Tobermory - A Little Piece of Paradise
By Christine Wisman
"A little piece of paradise" is what comes to mind when looking back on a summer weekend spent in Tobermory. The town is located approximately 296 km from Toronto at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, a strip of land that separates Lake Huron from Georgian Bay. This is the perfect vacation destination for those who are campers, hikers, kayakers, divers, photographers, naturalists or even those who are seeking rest and relaxation. The area offers plenty of activities to do and glorious scenery to enjoy. Members of Trails and Tamaracks were able to experience some of these activities on their weekend adventure.
Tobermory is home to the Chi-Cheemaun, a ferry which is the southern route for those traveling to Manitoulin Island. You can watch from the docks as the ferry arrives into port and a load of travelers drive their vehicles off and then the ship is reloaded again with more travelers. It's an awesome sound to hear as the Chi-Cheemaun blows her horn announcing her departure while waving to all the happy passengers as the ferry sets out on another voyage to Manitoulin Island.
Known as "Canada's Scuba Diving Capital", Tobermory is also home to Fathom Five National Marine Park. With so much to see beneath the waters, scuba divers could spend an entire weekend just exploring submerged canyons, forests, underwater waterfalls and more than 20 historical shipwrecks in Georgian Bay's crystal clear waters. There are dive shops available to rent equipment and charter dive boats to help get you out into the waters. The opportunity to do some diving wasn't meant to be on this particular trip, however, I am sure that other trips will be planned to Tobermory with diving at the top of the Must Do list.
There are glass bottom boat tours that you can book at different times during the day that will drop you off at Flowerpot Island and bring you back later in the day. The boat we were on took us out first for a ride into Little Tub Harbor where you can view two shipwrecks that are submerged in shallow waters. One of the wrecks is The Sweepstakes. It's pretty incredible to be able to see those ships sitting on bottom in the clear waters, even when you were not looking through the glass bottom. The boat then continued to take us to Flowerpot Island where we were dropped off for a few hours to hike and explore. The island has 4kms worth of well-maintained trails that can take you through thick forest, meadows, dark caves, towering cliffs, and the islands main attraction, the stunning flowerpots. There were originally 3 flowerpots, but one collapsed back in 1903. These stunning rock formations are amazing to gaze upon with bright blue water and the sunny blue sky for a backdrop. The trails also lead you to the other end of the island where there is a lighthouse with a great look out and museum. Once we hiked our way back to the dock, we caught the boat that was ready to take us back to the main land. When you're visiting the island just be sure you don't miss the last boat of the day otherwise you will be spending the night.
The Bruce Peninsula National Park is another great place with plenty of different hiking trails. The one that Trails and Tamaracks team took was the Marr Lake Trail. This is one of the more difficult trails but is worth the extra effort. The trail brings you out to a rocky limestone shoreline along Georgian Bay where it meets up with the famous Bruce Trail, all of which is part of the Niagara Escarpment. We hiked north along the Bruce Trail, taking us to Overhanging Point and some very high cliffs that looked out to Flowerpot and Bear's Rump Island. We then back tracked and continued on the trail where we came upon the Natural Arch, the beautiful Grotto then to the breath taking Indian Head Cove. Many people come just for this spot where you can go swimming, have a picnic and just sit and relax and enjoy the afternoon with family and friends surrounded by beautiful scenery. Out in the water you can see chartered dive boats and scuba divers beneath the people swimming as they enter the sea caves that are directly beneath the cliffs you are standing on. Maneuvering our way down the rocks and into the cove, we decided to take part and go for a swim. There were many kids and adults all swimming in the water, even a very energetic golden retriever who continuously jumped in time after time for his ball that was thrown by his master, so how bad could the water be? Well I made the mistake of putting my toes in the water first while others just dove right in and let me tell you IT WAS COLD! That set me back a few minutes but I finally found enough courage and jumped in just long enough to say that I swam in Georgian Bay.
On the other side of the Peninsula in Dorcas Bay there is Singing Sands Beach. With a huge sandy beach and shallow waters, it's a great place for kids to play and swim and ideal for those who enjoy tossing a Frisbee, throwing a football and playing volleyball. Being part of Lake Huron, the water is so much warmer and you can walk out a long ways before you are even hip deep in the water. There is also a 1.5 km natural hiking trail around the beach where you can see Bruce Peninsula's unique wildflowers and orchids.
Evenings can be spent along the docks of Tobermory or at a local pub to enjoy a dinner out on the patio. Stroll along the boardwalk to watch beautiful sunsets and along the docks to look at all the different styles of sail boats and yachts in their slots. There are plenty of shops to seek out including the The Sweet Shop to fulfill all your chocolate needs, the Divers Den for everything scuba diving or Mermaid's Secret for those unique gift shoppers.
The scenery that surrounds Tobermory is difficult to put into words and pictures just don't do it justice. There were moments where it felt like we were outside of Ontario, either on the piers of Vancouver or the harbor of Halifax. The waters being so clean and clear, the heights of the cliffs, the rocky shoreline beaches and the awesome rock formations is all right here in our own backyard of Ontario. It is a "little piece of paradise" that everyone should get out and experience.