My family returned from our 2,100 kilometre road trip not too long ago and I am compiling our stories and recommendations! Our first stop when we left the Toronto area was Tobermory, Ontario. The drive to Tobermory from our house is approximately 4 hours, however with the rate at which my children (and husband) need to exit the vehicle for pee, hunger and leg stretching, it honestly took closer to 6, yes SIX hours.
We spent two nights in Tobermory and I would say we needed at least 2 more as it was our first time there. It is safe to say, we will return. I am a really outdoorsy person and my children are slowly warming up to the idea of non-urban adventure, so for us, there is an abundance of things to do!
Here are our Top 5 things to see and do around Tobermory, Ontario!
1.) Take a Boat Tour to see the two Shipwrecks in Big Tub Harbour. Really and truly, nothing beats scuba diving shipwrecks if you are a certified diver, but if are not a diver or a snorkeler or you are traveling with your children and do not have other care for them while you are on a dive, then a viewing from a boat is the next best thing here. The two wrecks here are called Sweepstakes and City of Grand Rapids.
The Sweepstakes went down in 1885, spoiler alert – no treasures left and currently lies in roughly 6 metres of water. It is one of the best preserved shipwrecks of it’s time in the Great Lakes. The City of Grand Rapids wreck is from 1907, it was a double decker steamer that caught fire wile mooring. It was released from the dock and left it burn in the harbour. It sank where it lies. Totally worth seeing – see if you can get on one of the glass bottom boats to do this!
2. Take a boat to Flowerpot Island and spend the day – at least an afternoon, please don’t short change yourself on time here. Flowerpot Island is only accessible by boat and is one of the best experiences in Fathom Five National Marine Park! The island is famous for its natural “flowerpot” rock pillars, caves, historic light station and rare plants. This is a great spot for easy to moderate level hikers (my kids had no problem), there is great swimming and snorkeling, picnic areas and overnight camping if you are adventurous. Be sure to bring your bathing suit in a day bag with you and have sturdy shoes, don’t come in flip flops and look to do the hiking – I don’t recommend it.
We were not prepared for the beauty here – it was so awe inspiring! The water really is the colour of these photos – no filter, I swear! And we shortchanged ourselves on time, hence I recommend spending more than 2 hours. If we had been prepared, we would have packed a cooler and planned to spend more time there and hike the whole terrain, not just hike to the flowerpots, swim and leave. Rookie mistake!
There are two boat charter companies to get you here – it can be combined with a shipwreck viewing tour or simply take an express boat direct and they have ticketed return times when they drop you off. According to the Parks Canada website, they recommend that you spend 4-5 hours to hike and see it all. Side note, there is
really nothing to purchase here, bring your own food and water! Also there are not a whole lot of places to dispose of garbage here, so please plan to take back with you what you bring. worth noting, you have to pay for the boat ride here, but since it’s a national park and it’s Canada’s 150th birthday, admission this year to the island is free.
3.) Visit The Grotto – This place is so popular, we couldn’t get in. I know it seems weird for us to recommend it when we haven’t seen or experienced it, but I can tell you from everyone we asked, it’s so worth it and hard to believe that such a unique natural wonder and memorable place to experience is in Ontario. It is one of the top attractions in the province.
It’s highly recommended that you plan your visit well in advance – parking fills up on most days by noon, so the people we spoke too recommended we get there by 8:00am. For real! There’s a twitter hashtag you can follow for more information – #GrottoParking
4.) Have ice cream at The Sweet Shop – There’s this sweet little ice cream shop with a lot of brilliant Canadian flavours of yummy ice cream. Overlooking Little Tub Harbour, the locally owned Sweet Shop makes candy, fudge, chocolate and brittle onsite. Come after dinner, sit and relax! Walt around and see the boats in the harbour with ice cream in hand, you won’t be sorry!
5.) Visit Singing Sands Beach – I have to admit, when my family rolled up to this beach, we were not impressed. It looked like it was full of weeds, there were not a lot of people there and it was windy. My family is a little spoiled, we are very used to Prince Edward County and Caribbean beaches, so my son was terrified for lack of a better word. However, this is what the road trip was all about – pushing my kids into experiences that they were not used to and taking us all out of our comfort zones. And you want to know what?
The water was warm and you could walk really far out before the kids lower bodies were even submerged. And the kids eventually had a good time. For those who are squeamish about things touching their feet in the water (my son…), I recommend wearing a pair of water shoes, but it’s not really so bad once you walk out in the water for a bit. Admission here is free.
And as a bonus for you history buffs – there are historical walking tours available in town.
For those you you looking for the video blog – here you go!