Bruce Peninsula, Ontario is one of the province’s most spectacular National Parks in the province. Located close to Tobermory in the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve, it is an area known for its turquoise waters, rugged limestone cliffs, and great hiking. The Bruce Peninsula is a real gem and a popular destination for a summer getaway from Toronto.
About Bruce Peninsula National Park, Ontario
Bruce Peninsula National Park along with the neighbouring Fathom Five National Marine Park were established in 1987. Nearly, 215,000 people visit these National Parks each year. Most visitors come to this region to visit The Grotto, explore the waters of Georgian Bay or take in the beauty of the area by exploring its hiking trails.
Flora and fauna are plentiful in Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park. You can find everything from big mammals like deer, black bears to smaller animals like raccoons, squirrels and chipmunks. Keep your eyes peeled for the Dwarf lake Iris, Lakeside Daisy and the 34 types of orchids that live within Bruce Peninsula National Park. They thrive in this region’s unique environment.
How to get to Bruce Peninsula National Park
Where is Bruce Peninsula National Park? The park is located in Bruce Peninsula close to Tobermory in North Western Ontario. From Toronto to Tobermory it is approximately 290 kilometres or 3.5 hours. The most popular way to get to Bruce Peninsula is by self-driving.
If you don’t have your own wheels you can also take the Park Bus to Bruce Peninsula National Park from Toronto. The Park Bus costs $99 return and is an express bus service, created in partnership with Parks Canada. Ticket holders who want to see Flowerpot Island can get off at the entrance to Fathom Five National Marine Park or at the Grotto. Alternatively, they can stay on the bus to visit the Grotto on the guided hike with the return Park Bus passengers who go to the park on a Tobermory day trip. This is handy because you will not need to worry about booking separate Bruce Peninsula National Park parking.
It is a bit more of a trek to get to Bruce Peninsula National Park from Ottawa. The drive takes approximately 7 and a half hours and covers 675 kilometres. Unfortunately, there is no public transport from Ottawa to Tobermory at this time.
What to do in Bruce Peninsula National Park
Bruce Peninsula National Park is a haven for outdoor activities. Hiking, swimming, birding and more can be experienced in this interesting region. The wetlands, forest, and cliffs are just some of the unique features of the parks near Tobermory.
Visit the Bruce Peninsula National Park Grotto
The Bruce Peninsula Grotto is a beautiful sea cave, known for its crystal clear waters and picturesque setting. You’ll need to hike to get there but once you do, you can spend some time swimming near the cave or sunbathing on the shore.
The Grotto is by far the most visited and well-known attraction within the park and can get very busy, especially in the summer. Make sure you secure Bruce Peninsula National Park reservations for your group well in advance. You can reserve your spaceto hike to the Grotto online with the Canada Parks Reservation Service. In the summer months, visitors are required to book weeks in advance.
We were able to secure our parking and admission a few days in advance. However, bear in mind we traveled to the Bruce Peninsula during the fall and the Bruce Trail was still very busy. Weekends are booked fully, no matter the season.
Hiking Trails to the Tobermory Grotto
There are three different trails you can take to the Grotto. They all leave from the Grotto parking lot and connect to the Bruce Trail which runs along the coastline where the Grotto is located. We took the Horse Lake Trail to the Grotto and followed the Marr Lake Trail back.
The Georgian Bay Trail
Approximately 3.2 kilometres (45 minutes)
This trail is the most popular and direct route to get to the Grotto. It is about 45 minutes in length. The trail is very flat and fairly easy so it is ideal for families looking for a day out. However, it is also the busiest.
Marr Lake Trail
Approximately 3.2 kilometres (45 minutes )
The Marr Lake Trail curves around Marr Lake and passes by Boulder Beach before heading to the Grotto. It is a bit more challenging than The Georgian Bay Trail since you will have to climb over rocks at Boulder Beach, but it offers beautiful scenery and is very enjoyable. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear!
Horse Lake Trail
Approximately 3.6 kilometres (1 hour)
The Horse Lake is one of the more difficult and longer hikes to the Grotto. Before meeting up with the coastline along the Bruce Trail, you will pass by marshes, through woodland and by Horse Lake itself.
Keep in mind: Reservation holders for the Grotto Parking are only permitted 4 hours for the hike. If you want to stay a little longer and take your time along the coastline, we would recommend staying at Cyprus Lake campground. Campground guests do not need a parking pass and do not have a time limit or a designated time slow when hiking to the Grotto.
In our opinion, it’s the best way to experience the grotto and ends up costing about the same.
Explore Other Hiking Trails in Bruce Peninsula National Park
There are tons of great trails located within Bruce Peninsula National Park. Stop by the Visitor Centre for a map of Bruce Peninsula National Park and to inquire about trail conditions. Just remember there are black bears within the park, so be bear aware at all times.
