Here are the best things to do in Tobermory, Ontario, one of the cutest small towns in Ontario. Traveling from Toronto to Tobermory is one of the most popular road trips in Ontario due to the natural, pristine beauty of the Bruce Peninsula.
Tobermory is a small town at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, located about 300km northwest of Toronto. Drive up Highway 6 until you essentially can’t drive any farther without hopping on a ferry. Our Tobermory itinerary will help you plan the perfect weekend in Tobermory, Ontario. We’ve visited on numerous occasions in all seasons, so we’re experts on the very best things to do in Tobermory.
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Tobermory is known as the “fresh water scuba diving capital of the world” for its intriguing shipwrecks in Fathom Five National Marine Park, Canada’s first national marine conservation area. It’s also the gateway to Manitoulin Island, another wonderful vacation spot that I still need to explore. I’m going to show you how to have the perfect weekend in Tobermory.
This is a two day Tobermory itinerary, allowing time to drive from Toronto to Tobermory, so you can easily enjoy this trip without booking any extra vacation days from work. Feel free to expand your trip to three days in Tobermory and the Bruce Peninsula as there’s so much to see and do. Add in an additional hike or two around the Bruce Peninsula.
Tobermory Road Trip Tips
Pack up the car and don’t forget the essentials! Tobermory is a very tiny town and you’re at least an hour’s drive away from the next town with most amenities (Wiarton or Owen Sound). Check out our detailed road trip packing list to make sure you have everything you need.
Things to Do in Tobermory Ontario: Tobermory Itinerary Day 1
Driving to Tobermory from Toronto is approximately a four hour drive. Even if you’re making the trip from Hamilton, London, Kitchener-Waterloo or beyond, you’re going to be driving for at least a few hours. Factor this into your day and you’ll likely arrive at some point in the afternoon.
First on the list, let’s explore a land section of the Fathom Five National Marine Park, right in town. It’s one of the best things to do in Tobermory that’s often overshadowed by the Bruce Peninsula National Park and the famous Grotto.
What is Fathom Five National Marine Park?
On the traditional lands of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, Fathom Five National Marine Park is a freshwater ecosystem in Lake Huron. It consists of 22 shipwrecks and dive sites, rocky cliffs, forests, lighthouses, numerous islands, and ancient rock formations.
At this National Marine Conservation Area, Parks Canada aims to conserve freshwater ecosystems, as well as preserve and protect shipwrecks and lighthouses within the property. Almost all of the islands are isolated and off limit to tourists, while visitors are permitted to visit Flowerpot Island daily.
We’ll be exploring both the Bruce Peninsula National Park and the Fathom Five National Marine Park, as both are among the best things to do in Tobermory, Ontario. First, let’s go for a hike at the land portion of the Fathom Five National Marine Park. This is where you’ll find the Visitor’s Centre for both national parks, a great place to start your adventure.
Bruce Peninsula National Park Lookout Tower
First, make a stop at the Bruce Peninsula National Park Lookout Tower. The tower is very close to the main parking lot. It gets pretty windy up there, especially at the halfway point where there is a small landing. It’s an easy climb to the top, so definitely make your way up there.
When you reach the top, the expansive, panoramic view is incredible. High above the treetops, soak up the stunning scenery of Georgian Bay and islands in the distance. It’s one of the best scenic views in Tobermory.
Hiking Trails in Tobermory: Little Dunks Bay
Climb down from the tower and start your hike on the Bruce Trail. There are two trails here: Bruce Trail to Little Dunks Bay Lookout and the Bruce Trail Burnt Point Loop. We hiked a smaller section of the trail to Little Dunks Bay. The length of the trail is 0.8km and about 10-15 minutes one way. You’ll see the famous red Muskoka chairs by Parks Canada at the lookout point. Put your feet up, relax, and enjoy the view.
If you have some more time, feel free to continue on the next trail, the Burnt Point Loop side trail. It’s accessed across from Dunks Bay Lookout. There’s another brilliant view of Georgian Bay at the halfway point. On both hikes, you’ll be rewarded with a brilliant view of trees and turquoise waters. If it weren’t for the evergreen trees, I’d think this view was straight out of the Caribbean.
