The Best Guide to This Adorable Harbour Town’s Activities in Tobermory
The charming tiny village of Tobermory is located at the top of what I like to refer to as Ontario’s tail. One of Southern Ontario’s most picturesque regions, the Bruce Peninsula, is where this harbour community is situated. Tobermory is a well-liked summer getaway spot in Ontario and offers a tonne of exciting excursions. You must check out these things to do in Tobermory Ontario if you enjoy being outside or want to see some of Ontario’s natural marvels.
A SMALL NOTE ON TOBERMORY
The Saugeen Ojibway Nation, who had lived in the area for thousands of years before colonisation, owns the land where Tobermory is located. Ojibway and Odawa inhabitants frequented this region until they were brutally evicted in order to make way for impending European settlers.
The region was examined in the middle of the 1800s to determine whether it was suitable for agricultural use. Despite the terrain’s unsuitability for cultivation, parcels of land were sold. Some families struggled a lot as a result, while others completely left the area. The economy didn’t start to take off until 1881, when a sawmill was erected; however, this was short-lived due to overharvesting of the forests surrounding Tobermory, and died out in just 20 years. As a result, the population died off and the economy collapsed.
Tobermory didn’t start to reclaim its prominence until nearly a century later, when cottagers started to settle there. The town’s population started to increase in the 1970s, and today it is one of Southern Ontario’s most popular tourist attractions.
WHO IS TOBERMORY? WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?
Tobermory may be found on the Bruce Peninsula’s northernmost point. There are primarily two methods to travel. Since the bulk of visitors come from the south, you should find Highway 6 and move in that direction. The major road on the Bruce Peninsula, which will bring you right into the centre of town.
Take the Trans Canada Highway around Georgian Bay to Highway 400 if you’re travelling from the north. Take Highway 26 from here to connect with Highway 6, which will take you through the South Georgian Bay region. 80 minutes later, if you hang a right onto it, you’ll be at Tobermory. However, taking the boat from Manitoulin Island through the Chi Cheemaun is the more common option. It takes around two hours to go from South Baymouth to Tobermory. Various departures occur every day, depending on the season. For further information, go to the Chi Cheemaun’s website.
Best Activities in Tobermory
You might desire to go to Tobermory for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few fantastic things to do, including breathtaking blue seas, stunning Niagara Escarpment rock formations, and a taste of cottage country.
BRUCE PENINSULA NATIONAL PARK SHOULD BE VISITED
This is most likely one of the main motives for travellers to Tobermory. In order to preserve a significant portion of the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Lowlands region, Bruce Peninsula National Park was created in 1987 and is situated on the eastern side of the peninsula. Cyprus Lake Provincial Park, which covers 156 km2, was first recognised as a National Park under the auspices of Parks Canada.
Over 10 kilometres of hiking trails, front and backcountry campsites, and a wide range of other outdoor pursuits, including bird viewing, mountain climbing, and more are available at Bruce Peninsula National Park. In the summer, take advantage of the park from a different perspective by swimming or bringing your canoe or kayak and exploring Georgian Bay’s crystal-clear waters.
Right present, visiting Bruce Peninsula National Park requires making a reservation for a time period. There is a method to get around this time restriction and spend extra time at the park. You can visit the park freely while staying at Cyprus Lake Campground if you make a reservation for a night there. This will not only let you explore more of the park, but it will also give you the chance to view stunning features like the Grotto (more on that below) at sunset or even at daybreak for you early risers—a benefit that most people don’t get to experience!
VISIT THE NOTORIOUS TOBERMORY GROTTO
So this is the main reason people visit Bruce Peninsula National Park, I guess. The Grotto, also known as the “Tobermory Grotto,” is a remarkable rock structure that has formed a cave along the Georgian Bay shoreline. It’s an extremely spectacular natural marvel that has been created over thousands of years, so it’s hardly surprise that it’s one of the top attractions in Tobermory.
The climb to the Grotto isn’t particularly challenging, but many people attempt to descend the sheer cliffside to investigate the cave. This is dangerous for several reasons, including the high potential for harm, the risk to first responders who would have to save you, and the most current problem, the lack of room for physical separation. Although it could be feasible to enter the cave if you have the necessary skills, Parks Canada has formally closed it for everyone’s safety. Even now, you may take in the scenery from the top of the nearby cliff!
