The Bruce Peninsula
- Main Airport – Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport
- Currency – Canadian Dollar (CAD)
- Language – English
- Population – 3,744
- GDP (Canada) – $1.5 trillion (10th Overall)
The Bruce Peninsula of Ontario, Canada can be described as none other than THE hidden gem of the North American continent. A quaint drive along the lake shore through small towns and beautiful fields of yellow flowers turns into a wooded route and prepares you for the natural beauty of the Bruce Peninsula. Characterized by crystal clear waters and stunning rock formations, this place has something to offer for everyone. If you’re looking for breathtaking scenery, small towns, big adventure and relaxation by the water, then the Bruce is the place for you.
Packing/Getting Around/Other Introduction Information
My Bruce Peninsula experience took place in the summertime with temperatures dropping to the low fifties in the evening and rising to the eighties during the day. Make sure to bring clothes you can layer. Walks through the dense woods can get a bit chilly but your destination will always be in direct sun. To be fully prepared, I would recommend packing long pants (leggings/sweats would be best because they are easy to layer with), running shorts, sweatshirts, t-shirts, a winter jacket to sleep in if you are tenting it, a bathing suit, and a nice outfit or two for going into town. BRING TENNIS SHOES! Hiking in the Bruce is not the place for flip flops. Hats and sunglasses are a must as well as plenty of sunscreen. The one thing I didn’t bring but wish I had was a pair of goggles and a snorkel. The water is crystal clear which makes for perfect underwater viewing conditions.
The Bruce does not have any public transportation. If you stay in the national park (via tent, trailer or yurt) the hiking trails are on the grounds and are a short walk from anywhere within the park. However, if you choose to stay in a hotel/motel/b&b you must drive into the park to access the hiking trails. If you drive there make sure to leave EARLY, the lots do fill up! There is a parking fee and you will get ticketed if you don’t purchase a visitor pass from the visitor center in the park.
During my time in the Bruce, I stayed in a tent in the national park. If you choose to stay in a trailer or tent in the park bathrooms are available but only include sinks and toilets- no showers. Token operated showers can be found at a nearby gas station and are surprisingly clean. People who stay in a yurt (a less fancy version of a cabin) are given an access code to a public bathroom that has showers. Although I chose to camp there are hotel options available.
Check out our top activities for The Bruce Peninsula below.
1) Indian Head Cove
Indian Head cove is one of three must-see stops along the Bruce Peninsula trail. The trail itself stretches along miles and miles of coastline, but you can pick it up inside the national park for the fastest route to your destination. Since Indian Head Cove is not accessible by car, you must park in the parking lot at the trail head and hike from there. After about a fifteen minute walk into the forest on a wheelchair accessible path, a sign will point you down to Indian head cove.
The trail leads you to the top of the cove and you must walk your way down to the bottom. The top of the cove is a beautiful sight- before you lays water as far as the eye can see, waves gently rolling into what can only be called a “rock beach”. The varying levels of rocks act as steps on your way down to the water/wherever you decide to hang out and allows you to stop and take in the scenery at your leisure. You can bring a book and a beach towel and relax for hours or strap on your snorkel and goggles dive into the water- the choice is yours and there is no wrong answer on what to do! Beware- the water is very cold but well worth it!
2) The Grotto
Once you feel satisfied with your time at Indian Head Cove pack up your things and head back up to the top. Back track a couple of feet into the direction you came from until you see a slight clearing in the trees to your right lined with rocks. This trail can be easily missed but shouldn’t be if you want to get the full Bruce experience. This path is slightly less accessible than the other, roots and hills make for a tough hike but the destination is worth it. No signs mark the Grotto but you can’t miss it! Once again the trail takes you to the top of the Grotto and you must get down to it. There are two ways you can take- one is through a small opening in between two rocks and the other route is doing some reverse rock climbing- instead of climbing up you climb down. Please note that the Grotto is not a place to take dogs or small children- there is a lot of steep cliffs and semi-dangerous maneuvers you must make to get down to the bottom. Once at the bottom you will feel like you’re in mermaid cove from Peter Pan or maybe even Greece. Once again there is crystal clear water, but only this time there’s a cave that can be entered by swimming or by walking along rocks. The water leading up to the cave is shallow but the farther into the cave you get “steps” have formed due to erosion leading to a 200 foot drop off, easily visible with the crystal clear water! These conditions make for PERFECT cliff/cave diving adventures! Hours can pass by in the blink of an eye by exploring the cave, swimming/snorkeling, and practicing your parkour skills by climbing and jumping!
