What to do
- Worth the detour
- Must see
Surrounded by the waters of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron, Bruce Peninsula lies along the Niagara Escarpment and contains Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park. These two magnificent national parks abound in natural wonders.
Bruce Peninsula National Park is the main attraction with its turquoise waters, dramatic cliffs, coves, spectacular beaches and large tracts of unspoiled forest. It is an extremely popular hiking destination. The park is also home to beautiful, rare orchids and several species of wildlife including black bears, reptiles and amphibians. Fathom Five National Marine Park, off the coast of the charming town of Tobermory, features more than 20 shipwrecks and several islands. You’re sure to love it!
BRUCE PENINSULA NATIONAL PARK AND FATHOM FIVE NATIONAL MARINE PARK
Season: Open year-round. Park facilities and services are limited in winter, with some self-serve options.
Visitor Centre: Located in the town of Tobermory, the visitor centre is open every day from late June to early September from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and from early September to the end of October from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission fee: $7.90/person. Admission is free for youth 17 and under. An annual Parks Canada Discovery Pass is $69.19/adult.www.pc.gc.ca/fr/pn-np/on/bruce / www.pc.gc.ca/fr/amnc-nmca/on/fathomfive
Bruce Peninsula National Park
A stop at the Visitor Centre is a must as the starting point of your visit. In addition to advice and a wealth of information on the peninsula’s two parks, you can watch the feature film “Life on the Edge”, explore the exhibits, climb to the top of the lookout tower, and take a first short hike. The 1-km Little Dunks Trail will take you less than 30 minutes and leads through lush cedar forest to a viewing platform overlooking Little Dunks Bay, a secluded and scenic cove of Georgian Bay. If you are travelling with children, ask for the Explorers booklet which features games and activities.
CHI SIN TIB DEK ROAD, TOBERMORY
At the northern tip of the peninsula is the charming, picturesque fishing village of Tobermory. Tobermory has two ports with the delightful names of Little Tub and Big Tub Harbours. These are very popular with tourists during the summer season. Near Little Tub you will find good restaurants as well as several boutiques and shops. The town is easy to explore on foot. There is free parking in many streets and large public parking lots. If you are travelling by RV go to the public parking lot on Legion Street.
The peninsula is very busy during tourist season. Plan your parking ahead of time, especially if you are travelling by RV. Some parking lots are limited and fill up quickly, so it’s best to arrive early to get a space.
Bruce Peninsula is a true paradise for hikers and offers many spectacular trails. However, the terrain is rugged in many places and can be hazardous, especially in bad weather. Always allow enough time to get back before dark. Wear appropriate footwear and be sure to bring along enough water and snacks.
This famous trail is the most popular in the park. It stretches over 890 km from the town of Niagara Falls, Ontario to Tobermory at the northern tip of the peninsula. Within the park, the trail, which follows the Niagara Escarpment, is often rugged and uneven. From the cliffs, you will have breathtaking views of Georgian Bay! The Bruce Trail is marked with painted rectangles (blazes) to guide hikers. Allow 30 minutes for every kilometer you walk. This trail is rated moderate to difficult. You can access the trail at several locations and turn back whenever you want. Don’t forget your camera!
The Niagara Escarpment
The Niagara Escarpment is a long escarpment that runs east-west through Canada and the United States in the Great Lakes region. It is named for the cliff over which the Niagara River plunges at Niagara Falls. The Escarpment is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and has the oldest forest ecosystem and trees in eastern North America. Its Canadian portion is 725 km long, crossing Ontario from Lake Ontario (near Niagara Falls) to the tip of Bruce Peninsula, on Georgian Bay.
Poison ivy is commonly found in the park. Sap from any part of the plant can cause a severe itchy, blistering rash. The severity of the rash depends on the person’s sensitivity and the amount of sap they are exposed to. Do not touch leaves growing in groups of 3! If you suspect you have come into contact with poison ivy, wash the area immediately with cold water and soap.
To visit this fascinating and popular spot, you must have a parking reservation or spend the night at the Cyprus Lake Campground. Parking space is limited and reservations are required. From the parking lot, you will have several scenic trails to choose from. The Georgian Bay Trail is the most direct route to the Grotto and is approximately 25 minutes each way. It is 1.5 km long and is rated as easy. Area highlights include the Grotto, Indian Head Cove and Natural Arch.