HIKE THE BRUCE TRAIL
Tobermory is the final stop on the world-famous Bruce Trail in Ontario, which you probably aren’t aware of. In the event that you are unfamiliar with the Bruce Trail, it is a path that extends for more than 900 kilometres and follows the Niagara Escarpment all the way down to Queenston, which is located close to Niagara Falls. Many people’s go-to way to spend their free time these days is hiking along the Bruce Trail and any of the countless offshoot paths that branch off from it. On the eastern side of the harbour, you won’t want to pass up the opportunity to visit the Southern Terminus Cairn.
The Bruce Trail is actually the oldest marked route in Canada and it travels through a variety of landscapes including farmland, provincial reserves, and close proximity to cities. Although there are a few straightforward stretches throughout the trail, in other places along the path, the terrain can be quite challenging. Especially if it’s the first time you’ve ever hiked that particular stretch of trail, it’s smart to come prepared and to let someone know where you are at all times. Check out my guide, which contains insider tips and methods gleaned from my experiences along the Bruce Trail, for additional information on how to hike this popular trail.
FATHOM FIVE NATIONAL MARINE PARK IS YOURS TO EXPLORE.
The Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park were both established in the same year, making Fathom Five the first National Marine Park in Canada. It is presently one of just two marine conservation zones in the province of Ontario and one of only four in the entire country of Canada!
A minor portion of the park is actually on land, despite the fact that the vast majority of it is comprised of the waters of Georgian Bay. Proceed to the visitor centre, which is located in a building that is currently shared with Bruce Peninsula National Park. There are three different hiking routes, an accessible theatre, interpretive programmes, and instructional exhibits about the park that can all be found in this building. One of these pathways will take you directly into the heart of Tobermory, while the other two will take you on a scenic journey over the peninsula and down to the water’s edge of Georgian Bay. Don’t miss your chance to obtain a bird’s-eye perspective of the surrounding area by climbing the observation tower! A visit to Flowerpot Island is, without a doubt, the most popular thing that visitors can do while they are at Fathom Five National Marine Park.
GO TO FLORPOT ISLAND
Cross Georgian Bay to Flowerpot Island, which got its name from the famous natural “flowerpot” granite pillars that can be found there. Explore the pathways that round the island, passing by caverns and interesting rock formations on your approach to the Flowerpot Island Lighthouse. Bring along some snacks and plenty of water, and take some time to explore the island.
It’s totally up to you how long you want to spend exploring Flowerpot Island. You’ll be able to see the flowerpots and the cave in around 1.5 to 2 hours. Plan to spend about 3 hours if you want to make it to the lighthouse. But if you’ve travelled so far, why not take the time to see it all by dedicating a significant portion of your day? The loop trail will take you at least 4 hours to complete, so bring a picnic, take your time, and take in all the breathtaking vistas Flowerpot Island has to offer.
You should pack accordingly because Flowerpot Island is a far-off place. Nothing is there: no restaurant, no store, no running water. Composting restrooms are available at Beachy Cove, both at the old lighthouse and close to the main pier. Wear strong shoes, such as a good pair of hiking boots, carry bug spray and sunscreen, and pack plenty of water. Pack a Lifestraw water bottle if you don’t want to carry a lot so you never have to worry about running out! Don’t forget the food, of course, as a hangry hiker is a miserable hiker.
One of the most distinctive things to do in Tobermory is visiting Flowerpot Island, which you must do while in the area.
A NIGHT’S CAMP ON FLOWERPOT ISLAND
Do you feel like Flowerpot Island’s fun day wasn’t long enough? You’re in luck since Flowerpot Island does allow overnight camping. Camping at one of the six sites in Beachy Cove is the best way to fully experience this Ontario treasure. As I just indicated, you must bring everything you’ll need, including non-cook food or a propane camp stove for cooking as there are no fires allowed on Flowerpot Island (tent, sleeping bags, clothes, etc.).
Never gone camping in the backcountry? A nice place to test the waters is here. Although you are “stranded” on an island far from civilization, it is about the only challenging aspect. You don’t have to travel very far from the dock where you’re dropped off to your campground because the trail is only a short distance long and rather rough. Additionally, the island is bear-free (unlike the Bruce Peninsula), which is a major plus in my book.
