I’ve been missing in action for a over week now and that’s because I’ve been escaping the unbearable sweat lodge that is Windsor for a little vacation to the Bruce Peninsula and Grey County in Midwestern Ontario. Matt and I camped in Bruce Peninsula National Park before meeting up with my family for a week long stay in the Blue Mountains. Glorious!
Tobermory is one of my favourite places in Canada. It has serenity, spectacular geological formations, great hiking, phenomenal swimming, and clear skies. So if you ever decide to head there, here are some things that should not be missed.
Take a Hike
The 894 km Bruce Trail starts in Tobermory and this region is reputed to have the most gorgeous views of the entire trail. Try hiking from Halfway Log Dump to Cave Point on the Bruce Trail. It is difficult, but the gorgeous views gorgeous views offered from the top of the Niagara escarpment are worth the effort.
How to Get There:
Halfway Log Dump trailhead is remote but it can be accessed by taking Hwy 6 about 3K south of Cyprus Lake Campground to Emmett Lake Rd (dirt road, 8K long). Follow the blue trail blazes from the parking lot until just before the boulder beach where you will turn left onto the Bruce Trail.
- Parking is available for a fee of $11.70 which appears to be based on the honour system.
- Many hikers walk along the boulder beach thinking they’re on the right path because the Bruce Trail is easy to miss here. Look for the white trail blazes on the trees marking the Bruce Trail. You will see them just before the beach.
Boulder at the Coastline
If you don’t want to hike from Halfway Log Dump, you can boulder there instead. There are countless boulders along the coast just waiting to be climbed. Bouldering is permitted along the beach up to cave point.
How to Get There:
Same directions as above.
- Bouldering isn’t permitted in the forest.
- Be careful to avoid any vegetation include lakeside daisies
Visit the Grotto
The Grotto. It’s just where you go when you go to Tobermory. That’s where everyone goes, and rightfully so. It’s a gorgeous Georgian Bay cave that feels just a little bit dangerous.
You have to squeeze yourself into a tiny hole in the rocks and manoeuvre yourself along massive boulders to get down to this cave, but the crystal clear waters and the refreshing swimming is worth it.
You can find a spot for cliff jumping into the deep bay below, but be careful because it’s not actually permitted and can be dangerous.
How to Get There:
You can take a private boat and anchor just off of the coastline.
If you’re driving, take Hwy 6 about 10K south of Tobermory to Cyprus Lake Rd and park at the Head of Trails parking lot at Cyprus Lake Campground. The Grotto is an easy 30 minute hike along the Georgian Bay Trail.
- Parking is available for a fee of $11.70.
- The grotto can get very busy during summer months so try to get there early in the morning, at supper time, or late in the evening.
- Wear good shoes or just go barefoot because climbing the rocks in flippy floppys can be a pain.
Visit the Flowerpots
My favourite spot in Georgian Bay is Flowerpot Island, named for the 2 rock pillars or stacks formed by erosion along the coastline of the island. The island has some not-too-tough hiking along the coast and through the emerald green forest of moss and ferns. It would take a novice hiker about 2 hours to hike the flowerpot loop. The Island has some of the best places to swim in the crystal clear and refreshing (read: cold!) Georgian Bay. It’s a bit less busy than swimming the Grotto and for those who play by the rules and prefer not to cliff jump, there are a lot of lower boulders that you can jump off of into the bay.
How To Get There:
By boat only from Tobermory’s main business centre in Little Tub Harbour
The Flowerpot Express operated by Blue Heron Cruises is a good option. It is a speed boat that takes about 25min to get there. It travels to Big Tub Harbour as well so you can see 2 turn of the century shipwrecks right over the side of the boat.
If you want to take a glass bottom boat for even better views go with Blue Anchor Cruises instead. Their glass bottom vessel actually has a glass bottom that you can walk on top of and see the shipwrecks right under your feet. It’s a lot better than Blue Heron’s “glass bottom” (not really) boat tour.
Diver’s Den offers boat rentals for full or half day at a reasonable price and will give you a 45 minute orientation beforehand if you don’t have a pleasure craft licence. Weather is permitting though, they won’t send you out if the weather is bad.
- If you want to hike and swim, give yourself at least 3 hours on the island.
- The best swimming is near the flowerpots.
- The island is pack-in/pack-out so don’t leave your garbage lying around.
- If you’re into camping, there are 6 very private campsites on the island that would make you feel like you have your own private island.
Gaze at the Milky Way Galaxy
The Cyprus Lake Campground has virtually no light pollution. When the sky is clear and the moon is new then conditions are perfect for seeing the milky way galaxy in the sky with your naked eyes. Oh yeah, there are about a billion other stars you can see too—it’s like your own private planetarium.
- It’s easiest to see the milky way during the new moon because there is less light pollution in the sky
- Cyprus Lake campground does offer guided stargazing
The waters off the coast of Tobermory are part of Fathom Five National Marine Park. The waters are crystal clear, contain beautiful submerged geological formations, and have over 20 intact shipwrecks turn of the century which are popular among divers and snorkelers alike making Tobermory the Scuba Diving Capital of Canada.
How to Get There:
Head to the National Park Visitor’s Centre Driving south on Highway 6 from Tobermory turn left onto Chi sin tib dek Road. Follow approximately 1km to the visitor centre.
- All divers must be trained and certified
- It is a national park so admittance into Fathom Five Marine Park is $5.80 per adult or $14.70 per family. Diver’s must also register at the Visitor Centre for a fee.
- Waters here are very cold and diver’s should take necessary precautions
The whitefish here is amazing. Mild, moist, flaky, and melt-in-your mouth kind of amazing. True story. Hit up one of the many fish and chip places in Tobermory’s Little Tub Harbour that offer fresh Georgian Bay whitefish or if you’re camping, cook it yourself on the campfire.
- Here’s a recipe for the Best Whitefish
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