As a kid, we always went to the local ice cream shop, 3 Cows and a Cone, got an ice cream, went to the field behind the shop and watched the Haweater festival fireworks. Now we get to do the same with Alexie. We got our picture taken by their mascot cow, got some ice cream and went and got a seat behind the hotel (they built a hotel in the field but we still like to watch from there). They are some of the best fireworks in Northern Ontario and were well worth the wait. We loved it and so did Alexie. Once they were done, we got in the car and headed home. It was a late night but well worth it. And the weekend certainly lived up to my childhood memories.