These are some of the hiking trails not to miss in the Bruce Peninsula.
The Wild Garden Trail
Approximately 3 kilometres (1 hour and 30 minutes)
This moderately busy trail is located near Singing Sands beach. It passes through forest and by sand dunes which protect it from winds coming off of the lake in the cooler months. You’ll find rare flora, orchids, and smaller wildlife along the route so be sure to stay on the trail.
Little Dunks Lookout
Approximately 800 metres (25 minutes)
Located at the Parks Canada Visitor Centre, you’ll have to climb the viewing tower and follow the platform to the viewpoint. You’ll be rewarded with incredible scenery made up of views of Georgian Bay and cedar trees as far as the eye can see.
Singing Sands Beach
This beach is a wonderful place to spend a hot summer day sunbathing and swimming in Lake Huron. Whereas in the cooler months, it can make for a nice picnic spot. The beach was named after the sound the wind makes passing through the dunes. There is parking on-site and a boardwalk that runs along Singing Sands Beach is stroller friendly. However, just like the Tobermory Grotto parking lots, the Singing Sands parking lots fill up fast and there is a small fee.
Take a Boat Trip to Fathom Five National Marine Park
The best way to explore the marine park is by getting out on a boat. You’ll find offers of a glass-bottom boat cruise, kayak rentals, SUP tours along the cliffs, and diving shops leaving from Tobermory. By parking in Tobermory and taking a boat cruise, you can save on the national parks parking fees.
Some of the most popular things to see in the Marine Park are Flowerpot Island, Cove Island, the Big Tub Lighthouse and various shipwrecks. Those looking to dive in the area will experience some of the best freshwater diving in the world.
There is good visibility (especially in the summer) and various overhangs, rock formations, plus over 20 historical shipwrecks to explore in the underwater world. If you are not a certified PADI diver, consider snorkelling some the shallow shipwrecks located in the waters of Georgian Bay.
Other Things to Do in Tobermory
Tobermory is the main town closest to Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park. It is small but has all the amenities you need to have a comfortable stay in the area.
Take some time to walk around town. Tobermory parking can be a bit challenging to find, so it’s best if you leave your car at your accommodation and explore on foot. Tobermory has roots as a fishing village but today caters mainly to tourists. You can explore the shops and restaurants in its compact center.
Wine and Dine
Tobermory is small but mighty when it comes to places to eat and drink. Make sure you stop by the Tobermory Brewing Company and Grill for local craft beer. You can’t go wrong with Shipwreck Lee’s of Tobermory, for excellent fish and chips.
There are lots of unique shops in Tobermory. We really liked the African goods store, Kuku Hut, next to Foodland. There are some great art galleries. Circle Art is a nice one. For vacation reading material head to the Readers Haven. Adventure outfitters are plentiful too.
Where to Stay in Tobermory
There are accommodation options for every style and budget in the Niagara Escarpment and Tobermory.
Cyprus Lake Campground
Located in the heart of the park, close to many of the trail heads, the Cyprus Lake Campground makes for an ideal spot to base yourself for a few days while exploring Bruce Peninsula National Park.
The campground offers 232 drive-in campsites in three sections: Birches, Poplars and Tamarack and backs onto Cyprus Lake.
If you don’t like camping or don’t have the right gear, accommodation in yurts is available at Cyprus Lake campground. Staying at the Cyprus Lake Campground will also give you an opportunity to explore the Grotto at your own pace via the Cyprus Lake Trail.
The campground is open from May until the end of October.
For a backcountry experience, Stormhaven is a great campground located on Gregorian Bay in the thick of the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve.
B&B’s and Hotels near Bruce Peninsula National Park
The Forest House B&B is one of the most highly rated accommodations in Tobermory. This Adults-Only property, features a large terrace, big cedar trees and rustic, spacious rooms. Continental breakfast is included and the property is located just a half a kilometre from the Tobermory Harbour.
Grandview Motel is a family-run establishment located directly on the water. The rooms are clean and comfy with rustic touches. There is a restaurant on-site with views of the water and outdoor sitting.
Whether you decide to stay at a hotel or in the campgrounds at Bruce Peninsula National Park, be sure to book in advance. As a very popular Canada tourist destination, accommodation in Tobermory fills up fast – especially in the summer and on long weekends. You can book campgrounds with Parks Ontario 5 months in advance for camping Bruce Peninsula National Park.
Where to Next
Be sure to spend at least 3 days to a week within Bruce Peninsula National Park and Tobermory. Then take the ferry to Manitoulin Island for your next adventure!