3) Overhanging Point
The last must see stop on the trail is Overhanging Point. To get here continue hiking past the grotto, over a rock beach and back into the woods. Once again the trail is not clearly marked so make sure to pay close attention to tree markings (explained at the visitor’s center). The name truly fits this destination; it is simply an overhanging point, but a beautiful one that cannot be missed! You will not know you’re standing on it until you hike a little further past it and see what you were standing on-we took this picture by setting our camera on a timer quite a few feet away from the point. Conquer your fear of heights by standing or sitting right on the edge of a jutted out piece of land and taking in the scenery. It is possible to hike below the overhanging point (look for a small opening in between rocks again) but in my opinion the scenery is the best from the top.
4) Flowerpot Island
Another must-see in the Bruce is Flowerpot Island. A ride on a glass bottom boat (complete with a narrator to fill you in on all the Flowerpot Island fun facts) first takes you on a slow ride through the village’s harbor past many beautiful lake front homes, ending up in a basin where not one, but two shipwrecks can be viewed! From there the boat picks up speed as you travel through Lake Huron to Flowerpot Island. The island gets its name from the unique flowerpot shaped rock formations along the coast. You can explore the island in as little or as much time as you would like, but I recommend getting the full experience by venturing to the flowerpots, the cave, and the lighthouse.
One thing that CANNOT be missed is the simplest of all the activities, and that is star gazing. The Bruce is zoned as a “dark sky community” which limits the amount of light the surrounding cities emit during the night. The beauty is indescribable… you can see the Milky Way, tons of constellations, and the stars are the biggest and brightest you will ever see them. The optimal star gazing sight is the lookout tower at the visitor’s center. The tower’s height exceeds the height of the trees and there is nothing to block your view. I recommend bringing some chairs or a blanket to sit on because once you experience it you’ll never want to leave. If you don’t have it already I also recommend you download some sort of stargazing app to help you pinpoint which constellation is which. The tower is also scenic during the day but nothing compares to the view at night. There is a sign that is slightly misleading about a fee to access the tower, but there is no fee so don’t be fooled! The road into the visitor’s center area is also very long but don’t be worried, it leads you where you need to be!
6) The Village of Tobermory
Check out the village of Tobermory if you’re looking for something a little more low-key to explore. There is one main road in the Bruce and it ends in the village of Tobermory. You can walk along the water and marvel at the sailboats and ferries tied up along the dock, shop in the gift shops, grab ice cream and sit on a bench, or dine at one of the many fish & chip restaurants in town. Keep reading for our go-to restaurant recommendatoin in Tobermory!
The “cuisine” in the Bruce is nothing out of the ordinary- any restaurant offers a variety of specialty burgers, salads, wraps, soups, but most importantly in a harbor village like Tobermory fish and chips. When in Canada, do as the Canadians do and order Poutine- French fries drenched in gravy topped with a variety of cheeses.
Tobermory Brewing Company
28 Bay Street | Tobermory | Ontario Canada
The Tobermory Brewing Company offers the best view of any restaurant in Tobermory with their elevated outdoor patio. Look down at the patrons in the village below or out at the harbor and incoming ships while enjoying a tasty meal. The menu offers a large variety- enjoy anything from a burger to finer dining options such as steak. House made beer is also a menu option and is very popular with both locals and tourists. The service is good, the food is great (I recommend fish and chips!) and the view is spectacular, what more could you need?!
Looking to take a day trip or need to stop for a night during your road trip? Grand Bend is the place for you! Grand Bend is the stereotypical beach town, a main strip full of ice cream parlors and cheesy t-shirt shops ends at the beach. Here you can eat at an open air restaurant, play mini golf, shop, rent a jet ski/paddleboard, get a henna tattoo, or simply go sit on the sand and enjoy the beach! This is a perfect place to stop on your way to or from the Bruce!
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