My family left our home in Toronto and took a 2,100 kilometre road trip in the summer of 2017. 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 that summer and decided that we liked it so much we would return in the summer of 2018 as well. And you know what? 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. For us, in Tobermory, there is an abundance of things to do!
Here are our Top 5 things To See And Do In 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. 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 you can see in Big Tub Harbour in Tobermory 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
Take one of the boats 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 from Tobermory 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. Here you will find 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 try to do the hiking – I don’t recommend it.
We were not prepared for the beauty here – it is 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 a couple hours. The rookie mistake we made when we went was not packing a cooler. To swim, explore the flowerpots, hike the terrain and really take in the whole experience, requires a half day at least.
Word of wisdom to the Instagram Models of the world – please do not try to climb the Flower Pots. It’s dangerous to you if you fall, but it’s also disruptive to nature. Imagine being the asshole who damages one of these natural structures so terribly that it changes the appearance?
There are a couple boat charter companies to get you here from Tobermory, Ontario. You can combine 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 in Bruce Peninsula National Park
The Grotto, found in Bruce Peninsula National Park, just outside of Tobermory, is a place that is so popular, we couldn’t get in the first year we tried. I severely underestimated that it is one of the top attractions in the province and that just showing up would be suffice. It turns out it requires a little more planning to be able to see and experience this magical place.
We did our planning and did get into the Grotto in the summer of 2018. During the peak season of July and August, there are a couple ways to make sure you are in Bruce Peninsula National Park and can access the Grotto:
1.) Be there already as a camper at one of the backcountry sites along Georgian Bay or in Cyprus Lake Campground.
2.) Reserve parking in advance if coming from outside the park. Parking is assigned by time blocks and only a certain amount of cars are permitted per time slot.
3.) Head up there in the off or shoulder seasons of April/May/June or September/October when the demand to visit is much less.
There’s a twitter hashtag you can follow for more information – #GrottoParking
4.) Have ice cream at The Sweet Shop on Bay Street
There’s this sweet little ice cream shop with a lot of brilliant Canadian flavours of yummy ice cream. Located at 18 Bay Street, overlooking Little Tub Harbour, the locally owned Sweet Shop makes candy, fudge, chocolate and brittle onsite. Come after dinner, sit and relax! Walk around and see the boats in the harbour with ice cream in hand, you won’t be sorry!
5.) Visit Singing Sands Beach
Singing Sands Beach is located off of Dorcas Bay Road south of Tobermory. This large sand beach with shallow waters is part of Bruce Peninsula National Park. I 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. The kids are used to Prince Edward County and Caribbean beaches.
It became an opportunity to push my kids into experiences to and take us all out of our comfort zones.
The water was warm and you could walk really far out before the kids lower bodies became submerged. The kids even had a good time. For those who are squeamish about things touching their feet in the water, I recommend wearing a pair of water shoes. 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!
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