Things to Do in Tobermory: Little Tub Harbour
Little Tub Harbour, also known as the hub of Tobermory, is where you’ll find the main source of action in town. Here’s where the majority of the shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs, and other essential spots like the grocery store and liquor store are located.
In the middle, there’s a small harbor where people dock their boats. It’s a very picturesque part of town and what comes to mind mostly when people think about the village of Tobermory. For Bruce Trail hikers, this is also where you’ll find the northern terminus of the Bruce Trail. It’s the northernmost point of the entire 900km trail that extends from Tobermory down the Niagara Escarpment.
Sweet Treats in Tobermory
If you’re looking for a sweet treat or a cup of coffee, pop by Stella’s Gelato Cafe right in town. They have vegan gelato flavors, as well as plant-based milk for your coffee. Whether you pop in for an iced coffee, a milkshake, or an ice cream cone, the treats at Stella’s Gelato Cafe will cool you down on a warm day.
Have a sweet tooth? Pop over to The Sweet Shop, a super popular candy store in town. Candy, chocolate, coffee, ice cream…the Sweet Shop has a little bit of everything.
Have you ever had a Beavertail? It’s an iconic Canadian treat (and it’s not an actual beaver’s tail, don’t worry!). It’s fried dough with various toppings on it, and it’s absolutely decadent. BeaverTails Tobermory is only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so get one if you’re there on a weekend.
Tobermory Brewing Co
If you’re a fan of craft beer and microbreweries, Tobermory Brewing Co is not to be missed. Whether you choose to dine here for dinner or not, it’s one of the best things to do in Tobermory for beer fans. Justin and I stopped by to enjoy a pint of beer on their patio.
The beer is themed after landmarks and notable points of interest in Tobermory, such as the Bruce Trail Blonde Ale, Little Cove Light Lager, and Fathom Five Porter. I ordered a pint of the Sailor’s Delight, a raspberry wheat beer, while Justin tried the Bruce Trail Blonde Ale. We enjoyed our beer out on the patio overlooking the harbour.
Tacomory Mexican Food Truck
The Tacomory food truck is one of the best places to dine in Tobermory. This is Tobermory’s food truck serving up delicious Mexican food. There’s something for every taste here. For vegans like myself, you can try the curried chickpea taco with a vegan cilantro lime sauce. They also have vegan nachos and a vegan burrito bowl. Chips and guacamole is the perfect side dish to share.
Best Things to Do in Tobermory Ontario: Watch the Sunset
Tobermory has some gorgeous sunsets, and we were fortunate enough to catch one of them. We watched the sunset from a little balcony at the Bruce Anchor Cruises building. Big Tub Lighthouse stands tall, off in the distance, providing an additional interesting element to a spectacular sunset.
Well, guess what? Day one of this fabulous weekend in Tobermory itinerary is in the books. By this point, it’s time to get a restful night’s sleep for a big day tomorrow. Even after a lengthy drive from Toronto to Tobermory or anywhere else in Ontario, Canada (or the USA), I’m sure you’re pretty pleased with the trip so far. Hiking, craft beer, gelato, tacos, a sunset…we’re off to a great start!
Don’t have a car? Here’s how to get to Tobermory!
No car? No problem! It’s possible to take a bus tour to Tobermory from Toronto or Mississauga. The bus will take you to the national park for the Grotto, and then take you to Tobermory for a few hours before venturing back home. Book your tour here.
If you drive, it’s also possible to rent a car in Toronto or anywhere else in Ontario for your Tobermory trip. I love using Discover Cars wherever I travel. Compare car rental prices to find the best rates. Book your rental car here.
Where to Stay in Tobermory
I highly recommend booking your Tobermory accommodations well in advance, especially in the summer. Most hotels, motels, vacation rentals and apartments sell out in July and August. Be prepared and reserve your stay as soon as you can.
We stayed at the Bruce Anchor Motel, a clean and comfortable motel right in the middle of town. Centrally located, we walked into town several times and walked to the pick-up spot for our boat trip the following day.
