Some Village History
Settled in the 1870’s and named after a town in Scotland, Meldrum Bay quickly developed as a fishing and lumbering centre. Newcomers arrived shortly after the first survey party, drawn by the promise of cheap, plentiful land, and the prospects of virgin forest and the fish-rich waters of Lake Huron. Those original hardy settlers staked their claims, under conditions that they clear and fence five acres and build a house before owning the title.
In a few short years, Meldrum Bay was a boomtown. Several stores, hotels, blacksmith shops, school and boarding houses were built to service the growing community, which would eventually grow to over 400 permanent residents. Lumbering quickly became the major industry and employer on the area, and Meldrum Bay saw its first mill built in 1880, where the Marina is situated today. In time, the Bay would see three active mills, for easy processing and transport of logs and lumber by ship to ports beyond.
By the 1890s, fishing stations were built to supply the regular stream of boats from southern Ontario with the local catch, and for many years, during Meldrum Bay’s boom years, ships ferried freight and passengers the eighteen miles across the North Channel from Blind River and from Southern Ontario and Michigan, and commercial fishermen and yachtsman made steady work for the local wharfingers.
The Village Today
A select few are lucky to call quiet Meldrum Bay and surrounding Dawson Township home, and others have discovered or built seasonal residences here. Many others make Meldrum Bay a vacation destination, and boaters make regular stops in their travels on the picturesque North Channel. Nature lovers are particularly attracted to the area, where deer, foxes, hare, and bear abound.
Meldrum Bay is a favoured destination for many pleasure craft from around the Great Lakes, and offers a unique and spectacular reward to the adventurous traveler. Scenic views and beautiful shorelines, coupled with modern services and accommodations make Meldrum Bay a special destination for those who appreciate a quiet, simple get-away.
In the late 2000s, a large armour-stone breakwall was constructed to protect the marina and docks, and it is a major feature on the Bay, and a favoured destination for campers and visitors- a great place to drop a line or take a walk. With the breakwall came a new Marina Building/Visitor Centre, which includes lounge areas, and public washing and laundry facilities. This building is a popular meeting spot during the summer months.
The Community Hall is in many ways the heart of the village, located on the hill above the waters of the Bay, and is the main gathering place for community events. Currently paused during the pandemic, a weekly euchre game is held each Friday evening throughout the year. Traditionally, the Hall hosts several fund-raising events for the community, the largest being the annual Beef BBQ on the Civic Holiday Weekend in August, and in February, a Poker Run and Chili Luncheon signals the beginning of the end of winter.
St. Andrew’s United Church, located up the hill beside the Community Hall, traditionally rings its bell for their Sunday service at 9:15 am (during the pandemic the service is online). The church hosts an Annual Roast Beef Dinner/Candlelight Service in March.
By far the largest employer in the area is Lafarge Canada Inc. whose quarry- the largest marine quarry in Canada- produces dolomite used in concrete, road construction and metallurgical processing. Lafarge has its loading docks right on the Mississagi Strait.
Some Points of Interest
The Meldrum Bay Inn & Restaurant
Your home away from home and a great choice for Manitoulin Island accommodation and dining. The historic Inn has been welcoming guests for over 150 years. You’ll find our rooms to be comfortable, intimate and relaxing, a perfect home base for your Island adventures.
The Net Shed Museum
The museum has a number of displays and artifacts from earlier settlers of the Meldrum Bay area, most of whom were employed in the lumber and fishing industry.
Located about six kilometres from the village, at the water’s edge on the western shore of the Island, is the largest quarry operation in Canada. The Lafarge Quarry produces dolomite used in concrete, road construction and metallurgical processing, and all of their product leaves the area on huge ocean-going freighters.