CA, Ontario: Bruce Peninsula – Tobermory – Flowerpot Island – Grotto

Around Huron Lake in 8 days: Bruce Peninsula – Tobermory – Flowerpot Island – Grotto

After four hours of driving north of Toronto, getting to Tobermory was like a great relief. Tobermory is located at the top of Bruce peninsula, where Huron Lake meets Georgian Bay. Small town but full of life, this is a destination for everyone.


From hiking, snorkeling, scuba diving, to cruising, and dinning along the beautiful shore to witness a glorious sunset and the spectacular views, you can simply fall in love with Tobermory for actually no particular reason.

Bruce Peninsula is home of two National Parks:

Fathom Five National Marine Park (112 km2of land, islands and waters) offers some of the best freshwater diving and snorkeling opportunities in Canada, if you are well equipped for this cold very cold waters. With more than 20 shipwrecks around and crystal clear waters, Tobermory is known as the fresh water scuba diving capital of Canada.Scuba divers

Flowerpot Island, renowned for its picturesque rock pillars is one of the biggest attraction of the park, and is 6.5km away from Tobermory harbour (and can be reached only by boat). Two private tour boat companies operate round trips from Tobermory to the island, weather permitting. There are several options to purchase a ticket, to visit the wreck ships, the Flowerpot Island, with or without a stopover. We took a ticket with a 3.5 hr stop on the island, enough time to do some hiking to the north side, where the historical lighthouse is open for tourists. Best view of the flowerpots was from the boat, where the pilots slowed down to let us enjoy the view and take pictures. The small island is a little paradise for hikers, campers, and not only. There are 3 trails: the easiest one, The Lighthouse Trail which goes along the shore, is more spectacular, as it goes along the flower pots, and heading to the Old Light keeper house. The Mountain Trail and Marl Trail are of difficult and medium levels, going through the more rugged terrain, through the forest of the middle of the island. We took the easiest one back, since our return boat was coming soon, and didn’t want to miss it. We should have had a bigger window between departure and return to be able to make the other 2 trails, but also we didn’t want to risk having sore muscles on our first day of the 2017 road tripJ

Flowerpot Island
The name of the Flowerpot Island comes from two rock pillars on its eastern shore, which look like flower pots.


Flowepot Island
These flowerpots are actually two stacks, formed over hundreds years by the power of water, wind and rain, as the soft rock has been eroded quicker than the hard one, leaving behind columnar formations, which will eventually tumble down, when the erosion will go too much.

Flowerpot Island

Kids playing
Kids playing – climbing a big rock.. don’t want to know how they got down, as the rock was at least 4 m high

The century old Light station and keepers house repaired only by volunteers is opened for a free visit, where visitors can buy cold drinks and souvenirs.the Old Light keeper house

Most Flowerpot boat cruises also visit Big Tub Harbour, where we could see two of the historic shipwrecks.

Shipwrecks at the bottom of Big Tub Harbour – Tobermory


Kayaking in the Big Tub Harbour, where 2 of the shipwrecks are located. They can go right on top of the shipwrecks for a better view.

For a stunning view of the Bruce Peninsula and its surroundings, we climbed the 112 steps to the top of the 20-metre lookout towerThe lookout tower

And since we did it at sunset time, we have been double rewarded.

Lake Huron from the Tower Sunset

Bruce Peninsula National Park (156 km2 in total) offers the most spectacular cliffs in this part of Ontario.

The campgrounds and parking lots can be easily filled, especially during summer months, and planning and booking in advance are much recommended.

The Georgian Bay Trail and Marr Lake Trail (about 3km the whole loop, 3.0 hours, difficulty varies from easy to difficult) is the quickest path to the park’s scenic cliffs and shore and back to the parking lot. At the shoreline, this trail meets the Bruce Trail, giving hikers two route options.

Bruce Peninsula NP - view of Georgian Bay
Halfway Rock Point offered us an excellent vista: on the northern horizon lie Flowerpot and Bear’s Rump islands in Fathom Five National Marine Park.

Georgian Bay Blue
Georgian Bay

From here the trail enters Indian Head Cove (favoured by both swimmers and SCUBA divers)

Indian Head Cove

West of this cove are two sea caves, the Natural Arch and further along, the Grotto. These caves were carved in hundred years by wind and water. At least two underwater entrances lead into the Grotto from the Bay.

the Natural Arch

The Grotto

The Grotto, is one of the top tourism attractions in Ontario. A shoreline cave with beautiful blue waters, the Grotto is a unique natural wonder and a memorable place we experienced. It is also a very popular and busy location, especially during the peak season of July and August and on long weekends. At those times, the parking lot will fill up and you may not be able to access the Grotto. Because of the lack of the parking space rumours (which are not totally wrong), lots of people went very early in the morning to get an access pass for later in the day, however when we got to the parking lot around 8:30 am, there were plenty of spots available, even though it was a weekend day. Cannot say when is the best time to visit this park, but a good planning of your trip may save you from eventual disappointment if your plans are for the summer time.

Young and restless jumping from the cliff
Young and restless jumping from the cliff

The return route via Marr Lake is identified by signs on the cobble beach west of Indian Head Cove. Be careful. This route is rough as it crosses the boulders along the shore between the Grotto and Marr Lake.

Marr Lake Trail

Singing Sands Trail (200m, 5 mins, easy) is only a quick stroll for a different perspective. This is more about a wetland rather than a beach. People are confused sometimes, thinking this is a sand beach. But a quick stop at the end of the day could be very nice if you have nothing else to do.

Singing Sands Trail

Halfway Log Dump Trail is another easy/moderate trail (1km, 25min) going through a forest that one can do if having a couple of hours and parking available to leave your car. The trail ends to a small rock beach with serene and quiet views. The clear waters and fresh air replenished totally our energy.

Halfway Log Dump Trail

circular in shape conchoidal fractures
Unusual features can be observed along the shoreline: circular in shape, these conchoidal fractures were actually caused by the abrupt rebounding of bedrock after the last glacier retreat, and its immense weight was removed. Fossils of ancient marine life have been found here.


Tough waters, with many shoals, reefs and islets, explains the need of lighthouses, and the reason we see quite few in the area.

The Big Tub Lighthouse is right in Tobermory, and was built in 1885 (after 15 year of having a light hanging on a tree branch – the tree’s location became the site of the lighthouse itself). Parking lot is very small, but we went in the evening, and found plenty of parking spots available.

Big Tub Lighthouse
Big Tub Lighthouse

Flowerpot Island Light was established in 1897. The original lighthouse was destroyed and pushed from the cliff in 1969, after being replaced by the current steel tower, which we saw from the boat, standing still and shiny at the top of a cliff.

Flower Pot Island Light

Cove Island Light was lit in 1858, and actually the first of the six imperial towers to be operational. This can be viewed only from the MS Chi Cheemaun ferry while crossing from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island (where was our next adventure).

Cove Island Lighthouse
Cove Island Lighthouse

And as any sunset lover, cannot end my post without a peaceful and quiet sunset picture

Sunset over Huron Lake
Sunset over Huron Lake – quiet and peaceful for this lonely duck, as well

Happy Travels to everyone!


9 thoughts on “CA, Ontario: Bruce Peninsula – Tobermory – Flowerpot Island – Grotto

  1. The rocks on Flowerpot Island remind me the Hopewell Rocks (aka Flower Pot Rocks) northeast of Fundy National Park, New Brunswick As I recall, there are quite a few more than two such formations (it’s been 30+ years since I was there), but in any case, it’s a beautiful site (and sight).

    Liked by 1 person

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