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Bruce Peninsula National Park: Grottos, Shipwrecks & Goats

A rugged national park with a side of offbeat quirk…

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Created by RoadtrippersCanada - May 11th 2018

Bruce Peninsula National Park is located on Southern Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment and is a part of the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. This place is the ultimate outdoor lover’s playground. Here you’ll be surrounded towering cliffs, and turquoise waters, hidden sea caves, and cedar forests, and diverse wetlands. Outside the park are an array of local, independent restaurants and places to spend the night. Welcome to the Bruce Peninsula.

From its limestone coasts to the rugged Georgia Bay, crystal clear lakes and backcountry hikes, there is literally something for everyone at Bruce Peninsula National Park. Just four short hours from Toronto, this city escape is the home of the Saugeen Ojibway First Nations, and the area is a spiritually-charged, culturally-significant region. So, as you explore, show reverence to this special place.

Easily accessed from Highway 6 or from Owen Sound. There’s also a direct bus service you could take from Toronto via Parkbus. Botanists will appreciate the more than 40 different species of wild orchids, and various wildflowers found throughout the park.

WHAT’S NEARBY:

A few other attractions close to the park include Point Clark Lighthouse, where you can gawk at the 12-sided lantern and learn about the area’s maritime heritage. In addition, you can go for a dip in Lake Huron at Georgian Bay Islands National Park. And the Trent-Severn Waterway, a series of ridiculously scenic canals and waterways that you could easily spend an entire afternoon boating along.

Located on the Bruce peninsula’s northern tip, Fathom Five National Marine Park is one of the most exciting parks in, well, the world actually. That is if you find rad limestone flowerpot rock formations, hidden ocean grottos, rare orchid species, and amazing shipwrecks cool. Fathom Five is an essential Great Lake experience, home of the famous Flowerpot Island, which is this monolithic rock pillar that’s a must-see geological wonder. You’ll also find historic lighthouses, backcountry campsites, woodland hiking trails, places to swim and picnic along Lake Huron. One of the absolutely raddest parts of the park has to be the 22 shipwrecks. There are loads of ways to see these as well. From glass bottom boat tours that take you above the wrecks to snorkelling or scuba diving, or simply check out the submerged vessels from the shore. Tobermory Harbour is your home base for an adventure of a lifetime at Canada’s first marine park. This park is also the “Scuba Diving Capital of Canada.” If you do wish to dive, you’ll need to register at Tobermory’s visitor centre in town.

TIP: If you want to camp here it’s highly recommended that you reserve your spot in advance.

Lion's Head Beach Park

Over 400 million years ago glacial waters eroded the cliff face around the Niagara Escarpment, which resulted in cliffs and various rock formations, one of which looks like the head of a lion, hence the name “Lion’s Head Beach Park.” What makes this park so special is that it’s home to one of North America’s most unique, ancient, and least disturbed forest ecosystems, which is a major draw for lovers of rare plants, and all-around awesome places. The Bruce trail passes through this Biosphere Reserve.

MacGregor Point Provincial Park

Speaking of ecological uniqueness and diversity, MacGregor Point Provincial Park is another Lake Huron gem. There are tons of activities every summer (it’s most popular time of year), including guided shore walks, and bog and silver maple swamp tours. Beware the carnivorous plants and keep an eye out every spring for a rare sighting of the Spotted Turtle! This park is also home to some killer bird-watching opportunities. Every fall there’s an art festival at the park, as well as Halloween events. You can even ice skate, cross-country ski, and snow-shoe in wintertime. Or spend a cozy weekend in one of the yurts.

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You can’t visit Bruce Peninsula National Park without experiencing the Grotto. This sea cave is on the shoreline of the Georgian Bay, at the Park’s Cyprus Lake Road Entrance. And it’s home to a pool filled with bright blue sparkling turquoise water. Because this has become a very popular spot for swimmer, photographers, and hikers you’ll need to reserve parking ahead of time. Weekends in July and August are the absolute busiest times. But, if you plan ahead, it’s an experience you won’t soon forget. However, should you venture to the Grotto in the fall or springtime, you can avoid the crowds and have this geological gem all to yourself.

At Greig’s Caves, you can explore 10 limestone caves home to singing birds, and hike along rugged trails. You could easily spend up to two hours wandering around, but be sure to wear appropriate clothing and most importantly GOOD FOOTWEAR! The rocks in the caves can be slippery, and depending on weather, the hiking trails surrounding could be muddy.

Spirit Rock Conservation Area offers unreal views of Colpoy’s Bay and is steeped in legends and mystery. You’ll find the ruins of a 19th-century mansion, that was formerly the decadent home of A member of Parliament. In addition, there is access to the Bruce Trail here.

Cabot Head Lighthouse

Cabot Head Lighthouse is a century-old light station that has an onsite museum and visitor centre that will take you back in time to when the area was heavily ensconced in the maritime and logging industry. You can even experience what life was like for the light keepers who called Cabot Head home.

Kincardine Lighthouse and Museum

The Kincardine Lighthouse and Museum was also established back in 1881 and has focused on providing guidance to the local fishing and salt shipping industry that called these waters home. The tower is 8-sided, and called an “octagonal wooden tower.” After exploring these two lighthouses catch some dinner at Bruce Steakhouse or take a stroll along Station Beach.

Leeside Restaurant & Patio Bar

When you’re ready for some grub, head over to Leeside Restaurant and Patio Bar, just across from the Chi Cheemaun Ferry. This locally-owned and operated family restaurant prides itself on its unbeatable views of Little Tub Harbor and the Chi Cheemaun docks. Here you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Their wine list only features Ontario wines, and the patio is pet-friendly!

Rachel’s Diner is a totally legit 1950’s style diner that will make you feel like you’re back in “Happy Days" (or was that 1960’s?). Known for their baked goods, like pies, cakes, and brownies, Rachel’s is a locally-beloved diner. And it’s fully licensed, so you can enjoy a “fancy cocktail” with your meal! A few favourite offerings include their pizza, as well as their old-fashioned floats.

The village of Lion’s Head is located on the 45th Parallel and is home to the Lion’s Head Inn, which is an affordable lodging overlooking Lion’s Head Port. It’s open year-round and is both an English pub and inn, located near the Lion’s Head Provincial Nature Preserve, and close to Whispering Cedars and Greig’s Caves. There are just three rooms available at this charming inn, so book early!

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Windspire Inn

The Windspire Inn is a beautiful “board and batten” inn along the Blue Water Shoreline, just a couple blocks from Lake Huron and just a short walk away from the harbour. There’s free wifi, and a complimentary continental breakfast every morning. Pro Tip: Request a room with a claw-foot bathtub, cause you’re gonna want to soak after all that adventuring!

Aerial image of Cove Island Lighthouse, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario, Canada

Aerial image of Cove Island Lighthouse, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario, Canada