During many visits to Ontario, including my cross-Canada trip, I have had a chance to spend some time on the stunning Bruce Peninsula, about 250km from Toronto. The peninsula stretches about 100km into Lake Huron and separates the lake from Georgian Bay. This popular outdoorsy area attracts many visitors looking to explore the beautiful surroundings and there are many choices and service levels of accommodations from luxury to camping.
The peninsula is named after James Bruce, who was the eighth Earl of Elgin and Governor-General of Canada. The peninsula is home to several indigenous communities and has a rich history dating back to the 16th century.
If you love to meander and explore, then you'll be delighted to know that the Bruce Peninsula is full of hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. Whether you prefer hiking or cycling, there are plenty of scenic routes to explore. So grab your backpack, camera, hiking boots and sense of adventure, and make a plan to explore the beautiful Bruce Peninsula!
On my cross-Canada trip, I had no itinerary. With no clear plan, I decided to head up the Bruce Peninsula to see what I would find. The corn fields I had been driving through turned to apple orchards. This is an area where the super wealthy build luxurious summer homes, which are dotted amongst rustic cabins, farms, a UNESCO site, some small towns, as well as provincial and national parks.
Collingwood is a picturesque town on Georgian Bay's shores, known for its beauty, vibrant arts scene, and friendly locals. The historic downtown has many unique shops, cafés and restaurants. Hurontario Street is the main street for boutiques and galleries. Don't miss the chance to visit the Tremont Cafe, a cozy spot with delicious coffee, baked goods, and light bites.
In the beautifully restored railway station is the Collingwood Museum which tells the story of Collingwood's past, from its early shipbuilding days to its role in the development of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
For lunch, I highly recommend stopping at the Harbour Street Fish Bar, a casual seafood restaurant located right on the waterfront. The menu features a variety of fresh seafood dishes, including fish tacos, lobster rolls, and clam chowder. I have enjoyed a good meal and stunning views of Georgian Bay on several occasions.
In addition to its downtown area, Collingwood is also a great place to explore the outdoors. There are many trails for a hike or trail walk in the area. Two of the best trails are the Georgian Trail or the Sunset Point Trail. Or head to the Blue Mountain Resort, which offers a variety of outdoor activities, including skiing, snowboarding, and zip-lining.
The Georgian Trail
The Georgian Trail is a popular 34 km long recreational trail along the southern shore of Georgian Bay, from Meaford to Collingwood in Ontario, Canada. The trailheads can be found at Harbourview Park in Collingwood or at the Meaford Harbour Pavilion. The larger trail is divided into shorter walks with many different places to join.
The trail is an easy and flat trail, with only a few gentle inclines. It attracts walkers, joggers, and cyclists. The trail is well-maintained and easy to navigate, with clear signage and plenty of rest stops along the way. Along the trail, you'll be treated to stunning views of the clear blue waters and rugged shoreline of Georgian Bay, with the soaring cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment. The trail passes through several charming towns and villages, where you can stop for a bite or to turn around for those looking for a shorter walk.
The Sunset Point Trail is a shorter portion of the Georgian Trial that begins at Sunset Point Park. The park has a lovely sandy beach and picnic areas. This portion of the trail is about 2.5 kilometers long and winds along the shoreline and through the forest. This is another easy ramble and includes lookout points and a charming lighthouse.
The Nottawasaga Lighthouse is one of the six Imperial tower-style lighthouses in the area built by James Brown in the mid-1800s. For over a hundred years, this lighthouse was manned by lightkeepers and their families but was automated in the 1960s after the keeper's house was destroyed by fire. As you can guess by the name, one of the highlights of the Sunset Point Trail is the view of the breathtaking sunsets over Georgian Bay.
Another place to stop is at Blue Mountain, Ontario’s answer to Whistler. (But with free parking) This popular ski resort is also a hub for summer activities, with plenty of options for visitors of all ages but especially for families looking for lots of activities to keep everyone busy.
One of the highlights of Blue Mountain in the summer is the Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster. This thrilling luge-like ride includes twists, turns and drops as it takes you on a scenic journey through the forest. For a more relaxing experience, take a ride on the open-air gondola.
If you're feeling adventurous, then try your hand at the Timber Challenge High Ropes Course, which features a series of obstacles, ziplines, and rope bridges suspended high above the ground. The Plunge! Aquatic Centre has water slides, pools, and hot tubs.
For those looking for a more resort experience, head into the village with a variety of shops, restaurants, and entertainment options, including live music and outdoor movies. There are many events and festivals throughout the year, so make sure to check their website.
At the very tip of the Bruce Peninsula is the town of Tobermory. This town is a National Marine Park, with many wrecks for divers to explore and lots of yacht services. Meander around the harbour along the boardwalk to see the many boats and yachts. Make sure to sign up for a tour of the harbour. There are many options to choose from including diving, glass-bottom marine life viewing, or a combination of tour with a drop off at Flower Pot Island. There are also several operators who rent kayaks and paddleboards for those wanting to explore the harbour on their own.
One of the best ways to experience the beauty of the Fathom Five National Marine Park, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, is to take a sunset cruise. I thoroughly enjoyed my two-hour tour. This is the edge of the Niagara Escarpment so the water depth suddenly plunges very close to the shoreline.
One of the highlights of the tour is Overhang Bay, with its beautiful rock formations. The tour also goes to the famous Grotto, a natural cave formation that has become one of the park's most popular attractions. The Grotto is known for its emerald-green waters and stunning rock formations, and it's a popular spot for swimming, snorkelling, and cliff jumping. The waters are fairly warm close to the rocks.
As the boat returns to Tobermory, the sunset is absolutely stunning as the colours reflect off the water and bathes the area in soft golden light.
Flowerpot Island, which is located just off the coast, is an absolute must-see. This beautiful island is named after its distinctive rock formations, which resemble flowerpots. You can take a ferry to the island and spend the day exploring its trails, beaches, and historic lighthouse. Check out my previous post about Flower Pot Island
The Bruce Peninsula is truly a hidden gem of Ontario, offering visitors a wide range of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and historic charm. From the turquoise waters and rocky cliffs of the Fathom Five National Marine Park to the charming towns of Collingwood and Tobermory, you will be sure to enjoy your visit.
During your visit to the Bruce Peninsula, be sure to take some time to explore the area's rich history, sample its delicious local cuisine, and immerse yourself in its stunning landscapes. Whether you're hiking along the Bruce Trail, kayaking in Georgian Bay, or enjoying a sunset cruise of the Fathom Five National Marine Park, you're sure to make unforgettable memories. You won't be disappointed!
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