Two National Parks at the Tip of the Bruce Peninsula

Bill-escarpment

Who could resist taking photos along the Escarpment cliffs on the Bruce? (Photo Credit: Bill Caulfeild-Browne)

The centrepiece of the marvelous National Park Visitor Centre at Tobermory is the 14,000 sq foot theatre and exhibit gallery. Nearby is the 65 foot (20m) observation tower, offering a panoramic view of both Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park. From the base of the tower, a very smooth trail takes you down to the shore at Little Dunks Bay.

Bruce Peninsula National Park is near the tip of the Bruce Peninsula and can be entered from Highway 6 south of Tobermory. The park’s shoreline cliffs are part of the Niagara Escarpment which rises 40 metres out of Georgian Bay, then gently slopes westward into Lake Huron. Inland from Georgian Bay are maple groves and cool, dark cedar forests surrounding many lovely lakes. The park is unique in Canada for its variety of wildflowers and other plant life.

Little Cove offers a lovely rock and cobble beach on Georgian Bay. Little Cove is at the end of Little Cove Road, 4km south of Tobermory. Hint: park at the top of the hill and walk to the shore.

Cyprus Lake Campground has campsites for tents and trailers. Cyprus Lake offers beaches and trails and is a short hike from Indian Head Cove and the Grotto. Hint: often full; book ahead.parks fees 15parks fees 15

Kayakers at Flowerpot Island

Kayakers at Flowerpot Island

Some short and easy hikes originate from the Head of Trails at Cyprus Lake.  Three trails lead to the shoreline where they intersect the Bruce Trail.  Most people turn this layout into a loop hike. Plan for at least a half day on these trails to view the beauties of Indian Head Cove, the Natural Arch and the Grotto. Many of these hikes still penetrate remote areas, so take precautions at all times. A sturdy pair of shoes is a must!

The parking lot at Head of Trails fills up by 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning on most days. If you plan to go there later in the day it would be good to have an alternative in mind.

Hint: Indian Head Cove is a fascinating place twelve months a year , but is only crowded in summer. Come back in the off season!

Halfway Log Dump:  a relatively easy hike goes from the parking area at the end of Emmett Lake Road to a beautiful rock beach on Georgian Bay. It’s an excellent trail through an “enchanted forest” of rock, trees and moss. Follow Hwy. 6 to Emmett Lake Road, then follow the signs leading to the Halfway Log Dump parking lot. (This parking lot fills up on busy summer days. Plan an alternative.)

On the west side of the peninsula, the Lake Huron shore is rimmed with rock, sand, and fen wetlands. There is no vehicle access to the park on the Lake Huron side except at Singing Sands (Dorcas Bay), where there is a sand beach with shallow water, a picnic area and public washrooms.   Singing Sands is the best sand beach in the area. This area also features trails through a habitat renowned for its unusual wildflowers. (Parking lots are often filled on sunny summer days.)

Encompassing 112 sq. km, Fathom Five National Marine Park consists of 20 islands, a large area of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay and a land base of 133 hectares. Fathom Five’s ecosystem extends to a depth of over 100 metres, encompassing everything from loons to fish to plankton.

The beautiful clear waters of Fathom Five National Marine Park offer amazing places to explore for SCUBA divers and snorkelers. There are  21 shipwrecks and fascinating geological formations lying below the surface of the park’s waters, with opportunities appropriate to all levels, beginner to advanced.

Each diver must register in person at the Parks Canada Visitor Centre before diving in the park.

The deepest water in Fathom Five  is off the northeast corner of Flowerpot Island near the Lightstation.  Renowned for its picturesque rock pillars, Flowerpot Island is the only island in Fathom Five National Marine Park with facilities for the public. There are hiking trails, a picnic shelter and a cave display. Take the wooded trail, past both flowerpots, to the island’s historic lightstation and visit the volunteer lightkeepers who maintain this site.

Most Flowerpot boat cruises also visit Big Tub Harbour, where you can see two historic shipwrecks. If you disembark at Flowerpot Island, allow a minimum of 4 hours for the boat tour and an island walk.

PERMIT REQUIRED AT MOST NATIONAL PARK LOCATIONS

For more information on Fathom Five National Marine Park and Bruce Peninsula National Park, write to P.O. Box 189,
Tobermory, Ontario N0H 2R0 or phone  (519) 596-2233. Also you can check out Parks Canada on the web at www.pc.gc.ca.

Bruce Peninsula National Park

Fathom Five National Marine Park

PARKS CANADA FEES

Bruce Peninsula National Park:

No Day-use fee but parking is $11.70 per vehicle per day at Head of Trails (Cyprus Lk Rd) or Halfway Log Dump (Emmett Lk Rd). Annual Pass $49.

Fathom Five Nat’l Marine Park incl. Bruce/Fathom Five Vis Ctr:Family Pass $14.70 per day or $73.60 per year.

Early Bird Discounts Until June 20.

Annual Discovery Pass—$136.40

Gets a vehicle and up to 7 people into any National Park or National Historic Site for 12 months.

 

National Park Blues — What Can We Do? All the Parking Lots are Full!

Weekends — especially long weekends — on the Bruce Peninsula can get pretty crowded.

At Head of Trails at Bruce Peninsula National Park, the parking lot is often full by 9:00AM even on weekdays; likewise across the Highway at Singing Sands and further south at Halfway Log Dump.

If your day plan is to visit one of these three locations, it would be a great idea to have a Plan B. More than ten thousand vehicles each year are turned away at Cyprus Lake Road.

If you get turned away from Head of Trails parking lot on Cyprus Lake Road, all is not lost.

Unfortunately, National Parks staff tend to refer you to other National Park locations which are also likely to be full. Don’t despair. Your day is not ruined. The National Park is not the only place where you can get to cliffs and pristine Georgian Bay shore.

The biggest issue is finding a place to park. The National Park does not have a monopoly on parking lots. There are lots of alternatives and THEY’RE ALL FREE!!

There is a large parking lot at the top of the hill above the village of Dyers Bay (see directions and details in the Bruce Trail article in this newspaper). Park there and follow the Bruce Trail southward on a two hour loop hike which offers several gorgeous lookouts. If you are feeling more ambitious, an easy four or five-hour round trip hike will take you to and from Devil’s Monument where there is superb shoreline (warning: rough terrain on the side trail down to the monument and the shoreline).

Further afield there are several choices — check out the Beaches and Shoreline Access article on page 3.

Got your heart set on a sand beach? Lion’s Head Beach is less than half an hour from the National Park; Sandy Beach at Black Creek Provincial Park is maybe 35 minutes. Both FREE with lots of parking!! (Check out the centrefold map. Please note that Lion’s Head Beach hosts the Homecoming Weekend — exciting but really crowded — on the August long weekend.)

Parking in Tobermory and Wiarton

If you keep driving around the block in downtown Tobermory or Wiarton without finding a place to park, don’t despair. Breathe. The trick is knowing where to look.

In Tobermory there are two large parking lots within a 3-minute walk of the harbour. Cross the Highway onto Hay Bay Road. It seems like the wrong side of the highway but it’s only one short block to unlimited free parking and there’s a shortcut to downtown.

It’s the same story in Wiarton. There are large, free parking lots behind the buildings on the uphill side of Berford Street, with charming, narrow walkways between 19th century buildings leading back to the shops.