The Bruce Peninsula offers lots of great activities but if one is physically able then by all means try and hike a portion of the Bruce Trail. This spectacular stretch of hiking offers magnificent coastal views of the blue waters of the Georgian Bay as well as meandering through 1000 year old cedars.
Fondest memory: The Bruce, as locals affectionately refer to the beautiful coastal tract that runs along the Ontario escarpment, holds a special place in my heart so it only seemed natural that I show it to the person that had come to mean so much to me in the two years since my last visit. Doreen was eager to see it and understood my feelings. There was just one hitch: it was the former stomping grounds of an ex-long-term girlfriend and much of her family that I had grown close to still remained there. And going to the Bruce meant going to see them as much as tackling the wonderful walk. Doreen took my suggestion good-naturedly as usual but as the trip grew near, she joined the ranks of the rest of my friends, wondering just what I was trying to accomplish by bringing these two factions of my life together. She had already met my ex and the two got on famously, which seemed the most natural thing in the world to me since I got on great with both of them. But meeting her family was perhaps pushing it.
Fondest memory: I had built an adjustment day into the trip that brought us up to the Bruce proper a day before the family would arrive at their summer cottage for the weekend. We arrived quite late as we had made a stop in Niagara Falls and one of my favorite Canadian pubs en route on the already long 12-hour drive up from New Jersey. We found a place to set up the tent and fell soundly asleep with little thought of what the weekend would bring. The next morning was a bit rushed as we tore down camp and readied ourselves for the Bruce itself. It was a glorious day and it didn’t take long for Doreen to see just why this area was so special to me. It had been my very first hike back in the early 90’s and though I was a very late starter in the sport, I had fallen quite in love with it. I had since carried my backpack to the far reaches of the earth in search of its most majestic peaks and now it was nice to finally see what drew me to it in the first place once again. We walked for six hours, enjoying the rugged terrain with constant views of the crystal blue waters of the mighty Georgian Bay. We even worked up enough of a sweat to plunge into what many consider the finest if frigid diving body of water in Canada.
Fondest memory: After the magnificent hike, we headed to Tobermory, a fishing village that is home to the ferry that runs to Manitoulin Island. We enjoyed a well-earned local meal of white fish and chips, but with the sun going down we decided to rush back to Oliphant to catch the sunset and finally meet up with the family that had showed me this magic of nature so many years ago. It was a relaxed and easy meeting, as I well knew it would be. Doreen felt right at home, just as I had on my very first visit. We talked about our great day up at the Bruce and they were jealous but happy we had the beautiful day off to enjoy it. They caught us up on the rest of the clan and I looked forward to seeing more of them over the weekend.
Fondest memory: The next morning, Doreen was treated to her very first taste of maple syrup with a home-style cottage breakfast of pancakes and bacon. Any lasting apprehension was easily erased and soon after we were out on the boat heading for the islands that many of the family call home in the summer. It is a big clan and having spent so much time there, I was close to many of them. It was great to be back out on the water and Doreen soaked in the scenery and the breeze blowing in her face. We had timed our trip well as everyone marveled at what they called the best weather of the summer. It was fun seeing everyone again and Doreen could easily see why I had wanted to return so badly. Even when it rained the next morning, we lingered on to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere that is so integral to this Canadian institution. And that is just what the cottage is to the people that spend their summers there, something that they could never think of giving up or doing without. It’s a part of their lifestyle.
Fondest memory: We didn’t really want to go, but the family would tear themselves away later that day to return to their regular lives and work, and we had a date with some canoeing in Ontario’s much heralded Algonquin Provincial Park the next morning. Everyone gave Doreen a big warm hug and told her to come back again soon, and she knew they meant it. We drove away with a mixture of sadness and joy that often accompanies such encounters, so very happy to have experienced it but wondering when you will get to do it again. Doreen had got to do perhaps the top hike in Eastern Canada, but more importantly, she had really experienced cottage life with a real family, and that is not something every traveler to Canada gets to do. For me it was like a homecoming. Though I hadn’t seen them in five years, it was as if no time had passed and as always they made me feel like family. I guess in many ways, I am and now too so is Doreen. That’ll make the next visit all that much easier, eh?
Cruise boats leave from Little Tub Harbour that is practically the downtown of Tobermory. On one particular day, when we did not want to have any adventure, we spent a great duration of time around the Little Tub Harbour. We had our breakfast at Gallery Pizzeria, which also has a bookstore. The harbour was quite busy with street performers. The boardwalk offered beautiful views of luxury yachts and sail boats. The area also offers many places to eat, our favorite being the ‘Shipwreck’. The stores had everything – groceries, ice creams, tea, coffee, gift shops and even arts and crafts centres.
Fondest memory: Visiting two unique national parks of Ontario, keeping Tobermory as our base.
The Daytrip Companion is published by Tobermory Press and you can find it in shops around the area. I picked up mine at the artists co-op in Lion's Head. The best feature is the large map of the area from south of Wiarton to Tobermory. It lists 20 beaches and where they are located. Some are inland and the others are either on Lake Huron or the Georgian Bay side. The map also shows where the bruce trail is located. In it you will find a restaurant location map and am accomodations location map.
The paper mentions that the Northern Bruce Penninsula is the best place in Southern Ontario to view constellations of the sky. The area has replaced municipal lighting with dark sky friendly fixtures that ensure the light is where it is needed and this will eliminate glare and stray light.
Seek out the 2006 publication for the following festivals: Orchid festival in May, Canada Day celebrations, and more.
Tobermory is a summer destination that has a reputation as being good value for the family traveler and they draw a lot of their visitors from Toronto and the surrounding cities like London, Guelph, Sarnia and so on. So as you can imagine the summer it would be like any other overcrowded place.
Here is my advice to you and my favour to the county tourism department. Do yourself a favour and check out the shoulder seasons in the spring and fall. If you are going to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula you are going for the peace and escape I would imagine and you won’t necessarily get the escape during peak season. The nature is the same but the amount of people around is drastically different.
I visited in late April and the temperatures were perfect for hiking and mountain biking. If this is your interest these would be a good time to have the trails all to yourself. Besides avoiding the crowds you will also get some great deals. This is good advice!!!!
If you are wanting a tonne of amenities on the flip season, during these times there wont be as many retail opportunities.
In 1990 the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) designated the Niagara Escarpment as a World Biosphere Reserve. Local communities are challenged to live harmoniously with the ecosystems that surround them, conserving the plants, animals and micro-organisms, maintaining healthy natural systems while at the same time meeting their material needs and aspirations.
When you are touring the Bruce Peninsula you will get the feeling that you are in a special place. If you want to read more there is a web site at [http://www.escarpment.org] or [http://www2.unesco.org/mab/br/brdir/directory/biores.asp?mode=all&code=CAN+06].
Embarking on the boat, This was our first trip several years ago returning from Sudbury
Fondest memory: The great view from the deck and smooth ride accross the lake.
Favorite thing: In the harbour of Tobermory you will find different kind of boats. Some of pleasure, some for business. If you go by boat to Flowerpot Island, you will leave from this harbour.