To reserve your parking space, call 1-877-737 3783 or visit reservations.pc.gc.ca.
As the name suggests, Singing Sands is a sandy stretch of shoreline. It has a small, natural beach where you can swim in Lake Huron, and a picnic area. There is also a short boardwalk through rare fen and dune ecosystems, which are home to several species of carnivorous plants and orchids. You can walk along the boardwalk or take the 1.3 km Wild Garden Trail, classified as easy (about 45 minutes).
DORCAS BAY ROAD, TOBERMORY
BEWARE WHEN SWIMMING
The clear turquoise waters of Georgian Bay are extremely inviting, even if they are very cold! It is possible to swim, but it is important to note that all swimming in Bruce Peninsula National Park is unsupervised. Swimming is not recommended everywhere. Stick to designated swimming areas. It is also extremely dangerous to jump or dive off the cliffs; although some people do it, it is strongly discouraged. Use caution at all times.
Halfway Log Dump
To reach this area of the park, you will need to take the long, winding Emmett Lake Road. Drive slowly along this gravel road, taking the time to admire the lush forest and marshland along the way. The short Log Dump Trail (1 km, 30 minutes) leads from the parking lot to a cobble beach. You will enjoy impressive views of the blue crystalline waters of Georgian Bay and its majestic cliffs. From there, you can continue along the Bruce Trail or explore the rugged shoreline. Wear good walking shoes and bring snacks or a picnic, as you could easily spend a large part of the day here.
EMMETT LAKE ROAD
Little Cove Beach
This small rocky cove is nestled in a magnificent setting. You can relax on a flat rock or, if you’re brave enough or don’t mind the cold, do some swimming or snorkelling in the calm, crystal-clear waters. It is less popular than some of the park’s other beaches, but due to its easy access, it can still be busy. Bring your water shoes.
LITTLE COVE ROAD
The Saugeen Ojibway
The two national parks are on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway First Nations, Algonquin tribes from the Great Lakes region. This Anishinaabe people has occupied the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula for a very long time. The Ojibway agreed to share part of their land, but are still actively involved in protecting the territory and its beautiful natural environment.
You can take a canoe ride on the calm waters of Emmett Lake, Cameron Lake or Cyprus Lake. Ask at the Visitor Centre for more information. You can also explore the Marine Park by kayak or SUP (stand up paddle). The water is so clear that you can easily see the bottom of the lake. Depending on the chosen route, you will have the opportunity to observe shipwrecks and a lighthouse. You will need to get a permit from the Visitor Centre. Several private companies in Tobermory rent watercraft and offer guided tours.
On The Water Kayaks : 53, Bay Street S, Tobermory / 519-596-2626
Big Tub Resort Boat Rentals : 236, Big Tub Road, Tobermory / 519-596-2219 / www.bigtubresort.ca/watersport-rentals/kayak-rentals
Big Tub Lighthouse
The number of shipwrecks offshore testify to the dangerous waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. Originally constructed in 1885, Big Tub Lighthouse has long played an important role guiding ships into the harbour and is still in use today. It is also a very popular tourist attraction. You can take some lovely pictures there and go for a walk along the rocky point. Limited parking available.
Big Tub Road, Tobermory / www.brucecoastlighthouses.com/lighthouses/big-tub-lighthouse
Fathom Five National Marine Park
Fathom Five National Marine Park is a National Marine Conservation Area located in the sparkling waters of Lake Huron, off the coast of Tobermory. It is a beautiful, unique freshwater ecosystem that features about twenty islands, rock formations millions of years old, lush cliff-edge forests, several species of orchids, and 22 shipwrecks. The Visitor Centre in Tobermory serves both Fathom Five National Marine Park and the Bruce Peninsula National Park. Tobermory Wave Adventures is a good company that offers interesting tours in the marine park from Tobermory.
Little Tub Harbour, Bay Street / 226-974-1880 / www.tobermorywave.com
There is lots to explore and enjoy under the water, whether you’re a novice or an advanced diving enthusiast. Fathom Five National Marine Park offers some of the best freshwater diving opportunities in the world. Clear, clean water, submerged geological formations and more than 20 historical shipwrecks offer a variety of underwater experiences. Before diving you must register and purchase a dive pass from the Visitor Centre or a local dive shop. Diver’s Den offers various diving tours and full equipment rental in Tobermory.
