Bruce Peninsula - The Best Day-Tripper from Toronto After Niagara Falls

When people ask me to recommend places to visit around Toronto in the summertime, my obvious number one choice is Niagara Falls . And then ...

When people ask me to recommend places to visit around Toronto in the summertime, my obvious number one choice is Niagara Falls. And then depending on how much time they have and how far they are willing to drive, I usually recommend three additional day-trippers: Muskoka,  Algonquin Park, and Bruce Peninsula National Park. The last one is my long-time favourite as it offers some of the most stunning views of Georgian Bay. And the trip to Bruce Peninsula can easily be combined with visiting Fathom Five National Marine Park and its Flowerpot Island's miraculous rock formations.

Now, let's face it: while you can make it a day trip from Toronto, driving 3-4 hours each way is long and can be tiring, especially with Ontario's summer cottage traffic. But if you're up the challenge, I recommend you take off from Toronto around 6 am to catch an early boat tour to Flowerpot Island, stroll around the island for a few hours and come back to Tobermory and drive to Bruce Peninsula National Park.
This itinerary has one big advantage - the parking at Bruce Peninsula National Park should already be available in the late afternoon. Otherwise, you risk to be denied entry to the park if you arrive after 8 am as a tiny parking lot gets full very fast. Better yet, and this is how we beat the summer parking madness in August 2015, you can reserve a campsite at Bruce Peninsula National Park in advance, so you'll surely be permitted entry as each campsite has its own parking space for two cars. And this option has another big advantage - you don't have to rush and can take your time exploring wonders of Bruce Peninsula National Park and nearby attractions. 
As with many other popular parks, Bruce Peninsula National Park suffers from mass tourism. Unfortunately, many what I call 'random' people who could care less about nature and its conservation visit this park. It's not unusual to see garbage along at most popular places. These people mostly come to swim and jump at Indian Head Cove and the Grotto - the most picturesque part of the park, and almost never explore other parts of the park.
The water is so crystal-clear, you can see the bottom of the lake. And its turquoise colour is just mind-blowing!
Grotto is connected to the open waters of Georgian Bay via a short underwater path. So if you know how to hold your breath and dive, you should be able to swim across that path. 
The park offers a variety of snorkelling and diving opportunities. Pick up a brochure at the visitor centre that will show you designated diving sites and tell diving rules. Georgian Bay at the park is very deep, and the water rarely warms up even in the summertime, so you have to listen to your body to avoid hypothermia. 
Here are the most important diving rules to ensure you have the best experience possible:
1. You must use a dive flag at all times within 30 m of a diving site.
2. Watch out for motorized and non-motorized boats to avoid collision. 
3. Make sure you never dive alone. 
4. Never remove or disturb anything underwater.
5. And last, but not least: don’t drink and dive.
There are a few ways to get to Grotto and Indian Head Cove from the parking lot. There is a wide direct trail which sees the most crowds, but I challenge you to take Marr Lake trail or Horse Lake trail combined with a part of the world famous 890 km / 553 mile Bruce trail. Bruce trail runs along Niagara Escarpment, the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. 
Not only do you beat the crowds, but you'll also enjoy the great scenery and will have a chance to see some wildlife such as frogs, snakes or even mammals. By the way, Bruce Peninsula National Park is a home to the only rattlesnake in Ontario - endangered Massassauga Rattlesnake.
Inuksuk - one of the symbols of the Canadian North. 
Hiking the Bruce trail is not easy, but its the most challenging part lies within Bruce Peninsula National Park. This field of boulders looks mostly flat, but hiking on it is very hard.
A friend of mine knew a guy who was able to hike the entire trail in 45 days. It's about 20 km / 12 miles a day every day!
Nice wooden bench for resting after a long ascent. 
Backpacking a part of Bruce trail at Bruce Peninsula National Park is on my bucket list since 2015. But look at these rocks - they are perfect for rock climbing and bouldering!
The farther you go from the Grotto, the fewer people you see on the trail. 
Enjoy the hike!

When to go

Bruce Peninsula National Park is open from late April till late October. July and August bring the most crowds, so make sure you reserve your accommodation and activities well in advance. Black flies can be nasty in May and June, especially near bodies of stale water, so bring a repellent or a net. 

Winter activities are available during the cold months and include winter camping and hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Please note that hiking trails are not maintained in the winter. 

A great way to start exploring the park is at the Visitor Centre in Tobermory. They have a cool museum that tells about nature and history of the region. If you travel with kids, don't miss out a chance to pick up a free booklet called Xplorers from the Visitor Centre. It's full of fun activities that will not only keep kids busy, but also their parents. As a token gesture, kids get a small price once they've completed the required activities.


Bruce Peninsula National Park is located near Tobermory 295 km north of Toronto using Highway 10 and 6. In the warm months, don't miss a chance to take the M.S. Chi-Cheemaun ferry to Manitoulin island to make a complete loop around Georgian Bay (which we did in 2015). 

Park visitor centre’s address: 120 Chi sin tib dek Rd, Tobermory, ON N0H 2R0

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