Bruce Peninsula National Park lies between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron and is located near Tobermory, Ontario. It’ll take about an hour drive to get from South to North Bruce Peninsula on a very straight (hate to say it, but pretty boring…) road. However, there’s no wonder this place has become such a popular tourist destination – it literally looks like it’s out of some travel brochure from the Carribean! Before planning your visit to Bruce Peninsula National Park, here are some tips that we’d recommend taking before you make this worth-while trip.
What You’ll Expect to See
If you have only a day to explore Bruce Peninsula, we’d suggest seeing the Grotto and Big Tub Lighthouse.
The Grotto is an extremely popular spot, so make sure you reserve parking early. While our visit was in off-season around mid-September, parking was still completely booked. Don’t wait until the last minute like us…you’ll wind up not having a spot! You can reserve parking at Cyprus Lake for the Grotto ($11CAD) at www.reservation.pc.gc.ca for 4 hour time intervals.
Don’t worry; if you’re last-minute planners like us, you’ll still be able to see the Grotto! Parking opens up to those without reservations from 4:00-8:00p and 4:30-8:30p. It’s on a first come first serve basis, so if you really want to beat the huge rush, get to the lot at around 3:30p and ask if they’ll let you in early. There’s a maximum limit of people that are allowed in the lot so once people start leaving, you’ll get in without a problem.
Big Tub Lighthouse
Big Tub Lighthouse is all the way at the northern tip of Tobermory at Bruce Peninsula National Park. You’ll have to pay for parking, but there were tons of spots (and no reservations necessary) on the side road since it’s not AS popular as the Grotto. Since it’s less crowded, you’ll have a little bit more photo opportunities if you’re into that kind of thing.
What to Bring
Our biggest regret: We forgot our swimsuits! Even if you’re going when it’s colder, the water is way too inviting – you’re going to want to take a dip. Fortunately (or not), I couldn’t resist the temptation, so I just jumped in with my hiking gear!
2. Good Hiking Shoes
The Grottos hike was about 30 minutes there and back and the lighthouse didn’t even consist of a hike. However, once you arrive at the Grotto, the paths are covered in larger rocks and you’ll have to climb around to get to the water. For that reason, we’d suggest bringing a decent pair of hiking shoes so you don’t end up on your face (if you’re a clutz, like me…).
3. Extra Water
It’s always a good idea to pack extra water, especially when it’s hot out. Even though we were in a heatwave when visiting Bruce Peninsula in September, it was still hot and we quickly became dehydrated.
4. Your Pooch (If you have one)
All of Ontario seems to be super dog-friendly, but specifically Bruce Peninsula National Park. The Grotto and lighthouse area allowed dogs on their trails (as long as you scoop the poop). Our dog really enjoyed playing in the crystal clear water and climbing all over the rocks
Where to Stay
Since the drive off of the Peninsula is about an hour, we’d recommend finding a place to pitch a tent for the night. There are campsites all over and they range from $40-$50CAD. If you can book out far enough, we’d recommend staying at Cyprus Lake campground. You could actually walk to the Grotto from the campground which would save you a bit in parking money!
The Deal with Flowerpot Island
Unfortunately, we didn’t plan our trip out at all so we didn’t have enough time to visit Flowerpot Island, which looks absolutely BEAUTIFUL. Flowerpot Island is a part of the Fathom Five National Marine Park and is about 2 sq. kilometers. To get to the island, you have to take a boat (there are tons of boat companies around Bruce Peninsula that will take you) and totals at about 2 hours there and back. Dogs are even allowed on the boats – small breeds are allowed on all vessels while larger breeds can only ride on the jet boats.
Feeling extra adventurous?
If you enjoy backpacking and a bit of an adventure, you can even reserve a campsite on Flowerpot Islands. Do note (which was a huge reason we didn’t chose to camp out on Flowerpot Island during late September) was that they do NOT allow campfires!