A beautiful sunset over the waves, photo taken from on top of rugged cliff
Antler Photography/Shutterstock.com

Is there a ferry from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island?

Published by Pat Dorri on October 19 2023

Surrounded by the blue waters of Lake Huron, Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world. It's located in the southeast of the Canadian region of Ontario and looks out across the lake to the harbor village of Tobermory, which sits 45 km away on the Bruce Peninsula.

You can take your car on the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry from Tobermory to South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island, a 45-km crossing that will take around 1 hour 45 minutes. Alternatively, it's also possible to drive across the Little Current Swing Bridge.

With its beautiful coastline, quaint white lighthouses and stunning green landscapes, Manitoulin Island is the perfect place to head if you want to escape the city. Keep on reading to find out more about how to get there on the ferry or by road.

Is there a ferry from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island?

Comparison of travel times from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island
ModeTravel Time
Chi-Cheemaun Ferry1 hour 45 minutes
Direct Drive
via Little Current Swing Bridge
6 hours

There's a regular ferry service between Tobermory, ON, and South Baymouth, ON, which is often the quickest and most direct way to reach Manitoulin Island. It's also a really fun trip, as you'll see if you keep reading.

Alternatively, you can drive all the way around the Georgian Bay to reach Little Current, to the north of Manitoulin Island, via the Little Current Swing Bridge.

This is usually the cheapest way to reach Manitoulin Island, but you'll have to plan for a longer drive to reach the bridge. It also takes a little longer to reach some of the sites on the island.

The decision on whether to take the ferry or to drive north to Little Current Swing Bridge is likely to be based on your departure point.

If you're travelling from the south, perhaps from Toronto or Detroit, then the ferry will probably be the most convenient way to reach Manitoulin Island. If you're starting further east in Montreal or Ottawa, the drive to Little Current Swing Bridge will get you to the island more quickly.

Waves hitting the rocks in Meldrum Bay on a summer day
Manitoulin Island is a premier summer destination and it is easy to see why!
Alex Dumitrescu/Shutterstock.com

Taking the ferry from Tobermory to Manitoulin

It's a fairly straightforward 4-hour drive from Toronto to Tobermory, following ON-10 from the outskirts of the city then picking up ON-6 at Inglis Falls to carry on through Springmount and Hepworth en route to the ferry terminal.

Before you board the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry, take some time to explore the surrounding area. Within a 5-minute drive of the ferry port you'll find yourself close to Sweepstakes Ship Wreckage or Big Tub Lighthouse. Or spend some time appreciating the lakeside landscape at Little Dunks Bay Lookout or Bruce Peninsula National Park.

You can take your car on the ferry from Tobermory to Manitoulin, making it really simple to get around once you've arrived. If you're just visiting for the day, you can park up at the ferry terminal in Tobermory and travel by foot.

After disembarking at South Baymouth you'll be in easy reach of Manitoulin Island's many attractions so taking a car is a real bonus on this ferry route. Stop at South Baymouth Range Front Lighthouse before hitting the road to visit Providence Bay or Bridal Veil Falls.

If you want to head to one of the island's two breweries, these are between 45 minutes and 1 hour from South Baymouth.

A trip on the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry is an experience in itself, offering views of the Georgian Bay and its islands as you make your way across Lake Huron. There's even a cafe with a view, serving breakfast or lunch depending on the time of day.

To keep you entertained, there's live music on board the ferry, while the floating art gallery has a rotating selection of art inspired by the Georgian Bay.

Beautifully painted Chi-Cheemaun ferry arriving at South Baymouth Terminal
Chi-Cheemaun Ferry is easy to recognise with its intricate decorations hand-painted on its exterior.
Gregor McDougall/Shutterstock.com

Travelling from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island via Little Current Swing Bridge

You can drive all the way onto Manitoulin Island via Highway 6, which takes you over the Little Current Swing Bridge. This means your arrival point will be Little Current in the northeast of the island.

To reach the Little Current Swing Bridge from Toronto, start out on ON-400 which travels part of the way around the Georgian Bay. Continue on the Trans-Canada Highway through Sudbury and McKerrow before turning south on ON-6 which skirts a series of smaller lakes before bringing you to the northern shore of Lake Huron.

It's roughly a 6-hour drive to reach Little Current from Toronto, but after crossing the bridge you'll have the whole of Manitoulin Island to explore. Continue on ON-6 to reach South Baymouth and see where the ferry from Tobermory arrives.

How long does it take to reach Manitoulin Island from Tobermory?

The ferry ride from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes in fair weather, but there are a few other things to keep in mind when you're planning your trip.

You usually need to arrive at the port 1 hour before departure time, but always double check exact check-in and embarkation times before travelling. Don't forget to allow plenty of time to reach Tobermory if you're travelling from further afield.

