Misery Bay Provincial Park

Length of stay1 day
June 2021

Misery Bay Provincial Nature Reserve is located along the southern shore of Manitoulin Island on an ancient flat rock sea bottom. The park features three hiking trails that wind through the forest, across rocky outcrops and alvars and along the rugged shore of Georgian Bay. Despite it’s name, Misery Bay is anything but miserable.

Entrance into Misery Bay is located off of Misery Bay Road. There’s a parking lot at the end of the road and from there it’s a short walk (30m) to the Visitor Centre which marks the start to all three trails.

While the Visitor Centre was still closed when we visited, there are a few signs outside that provided more information about the park and how it was created. In the 1950s, Eunice Sifferd was intrigued by the name of Misery Bay and came out to see it. She and her husband, Calvin, loved it and in 1959 they bought property and built a summer home here. Thirty years later, the Sifferds worked with the Ontario Nature Conservancy of Canada and the province of Ontario to create Misery Bay Provincial Park. Their cottage is now used by Ontario Parks and the park is currently twice its initial size.

We initially planned to hike along the Misery Bay Trail, but there was a sign to indicate that it was closed due to flooding. Instead we hiked the Inland Alvar Trail (5km loop, rated easy). But first we had to hike a short distance along the Coastal Alvar Trail (8km loop, rated moderate) to get to the trailhead for the Inland Alvar Trail.

The Coastal Trail is signed with red markers and loops through the eastern side of the park. We just had to hike a few hundred metres along this trail before reaching a junction with a sign for the Inland Alvar Trail, which is signed with yellow markers.

The trail loops through the forest, across a variety of open alvar pavements and along old glacial beaches. We hiked clockwise along the trail. The first half of the loop winds through the forest and crosses exposed areas of rock. We were thankful for the shade as it was hot and sunny outside (26°C).

The trail then leads down to the shoreline. We made a quick detour to check out the water before walking back to the official trail. From there the path branches off again and there’s a short side trail to get to Saunder’s Cove where there’s a wooden shelter with benches overlooking the water. This seemed like a good spot to take a break, drink some water and eat a snack.

Across from the wooden shelter we found an abandoned car in the forest. How it got there is a mystery to us.

And speaking of unexpected surprises, while K took a short nap on one of the benches in the shelter, I explored more along the cove. When I got near the point, I spotted an abandoned cottage, which naturally I had to investigate further. The cabin looked quite shabby inside with most of the furniture in a state of disrepair. It seems like a porcupine has taken up residence here though. I walked back to wake up K to show him the cabin and porcupine.

We turned around and found the main trail again and continued following the yellow markers through the forest. There was significantly less shade on this portion of the trail and there were lots more exposed rocks.

The Inland Alvar Trail connects with the Coastal Trail again. This time we decided to take the Coastal Trail back to the Visitor Centre so we could check out the scenic lookout on the way back. The path hugs the shoreline and leads to a scenic lookout, which really just features another wooden shelter. 

From the wooden shelter it’s a short stretch back to the Visitor Centre and parking lot. Overall it took us just under 2 and a half hours to complete the Inland Alvar Trail. We hopped back in the car and continued our drive around Manitoulin Island.


My progress on the Ontario Parks Challenge can be found here

39 thoughts on “Misery Bay Provincial Park

  1. Lynette d'Arty-Cross says:

    I keep being rather astonished by finding old vehicles, moldering away near trails in the woods, but it does seem fairly common. The porcupine does have a lovely space all to himself, complete with table, chairs and stove with chopped wood!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      No kidding. I guess that’s just what people did back in the day, drive their car to the middle of nowhere and abandon it. Either way, it becomes a point of interest along the trail and a good excuse to stop and take some pictures. That porcupine must be living its best life in that abandoned cottage. Talk about a room with a view!

  2. Ab says:

    Misery Bay looks anything but miserable indeed! I totally forgot, until reading your post, that we did stop by Misery Bay last year but when we saw the little info office closed, we went somewhere else.

    It’s nice to see the wonderful things we missed out on. That beach water looks so nice and the cottage was a nice find. A true fixer upper. And what a treat to have spotted a porcupine in person. I’ve never seen one in person before!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That’s too bad that you went somewhere else as Misery Bay is quite lovely. Something to add to the list for next time. The abandoned cottage was a real gem. I’m surprised it wasn’t marked on the map. Good thing K took a nap at the shelter as that gave me more time to more fully explore by the shore. I can see why that porcupine would take up residence in the cottage. It’s so secluded and the views of the lake are fantastic!!

  3. kagould17 says:

    My question is how did it get to be called Misery Bay? It does look beautiful and it was nice of the property owners to donate it for future generations. Yeah, old cars, old buildings, etc. make interesting finds along a trail. Given it used to be private property, that likely explains how things got there. Glad your meeting with the porcupine went well. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Apparently early setters would often come to the bay to cut marsh grass for their livestock. According to local lore, one day two men approached the bay by boat and asked one of the farmers what this place was called. The farmer must have been hard at work that day and responded that he was in misery. Turns out the people on the boat were government surveyors, mapping the island. The surveyors wrote that name down and it’s been called Misery Bay ever since.

