The Bruce Peninsula is one of the busiest places in Ontario during the summer. In recent years, it’s become the province’s most popular tourist destination, with iconic landmarks like Indian Head Cove and the Cyprus Lake Grotto drawing visitors from all over the country. People come to experience the breathtaking landscapes, scenic hiking trails and crystal clear waters that can only be found in the Georgian Bay region.
However, making the trip without sufficient planning can end up being stressful, since the area often gets overcrowded during peak seasons. To ensure your next trip to the Bruce Peninsula is problem free, here are a few things to consider:
When to visit
Bruce Peninsula National Park is busiest during July, August and holiday weekends. There are typically long wait times, heavy traffic and no free parking spaces during those times. For less crowds, consider visiting during other times of the year, like in the early spring or fall.
Those looking to camp can reserve a spot online using the park’s 24-hour booking service. Reservations for this year opened on January 16, 2018 and they go out quick, so the earlier you book, the better. The park is open year round.
Points of Interest
Indian Head Cove — a towering array of flat limestone rocks that shelter a small, white boulder beach that opens up to crystal clear waters.
It’s a popular site for swimming, however waters are typically cold even in the summer.
Natural Arch — a distinct hole in a massive rock that gives a unique view of the Georgian Bay waters.
It offers great opportunities for photos, and is a perfect spot to take a break from your hike.
Singing Sands Beach — a small beach located on the west end of the Peninsula consisting of parking, washrooms, picnic tables and a short boardwalk.
The waters are slightly shallower here, so it’s a bit of a warmer swimming experience than at Indian Head Cove. You can access the beach via Dorcas Bay Road, off of Highway 6.
The Grotto — a large sea cave made of limestone that fills with the blue-green waters of the Georgian Bay. The carved rocks open up to a glorious view of the surrounding landscape and offer a unique swimming opportunity forcan be accessed by traversing down a 12-meter open-cliff face, or by maneuvering down a small rock tunnel called “the chimney.”
- New for 2018 Due to the overwhelming popularity of hiking to the Grotto, timed parking has been instituted, which will allow visitors to park for only 4 hours at a time. An online reservation system will be introduced soon to allow visitors to book times slots for this summer.
Hiking Trails — there are several hiking opportunities available at the Bruce Peninsula, with the Cyprus Lake Trail, Georgian Bay and Marr Lake Trail, and Horse Lake Trail being the main ones. The full collection of trails can be found here. It also includes part of the 782-km Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest and longest footpath.
- Cyprus Lake Trail (5 km): used as a main path that branches out into access trails from the Cyprus campground.
- Georgian Bay and Marr Lake Trail (3 km): the quickest path to Indian Head Cove, the Grotto and Halfway Rock Point
- Horse Lake Trail (1 km): meanders around the eastern side of Horse Lake and features a wide diversity of habitats, from marsh ecosystems to woodland shorelines
Nature walk — Its forests consist of multiple unique plant species, including dwarf lake iris, Indian plantain, holly ferns and over 40 species of orchid. There’s also a variety of wildlife in the area, from frogs, hares, snakes, white-tailed deer and much more.
Bouldering — if you enjoy boulder climbing, the Halfway Log Dump is a great place to practice your skills. The site represents the point where the shoreline boulders along the Georgian Bay.
Water activities — the plethora of lakes and beaches in the area make it a prime destination for water activities. Go swimming at Indian Head Cove or Singing Sands beach, or whip out the canoes and kayaks at Cyprus Lake, Emmett Lake or Cameron Lake in the nearby area.
Stargazing — Bruce Peninsula is a designated dark sky reserve, meaning it has some of the darkest, pollution-free skies in the province. This makes it perfect for stargazing. Spend the night looking at constellations with family and friends, or attend an event held by the Bluewater Astronomical Society.
Camping — those looking to stay overnight can choose from a variety of camping options, from its 23 drive-in campsites to winter cabins and even yurts ($120 a night on Cyprus Lake). There are also a bunch of bed and breakfasts in Tobermory, which is just a short drive from the park.
How to get there
Head to Tobermory, a town located at the northernmost tip of the Bruce Peninsula. You can follow use Highway 6 to get there. Here are some distances from major cities:
- Toronto: 295.4 km (3 h 50 min)
- Ottawa: 669.8 km (7 h 50 min)
- Kingston: 542 km (6 h 28 min)
- Niagara Falls: 380 km (4 h 24 min)
- London: 294.9 km (3 h 44 min)
- Windsor: 465 km (5 h 36 min)
Entry and parking
As of January 1, 2018, all youth aged 17 and under are entitled to free admission to all Parks Canada locations. All other individuals will have to pay the corresponding seasonal admission fees (subject to change):
- Adult: $7.80
- Senior: $6.80
- Family (2 adults): $14.70
There are also parking fees incurred per vehicle. Daily parking is $11.70 per car, and $49.00 per bus.
Additional costs apply for other services such as camping, backcountry use, facility rentals, special programs and reservations. See the full price list for these here.