FOR SOME SERIOUS STARGAZING, STAY UP LATE
Tobermory is undoubtedly a taste of cottage country even though it isn’t an official dark sky preserve. Less light pollution results from a smaller population, which means better stargazing possibilities!
After a long day of exploring Tobermory, it could be difficult to stay up late, but you won’t want to miss the beautiful skies. Believe me when I say that the lack of sleep was worthwhile! This is particularly true if you want to spend the night camping on Flowerpot Island. There’s even a chance to see the aurora borealis if the solar storm is strong enough, though it’s far less likely to happen in the summer.
An evening spent stargazing (and looking into each other’s eyes) should be high on your list of romantic things to do in Tobermory, in my opinion.
Dive underwater to see some shipwrecks
Did you know that Tobermory is the world’s top location for freshwater diving in addition to being one of the best scuba diving locations in Ontario? A scuba diving trip will allow you to view this Ontario location from a unique perspective. There are around 20 ancient shipwrecks in these seas, so if you can face the freezing water, you’ll be treated to some intriguing vistas!
Do you want to know if diving in Tobermory requires a PADI open water certification? divers Den, a nearby dive company, offers introductory dives so you may gain a feel for the sport even though you must be in order to dive the shipwrecks. They’ll have everything you need, so all you need to bring is a towel and your bathing suit. You can obtain your certification from them as well if you’re interested.
GO FOR A RIDE IN A GLASS BOOT
This is one of the Tobermory sights you shouldn’t miss if you want to visit some shipwrecks but don’t want to dare the icy waters of Georgian Bay! You can take a glass bottom boat tour from Tobermory Harbour and discover some of the region’s history while taking in a singular view of the waterways below.
In Tobermory, there are two primary businesses to select from. The first is Bruce Anchor Cruises, which offers round-trip cruises for between $38 and $44 per adult. Only two of the four boats that they provide have glass bottoms, so be sure to ask before making a reservation. The other is Blue Heron Cruises, which charges an adult between $46 and $60. Their entire fleet has glass bottoms, but you should keep an eye out for their newest ship because it has the finest views!
One benefit of taking a cruise from Tobermory is that you can combine it with a trip to Flowerpot Island for a full afternoon (or day!) of entertainment. Undoubtedly, this is among the most well-liked activities in the neighbourhood.
GO FOR A PADDLE
Get out on the water for some paddling if you want to do some exploring of the waters close to Tobermory while keeping yourself warm and (mostly) dry. Along the coastline of Lake Huron as well as on a number of the inland lakes, there are a variety of access points to the water that you can make use of. Cyprus Lake and Cameron Lake are connected by a straight, which makes this location an excellent starting point for canoeing or kayaking excursions down the Bruce Peninsula. Islands like Cove Island and Russel Island each have their own unique collection of coves, bays, and inlets. Those wishing to go out on the water in a kayak or canoe in Tobermory are flocking to these two locations more and more.
You have the option of renting a kayak from either Big Tub Harbour Resort or Tobermory Cruise Line if you do not own your own vessel. The latter additionally provides the option to rent stand-up paddleboards for those interested.
Keep in mind that we are talking about the Great Lakes! You have to be mindful of the rapid mood shifts that can occur in these waters as well as the powerful currents that can be found in them. Keep an eye on the forecast, and always do your homework before embarking on an adventure to ensure that you don’t go in over your head. Talk to one of the local rental businesses or get in touch with the people who work at Parks Canada to find out more information if you are unclear of where you should paddle if you do not already know.
FINISH OFF SOME FISH AND CHIPS
I don’t know about you, but everytime I’m close to a lovely piece of water, I have the urge for fish and chips. Fortunately, there are a few locations in town where you can have some!
My favourite place to go is Shipwreck Lee’s because I adore the relaxed ambiance and quirky furnishings. Although they have a restaurant near to the ferry dock, I prefer their more intimate satellite location on Bay Street in the middle of the city. Their fish and chips are crisp, flavorful, and inexpensive (between $10 and $15). They have a gluten-free choice and even unlimited fish and chips, something I have never seen before!
