Bruce Peninsula Is Lake Huron’s Idyllic Hidden Gem
In Bruce Peninsula National Park, you’ll find cerulean water, shipwrecks and Canadian hospitality around Lake Huron.
Bruce Peninsula Is Lake Huron’s Idyllic Secret Spot
The Great Lakes are basically miniature seas of fresh water. All five are incredible, but Lake Huron boasts the longest coastline, which extends an impressive 3,827 miles.
Straddling the border between the U.S. and Canada, this lake has no shortage of charming small towns along its shores that provide year-round entertainment. If you want nice, sandy beaches, there is no better place than Georgian Bay. And to enjoy it to its fullest, go to the breathtaking Bruce Peninsula.
While Canadians in Ontario are well aware of this hidden gem, most Americans still miss out on this perfect vacation spot along Lake Huron.
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An Underrated Canadian National Park on Lake Huron
Bruce Peninsula's biggest draw is its eponymous national park. Sure, it's not as well-known or as big as Banff or Jasper, but the park is absolutely astonishing. Different trails will take you through evergreen forests, lakes filled with perfectly round boulders, rocky lookout points and refreshing swimming spots.
No matter the time of year, the peninsula offers powder-blue water that looks as if it belongs more in the Caribbean than the Great Lakes. It's so clear that you can see the boulders at its bottom as if they were right in front of you.
The most remarkable part of the park is Indian Cove. In the summer, you can cool off by stepping off the large rocks around the shore straight into the enticing water. From here, you can easily find other points of interest, like the Grotto and Boulder Beach.
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Coastal Hikes Around Lake Huron
While the national park has more than enough trails to keep you entertained, there are also other parts of the area worth a hike. One of the most popular is Lion's Head Provincial Park.
The mild hike takes you through meadows and forests, but some trails highlight the coastline. As you hike, you'll get panoramic views of Georgian Bay, framed by large, white rock cliffs covered in green.
Complete the hike to Lion's Head Lookout, where you'll see a rock that resembles the profile of the majestic animal. The hike will leave you breathless in more than one way.
Go Shipwreck Hunting
On calm, sunny days, it's hard to imagine that Lake Huron could ever look scary. But as with any large body of water, storms can turn the lake deadly.
Need proof? There are 22 shipwrecks in the area — many of which can be explored by kayak or paddleboard. Set off into the Fantom Five National Marine Park, next to Bruce Peninsula National Park in the town of Tobermory. You'll easily be able to kayak to at least three shipwrecks from here. Some are quite small and near the shore, but others are a bit larger and well-preserved by the freezing waters of the lake.
If the weather is warm enough, don't hesitate to jump straight in and swim around the shipwrecks. Scuba divers can also explore the deeper wrecks and more remote wrecks. Or, if you want to avoid the water, take a boat tour around the marine park to see them from the comfort of a place that is nice and dry.
Who Knew Rocks Could Be So Cool?
Shipwrecks aren't the only appeal of Fantom Five Marine Park. In fact, they're not even the main attraction. That honor goes to Flowerpot Island. Only accessible by boat (often the same ones that pass over the shipwrecks), this island is known for its distinctive rock formations, which people say resemble flower pots.
We can't really say that we see the resemblance, but the large rocks' unique shape is something to see with your own eyes.
Lake Beaches You'll Actually Enjoy
Full disclosure: We can be quite picky about beaches and refuse to get into most lakes because water murkiness just isn't our thing. But this is not an issue in Bruce Peninsula.
Indian Cove within the national park will always be the beach swimming spot in our opinion. (No, really, we'd go back just to swim there again). But head to Singing Sands Beach for a proper beach experience. Shallow and calm, it's perfect for families and for lounging around in the sun.
If you're already planning on doing the Lion's Head Trail, make sure to pop by Lion's Head Beach. Located right in the center of the town, it has nice, soft sand and gets deep enough to allow for quality swimming or water sports.
Tobermory: An Idyllic Lake Town
Stretching over 59.46 square miles, Bruce Peninsula has many small towns worth a stop. But Tobermory is the undisputed king of the peninsula. It's the gateway to most of the region's main attractions, including the national park and national marine park.
Located right at the peninsula's tip, Tobermory has acted as a trading and transportation post since it was founded. Today, much of its economy revolves around tourism, particularly in the summer.
When you're not out enjoying the wonders of Lake Huron, walk around this town of 3,850 people to do some souvenir shopping or to simply take in the views of boats lining the harbor proudly waving the Canadian flag.
Where to Stay in Bruce Peninsula
Tobermory is the obvious choice for a place to stay in Bruce Peninsula — just be warned that rooms in this tiny town are limited, and they fill up months in advance. If you book early, you might be lucky enough to find a room at Stone Cove Waterfront B&B. You'll be right in the heart of town and a stone's throw away from Lake Huron.
If everything in town is booked up, though, look south toward Lion's Head, a mere 30-minute drive from Tobermory. Lionheart B&B places you within walking distance of the beach and near the town's restaurants and cafes.
Where to Eat in Bruce Peninsula
No matter how wonderful they are, few destinations are perfect. Bruce Peninsula's weak point is food. This is a common issue in small towns, so we don't hold it against the area, especially since it makes up for it in sheer natural beauty. But we have to warn you not to expect to be blown away by anything you eat here.
For decent food with good beer and fantastic views over the town and water, get a table at Tobermory Brewing Company & Grill. In the summer season, Coconut Joe's Harbour Bar and Grill attracts people with its Caribbean-inspired dishes and its waterfront location.
Need dessert? Go to the Sweet Shop for a Willie Wonka-esque experience in a wonderland filled with all the sweets you've ever dreamed about. Or pass by Stella’s Gelato & Café for a sugar and coffee rush. Keep in mind, however, that both are only open seasonally.
How to Get to Bruce Peninsula
If you're coming from the U.S., the easiest way to get to Bruce Peninsula is by flying into Toronto Pearson International Airport.
From here, rent a car and embark on a pleasant three-hour drive to Tobermory. The ride is mostly flat and straight once you get out of the city, so you can relax and enjoy the scenery dotted with large fields, forests and colorful farmhouses.
Best Time of the Year to Visit Bruce Peninsula
Winter, spring and fall offer different facets of Bruce Peninsula. Each is equally beautiful. Though winter is the most challenging experience, the image of Georgian Bay's white rocks covered with glistening snow as the sun sets is simply magical. Similarly, fall adds a layer of color to the already scenic landscape.
But while we appreciate Bruce Peninsula at any time of year, summer is unquestionably the best time to visit. In practical terms, many businesses open only in summer, so your options for dining, drinking and shopping will be limited if you come in the off-season.
You also won't be able to swim in the bay. Even in the summer, the water is cold enough to make breathing difficult, but it's not a big deal if you keep moving, and it'll leave you feeling energized and rejuvenated.
Plus, summer in southern Canada is balmy and pleasant, so you won't be uncomfortable as you hike around the bay.