8 Things To See & Do At The Bruce Peninsula National Park In Tobermory

8 Things To See & Do At The Bruce Peninsula National Park In Tobermory

Are you thinking about enchanting forests, clear blue waters, and out of this world scenery? This is exactly what you will find when you visit the Bruce Peninsula National Park. 

The park is in Tobermory, Ontario and it is a part of what is known as the Niagara Escarpment. A visit to Tobermory is not complete, without visiting the Bruce Peninsula National Park. Spanning approximately 156 square kilometers, there’s a lot to see and do for everyone. We hope this guide will help you plan your adventures within the Bruce Peninsula National Park.

The National Park Visitor Centre and how to get there:

The visitor center is off of Hwy 6 on your way to the Tobermory village. This is the central point for both the Bruce Peninsula National Park and the Fathom Five National Marine Park. Here you will find all of the information you need about the parks, including exhibits, a theatre showcasing an overview of the park, interpretive programs, and a lookout tower. 

Three trails can be accessed directly from the visitor center. The Bruce trail to Dunks Bay lookout and the Burnt Point Loop and a short trail from the visitor center to the Tobermory harbor. 

What can you do at the Bruce Peninsula National Park?

As we already mentioned, the park spans a vast area around Tobermory. While most activities are hiking distances apart, some may need you to hop into your car. Here are some of the attractions and activities you can partake in when you visit the park.

Hiking At The Bruce Peninsula National Park:

Many hiking trails wind its way through the forests and rocky shoreline. The white blazes or markings on the trees show that you are hiking along the Bruce Trail. At 885Km long, the Bruce trail is the longest and oldest trail in Canada. 

Some of the other trails that intertwine within the park are Cyprus lake trail, Georgian Bay trail, Marr lake trail, Horse lake trail, and Singing sands trail. Each of these trails comes with its levels of difficulty. While some trails are flat making it easy to hike, others can be quite difficult. You will find yourself walking along rocky shores or uneven, uphill trails. Regardless of the path you take, your efforts would not be in vain. The trails will lead you to many points with breathtaking scenery. 

The Grotto:

One of the most talked-about and popular attractions in the park is the Grotto. After years of erosion, the limestone in the rock has formed a cave with a pool of turquoise blue water. This has become such a hot spot in the last few years that Parks Canada had to start a parking reservation system that allocates a four-hour spot for each visitor. 

The Georgian Bay trail is the most direct path to the Grotto. While it may seem easy at the beginning, as you get to the shoreline it becomes tricky and is difficult for children or anyone that is not able to maneuver the rocky shores. During the peak season the pool inside the cave can get extremely busy, so climbing up and down cliffs must be done with caution. 

Indian Head Cove:

To the East of the grotto is Indian Head cove. After climbing around some rocks you will be looking down into the most beautiful cove. This is a popular spot for swimming or taking a break from your hike and enjoying the view. Again, you need to be cautious of the rocks and deep drop-offs. The water levels were high while we were there and the waves were crashing far into the rocks. This was making the rocks quite slippery and would make it easy for young children to wander off the rocks into the water. 

Natural Rock Arch:

You will find the Natural Rock Arch between Indian Head Cove and the grotto. With the changes to the water levels over the years, erosion has created this amazing natural archway. This is yet another natural wonder that will leave you in awe. And it makes for some great photo ops. Because of the time of year we didn’t encounter huge crowds. But if you are visiting in the summer expect lots of crowds and you may have to wait your turn to get that perfect picture. 

Overhanging Point At The Bruce Peninsula National Park:

Are you brave enough to perch on top of a cliff that barely has any support underneath? As the name indicates, this is where a part of the cliff has eroded over time and left the top of the rock overhanging. So, there is not much of the cliff supporting it at the bottom. 

Finding this part of the park is a little tricky. We thought we were at the overhanging point, only to find out later that we didn’t even make it to the point! You will find this overhanging cliff West of Boulder beach. We took the Marr trail back to the head of trails, so we never got far enough to see this incredible feature. 

Once you get to this point, you can make your way under the overhanging cliff, by crawling through a rabbit hole. Again, it is tricky to find and we have to go back to explore this part of the park!