There are a few other restaurants in Tobermory where you can get your fish and chips fix if Shipwreck Lee’s is already full. The Fish & Chip Place is obviously on the eastern side, and the Crowsnest Pub is directly next to the harbour. Fish tacos are usually a good option and are available at Coconut Joe’s and the Tacomory Food Truck if you don’t mind forgoing the chips.
Shopping Trip Time!
Even though you probably came to Tobermory to enjoy the outdoors, you never know when something small can attract your attention. There are lots of cute shops in town that you should check out!
If you’re a little bit of a book nerd, you should stop by Reader’s Haven. They have a large selection of both fiction and non-fiction works, but I suggest looking through their particular area promoting local and Canadian authors. Here you may also buy Bruce Trail memorabilia including maps, hats, and calendars.
Why not stop by The Sweet Shop while you’re on Highway 6? Their signs are easy to miss. With some of their delectable delights, you can satisfy your sweet taste. Even though they make their own fudge and chocolates, you’ll probably see people lining up to get an ice cream scoop. It just seems to go well with a lovely summer day, really!
I suggest the Mariner Chart Shop if you’re searching for genuinely one-of-a-kind and considerate presents. They sell some of the normal touristy Tobermory clothing, but they also have some really wonderful handmade goods. You could be amazed by what you find if you spend some time looking around their store.
PICK UP A TOUR AT THE TOBERMORY BREWING COMPANY AND TASTE THEIR PRODUCTS.
That’s right, you heard that properly: Tobermory has its very own brewery! Even while you can purchase some of their beers at the LCBO, there is no substitute for purchasing it on draught directly from the brewery itself. The TBC team adheres to the time-honored European brewing method of producing beer in small batches and without the use of additions or preservatives. Be sure to keep an eye on their ever-changing assortment of beers appropriate for the season!
They also have a comprehensive wine list and a selection of locally produced spirits, in case you happen to be travelling with someone who doesn’t enjoy drinking craft beer. Stop in for a pint, and while you’re there, order one of their amazing charcuterie platters to enjoy as a snack alongside your beverage. Every item on their menu is freshly prepared in-house on a daily basis and, to the greatest extent feasible, obtained from within the immediate area. Take a seat on their patio, where you may drink your beer while taking in the breathtaking scenery.
Tobermory Brewing Company is one of the few places in town that stays open throughout the year, in contrast to the majority of other businesses in the area. Nevertheless, given everything that is taking place at the moment, it is recommended to check out their website or Facebook page in order to determine what their current business hours are.
STOP BY THE BIG TUB LIGHTHOUSE FOR A LOOK.
There is no such thing as a successful vacation in Tobermory that does not include a visit to Big Tub. Even though there are a number of other lighthouses around the Bruce Peninsula, Big Tub is likely the most recognisable of them all.
Since its first construction in the year 1885, Big Tub has been used to direct ships into the harbour for more than 130 years and counting. The waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay may occasionally be hazardous so there have been plenty of ship captains glad for Big Tub’s guiding light! Even though there have been six official lighthouse keepers at Big Tub, the light has been automated ever since it was first installed in 1952. Though the lighthouse you see is really the second lighthouse to be here as the original construction was replaced by the six-sided wooden version you see today!
CATCH A SUNSET
Tobermory is located in a very scenic place, which, as you can understand, contributes to the incredible beauty of the city’s sunsets. I would suggest going to a less well-known location to watch the sunset, despite the fact that the views from the harbour are very stunning. Follow Highway 6 to the south until you reach Dorcas Bay Road; this is where the Singing Sands beach is located. A more secluded section of Bruce Peninsula National Park, the beach that runs down the coast of Lake Huron is an ideal place to spend the evening, particularly during the golden hour.
To tell you the truth, there is no dearth of wonderful locations anywhere along the Bruce Peninsula to watch the sun go down. While you’re out discovering the western half of the island, be on the lookout for places where you might want to come back later to enjoy the cotton candy skies.
WHERE TO STAY IN TOBERMORY AND ITS ENVIRONMENT
In spite of the fact that I have been to Tobermory several times, I have never actually stayed in the town! In most cases, I make it a day trip by staying in a nearby hotel and driving in to the destination. Having said that, if I were going to stay at one of the Tobermory hotels, I would pick one of these options instead.
