Tobermory is a small harbour town in Southern Ontario, famously known as the freshwater scuba capital of the world. It has scores of shipwrecks and is the reason why scuba divers from all over the world visit Tobermory. Located at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, Tobermory Ontario promises you a memorable experience.
Definitely, a must-visit if you want to hike trails, see beaches, visit national parks, and take part in other outdoor activities. Bruce peninsula national park, Fathom five national marine park, Bruce Trail, Manitoulin Island, Flowerpot Island, Sauble Beach, little cove beach, Singing Sands Beach, the Grotto, and the Swings Bridge are popular attractions.
Weatherwise, June-October is considered the best for visiting Tobermory. June, July, and August are usually packed, so it is suggested to reserve your accommodations before embarking. If you are someone who does not enjoy crowds, then you must consider visiting in September and October.
Another thing to keep in mind before visiting Tobermory is that businesses usually remain closed from November to April. Without further ado, now let’s get into the specifics of the things to do in Tobermory.
Things to do in Tobermory, Ontario
1. Hike at the Bruce Trail
The Bruce Trail is Canada’s oldest footpath. It is around 900 kilometres long and offers scenic views. It starts from Niagara falls, follows the Niagara escarpment, and ends at Tobermory. You can stop at the beautiful Queenston heights park on your way.
You will also be able to spot numerous small waterfalls and side trails along the way. Some people along with the main trail do the side trail as well. The main trail is marked with white signs, while the side trails are marked with blue signs.
2. Have Fun at the Bruce Peninsula National Park
The Bruce peninsula national park, previously known as the Cyprus lake provincial park is one of the largest protected areas in Canada. It is located just a few kilometres from Tobermory. It is bordered by Georgian Bay to the east, lake Huron to the west, and Cape Hurd channel to the north.
Bruce Peninsula National park has numerous hiking trails and is a great place for hiking throughout the year. You can rent yurts and engage in other activities such as swimming, boat riding, and snowshoeing (if it is snow season).
You can go around the park exploring the 40-odd species of wild orchids native to the park. The Bluewater park is close by, and you can spend some relaxing time there.
3. Hike the Grotto
The main reason why people visit the Bruce peninsula national park is the Grotto, and it is everyone’s pick among the places to visit in Tobermory, Ontario. It is one of the best natural wonders in Canada and is over a thousand years in the making.
The hike leading to the cave is difficult but enjoyable. You have most likely heard about Grotto parking – parking is scarce here. So if you don’t want to go back just because you didn’t find a parking space, then book your space online.
Once you have made it to the cave, you can cool yourself off in the waters of Georgian Bay. The view from the top is spectacular and will make you feel you are in the Caribbean rather than Canada. You must carry your binoculars to the Grotto as it is a good place to watch birds.
4. Hike at the Flowerpot Island
Flowerpot Island is Ontario’s most famous due to its unique flower pot-like stone structure. It has a loop trail that covers the Flowerpot island lighthouse and will let you explore caves and unique rock formations. Make sure to wear hiking shoes before you embark and carry food and water. You will need at least four hours to complete the loop.
Flowerpot Island has hardly any garbage facilities, so it is advised that you don’t litter the island. Carry your garbage bag with you to Tobermory for proper disposal.
5. Explore Shipwrecks at the Fathom Five National Marine Park
To get to Fathom five national marine park, you must take a ferry from flowerpot island to Tobermory. Arrive at least 30 minutes before the departure of your ferry as parking at the harbour is scarce.
Home to 22 shipwrecks, including the Sweepstakes, and shipwreck in big tub harbour, the Fathom five national park is Canada’s first national marine conservation area. It is the final resting place for the shipwrecks and people love scuba diving here for this reason. Divers den is just a kilometre or two from Fathom five national park, which will provide you with all the gear for snorkelling/diving. If you are not Padi-certified, divers den will provide you with that as well.
Apart from scuba diving, Fathom five national marine park also offers you other water activities like kayaking, swimming, and boat tours. Fathom five national marine park houses numerous historic lighthouses and offers a glass-bottom boat tour.
A vast percentage of the park is the waters of Georgian Bay, while a small chunk is ashore. Fathom five national park shares its visitors centre with the Bruce peninsula national park. You will find information about the park over here.
Lastly, you must go on hiking trails at the Fathom five national park. There are three trails, one takes you directly to Tobermory, Ontario while the other two take you through Bruce peninsula towards the Georgian Bay shoreline.
6. Go on the Glass Bottom Boat Tour and The Helicopter Tour
Tobermory cruise line, Blue Heron cruises, and Bruce Anchor cruises are three companies that offer boat tours. All their boats do not have glass bottoms, so make sure you enquire before you embark.
Their glass bottom tours are an alternative to scuba diving. You can see the shipwrecks through the glass bottom. On tour, you can observe the flora around.
Blue Heron also offers helicopter tours that let you get a birds-eye view of Tobermory , its water, the shipwrecks, the flora, and the surroundings.
