National parks in Canada are large, wide and charming, representing 53.8 % of its total surface area. After all Canada has approximately 10% of the world’s forests. I have always wanted to explore them, and have been waiting for the winter to disappear, to start my quest.
Bruce Peninsula National park is one of the most popular in Ontario province, and hosts hundreds of campers every season. The fact that it is only 4 hrs drive from Toronto has made it even more popular. If you have a weekend to spare and want to experience some ‘away from the city’ experience, this one is one of the two best options that you can have (the other one could be the Algonquin Park)
We rented a car in Toronto, packed a lot of food stuff and set sail early on a Saturday morning. The first part of the trip –the drive itself- was very exciting. We drove through a lot of country farms, lots of cattle and horses grazing in the farm, very scenic and pleasant. The only route available is through highway 10 and highway 6, and the speed limit was somewhere around 70-80 kms/hr. And yeah that slowed us down a bit, but if it’s your first time, you will surely enjoy the slow drive and the farms. There are several small towns in between to stop for brunch or coffee, and don’t miss out experiencing one of their local cafes. We stopped at The Green Door Café at Wiarton, and enjoyed delicious brunch and coffee. The ‘small town’ atmosphere was really good; the people knew each other and were very friendly. We fuelled our car tank and our tank as well J and left straight to the park, without wasting any more time.
We almost neared Bruce Peninsula National park, and on the way we decided to take a small diversion to check out ‘Lions Head’ – a scenic small town facing Georgian Bay. Took a small walk and relaxed a bit. There are several cottages available in this place too, and some hiking trails to explore.
The Bruce Peninsula National Park
Moving on, we finally reached our destination. Bruce peninsula national park is located to the right as you drive north in Highway 6 towards Tobermory. While the park itself is located on the Georgian bay and offers a lot of camping areas and hiking trails, the whole area surrounding the Bruce county offers a lot of activities to do and places to see. Some of them are: Tobermory town –in the northern tip of the county, The Land’s end park, Fathom five marine park, Flower Pot Island, Lions head, Singing sands beach and more.
About the park, it houses nearly a hundred camping sites, and some of the most popular hiking trails. The essence of the park lies in the trails; you can access many scenic areas only by hiking through the trails.
Grotto & Boulder beach
We camped near Cyprus Lake, so we tried out Cyprus lake trail, Georgian Bay trail and Marr lake trail, and visited popular Grotto and Boulder beach. The water was so clear and such a perfect spot for swimming. Sadly, we went there in the beginning of the May, and the water was still freezing cold. Some brave souls took a quick jump in the water, but we chose to stay away.
The best part of our trip was Yurt Camping. As beginners in camping, the yurt suited our needs much better (however if you want a bit more adventurous experience, try out some of their independent camp sites, where you bring your own camping equipment). Yurts are semi permanent huts built and maintained by the park authorities, and provide amenities like bunking beds, internal room heating, barbecue, private patio and more. They also provide common washrooms and lockers for charging your electronic devices.
The camp site was situated right next to the Cyprus Lake, offering absolute serenity.
Canoeing & kayaking
Apart from camping, hiking and biking, other ‘must experience’s to have are going out by yourself in the water and exploring the beauty of the bay areas. And canoeing & kayaking are the best ways to do so. There are quite a few canoeing & kayaking rentals available in the town Tobermory, and they are on high demand during long weekends. It’s advisable to reserve your rentals beforehand. After searching for a while, we finally went to Lands End Park where we could get hold of 1 canoe and 1 kayak for four of us. Needless to say, we were dead scared in the beginning, as we were new to kayaking, but very soon we picked up the nuances, and had a wonderful time kayaking & canoeing for hours in the Hay Bay.
- Some kayak/canoe rental services near Tobermory:
The people in Tobermory were very friendly. While we were looking for boat rentals, we contacted all three of the above providers, and all of them took their time responding to our queries in a very patient and nice way. When they didn’t have enough boats to rent, they didn’t hesitate to guide us to other vendors where we can try our luck.
Overall, the trip to Bruce Peninsula and Tobermory was one of the finest I had. I couldn’t cover all of the activities and places, so definitely I will be making another trip to the place soon.
Some of the things we missed
– Swimming – a must try, I cannot express how much I missed it. Make sure you plan your trip in June or July so that water is warm enough for taking a swim
– Scuba diving – costly, but would have been a fine experience. I have read about some popular ship wreck locations, worth the bucks
– Flower pot island- a beautiful island park, a ferry ride away from Tobermory. You can spend a whole day hiking or biking there
– Indian falls – this one is located on the way from Toronto to BP national park, near Owen Sound town
Planning for the trip
– If not a long weekend, at least a weekend (2 days & 1 night) is needed to experience the Bruce Peninsula. Seriously, it’s all about relaxing, simply rushing up won’t make a good trip
– Make your RESERVATIONS – I cannot emphasize more on this. Most of the camping sites, and rentals are on high demand during summer, particularly during long weekends
– Pack the essentials
- Enough food items– it’s a remote national park area; you don’t have lot of flexibility in going out for eating. Though Tobermory town offers a lot of restaurants (we tried the popular ‘Fish & Chips’ – good location, fish dishes were good but found it a little costly), it’s wise to pack enough food items and water bottles for your trip. And yeah, if you love a bottle of whisky or vodka for the evenings, buy them before hand. I remember seeing a LCBO at Tobermory, but why to take risk in such ‘essentials’? J
- Insect repellant – during the evenings, mosquitoes give you hard time sometimes, so don’t forget to take some insect repellant creams
- Torch lights & battery powered lanterns – comes handy in camping areas
- Hiking maps – though you get them in the park offices and many other places, choosing your hike trails and printing maps of them would be helpful
– Be cautious
- Bear & animals – it’s been instructed everywhere not to keep food items outside in your camping area, as it will attract animals. Bears are a common sight, but they don’t usually pay a visit when there is lot of human activities. And thus its also advisable not to go on weekdays, as the human intervention will be very less, and you might actually end up camping with BearJ. We did get a sight of one bear while driving around, but it disappeared quickly into the woods.
- Cliffs – There is this notorious cliff near Grotto, which is very tempting to take a dive from. But don’t! There have been accidents reported there before, so just stay sane and stay safe!