Points of Interest
Providence Bay is an historic south shore Manitoulin port, facing out into mighty Lake Huron. It’s original European-origin settlers were commercial fishermen and lumberman as the giant bay after which the town is named was and remains a productive fishery….and then there is all of Lake Huron.
When people think of Providence Bay (‘Prov’ is the Island abbreviation) it’s mostly interest of fun on the enormous sand beach that is Prov’s prominent feature.
In fact, the Ojibwe name for the place is Bebikodawangog which translates as ‘where the sands curve around the bay’. Archeological finds have determined that the beach, the Mindemoya River which drains into it (out of Lake Mindemoya) were important places for pre-contact people to camp and, in fact, to dwell because of the ample supply of fish for sustenance.
A quarter century ago, naturalists realized that the natural sand dune making associated with sand beaches and strong on shore winds was being interfered with by human activity and so a long and interesting boardwalk was constructed to help mediate this situation. The boardwalk is a pleasure in and of itself, as it is the busy Harbour Centre terminus on the beach just down from the town’s main intersection. Here, you can enjoy a Farquhar’s ice cream treat at Huron Island Time and also investigate many of the area’s natural attractions in a (summertime) staffed interpretive centre in the same building. Your boardwalk adventure can begin (and/or end) with an ice cream cone or, for the children, a romp through the wonderful playground equipment complex adjacent to the Harbour Centre. It’s interesting to note that this extensive playground came about as a result of a partnership involving the community, the local Lions Club, the municipality of Central Manitoulin, Community Living Manitoulin and the ‘Let Them Be Kids’ voluntary not for profit national organization as well as the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
In the Providence Bay area:
The beach itself is remarkable in that even when there are lots of vehicles in the parking areas around the Harbour Centre, and people are constantly coming and going from the change rooms, the beach is large enough that it is never crowded, a nice feature.
The main intersection of the community has as its centre piece a new Town Square with floral plantings, shrubs, seating to watch the world go by, a parking area and is just steps from the aforementioned Harbour Centre, the boardwalk and giant sand beach.
This is an interesting intersection because, on one corner, is The Mutchmor, a very large gallery space featuring arts and crafts and products from all over Manitoulin. Facing the Town Square, on The Mutchmor, long side, is an enormous mural that tells its own story in nature. The Peace Café is also part of The Mutchmor complex.
Then the way down to the beach, on the left, is the purpose-built and commodious On The Bay Bed and Breakfast and, across from it, the town’s busy community hall and library.
Turning left at the Town Square intersection will take you along a street that curves with the lakeshore, crosses over the Mindemoya River and takes you to Manitoulin’s largest campground, Providence Bay Tent and Trailer Park. It’s an agreeably sandy environment (summer vocations are made of this) and is right across the road from the long sand beach as it curves to the south, The boardwalk and sunsets over the bay.
Prov even has its own legends: The Sailors’ Grave and The Burning Boat and when you’re in Prov, just keep asking about them.
Further on down the road, past the campground, you’ll find the busy Providence Bay Marina where local fisherman come and go all summer and there is often commercial fishing ‘tug’ in port too.
Prov is also home to one of Manitoulin’s fine dining establishments, The School House Restaurant, located, yes, in the community’s one room school. Watch for the signs.