      Agreed, abandoned cars and buildings make for some interesting viewpoints along the trail. This was the second time we’ve come across a porcupine during our road trip. Glad it was another friendly encounter. Thanks for reading.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I couldn’t believe our luck to encounter two porcupines during our road trip. The first in Inverhuron and the second at Misery Bay. Talk about great timing. I don’t blame this one for setting up shop in that abandoned cottage as it looks like a great place to hide. Agreed, the shoreline is quite beautiful with those large slabs of limestone or dolostone pavements.

  4. Melanie Gagon says:

    Wow what a cool trail! So much to see too- I love that shoreline view you walked to! And I always get so excited to see old vehicles like that- I always want to know the history and everything behind it being there!
    Thanks for the share a great read of your adventure!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and lovely comment. I wish we could have spent more time in Manioutlin Island as I would have loved to hike the other trails in this area. The views of the lake are incredible. It’s always neat to come across an abandoned car or building on the trail and they certainly make for a great excuse to stop and take some pictures. Thanks for reading. Take care.

  5. ourcrossings says:

    Spectacular views and nice trails, Linda and you even spotted a porcupine! The name Misery Bay certainly conjures up all that could be negative about a place, but as I can see I can’t let the name fool me. There must be a story behind it as the name stuck despite the fact the place is indeed beautiful 🙂 Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      This place is anything but miserable. I did a bit of research as to why it’s called Misery Bay as Allan posed a similar question. According to local lore, two men approached the bay by boat and asked one of the farmers who was in the area cutting down marsh grass what this place was called. The farmer who was hot and tired responded that he was in misery. It turns out that the people in the boat were surveyors, mapping the island, and wrote that name down. And it stuck.

      Seeing another porcupine on the trail was such a bonus. I don’t blame him for taking up residence in that cottage along the shore. The views are just beautiful. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your week. Linda

  6. salsaworldtraveler says:

    The park is a lot nicer than the name implies. I had to look up Manitoulin Island. Looking at the map it appears that Ontario is the only province that borders the Great Lakes. The other provinces must be jealous. Also, I think the raccoon in the doorway is saying “this Airbnb is taken.” 😄

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The name of the park is definitely misleading as this place is anything but miserable. We are quite lucky to have access to four of the five Great Lakes in Ontario. Some of the best hiking, camping and swimming are along the shores or near the Great Lakes. That porcupine looked like it was doing quite well for itself. Talk about a house with a view! Have a wonderful weekend. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      As it happens, I did a bit of research as a few people have asked how this place got its name. According to local lore, two men approached the bay by boat and asked one of the farmers who was in the area cutting down marsh grass for his livestock what this place was called. The farmer who was hot and tired responded that he was in misery. It turns out that the people in the boat were government surveyors mapping the island and wrote that name down. It’s been called Misery Bay ever since.

      • winteroseca says:

        Oh wow! That’s quite a story! So, if he had said a curse word or had his mind in the gutter, the name would have been funnier! 😅

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        For sure. I’m glad the name stuck as it definitely stands out as being unique and it makes for an interesting story. I don’t imagine there are many other “Misery Bays” in the world. But yes, makes you wonder what would have happened if the farmer uttered a curse word instead!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The hiking in Misery Bay and Manitoulin Island in general is fantastic. I wish we could have stayed longer. I can easily see why that porcupine has taken up shop in that abandoned cottage. Who wouldn’t want a house overlooking the water!?

  7. alisendopf says:

    What a great adventure. It looks like someone might have been thinking of fixing up the old cabin at one point. Strange that it’s in the middle of the park, yet no mention of it, or upkeep. That is SO cool that you can find stuff like old cabins and cars in your parks. I think it adds mystery to the beauty of the physical landscape.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I was a bit surprised that the abandoned car and cottage weren’t listed on the map or included in the description of the trail either as they were definitely highlights along the hike. It would have been interesting if they included a sign with more information to explain who they once belonged to. I bet there’s an interesting story there.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      A few people have asked about the name of the park so I did some research on it. Back in the day, farmers would often come to the bay to cut marsh grass for their livestock. One day, two men who were actually government surveyors mapping the island, came to the bay and asked one of the farmers what this place was called. The farmer who was clearly hard at work that day responded that he was in misery. The surveyors wrote that name down and it stuck.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      While this wasn’t our first choice in terms of trails at Misery Bay, it turned out to be one of my favourites that we’ve hiked all summer. The views of the lake are incredible. It was also such an added bonus to come across the abandoned car, cottage and porcupine. That porcupine definitely looks like he’s living his best life.

  8. rkrontheroad says:

    Glad to read the suspected story of the naming of Misery Bay in one of your comment threads. You left us all wondering… Besides a nice hike and shoreline, the porcupine and old car made this an interesting story.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      This park is definitely mysterious (rather than miserable) and leaves you wanting to know more. The abandoned car and cabin weren’t marked on the map and made for a fun discovery, especially since there was a porcupine inside the cabin. It definitely made for an eventful and memorable hike.

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