National Parks Summer Guide: Bruce Peninsula

Bruce Peninsula by Wikimedia Commons
Bruce Peninsula by
Wikimedia Commons

The Bruce, as it's known, is an 80-kilometre limestone protrusion of scenic shorelines and green wetlands that separates Georgian Bay from Lake Huron. On a map, it can be easily spotted as the finger-like outcrop. Bruce Peninsula National Park was established in 1987 and belongs among the largest protected areas in southern Ontario. Beaches, lakes, ancient woodlands with cedars, and steep cliffs add to the beauty of this place. The peninsula gained popularity as a popular vacation site. Its summer tends to be mild and cool, making the peninsula one of Ontario's most beloved spots for summer vacation. Located just two hours north of the City of Toronto, the Bruce Peninsula has something to offer for everybody.

Hiking

Cool summer temperatures are ideal for discovering the incredible beauty of local nature with a hike. More than 1,500 kilometres of combined trail system will satisfy hikers of all levels. The Overhang Point, Cave Point, and Halfway Log Dump are the major sightseeing places not to be skipped. Make sure to check out the Grotto, a huge cave formation with water from Georgian Bay at its bottom.

View from the Niagara Escarpment by Wikimedia Commons
View from the Niagara
Escarpment by Wikimedia
Commons
Taking a hike along the Bruce Trail, a 535-mile footpath spanning through the Niagara Escarpment, is one of the best ways to explore the peninsula. Along the Bruce Trail, the most impressive scenery is found. You will be amazed by more over 40 orchid species flowering in the early summer season. The staggering beauty of views from the sculpted cliffs on the Georgian Bay is enjoyable and its mesmerizing waters really resemble a huge lake of liquid glass. These deep blue-green waters are crystal clear, however quite frigid at times, so only during the late summer weeks are these sites comfortable enough for swimming.

Most people start the exploration of the peninsula from the Head of Trails, a point from which most of the Bruce's footpaths begin. From here, the Bruce Trail can be accessed too, taking a short stroll along the Georgian Bay trail. Even though the park is a real paradise, don't forget to carry protection against mosquitoes and flies, as their widespread presence in summer can make hiking in this area a rather uncomfortable experience.

Diving

Tobermory is a small village located at the tip of the peninsula and the main base for travelers. In summer, its harbour area becomes a busy place with many events being held there. But diving enthusiasts are mainly attracted by the location because of over twenty ship wrecks that can be seen in nearby clear waters, some of them dating back to the mid-19th century. You will also find corals, underwater caves, and many other stunning geological formations there. Of course, you can get involved in organized scuba adventures or rent diving gear. Try either Diver's Den, or G+S Watersports. The prices start from $40 per dive. Packages including gear and dive are from $120. If you're interested, note that you have to have a diving license.

Boating

Boaters couldn't ask for a better place! The Bruce Peninsula is virtually surrounded by water on three sides; that's why there are excellent opportunities at several marinas to dock your boat for an evening or two. For mooring, try wonderful inlets and sheltered coves in Hope Bay and Cabot Head. If you're looking for a vacation right on the water, kayaking and canoeing are great for discovering the hidden places of the peninsula. There are several outfitters that will provide you with quality canoe or kayak rentals.

Summer House Park

Summer House Park
Summer House Park
You'll find them near a beautiful inland lake called Miller Lake. This company offers extensive vacation services, including rentals of kayaks, canoes, paddle and motor boats, and water bikes too. If you bring your own boat, they may have space available to dock it (space is limited, so secure your space in advance). Prices start at $35 for one day of rent.

Thorncrest Outfitters

This adventure centre specializes in outdoor sports. They offer many paddling and kayak trips as well as guided courses (also for kids). Their stores are located in Southampton and Tobermory.

The waters off the Bruce have endless possibilities for paddlers. Beginners can enjoy beaches and areas with gentle inclines in protected harbours, whereas some areas are rough and rugged and should be approached only by experienced paddlers. Guided paddles in these sites are provided by some of the local outfitters. The most popular kayaking and canoeing destinations include Fishing Islands on Lake Huron close to Sauble Beach, Sauble River, and Rankin River. You should always be careful about safety since waves and storms develop quite quickly, especially in summer. Boaters and swimmers should monitor weather forecasts and caution. Also, summer temperatures near the water can be cool, so don't forget to pack a light jacket or a windbreaker.

Explore Villages

Tobermory

Tobermory is a charming village, a small community with only 500 local residents. The village is a popular tourist spot with a lot of restaurants offering the local white fish, a beautiful harbour, and cozy accommodations. Its strategic location has made Tobermory a port of refuge for canoe, steamer, and yacht enthusiasts. The life of the residents has always centred on boats and the two harbours of Big Tub and Little Tub that have also provided an ideal home to fishing tugs, car ferries, guide boats, and tour boats. At the beginning of the last century, there were several sawmills operating as part of the boom of deforestation. In the 1930s, the focus switched to guide boats and then it became the major tourist destination in Ontario. Tobermory is now a perfect spot for families, photographers, divers, and hikers.