If I were to stay in Tobermory, the Grandview Hotel, which costs approximately $135 per night, would be my first choice of accommodation. The Grandview Hotel is owned by a family, and despite their simplicity, the guest rooms are rather charming. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there will be a lot of blue, along with the nautical decor that I adore. There is a restaurant on the premises, and it has a breathtaking patio that looks out over Georgian Bay. Check out what our former visitors had to say, or click here to see if there are any rooms available.
Approximately $117 per night at the Bruce Anchor Motel & Cottages The Bruce Anchor Motel is a straightforward place to stay in Tobermory that is conveniently located within a short distance of the Chi Cheemaun. Their deck looks out over Georgian Bay and provides some stunning vistas of the setting sun. In addition to that, they offer seven cottages, most of which have three bedrooms and can comfortably accommodate four individuals. In addition to that, I’ve heard that if you stay with them overnight, they’ll give you a discount on one of their cruises. You can check the hotel’s availability by clicking here, or you can read some reviews of the establishment first.
Big Tub Harbour Hotel (~$135/night) – Big Tub is a fantastic choice for lodging in Tobermory that also allows you to sidestep some of the city’s more crowded areas. It may be found on the northern side of Big Tub Harbour, only a short distance away from the lighthouse. The rooms are understated but exquisite, and some of them provide stunning views of Georgian Bay and its waterfront. Check out what feedback other people have left about their visit by clicking here, or read what they had to say about their experience.
Nevertheless, during the warmer months of the year, Tobermory has a reputation for becoming somewhat manic. Due to the fact that it is such a popular destination, it is typically necessary to make hotel reservations a very long time in advance if you wish to locate a place to stay in the city. It is my strong recommendation that you find lodging at either Lion’s Head or Wiarton if you would like to avoid the throngs of people and have a relaxing vacation. You can get an idea of where to stay in Tobermory by looking at the map that is provided below.
THINGS TO KNOW WHEN VISITING TOBERMORY
Tobermory is a well-known travel destination, particularly during the warm weather months, as I indicated previously in this piece of writing. Tobermory is often cited as one of the places in Ontario that suffers the most from the effects of excessive tourism. Tobermory sees a significant influx of vacationers from the weekend of Victoria Day through the weekend of Labour Day because so many people are drawn to the stunning beauty of Georgian Bay during this time. Cottages and campsites get reserved months in advance, so if you want to spend the night anywhere, you’ll need to make your arrangements in advance. This is especially the case for any extremely long weekends that fall within that time window.
Even while going during the middle of the week during the summer can be helpful, you should still be prepared for crowds. It is possible to stay at one of the nearby smaller towns, such as Wiarton or Lion’s Head, and then drive into the city; however, you should be aware that doing so will cause you to run into a parking problem. Because there is a severe lack of parking in Tobermory, you will need to either get there very early in the morning or make plans to walk.
In general, it will be to your advantage to plan your trip for one of the shoulder seasons rather than during the high or low seasons. Tobermory is at its most beautiful from the end of September through the beginning of October, even if many of the attractions may still be closed due to inclement weather at the beginning of spring. The bulk of the restaurants and activities will be open, and even though the evenings can get a little chilly, the daytime temperatures are typically usually very pleasant. You won’t have to pay the higher prices associated with travelling during the high season, which means that your vacation won’t break the bank. When you take all of these factors and add in the fact that there are less tourists in Tobermory, you have the makings of an amazing trip. Plus you’ll be doing your part to stop overtourism!
Last but not least, Tobermory can only be reached by car by Highway 6, which terminates here before continuing across Georgian Bay to Manitoulin Island. As a result, this route is the only one that can be used in or out of the town. Even though the posted speed limit is 80 kilometres per hour along this very straight section of road, the number of vehicles who are caught above the limit climbs every year. Over one hundred accusations of stunt driving were filed in just the month of May alone in June of the previous year. This poses a threat not just to you but also to other drivers, pedestrians, and motorists on the road, as well as locals and wildlife. Be a responsible guest, do your share, and take it easy while you’re here.
TOBERMORY: A QUICK GUIDE
Are you prepared to try out a few of these Tobermory activities for yourself? I’m sure you are! Here are some frequently asked questions about Tobermory as well as some information you may find useful when making travel arrangements.
