Wayside Motel, Manitoulin Island: An Efficiently-run Ontario Escape

MS Chi-Cheemaun ferry, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada

MS Chi-Cheemaun ferry travels to Ontario’s Manitoulin Island from the Bruce Peninsula.

Located in Georgian Bay at the north end of Lake Huron, Canada’s Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world. This largely rural Northern Ontario isle has quiet lake beaches, scenic hiking trails, and many opportunities to learn about the Indigenous cultures of the six different First Nations who have long called the island home. Accommodations on the island tend to be simple and comfortable, rather than luxurious, and the Wayside Motel, where I stayed in the late spring, is no exception.

Here’s the scoop:

Wayside Motel, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada

The Wayside Motel in the town of Manitowaning on Manitoulin Island

The Wayside Motel is small, nicely renovated roadside motel set back from Highway 6 within walking distance of the town of Manitowaning, on the island’s east side. It’s a 25-minute drive north of South Baymouth where ferries arrive from the Bruce Peninsula and a similar distance south of Little Current, the island’s main town where most of its services are located.

Guest Rooms and Amenities

Designed for travelers who are want to be self-sufficient, the Wayside’s six guest rooms come in two different types.  Measuring 340 square feet, both types have screened windows that open in the front and in the rear, making them feel brighter and airier. Artworks by Manitoulin artists provide local color.

I stayed in the standard double room, which had two double beds and a spacious wood desk, along with a fridge, microwave, electric kettle, Keurig coffeemaker, and toaster. While it’s not a full kitchen, I had what I needed to prep my breakfasts or heat up leftovers from my dinner.

The other type, the queen “suite,” is furnished like a studio apartment, with a queen bed, small sitting area, and kitchenette.

Guest room, Wayside Motel, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada

A standard double room at the Wayside Motel

Owner Elizabeth Welnar runs an efficient operation, confirming arrival and departure times by text or email and making sure her guests have what they need. When I told her I’d be arriving around 7:30 in the evening, she advised that I eat before I got there as everything in town would already be closed. (Nothing in Manitoulin is open late, but hours are even more limited outside the busy July-August summer season.)

Elizabeth greets guests with a map of Manitowaning and the island and offers suggestions of things to do, with instructions on where they are relative to the motel. On this large island where the roads meander slowly through the countryside, her tips on what’s where provide a helpful orientation. Although daily housekeeping is not typically included in the daily rates, she said that if there’s anything else I needed, from additional dishes to dish soap to more coffee, I should just ask.

Coffee station, Wayside Motel, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada

The standard doubles come with a coffee/tea station, fridge, and microwave.

The Wayside has a small gazebo with a picnic table and BBQ for guests to use. The guest rooms face the parking area in front, with woods providing shade and greenery out the rear window.

There’s nothing fancy about Manitoulin’s Wayside Motel. But for a quiet comfortable getaway on this Northern Ontario island, this well-managed lodging has everything you need.

Providence Bay Beach, Manitoulin Island, Ontario, Canada

Manitoulin’s Providence Bay Beach


Double room rates at the Wayside Motel vary throughout the year but typically start at CAD$158/night. Check Booking.com to compare rates and make a reservation if you see a better deal.

Hotel feature by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller.

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