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Explore the Sandy Sable Islands

Sable Islands. Hard packed sand after a storm. • Credit: Erin Rody
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Explore the Sandy Sable Islands

A Caribbean Island Vibe in Northwestern Ontario

Looking out at nothing but water with your feet in powdery sand it's hard to believe you're above the 49th parallel. Dramatically different from the rest of Lake of the Woods, the Sable Islands (and the beaches there) are a fantastic place to explore.

Near the south end of Lake of the Woods lies Sables Islands, an elongated barrier sandbar featuring marshes and rounded sand dunes. The dunes are part of the Sable Islands Provincial Nature Reserve. Not to be confused with Sable Island National Park east of Nova Scotia. 

The sand dunes at Sable Islands

What’s there to do on Sable Islands? Explore!

The south end of Lake of the Woods is much different than the central and north parts of the lake. The Big Traverse Bay is relatively shallow (about 35’ deep at the maximum depth) and has no weeds or rocky reefs. There are beaches everywhere around the Morson area and many sandbars as well. Unlike much of the surrounding area, there aren’t any massive rock cliffs towering over the water. In fact, standing on the sand dunes and looking towards the Big Traverse, you feel like you're in the Caribbean. The water is shallow and crystal clear and the view goes on for days. 

Nothing but water as far as the eye can see

You can walk for a long time exploring the sand dunes. This year the water was a bit more shallow than the last time I visited which allowed for better exploring. The sand is soft and powdery. It’s really fun to walk around in the shallow water, find cool driftwood, go birdwatching, climb the sand dunes, or have a picnic lunch.

Soft powdery sand on the Sable Islands

In my two visits to Sable Islands, we stayed nearby overnight to do some camping, but many of my friends who live in Kenora have left early in the morning, spent some time at the islands, and then headed home for a beautiful sunset boat ride. So depending on where you are staying on Lake of the Woods, it may be an hour or two outing or it may take the whole day. Just make sure it's a calm one. The waves coming from the Big Traverse can get pretty wild on a windy day.

Sable Island is roughly 10 km (6.2 m) long and is low enough in some parts that it becomes two or three islands in high water. It's part of the Lake of the Woods Sand Spit Archipelago which consists of Sable Islands, Burton Island, and Windy Point in Canada as well as Pine, Currys, and Tern islands, Morris and Rocky Points, and Zippel Spit in the United States. Burton Island is covered in birds, and while occasionally smelly because of all the bird droppings, you can see many types of birds including pelicans. The fishing is great around the island too. 

The area is an IBA (Important Bird Area). 256 bird species have been identified in Sable Islands Provincial Nature Preserve and 137 of those have been recorded as nesting. Sandhill cranes can be seen and at least one sandhill nesting crane nest has been documented. The dunes are regarded as suitable nesting habitats for the endangered piping plover and they are periodically observed on the island. It is an important staging area for migratory birds using the Central Flyway, resulting in the congregation of thousands of birds between the Sable Islands and the mouth of the Rainy River in early spring.

Sun, sand, and fresh air on the Sable Islands

So, if you’ve been saying for years that you’re going to take a boat ride to Sable Islands, go and check it off your bucket list. It’s truly like you are in a different world. 

Here is a map showing where some of the towns are accommodations are near Sable Islands. You can also search for accommodations all over Sunset Country by using our accommodation finder.

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