WHY IS TOBERMORY REMARKABLE?
Due to the fame of the Tobermory Grotto and the splendour of Bruce Peninsula National Park, this lovely harbour community has gained popularity. However, as this guide shows, there is much more to see and do in the neighbourhood.
HOW DO I SAY TOBERMORY?
wonderful question It should be pronounced toe-burr-more-ee.
WHAT TIME OF YEAR IS BEST TO VISIT TOBERMORY?
That is all up to you. In the summer, it will be difficult to avoid the throng if you wish to swim in the clean waters. Personally, I believe that late September and early October are the greatest times to visit Tobermory because the crowds have thinned down and the weather is still pleasant enough for some outdoor activities.
WHAT DURATION SHOULD MY STAY IN TOBERMORY BE?
While visiting Tobermory for a single day is possible, it is recommended that you stay for at least two or three days to fully appreciate everything the town has to offer. To view the available lodging alternatives, click here.
WHY IS TOBERMORY’S WATER SO COLD?
The thermocline in Georgian Bay, a type of invisible wall where the temperature drastically swings, is what causes the water in Tobermory to be so chilly. While it begins at barely 3-5 metres below the surface in the spring, the water remains chilly below this thermocline and does fall to 25 metres or lower in the summer. Despite being fairly deep, Georgian Bay often has lower temperatures than other Great Lakes regions because it is harder for the water above it to warm up.
WHY IS TOBERMORY’S WATER SO CLEAR?
Because of the water’s passage through the local limestone bedrock, Tobermory’s water is exceptionally clear. After a strong storm, it could be a little hazy because the wind stirs up sediment from the lakebed, but it soon clears up. The Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation has a great article with more information.
DO TOBERMORY’S FREE ACTIVITIES COST ANYTHING?
Yes, Tobermory does have several free activities. Both walking the trails in Tobermory and exploring the town are free activities. Additionally, there is no fee to enter Big Tub Lighthouse.
WHAT CAN YOU DO WHILE EN ROUTE TO TOBERMORY?
What a great question, considering all there is to see and do en route to Tobermory! Here are some of the places I suggest stopping at if you’re travelling from Toronto to Tobermory since many people come from the large metropolis.
Cheltenham Badlands: Do not skip this extraordinary Martian-like environment!
Orangeville – If you need petrol, this is a wonderful place to stop because, from my experience, it’s usually a little bit less expensive than other nearby areas. The town has a lot to offer, from fantastic restaurants to lovely public art, so that isn’t the only reason to visit!
Nearby villages Eugenia and Flesherton are home to some of Grey County’s most breathtaking waterfalls.
You’ve arrived in Owen Sound, which marks the beginning of the Bruce Peninsula. If you want to explore more of the South Georgian Bay region, this area, which is home to a couple more waterfalls and several fantastic restaurants, is a terrific place to stay for a night or two.
– Wiarton Visit Wiarton Willie and say hello to him! Although be aware that he could not be as amiable as you’d want because he frequently sleeps during the day.
Visit the lighthouse in Lion’s Head or check out the provincial park for a fantastic stroll along the Bruce Trail.
Since there are so many sights to see between Toronto and Tobermory, you’ll need at least a few days if you want to stop at all of these locations. Clicking through the links above will provide you with some useful suggestions for things to do, places to eat, and more if you intend to travel this route over a few days.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF TOBERMORY IS TOO BUSY?
As I previously indicated, Tobermory experiences its busiest season during the summer, therefore the best time to come is in the early spring or late fall. There are a lot of other exciting locations around the Bruce Peninsula if you have your heart set on a trip in June, July, or August. As my guide will show you, Wiarton is one of the most underappreciated gems along Highway 6. I highly recommend visiting it. There are beaches, several excellent restaurants, shipwrecks, and more nearby. Although it has gained in popularity over the years as more people learn how incredible the hiking paths are, Lion’s Head is also a fantastic location.
IS TOBERMORY VALUED FOR A VISIT?
This manual, I believe, addresses that query! Tobermory is undoubtedly worth seeing, but it could necessitate some thought and preparation. Given that, you ought to make travel plans right away to check out all of these incredible things to do in Tobermory, Ontario.