7. Head Over to Manitoulin Island to Enjoy a One-Of-A-Kind Experience
Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island in the world. It is shared across the banks of Georgian Bay and Huron Lake. You cannot miss the island if you happen to visit Tobermory. In the summer months, you can take the Chi Cheemaun Ferry to reach the island. While on the ferry, you can get a glimpse of the cove island lighthouse.
Speaking of the fun things to do on Manitoulin island, you can go on the following hiking trails:
7.1. Cup and Saucer Trail
Cup and Saucer trail is the best of its kind in Ontario. There are two lookouts of different lengths, namely the Cup and the Saucer. Although hard to climb up, but worth it when you have made it. You can get amazing views of the Niagara escarpment, lakes, and wetlands. Make sure you come here with the right shoes and appropriate gear. Do not miss out on the staircase trail here.
7.2. Great Spirit Circle Trail
Home to several first-nation communities, the great spirit circle trail lets you experience the authentic aboriginal culture. Story-telling and the voice of drum are the experiences you can attain here. The Anishinabek people will also take you on medicinal tours and teach you to make tea and bannock and berries. Steve, Tyrone, Falcon, and Joanne are well-known locals at the Great spirit circle trail.
7.3. Misery Bay
Misery Bay has three trails – the Coastal Alvar trail, the Inland Alvar trail, and the Misery bay trail. The Coastal Alvar Trail is a large 8-km loop trail along Lake Huron that goes past old glacial beaches. The loop’s coastal section is prone to floods, so you may consider the Inland Alvar Trail.
The Inland Alvar Trail is about 5 kilometres in length. It is shorter than the coastal Alvar and is considered an easy trail. As the name suggests, you can spot different classes of Alvars along the trail. Along the Misery Bay trail, you can spot a variety of animals, such as black bears, deers, snapping turtles, and Blanding’s turtle to name a few.
7.4. Bebamikawe Memorial Trail
The Bebamikawe memorial trail has three trails to choose from. What is surprising about this trail is that there are two dogs who will guide you along the trail and protect you from the bears. The dogs move as you move and sit as you sit. Just imagine the unique experience you are going to attain if you have a non-human tourist guide. You will spot beautiful scenes along the trail.
7.5. McLean’s Park Trail System
The McLean’s Park Trail system in Manitowaning is the easiest of all. Apart from hiking, it is also well-suited for mountain biking. It has a lot of benches, thus making it a good picnic spot. It has some fun quiz signs that will help you figure out what the trees are. You will see many interesting mushrooms as well. Speaking of animals, you can spot eastern chipmunks, groundhogs, whitetail deer, snowshoe hair, and porcupine.
You should be lucky if you can find a huge rock that looks like a face. You will enjoy the tranquillity here.
7.6. South Baymouth Lookout Trail
The South Baymouth lookout trail is a short 3 km trail with a beautiful boardwalk. It begins a kilometre or so from the Chi Cheemaun Ferry. It should take you 20 minutes to complete the trail. The boardwalk gets flooded at times, so make sure you go during the right season.
7.7. Kagawong River Trail
The Kagawong River trail is a short hiking trail famous for the bridal veil falls. There are steel stairs leading down to the falls. You must visit here in the summer months to enjoy the waters and can spot fish while you swim. The bridal falls are enjoyed by people of all ages.
8. Grab Beer and Coffee
Who doesn’t love beer and coffee? While hiking the trails of Manitoulin Island, you will have plenty of options to choose from. You can have your beer at the Split Rail Brewery in Gore Bay or at the Manitoulin Brewing Company in Little current. Loco Beanz at Little current is great for coffee and snacks. You can even go to Manitoulin Espresso Bar and the Sugar Bush Coffee house for coffee, hot chocolate, snacks, and many more.
9. Gaze Stars at Manitoulin Eco Park and Camp in the Forest
The Manitoulin Eco Park is a dark sky preserve where you can gaze at stars. If you are a fan of astronomy, then this is the go-to place for you. The park follows a no-white light and no-campfire policy.
You may wish to camp at their main campground by renting a tipi-tent or a bit luxurious cabin (bunkie). You can also camp at the 360° dark sky preserve. The park has campsites with all amenities in close proximity. The park hosts public events regularly, and during the peak season (July and August), there will be 1 to 4 events in a week.
10. Check out the Little Current Swing Bridge
Although it is far from Tobermory, worth travelling to. The Little Current Swing Bridge is a part of Highway 6 and connects Goat Island with Manitoulin Island. The bridge opens for 15 minutes at the top of the hour in order to allow marine traffic to pass below. When it is closed, it is used for vehicular traffic. here is a special viewing area from where one can watch its opening and closing.
11. Enjoy Freshwater and Other Activities at Sauble Beach
Located 90 kilometres to the south of Tobermory in the South Bruce Peninsula county is Sauble Beach. It is the second-longest freshwater beach in the world. The culture here is laid back, and you are sure to have a memorable beach experience. Apart from enjoying the waters, you can hire jet skis or have fun on the swings installed on the beach.