Bouldering:

If bouldering is your cup of tea, head over to Halfway Log Dump where you can put your bouldering skills to the test.

Canoeing or kayaking:

Paddling is popular at Cyprus lake, which is suitable for all skill levels. You can also bring your watercraft to Emmett or Cameron lake to enjoy some paddling. 

Tip: there are no rental facilities at Bruce Peninsula National Park. The watercraft would need to be rented from the village of Tobermory. 

Swimming At The Bruce Peninsula National Park:

You will find many swimming areas at the Bruce Peninsula National Park. If you are traveling with children Singing Sands beach would be the best option. Although it is a part of the Bruce Peninsula National Park, this beach is on the Lake Huron shoreline and can be accessed from Dorcas Bay road. You will find free parking, picnic sites, and washrooms. But, it is also likely to get very crowded during the summer months. 

Other options are Indian Head cove and boulder beach. Although referred to as a beach, these spots do not have the soft sandy shores that you would expect at a beach. The water here is quite cold and you will be surrounded by rocks. While many visitors do enjoy swimming in these areas, you do need to be extremely careful of all the rocks around.

What should you bring with you for the day?

Here is a list of things we would recommend for a day trip to Bruce Peninsula National Park.

  • Sturdy and comfortable shoes. You will be hiking on rocks, depending on which trail you choose.
  • Lots of water and snacks as there are no water fountains or snack bars around.
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Camera 
  • Bathing suit
  • Towel
  • Snorkeling gear, if you plan on exploring the underwater beauty
  • Water shoes – We highly recommend this if you are planning on heading down to the Grotto.
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Flushable wipes
  • Trash bags to take your litter back with you

What you need to know before you visit:

  • If you are planning on visiting the Grotto you need to reserve your parking ahead of time. You may want to book reserve this as early as possible if you are visiting in the Summer.
  • Parts of the Bruce Trail is challenging. You will be hiking along the rocky shores, which can make it difficult for young children. 
  • Pack in anything you take out. There are no garbage bins, so you will need to take all of your litter back with you.
  • There is no running water, which means there are no flush toilets or taps in the restrooms along the trails. The head of trails, however, does have restrooms with flush toilets and garbage bins for any of your trash you carry back with you.
  • If you decide to camp in the park, you will need to book this way in advance to avoid disappointment. 
  • Strollers are not recommended. Most of the trails are rocky and uneven with some steep climbs. And many of the lookout points need climbing up rocks.
  • There is an entry fee to the visitor center, which includes your entrance to Flowerpot Island and it is valid for 24 hours.
  • If you are visiting during the summer months, expect large crowds.
  • Due to the current circumstances with the pandemic, respect everyone’s space, and make sure you are physically distancing. 

What kind of wildlife will you see?

Other than lots of chipmunks that scurried by us in the forest, we, unfortunately (or fortunately) did not meet any other wildlife. But if you are lucky you may find frogs, raccoons, snakes, snowshoe hares, white-tailed deer, foxes, and even black bears in your travels. 

When is the best time to visit?

With the pandemic still very much around us, if you are planning a trip to Tobermory please do so safely and responsibly. This part of Ontario has increased in popularity over the past few years. Which means the summer months and long weekends are extremely busy. While it’s great to visit while it’s hot and you will likely appreciate the extremely cold water; the shoulder seasons are probably the best times to visit. 

Having visited twice during the summer, we decided to switch it up and visit in September. The weekend was still busy, but there was probably only a fraction of the crowds compared to July and August. We were able to explore and spend as much time as we wanted, admiring the views and posing for pictures from every single angle. The cooler temperatures also make for more comfortable hikes. We layered up and peeled off the layers as it got warmer. 

The Bruce National Park is beautiful no matter when you go. There’s something for everyone to do. If you are a nature lover, you should consider camping here as you would love spending your time exploring the park! 

We hope this helps you plan your trip to Bruce Peninsula National Park. Although there’s so much to see and discover, that you will need to make multiple trips. 

For more things Tobermory, check out our guide to Flowerpot Island at the Fathom Five National Marine Park. 

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