Sauble Beach

Sauble Beach by Wikimedia Commons
Sauble Beach by
Wikimedia Commons
The place is often compared to the beaches of the Mediterranean resort areas, and an over-11-kilometre-long shoreline is said to be one of the largest freshwater beaches worldwide. This resort area on the eastern shores of Lake Huron and major tourist attraction in Bruce Peninsula is also famous for an interesting phenomenon of sand dunes. The dunes keep the beach shallow and warm, which makes for an ideal getaway for families with children. The endless number of activities that can be done at Sauble Beach includes swimming, water sports, and beach volleyball. You may choose the place for cottage rental as well. Great food at restaurants with free high-speed Internet connection, daycares, and a medical clinic are offered.

Wiarton

Wiarton lies between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay and boasts a lovely waterfront park called Bluewater Park. This is a perfect place for families with children to enjoy a playground, a small sandy beach, a boat lunch, and a trail connecting to the Bruce Trail. The site's long dock is great for fishing or just taking a casual walk. There's a historic Victorian train station constructed in 1904. Wiarton is well known due to the famous weather forecasting albino groundhog called Wiarton Willie whose sculpture can be seen in Bluewater Park. If you're planning to travel to Wiarton from Tobermory, avoid the 100-kilometre stretch of highway connecting the villages and preferably use a side road to get a taste of rural scenery so characteristic for the Bruce.

Further travel tips

Chi-Cheemaun Ferry

Chi Cheemaun Ferry
Chi-Cheemaun Ferry
Ride this passenger and car ferry with your car! The ferry operates between Tobermory and South Baymouth on Manatoulin Island from mid-May to mid-October. Spending one full day or even several days on Manitoulin Island is completely worth it. The island is the world's largest freshwater island well known due to its amazing sunsets, scenic landscapes, and tranquility. The adult ferry ticket starts at $15.95, while rates per vehicle range from $34.70 to $74.50.

Neyaashiinigaamiing First Nations reserve

Neyaashiinigaamiing, or Cape Croker, is the reserve located north of Wiarton, an area where a First Nations community has lived for centuries. Neyaashiinigaamiing will please your senses with its incredible scenery. Visit the native community and admire exotic plants together with wildlife. This place provides a lot of information for those who wish to learn more about the Bruce Peninsula and its First Nations history. Many souvenir shops are present at the spot as well.

Bruce's Caves

Bruce's Caves Conservation Area, located five kilometers northeast of Wiarton, consists of the Niagara Escarpment, rock talus, hardwoods, wooden swamp, and caves. The conservation area spans through seven hectares. The caves are there for you to enjoy their beauty for free, while parking is available nearby. If you're interested in the ancient weathering processes and the magnitude of post-glacial lake levels created thousands of years ago, this place should be a must-see for you.

Mountain Bike Adventure Park

Mountain Bike Adventure Park
Mountain Bike Adventure
Park
For adventurous mountain bikers, Mountain Bike Adventure Park is the right choice for what to do in peninsula. The park has over 20 kilometres of trails and it's the first legal free-ride mountain bike park in Eastern Canada featuring rock drops, skinnies, teeter totters, suspension bridges, and dirt jumps. The trails are differentiated by difficulty levels, making the attraction appealing to everyone. The park can be found just north of Wiarton and admission is free. If you prefer recreational biking, try many paths around Tobermory where you can also rent a bicycle ($15.50 to $23.50 per day of biking).

Flowerpot Island

This island used to be a part of the land bridge between the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island. It's named for its two rock formations with the shape of flowerpots formed by erosion and separation of some of the mainland rock. The process takes place millions of years and is still happening. The island contains 6 kilometres of trail system that you can use for exploring the interior with a variety of forest settings. Natural caves can be seen there by climbing nice wooden staircases. To enjoy the beauty and natural wonders of this place, take the tour boat. The place is just a short ride away from Tobermory and the boat prices range from $25 to $40 per adult.

Summer Events

Schedule of Events 2012
Schedule of Events 2012
Forests, lakes, rugged coastlines, wetlands, and beaches make the Bruce Peninsula a beautiful place ripe for exploration. But there is much more this great Ontario destination has to offer. Check out the official site of Bruce Peninsula Tourist Association for events calendar updated frequently or this leaflet on upcoming special events, or get inspired by our selection of summer happenings.

