Tobermory is stunning. Sitting at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula surrounded by the pristine waters of Georgian Bay, Tobermory is one of Ontario's most spectacular offerings. If you live in Ontario, your license plates assures you that this province is ‘Yours to discover’... So what are you waiting for? Go discover Tobermory!!
With that being said, many many others before you, and also many people at the same time as you will also be discovering Tobermory...so be sure to book ahead if you're going in the summer. If you want one of the coveted camping sites at Cypress Lake Campground in the Bruce Peninsula National park (and you do) plan ahead and book one here. Sadly, Cypress Lake was full when we visited. We stayed at Lands End Campground, which was a good alternative.
Tobermory is an amazing destination with so many fun activities to keep you outside and busy. With more time we could have entertained ourselves for days with beautiful trails to hike on and fresh waters to paddle and scuba dive in. With only a couple of days we hit up Tobermory's highlights and made a list of all the other things we want to do next time we're fortunate enough to visit this special spot on ‘the Bruce.’
Tobermory is known for its impressive turquoise waters, magical grotto, flower pot rocks and ridiculously cold water. First, the grotto. Don't miss it. If you are lucky enough to be staying at Cypress Lake you can either walk or bike to the grotto from your campsite. If you are staying elsewhere you'll want to book ahead for a parking spot through the park website. There are a limited amount of passes and they can be booked in four-hour blocks.
The grotto itself is only accessed by foot, so remember to bring a backpack. At the main parking area (P1) in the Cyprus Lake Campground you'll find the trail heads, and if it's summer, likely Park Staff to help you choose the best route down to the water. We opted to take the longer, more scenic Horse Lake trail down to the grotto and the more direct Georgian Bay trail back. Thankfully, taking the longer trail down to the grotto helped us work up a sweat so we were looking forward to a swim when we arrived. We quickly found a spot on the rocks to drop our bags and dove right into the sparkling water. After moving the icebergs aside (I kid- but seriously, the water is so cold) we snorkeled from the main rocky area around the corner to the actual grotto. The water is as clear at it is cold (extremely in both instances). There are a smattering of small fish and underwater nooks and crannies to discover… if you can stay in the water that long!
Another must while in Tobermory is a visit to Flowerpot Island. Blue Heron and Bruce Anchor both offer glass bottom boat tours out to Flowerpot Island in a variety of different floating vessels from big catamarans to small zodiacs. Book ahead online to choose your departure time and preferred boat. We took a larger glass bottom boat out to the island and a faster zodiac for the ride home at the end of the day. The glass bottom boat stopped first in at Big Tub Harbour so we could inspect a couple of Tobermory's famous shipwrecks residing at the bottom of the shallow inlet before heading out to the island. Note: Shipwrecks are cool.
Once on Flowerpot Island you have the option of hiking it's well kept trails to lookouts over the flower pot rock formations. Presumably, that's why you're here, so it's all very convenient. The Lighthouse Trail leads you along the shoreline, taking in the flowerpots in all their precarious glory and ends at the Lightkeepers Cottages. You can continue a little further on the trail to the actual lighthouse and another viewpoint. The Mountain Trail picks up at the Lightkeepers Cottages and competes the loop back to the boat dock through the interior of the island. There aren't any food options on the island, so be sure you bring a picnic and your bathing suit if you're hoping to wade through ice cubes again… this time, however, you'll be doing so in the shadows of the flowerpots themselves.. Assuming your eyeballs aren't frozen, I'm sure that you'll agree that it's a pretty spectacular place to take a dip.
Since you're already in town upon your return to the mainland from the island, it's the perfect time to check out what Tobermory has on offer. We started our tour in the most obvious place with the most obvious choice- with a flight at the Tobermory Brewery, of course. With a shaded wrap around porch overlooking Tobermory's adorable harbour it's the perfect spot for a late afternoon drink. Do it!
No longer thirsty, but definitely hungry we mosied on down to Shipwreck Lee's Pirate Bistro. Shiver me timbers! This is THE place for delicious fish and chips for LandLubbers, pirates and scallywags alike! Kitchy and super fun, being marooned at Shipwreck Lee's wearing a giant foam shark fin on my head courtesy of Landshark beer was definitely more fun than walking the plank.
Tobermory had been on our list for so long and we were so happy to finally be able to spend some time there this summer. In a province with so much natural beauty, Tobermory still manages to stand out as something remarkable. So, as the Pirates of Shipwreck Lee's would (probably) say.. visit Tobermory before you end up deep down in Davy Jones’ Locker… you won't regret it!