Less than 4 hours drive from Toronto, the Bruce Peninsula is home to two national parks, one on land, the other underwater. The Bruce Peninsula National Park is renowned for its abundant flora, especially its wild orchids, and its exceptional fauna with no less than 140 species of birds. But many travelers come to the region to approach the sunken shipwrecks deep in the turquoise waters of Fathom Five Marine Park. Because, in this corner of Ontario, Lake Huron is home to one of Canada's top diving spots, a country where nature never ceases to amaze us ...
One peninsula, two national parks
It is without doubt one of the most beautiful places in the Great Lakes region. In the province of Ontario, less than 300 km from Toronto, the Bruce Peninsula, 80 kilometers long, juts out into Lake Huron - one of the five Great Lakes in North America and the fifth largest in the world (59 km600), separating the main lake basin from Georgian Bay (to the East).
The peninsula follows the route of the Niagara Escarpment, a rocky ridge from which a cliff gave birth to the famous Niagara Falls. Wherever you are on the peninsula, you are always less than 11 kilometers from the shores. The hiking trails wind through the majestic trees of dense, peaceful forests, which are reflected in the pristine, clear waters of Lake Huron. Another attraction of the place, activities are possible in any season: ice fishing in winter, bird watching in spring, trekking in autumn ...
The Bruce Peninsula is generally visited from the city of Tobermory, located about ten km. At the bend of a path, we come across beautiful beaches like that of Sauble, the second longest freshwater beach in the world. It owes its name to French explorers. They baptized the adjacent river "the river of sand".
You can also lift your head to look up at the sky. AT Lion's head, the telescopes are out. Every Friday and Saturday during the summer, at sunset, an association of amateur astronomers meets to share their passion. Here, no light pollution. The skies are as clear as the waters of the lake.
In terms of its history, the peninsula has long hosted human activities. Briefly driven out by the Iroquois, the Saugeen Ojibway First Nations were among the oldest inhabitants. Today, the Chippewas of Saugeen and Nawas continue to perpetuate Amerindian traditions there, in particular by organizing an annual pow wow.
For all these reasons, the Bruce Peninsula is very popular with tourists: nearly 400.000 visitors came to the peninsula in 2016 to enjoy its sublime natural setting, protected by two national parks : Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five Marine Park. Not bad for a peninsula barely 80 km long!
Bruce Peninsula National Park
Bruce Peninsula National Park is renowned for its variety ofwild orchids : 44 different species, two of which are not native to the area, probably escaped from gardens. Every year in June, a festival pays homage to them. There is also a species officially threatened with extinction since 2008, which grows only in the Great Lakes region of North America: the herbaceous hymenoxy, a plant with bright yellow flowers. Please do not trample it on or take it home as a souvenir.
Equipped with pairs of binoculars, one can also observe the local fauna. The birds are adorned here with as many feathers as they have picturesque names: the flaming warbler, the bobolink, the red knot and the common nightjar.
Some 55 km of trails allow you to travel through very specific sectors of the park. From Cyprus Lake, visitors greatly appreciate going by the Georgian Bay Trail at the “cave”, an arch-cave dug on the sides of the north coast, where the waters are a dazzling turquoise. To get there, you need to wear good hiking boots and be careful when working your way up the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. In fact, in some places in the park, you can go climbing on boulders. And, to recover, we can lounge on the sand of the Singing Sands beach (Singing Sands), a pretty name for this stretch of sand bordered by dunes and backed by the forest.
One way to discover the park from another perspective is to venture into canoe or kayak on the waters of Lake Huron or Georgian Bay. If you move away from the coast, it is better to be careful, the winds are sometimes mischievous. In any case, consult the weather forecast beforehand.
Finally, backpackers will try the Bruce Trail, an 885 km super trail that runs along the Niagara Escarpment between Queenston (near Niagara Falls) and Tobermory. Allow four good weeks of walking.
Fathom Five Marine National Park
Clear turquoise waters shimmering under the summer sun… You are not dreaming, you are in Ontario and still on the Bruce Peninsula, in the heart of the Fathom Five Marine Park ! Another Canadian natural wonder, which includes some twenty islands off the coast of Tobermory.
Among these, the famous "Flower Pot" island (Flowerpot) takes its name from its two large rocky mushrooms, the last vestiges of an eroded cliff. From mid-May to mid-October, two river companies offer excursions in the archipelago, with or without a stopover at Flowerpot Island, to enjoy the beauty of the place.
Among the unmissable activities of Fathom Five National Marine Park, the scuba diving is facilitated by calm and clear waters. Nearly twenty wrecks and the beauty of the rocky bottoms even make the park one of the musts of diving in Canada.
The water is so clear that some wrecks can be seen from the surface, with a mask and a snorkel. Otherwise you have to go to Tobermory to get your diving license, after tasting a delicious fish and chips. That said, wrecks can be observed in the dry, since boat trips are organized to go around them.
The most famous wreck, near the port of Tobermory, is the schooner Sweepstakes, 36 meters long. After being damaged in 1885, it now lies three meters underwater. Going inside is now prohibited for divers, their bubbles risking damage to structures.
The most experienced divers will go to see the wreck of the Arabia, a sailboat beached at a depth of about thirty meters in 1884. The bowsprit on the bow is almost intact. While her cargo of corn has of course disappeared, the wreck remains valiant. Ready to continue his journey through time ...
Ontario Tourism Board
Bruce Peninsula Tourist Association website
The site is full of information on the region and offers a guide to download (in pdf).
Blue Heron Company
The Blue Heron Company operates several boat tours through Fathom Five Marine National Park. There is also a cruise to admire the scenery at sunset.
Tobermory Helicopter Tours
The same company has been offering helicopter flights over Fathom Five National Marine Park since 2017.