Bruce Peninsula National Park Is a Natural Wonderland

Bruce Peninsula National Park is a place to visit at least once in a lifetime.

Bruce Peninsula National Park is located on Bruce Peninsula, which lies between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. As part of UNESCO’s Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve, the park is known for its rocky shoreline, dramatic cliffs and turquoise water, as well as diverse wildlife with rare animal and plant species, such as the Massasauga rattlesnakes and purple-stem Cliffbreak.

View of kayakers on Georgian Bay from Little Fern Cave, Bruce Peninsula National Park. © Parks Canada / D.A. Wilkes
View of kayakers on Georgian Bay from Little Fern Cave, Bruce Peninsula National Park. © Parks Canada / D.A. Wilkes

Scientists believe around 400 million years ago, the peninsula was once submerged under a tropical sea. Over time, dirt, mud and sand (collectively known as sediments) were compressed into rocks, which were eventually eroded by glaciers and water flows to become the rugged cliffs that we see today.  

Bruce Peninsula National Park, which spans 156 square kilometres,  first welcomed visitors in 1987. It is open year round, but summer and long weekends are peak periods. While you do not have to reserve for entrance, for key attractions, such as the Grotto and Halfway Log Dump shoreline, you need to book your parking spot ahead of time. Other parking locations are at Singing Sands and Cyprus Lake Campground at the Head-of-Trails and Day-use Arena.

Visitors canoeing, Bruce Peninsula National Park. © Parks Canada / Robin Andrew
Visitors canoeing, Bruce Peninsula National Park. © Parks Canada / Robin Andrew

This year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, reservations will open in April for trips between May to October.

TRAVEL TIPS TO BRUCE PENINSULA NATIONAL PARK

Starting Point

The best place to start your adventure is Tobermory, a town on the northern tip of the. Here you will find the Visitor Center, a registration hub for the services at both Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park.

You can drive here by taking Highway 6 or take the Parkbus, a service run by a not-for-profit organization that connects visitors from major cities to conservation areas. A return ticket costs $99 for adults, $89 for students and seniors, and $50 for children. You can catch the bus at 34 Asquith Ave in Toronto or Trinity Common Mall in Brampton.

From May to October, you can also take the Chi-Cheemaun ferry from Owen Sound to Tobermory. Fares for adults start from $26.80 for a return ticket. Children below four years old can travel for free.

Sightseeing

The park is home to 34 orchid species, including dwarf lake irises, Indian plantains, northern holly fern, as well as cliff vegetation more than 100 years old. Its ecosystem also provides habitat for chipmunks, frogs, porcupines and Massasauga rattlesnakes.

The area surrounding Cyprus Lake is a haven for birds to build their nests, find their mates and give birth after the long winter migration. If you are lucky, you will see a Scarlet Tanager singing melodious songs and other rare birds in Ontario, such as bald eagles or great blue herons.

The Grotto and Indian Head Cove

You can take the Georgian Bay Trail or Marr Lake Trail to reach Indian Head Cove, an inlet next to the Grotto. The beach here is a popular spot among swimmers and scuba divers. 

You will find a rocky arch on your way to the Grotto at the west end of the beach. The Gotto is under an exposed cliff a little further, and you climb down about 12 meters to get there. The surprises waiting are blue water, stones, and a submerged cave mouth. The water in this area is very cold, and unfortunately the Grotto is closed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Hiking, climbing

The park’s trails can take you to hidden treasures at your own pace. Popular paths include the Bruce Trail, the Cyprus Lake Trail, the Georgian Bay Trail, the Marr Lake Trail, the Horse Lake Trail or the Singing Sands.

Take the Marr Lake Trail to reach Overhanging Point. Climb down the opening on the ground and you’ll see Cliffstone Rock. This route is not for beginners, but the result is worth it.

Camping

You can rent a modern and comfortable yurt for $130 a night. Each is furnished with a wood stove, beds, large deck and propane BBQ, together with a locking door.

If you prefer to stay in a tent and sleep on the ground, the drive-in campsites at Birches, Poplars and Tamarack cost $ 30 a night. You’ll have access to basic amenities such as outdoor dining tables, fire pits and barbecue stoves, tap water and toilets. You can also choose to camp next to Lake Cyprus and enjoy the peaceful scenery.

If you want a “hardcore” camping experience, contact the Cyprus Lake Office at least two days in advance for a camping permit at Storm Haven and High Dump along the Bruce Trail. Backcountry camping, which isolates you from the modern world, can push your edge. You have to be well-prepared with practical survival knowledge.

In July, Bluewater Astronomical Association has a stargazing event and other educational programs, as part of the Dark Skies Weekend of Parks Canada.

Other Important Notes

  • Always contact and make reservations in advance.
  • Plan your activities based on the weather.
  • Bring food and drink, because except for neighboring towns Tobermory and Lion’s Head, there are no convenience stores near the park.
  • Comply with general regulations, such as driving carefully and patiently if an animal is crossing the road. The national park is particularly strict in terms of maximum speed and no-parking roads.

Additional Information

  • 1-877-RESERVE (737-3783): reservation in Bruce Peninsula National Park
  • 511: Ontario tourist information hotline
  • 1-877-RESERVE (737-3783): reservation in Bruce Peninsula National Park
  • 1 800-265-3163: OSTC for Chi-Cheemaun ferry ticket and schedule, and Springmount Information Center
  • 519-596-2452: Tobermory Information Center
  • 519-596-2233: Bruce Peninsula National Park Visitor Center
  • Website: pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/on/bruce

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