Near the beach is the Ascent aerial park, where you can take the zipline and indulge in climbing, jumping, and rope activities. There are a variety of restaurants around offering different cuisines and there are shops that sell beach essentials and souvenirs.
12. Visit Owen Sound
Owen Sound, located on the shores of Georgian Bay is the closest city to Tobermory. It is famous for its waterfalls. Other attractions include Harrison Park, Kelso beach park, Roxy Theatre, Owen Sound marine-rail Museum, Grey roots museum, and the Billy Bishop Museum.
You will find restaurants serving cuisines from the Mediterranean, American, Mexican, Greek, and other international cuisines. Europa, Boot and Blade, Bishop’s landing restaurant, Jazzmyns, Shorty’s Grill, and Cesaro’s kitchen table are a few you will find in Owen Sound.
13. Spend Quality Time in Downtown
Downton is the area across Little Tub harbour and Big Tub Harbour in Tobermory. If you are here, there are plenty of things that you can do – just sit by the waterside, observe watch ducks swimming in the water, go on boat tours, buy handmade crafts and gifts at the shops and art galleries, and dine at the famous restaurants around.
14. Try Fish, Chips, Beer, and Other Items at The Fish and Chip Place
Overlooking the little tub harbour, the Fish and Chip place is a well-known eatery to enjoy a delicious meal. The fish and chip meal is the classic dish here. You are served fish from Georgian Bay along with tacos, beverages, beer, and wine. Its timings are from 11:30 am to 9:30 pm.
15. Grab an ATM Pizza
Head over to Pizza Forno in the heart of Tobermory, and grab yours from the machine. It is an innovative concept across North America, it works the same way as an ATM, except that it throws out pizza. The touchscreen helps you choose your pizza and toppings.
The best part about Pizza Forno is that it is accessible 24/7, so if it is late at night or early morning, and you are hungry, you need not fret because Pizza Forno is there for you.
16. Cool Yourselves Off in The Rocky Little Cove Beach
Head over to The Little Cove beach in The Little Cove Provincial park, another protected area in the state of Ontario. This beach is small in size compared to other beaches. The turquoise blue water hitting this pebble stone beach is what makes for an amazing view of the little cove. Sea caves are the prime attractions here.
During winter, the beach gets covered with snow, and you need to have the right footwear to walk. The beach also has trail rooms. In case you are going by your own vehicle, please remember that the parking is scarce here.
17. Experience Sand Dunes at The Singing Sands Beach
It is located within the Bruce peninsula national park. It is famous in Tobermory for its sand dunes. As the water is shallow, this beach is a good choice if you have children with you. Singing Sands is a well-known spot to view the sunset.
You must also visit the Wild Garden trail if you go to the Singing Sands beach. Built across a boardwalk, the ferns, exotic plants, and wildlife are what make this trail beautiful.
18. Observe St. Edmunds and Peninsula Museum
If you want an experience something different from beaches and trails, then head over to St. Edmunds and Peninsula Museum to see how Tobermory was back in the day. It is a 19th-century one-room schoolhouse, and records show that the school ran classes for grades one to eight. On display, you will find maritime artifacts, farming implements, and indigenous objects. Entry is free, but the museum welcomes your donations.
19. Sweeten Your Tooth at The Sweet Shop
Head over to The Sweetshop at Bay Street in the heart of Tobermory. They have a wide collection of candies, 32 flavours of ice creams, gourmet chocolates, and authentic handmade sweets. The staff here is famous for their hospitality and it overlooks the little tub harbour, so enjoy your delicacy while you enjoy your view of the harbour.
20. Visit the Town of Lion’s Head
20.1. The Lion’s Head Beach
It is a small rocky beach where you can enjoy swimming, paddling, and kayaking. If you wish to stay at the beach, you may do so by renting a room at Lion’s head motel which offers you excellent beachfront lodging. The beach also has a grassed area for comfortable seating and enjoying a picnic. There are a decent number of benches as well. The Lion’s head harbour lighthouse is present at the beach.
20.2. Lion’s Head Lookout Trail
The Lion’s Head lookout trail is a 16-kilometre beautiful trail and is a part of the Bruce Trail. If you are planning to hike this trail, then you should plan on dedicating an entire day to this. Although difficult to climb, the experience you attain once you are on the top makes the effort worth it.
In the first part of the trial, you will notice the turquoise blue water and the fauna from the cliffs, while the second part of the trail is a forest hike. Make sure to spot the 10,000-year-old Lion’s head pothole on the way.
20.3. Attend the Bayside Astronomy Program
Bayside Astronomy is a free program held every summer at Lion’s head. Supported by the Bruce peninsula biosphere association, attendees of the program get to see public objects in the sky through telescopes. Astronomers and summer students educate the general public on astronomy and on the importance of preserving the dark skies.
So now you are aware of all the things that you can do in Tobermory. It is an excellent place to visit in Canada besides places in Ontario for a quality and memorable vacation. You attain diverse experiences from beaches to trails to scenic views to astronomy and food.