Tobermory is a small community in Southwestern Ontario at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula on Georgian Bay. It is the northern terminus of the Bruce Trail and a popular diving destination - regarded by many as the freshwater diving capital of the world. Less than 1,000 people live here permanently, but about 750,000 people visit Tobermory's two national parks each year, while many others make a stop in the town on their way to Manitoulin Island aboard the Chi-Cheemaun ferry.
The rough, rocky tip of the Bruce Peninsula was a pebble in the shoes of European sailors, explorers, farmers and loggers trying to settle the area in the 1800s. Land routes toward Tobermory from the rest of Ontario were not yet developed, and lake conditions in the narrow gap between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay were far from ideal for the ships and boats of the time. After determining the land was unsuitable for farming, resembling the pine-covered Canadian shield of northern Ontario instead of the flat and fertile farmland of southern Ontario, the government sold plots of land to adventurous farmers hoping they'd be able to kick-start agriculture. Farmers found themselves working against the odds; soils were not fit for farming, and their work tended to conflict with the logging industry, which had emerged as a more viable industry.
Loggers took over as farmers abandoned their efforts. Sawmills opened, railways extended their networks, and town sites were settled, including Tobermory in 1884. However, logging peaked in the 1890s as demand diminished, and sawmills on the peninsula turned to serving mostly local needs. While serving as a harbour linking the peninsula to industrious American cities such as Detroit, Tobermory developed a connection to American entrepreneurs - in business, but also tourism. Wealthy American travellers would often arrive by yacht from Michigan to tour the scenic Georgian Bay, and many set up cottages along the coast.
Talk of creating a provincial park on the peninsula began in the roaring 1920's, as locals took note of the many American investors looking to buy up entire islands. In 1930, the federal government's National Park Branch took over Flowerpot Island. Soon after, Highway 6 was extended from Wiarton to Tobermory, and ferry service to Manitoulan Island began. In 1972, Fathom Five Provincial Park became Canada's first national marine conservation park, and in 1987 the federal and provincial governments agreed to create both the Fathom Five National Marine Park and Bruce Peninsula National Park, recognizing the need to protect the unique and important ecology of the area. In 1990, the Niagara Escarpment, which includes the Bruce Peninsula National Park, was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Tobermory is still a beautiful small harbour town, but the landscape and lake (home to 24 shipwrecks) that posed obstacles to farmers and sailors many years ago now provide some of the best hiking and freshwater diving spots in Ontario.
The community was named after Tobermory, the capital of the Isle of Mull in the Scottish Inner Hebrides. Scotland's Tobermory gets its name from the Scottish Gaelic Tobar Mhoire ("Mary's well"), but it's the similar harbour that inspired the name in Ontario.
Fathom Five National Marine Park is inspired by a passage from Shakespeare's The Tempest, referring to how a person drowned in a shipwreck is transformed by the sea.
Tobermory is a summer destination; shops are generally open from May until the mid-October, similar to the Chi-Cheemaun's sailing season, and are closed for the rest of the year.
- Tobermory Chamber of Commerce Visitor Information
- Destination Ontario: Tobermory
- Tobermory is part of the Municipality of Northern Bruce Peninsula
- 1 Tobermory Visitor Information Centre, 7420 Highway 6, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Spring and Fall 10AM-5PM, Summer 9AM-5PM.
- A visitor information centre is also located on board the Chi-Cheemaun.
From the south, Tobermory can be reached using Highway 6, which goes all the way up Bruce Peninsula from Owen Sound. From the North, you can reach Tobermory by going on the Chi-Cheemaun ferry from South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island.
- Chi-Cheemaun ferry, ☏ . From early May to mid-October, the ferry makes round trips each day between Tobermory and the South Baymouth terminal on Manitoulin Island. The trip is about 2 hours. Reservations are recommended if vehicle transport is required. Vehicle fares (each way: cars $28-39, motorcycles $18.50-24.50, bicycles $7. Return trip: adults $38, children 5-11 $14, seniors $23.25.
- Parkbus, toll-free: . Offers service from Toronto in the summer. The bus stops in town at the 1 22 Hay Bay Rd parking lot, and on the way into town at Cyprus Lake Campground. Adult return $129.
There are two airports nearby, neither with scheduled flights:
- Tobermory Airport, +1 519 596-2430.
- Wiarton/Keppel District Airport, #501262 Grey Rd. 1, +1 519-534-0140.
The nearest taxi is 1hr 20min away in Owen Sound, so you'd better have your own transportation.
- Start (or finish) hiking the Bruce Trail. Tobermory is the northernmost point on the 904 km (562 mi) Bruce Trail, a hiking trail that follows the Niagara Escarpment south to Queenston (near Niagara Falls). Since it was unveiled in 1967, all hikers who have earned their "End-to-End" badge have found their way to the 1 Tobermory Cairn, where the trail meets Georgian Bay at the Little Tub Harbour. From the town, the trail takes hikers onto some of the mainland portions of the Fathom Five National Marine Park, before continuing through the Bruce Peninsula National Park.
- 2 Burnt Point Loop Side Trail. A 3.5 km (2.2 mi) loop that begins about 1.3 km (0.81 mi) from the cairn, to the northeast edge of the peninsula, at Dunks Point. There are several scenic lookouts over Georgian Bay.