If you're travelling off-peak then the crossing takes 2 hours.

Depending on the time of year there are usually either 2 or 3 crossings per day in each direction. That means that if you arrive early for your crossing you'll have some time to fill in Tobermory.

In the peak summer season from late June to mid-September, there are usually three crossings per day. That's one each in the morning, afternoon and early evening. In spring and early fall there are just two crossings per day, with one extra on a Friday evening, perfect for weekend trips.

Big Tub Harbour in Tobermory, home to a white lighthouse and rocky shore on a sunny summer day
Since the ferry itself doesn't take that long, we recommend putting aside some time to explore beautiful Tobermory and visit the Big Tub Harbour.
Gus Garcia/Shutterstock.com

How much does it cost to travel from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island?

Ferry fares between Tobermory and Manitoulin Island
SeasonAvailabilityAdult fareVehicle fare
PeakMid-June to mid-September$18.05$49.10
Off-peakMay to mid-June, mid-September to October$18.05$38.75

* Prices are calculated at the time of writing for a single trip, vehicle fare includes the driver

As you'll see, the walk-on rate stays the same whether you're travelling in mid-summer or at quieter times of year. However, you'll pay more to take your vehicle on board during the popular summer months.

If you're not taking a vehicle with you, you'll also have to allow for parking costs. Out of peak season there's free parking for ferry passengers, but in the summer you'll pay $10 per day or $60 for a week.

If you're driving to South Baymouth via the Little Current Swing Bridge, your main cost will be gas. This varies depending on your vehicle and the driving conditions, but keep in mind that it will be roughly double what you'd pay to get to Tobermory for the ferry, since the drive is 280 km longer.

Things you need to know about traveling from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island

Travelling from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island is usually a fairly straightforward trip, but there are a few things to keep in mind before setting off on your adventure across the lake.

  • The frequency of ferry crossings changes depending on the season, so check ahead to plan the best time for your drive.
  • You're more likely to experience a rough crossing on Lake Huron in fall and spring.
  • High winds can sometimes lead to cancellations in the off-peak season. If this is the case you'll usually get across to the island within the next 24 to 36 hours.
  • The ferry doesn't operate between mid-October and mid-May, so check ahead to be sure that the ferry is operating when you want to travel.

Best time to visit Manitoulin Island

The summer months from June to August are the most popular time to visit Manitoulin Island. This is the warmest time to visit, making it more comfortable for swimming, hiking and boating along with Manitoulin Island's many other outdoor activities.

This natural beauty and better weather mean the island is an appealing destination for families during school vacations. You can also catch the Manitoulin Country Fest which takes place in mid-August. The Haweater Weekend, an annual event featuring arts and crafts plus live music, also runs earlier in August.

Frozen icy waterfalls and open water with people in the background
You can only reach Manitoulin Island by driving in the winter, since the ferry does not operate year-round.
helen vt/Shutterstock.com

The downside of the better weather is that holiday weekends can get quite busy if you're travelling to Manitoulin Island. Allow extra time if you're planning on travelling between Friday and Sunday in the summer months.

If you're taking a vehicle across Manitoulin Island then visiting in the off peak season lets you travel on a cheaper fare. May, June, September and October are when you'll get the cheaper fares if you're boarding with a vehicle.

October is also a good time to visit if you're travelling on a budget since you'll be able to snap up lower rates on hotel rooms.

The ferry doesn't run all year round, so if you want to experience this scenic part of the journey then you'll have to travel between early May and mid-October.

Things to do once you reach Manitoulin Island

The scenic ferry ride across Lake Huron is just the start of your trip to Manitoulin Island. Once you disembark there's a whole host of stunning outdoor attractions and local specialties to explore.

  1. Bridal Veil Falls - Near Kagawong, Bridal Veil Falls is easy to get to. The waterfall cascades into a pool below, making it a popular spot for a refreshing summer swim or a picnic.
  2. The Great Spirit Circle Trail - Whether joining a guided tour or hiking on your own, this trail offers insight into the indigenous culture of the island. Learn about the Anishinaabe people through art and storytelling.
  3. Hike the Cup and Saucer Trail - This popular hiking trail leads to a famed lookout with panoramic views of the island. While it might not be for beginners, the end point is well worth it for more seasoned hikers.
  4. Providence Bay - A sandy beach on the south shore. Visitors can enjoy sunbathing and swimming in the calm waters.
  5. Taste the local beer - There are two breweries on the island. The Split Rail Brewing Company and the Manitoulin Brewing Company both offer tours, sampling and outdoor patios to kick back.

Whether you take the ferry or drive all the way to Manitoulin Island, a spectacular getaway awaits, so lace up your hiking boots and dig out your swimming gear ready to connect with the great outdoors.