Lobster and Laughs

This event belongs among Sauble Beach's most popular events. Lobster and Laughs features a dinner and a comedy show taking place directly on the beach with Nova Scotia lobster and steak dinner served. The event sells out very quickly each year and will be held on August 9th this summer. If you're interested, get to know more about Lobster and Laughs here.

Sauble Beach Sandfest

Sauble Beach is the host of another great summer event called Sandfest. Live music, a classic car show with more than 450 vehicles, a volleyball tournament, and a great sandcastle building competition will make the weekend of August 10th to 12th an unforgettable family experience.

Farmer's Markets

Looking for organic produce, heritage vegetables, fresh bread, or local meats? Then you should visit the farmer's markets taking place weekly in various locations from spring until autumn. Wiarton market is held every Friday in te Bluewater Park, Lion's Head every Saturday, and on Sundays you can buy some of the locally made products and produce in Tobermory.

Full of Music with Earth Bound Gardens

Visit Sunday summer concerts held in impressive flowering gardens, just 15 minutes north of Wiarton. Performances of various artists take place on each Sunday of July and August and you'll find more information on their website. There's also the Lavender Festival organized between July 29th and August 4th, so this may be another nice opportunity to spend some time there.

Where to stay

Apart from extensive offer of hotels and bed-and-breakfasts available year round, cottage rentals and camping sites are great choices for staying directly at the peninsula too.

Rent a cottage

Sunset over Georgian Bay by Wikimedia Commons
Sunset over Georgian Bay
by Wikimedia Commons
Many people claim staying in wide variety of cottages is the best way to enjoy the unique environment of the peninsula. Cottages are offered by private owners or rental agencies. There are many accommodations available in Sauble Beach. As they fill up fast in summer, if all the accommodations are full, you may try staying in Wiarton, located 20 minutes away. Another great cottage rental site is on the shores of Lake Huron, where you can enjoy some of the best sunsets in all of Ontario. There are also cottages tucked away in the bush providing a calmer stay. The shoreline of Lake Huron is generally a safer swimming area for children compared to Georgian Bay. If you, however, prefer Georgian Bay, opportunities there include private cottages in secluded, forested areas or Dyers Bay, located 20 minutes from Tobermory, right on the Bruce Trail. Tobermory cottages as well as cottages in Miller Lake, a natural inland lake located midway up the peninsula, 25 minutes from Tobermory, are also offered. In summer, cottages are often rented on a weekly basis starting from Saturday. Their price is usually $1000-$2500 per week.

Camping

Bruce Peninsula offers superb semi-wilderness camping that will provide an ideal starting point for your park adventure. Camping is especially popular during summer, so reservations are strongly recommended. For further information regarding reservation, descriptions, and prices, check out this guide to Bruce Peninsula and the official website of Bruce Peninsula Tourism.

Bruce Peninsula National Park

The national parks offers four different camping experiences. These include drive-in sites and group camping at Cyprus Lake, backcountry camping along the Bruce Trail at Stormhaven and High Dump, as well as absolutely unique Yurt camping. Ten yurts are located along the shore of Cyprus Lake and are modern versions of a traditional dwelling used by the nomads of Central Asia. The yurts at Cyprus Lake are fully furnished and each yurt has a locking door. If you are tempted by a campfire, sunset watching, and gazing at the starry sky through the skylight dome as you drift off to sleep, this may be something to try.

Sauble Falls Provincial Park

The park is located in the southern part of the Bruce Peninsula, in the lower base of Sauble River. It's divided in campgrounds with a quiet site on the west and the east side more suitable for group camping. Even if you decide to camp somewhere else, you can just enjoy Sauble Falls. This will be especially useful for fishers as the area is a well known fishing site with Rainbow Trout and Chinook Salmon being popular species there. In the summer, you can naturally do a lot of water activities and have fun while water rafting and climp jumping. The rentals are usually from $25.75 to $40.00 and vary with respect to whether electricity is available or not.

Useful websites

The Bruce Peninsula at National Parks of Canada website.

Explore the Bruce by the Official Bruce County Tourism.

The Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula and Town of South Bruce Peninsula.

2 comments on “National Parks Summer Guide: Bruce Peninsula

  1. Hello, I’m going to visit Bruce Point National Park this summer (third week of July 2014).I would like to kow in advance the most beautiful attractions; to know where we can rent a kayak to go on Georgian Bay, to do bicycle and to swim, to take nice pics of nature things.Thank you for your answers.
    Mario Blais french but able to understand english.

  2. Hi Julie,

    Thanks so much for this awesome blog post! We really appreciate you helping us promote our area. We love it so much, but to see others share the love is great!

    If anyone has questions on the Bruce Peninsula, please let me know. I’d be happy to help you plan a trip!

    Lisa Greig
    lisa@explorethebruce.com

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