- 3 Dunks Bay Lookout. About 0.8 km (0.50 mi) from the park visitors centre, look out across the rocky edge of the peninsula.
- Explore 4 Bruce Peninsula National Park. The park preserves a large portion of the Niagara Escarpment on the peninsula, including a variety of natural features accessible to visitors, from sand dunes and rocky coves, a cavern, and interior lakes. Canoeing, Kayaking, bouldering, swimming, and camping are possible in the park.
- Dive, boat, and island hop through 5 Fathom Five National Marine Park. The shores, coves and islands surrounding Tobermory are a protected freshwater landscape, providing opportunities to explore preserved shipwrecks and rocky islands where the Niagara Escarpment rises above lake level. Diving is one of the unique activities in this park; all divers must register with the Park Visitor Centre prior to diving.
- 6 Flowerpot Island. Accessed only by boat and then on foot, the island is named after the 2 Flowerpots - tall stacks of escarpment rock that rise out of the lake along the island's east coast. Park volunteers at the island's 3 Lighthouse station demonstrate what life would have been like living here off the grid, guiding ships into Georgian Bay. Along the way, a small boardwalk along the trail shows the inside of the 7 Sea Caves. A handful of backcountry campsites lets hikers or experienced paddlers spend the night on the island.
- 8 Sweepstakes. The remains of a 36 m (118 ft) schooner that sunk while loaded with coal at Big Tub Harbour in 1885 are still intact and visible from above the water. It is one of 24 shipwrecks that can be viewed by glass bottom boat or by scuba diving.
- 9 Diver's Den, 3 Bay Street South, ☏ , email@example.com. Offers dive trips usually twice per day, departing in the morning and the afternoon. They include two dives from their dive boats, which are well stocked and large enough to suit up even when full. Booking your spots is recommended on weekends during the summer, and the staff is very friendly.
- Peacocks Foodland, 9 Bay St, ☏ . Daily 8AM-8PM. Groceries.
- 1 The Fish & Chip Place, 24 Bay Street S., ☏ . $14.
- 2 Crowsnest Pub, 5 Bay Street, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 11AM-10PM daily (high season, until mid-Oct). Burgers and other pub food. $12.
- 3 Tobermory Brewing Co & Grill, 28 Bay Street South, ☏ . F 4-9PM, Sa Su noon-9PM. Restaurant and microbrewery. $20 entrees.
- 4 Shipwreck Lee's Pirate Bistro, 2 Bay Street, ☏ . 11AM–8:30PM. Moderately priced patio restaurant with a wide assortment of fish and chip dishes made with fish straight from the lake. Expect friendly staff and phenomenal dishes. anywhere between $20 and $30 for two people.
- 1 Bruce Anchor Motel, 7468 Highway 6, ☏ , toll-free: , email@example.com. Clean and modern, there are 16 standard motel units, 12 waterview motel units, and 8 luxury units. Each unit has a balcony or terrace. Most rooms are furnished with two beds. The two-bedroom luxury suite, has a fully equipped kitchen, dining room table, living room and one full-size bathroom can easily accommodate up to six adults. Most rooms have mini fridges. A pavilion behind the motel has microwaves, toasters, kettles, BBQs, and picnic tables. Pets and smoking are not allowed in the motel units. Summer only, Wi-fi free, wheelchair accessible rooms, air conditioning, coffee/tea in rooms. Jul-Aug: rooms from $182, cottages from $400; shoulder season $108/$205.
- 2 Cyprus Lake Campground, 469 Cyprus Lake Road (about 10 minutes by car from Tobermory). Offers trails to the shores of Georgian Bay. The campsites can be booked online. Reservations are a great idea on long weekends, and the campground can get pretty crowded. But this campground offers an easy walk to points of interest such as the Grotto, a rock cavern on the shores of Georgian Bay.
- 3 Big Tub Harbour Resort, 236 Big Tub Rd, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: Rooms 11AM, Cottages 10AM. Family-owned and -operated resort with large waterfront motel units overlooking Big Tub Harbour, large non-waterfront units with air conditioning, smaller waterfront units with air conditioning, on-site dining at Bootlegger’s Cove Pub, personal watercraft rentals. Jul-Aug from $174, off-season from $96.
- 4 Blue Bay Motel, 32 Bay St, ☏ , email@example.com. Close to the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry in the village. You can walk to restaurants, dive shops, tour boats, ferry docks and the head of the Bruce Trail in minutes. Summer only,, Wi-fi available, wheelchair accessible rooms, accessibility equipped bathrooms, coffee/tea in rooms, refrigerator in room. Jul-Aug from $281, shoulder season from $141.
- Manitoulin Island — From spring to fall, take the Chi-Cheemaun ferry across the Georgian Bay to explore the Near North.
- Owen Sound — The largest city in Grey County, 110 km (68 mi) south on Highway 6.
- Village at Blue Mountain — An resort village, popular for skiing in winter, but with outdoor activities in every season, 160 km (99 mi) via Highway 6 and Highway 26.
|Routes through Tobermory|
|Espanola ← Manitoulin Island ← ferry ←||N S||→ Lion's Head → Owen Sound|