Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: 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