3, Bay Street / 519-596-2363 / www.diversden.ca
Flowerpot Island, the jewel of Fathom Five National Marine Park, can be reached only by boat. This small island is named for two vase-shaped rock stacks off its eastern shore, the iconic Flowerpots. Several private tour boat companies offer return trips or observation tours of the island. If you choose to get off on the island, you can hike along the shore and around the island. There are 4 hiking trails on the island, ranging from easy to difficult. The trail leading past the flowerpots is rated easy. It is 1.3 km long and will take you about 30 minutes. You can also see a cave, a lighthouse, and possibly some beautiful orchids. Boat tours leave from Tobermory. You can book a seat with Blue Heron Cruise.
24, Carlton Street, Little Tub Harbour / 519-596-2999 / blueheronco.com
South of the Park
Devil's Monument Loop Trail
Distance (round trip): 4.2 km loop
Time: 1.5 hours
This site is a little out of the way and is not part of the national park, bit it is worth the detour. Devil’s Monument is a rocky formation similar to the flowerpots of Flowerpot Island. You will also see a lovely waterfall. Be sure to hike all the way down to see the waves breaking on the rocky beach. A beautiful spot, and not very busy.
Britain Lake Road, Miller Lake
This privately owned hiking trail features 10 limestone caves you can explore. You will need a flashlight for some sections of the caves and will also have to do some climbing. The hike will take you one to two hours. Wear good hiking shoes as the wet rocks can be slippery. Open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in tourist season. Admission is $10 per adult and $5 for children aged 2 to 12 (cash only).
407, Scenic Caves Road, Lion`s Head / 519-377-8762 / www.greigscaves.ca
Lion's Head Lookout
Distance (round trip): 5.3 km
Time: 3 hours
Level: Moderate to difficult
Elevation gain: 114 metres
Lion’s Head Lookout is a 5.3 km trail (round trip) along Bruce Trail outside the national park. The trail begins between Lion’s Head Provincial Nature Preserve and the small town of the same name, named for a rock formation along the Niagara Escarpment that from a distance resembles the profile of a lion. The full Lion’s Head Trail loop is 15 km, but many people choose to hike out to the magnificent lookout and back, without doing the complete loop. You will see beautiful wildflowers, many birds, and sweeping views of Georgian Bay from 200-metre cliffs. The parking lot on McCurdy is small and fills up quickly. Open from May to October.
2-8, McCurdy Drive, Lion's Head
Where to eat
- $ Inexpensive
- $$ Moderate
- $$$ Upscale
- $$$$ Fine dining
The Sweet Shop ($-$$)
This candy store is a must if you’re travelling with kids! For more than 40 years, the Sweet Shop has been producing fine confections in the old-fashioned way, one small batch at a time. They have a wide selection of candy, fudge, ice cream, sorbets, milkshakes and frozen yogurt for all tastes. Their caramel popcorn is heavenly! Friendly staff.
Open daily in summer.
18, Warner Bay Road Little Tub Harbour, Tobermory / 519-596-2705 / www.sweetshop.ca
Little Cove Bakery ($-$$)
Butter tarts are a classic in the region, and this bakery makes some of the best in town. Pastries, brownies, apple fritters, cinnamon buns… you will also have many other sweet treats to try. You can even get good sandwiches here. Picnic tables outside.
Open in summer.
4, Warner Bay Road, Tobermory / 519-596-8399
Another Canadian classic! A beavertail is something you must try at least once. This is the perfect place for a typically Canadian dessert or a high-energy snack before or after a hike!
Open in summer only, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
24, Carlton Street, Little Tub Harbor, Tobermory / beavertails.com
Shipwreck Lee's Of Tobermory ($$-$$$)
A real pirate bistro in the heart of the village! The fish and chips is especially popular. Quick service and friendly staff. You can eat on the outdoor patio or take it to go and eat at a picnic table in the Little Hub harbour.
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. in summer.
2, Bay Street, Tobermory / 705-888-5946 / shipwrecklees.com
Tobermory Brewing Company and Grill ($$-$$$)
This brew pub offers an interesting selection of craft beers. As the place is very popular, you may have to wait a little, but you won’t be disappointed. The pub-style menu is delicious. For a tasty burger, ribs or poutine, accompanied by a good beer, you’re in the right place.
Open daily in summer from noon to 8 p.m.
28, Bay Street S, Tobermory / 519-596-8181 / www.tobermorybrewingco.ca