As the Bruce Anchor Motel owns the boat tour company that goes to Flowerpot Island and the shipwrecks, we left our car at the motel the following day during the tour without having to pay for parking elsewhere. This was a huge plus!
Rooms at the Bruce Anchor Motel have their own balconies where you could catch a glimpse of the lake. Our motel room was clean, comfortable, and convenient. It was a great place to rest our heads at night and had everything we could possibly need before heading out for our adventures the following morning.
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More Places to Stay in Tobermory
Looking for more places to stay in Tobermory? There are many hotels and vacation rentals in Tobermory to have an amazing getaway. Here’s a handy map that shows all hotels, accommodations, apartments and vacation rentals. Enter your travel dates for more accurate information. Then, click on each property for more information and to book your stay.
Things to Do in Tobermory Ontario: Tobermory Itinerary Day 2
We saved the main attractions in Tobermory Ontario for the second day of our Tobermory itinerary. The best things to see and do in Tobermory are its natural wonders. Flowerpot Island and the Bruce Peninsula National Park are the top highlights of the region.
Things to Do in Tobermory: Boat Cruise to Flowerpot Island
For any Tobermory trip, I suggest booking your boat cruise to Flowerpot Island in advance as these tours sell out. We booked our cruise with Bruce Anchor Cruises. From our motel, we walked across the street and boarded a glass bottom boat with a small group of fellow nature lovers. Blue Heron Cruises is another company that offers tours to Flowerpot Island.
First, we’d explore Big Tub Harbour, which is the larger harbour, not to be confused with Little Tub Harbour that you experienced yesterday. Then, we’d jet off towards Flowerpot Island where we’ll spend the rest of the morning.
Discovering Shipwrecks on the Glass Bottom Boat
To start, our glass bottom boat toured around Big Tub Harbour to check out a pair of shipwrecks. As it was an overcast (and even a little bit foggy!) day, it was easy to view the shipwrecks right from our boat, both through the glass floor on our boat and out the window.
Two 19th century shipwrecks, the Sweepstakes and The City of Grand Rapids are wooden ships that rest only feet below the surface of the water. The Sweepstakes is one of the best preserved schooners in the Great Lakes. Back in 1885, it became damaged and was towed to Big Tub Harbour. Unfortunately, it was not repaired in time and it sank the following month.
The City of Grand Rapids was a wooden passenger ship that caught fire in Little Tub Harbour in 1907. It was towed farther from the harbour to prevent the town from catching on fire. As it burned out in Georgian Bay, the fire eventually burned through the tow line and the free floating ship eventually blew back into Big Tub Harbour where it ran aground and sank.
Journey to Flowerpot Island
After viewing the shipwrecks, our glass bottom boat ventured through the water to Flowerpot Island. As you leave Big Tub Harbour, check out the classic white and red lighthouse, Big Tub Lighthouse. Then, we hit the open waters and looked out to the neighboring islands as we cruised by.
The narrated boat ride past the shipwrecks and out to the island took about an hour. Once we reached the island, we spent about an hour and a half exploring and hiking around Flowerpot Island. You can stay longer if you’d like.
If you’re planning to swim or have a picnic lunch, plan to stay a few hours. We were there to hike the trails and explore the natural wonders. All in all, plan about a half day to see Flowerpot Island with the glass bottom boat ride.
Approaching Flowerpot Island, we caught a sneak peak of a few key landmarks. First, we observed the Flowerpot Island Lighthouse and the light keeper’s home. Next, we saw the two flowerpot rock formations from the water, a glimpse of what we’d explore closer up soon after.
Hiking at Flowerpot Island
Departing the boat, Justin and I had some free time to explore the island. There are a few different hiking trails, and the highlights of your trip will be the rock formations and the lighthouse. Unfortunately, the cave on Flowerpot Island was closed for restoration so we couldn’t check it out.
If it’s back open when you visit, let me know how you like it! From the dock, head to the right to walk towards the flowerpot formations and the lighthouse. There are two natural “flowerpot” rock pillars on the shore, worn away gradually over the centuries. The tops are completely flat and the jagged rock formations are interestingly top heavy. Greenery miraculously grows from the pillars.
According to an old aboriginal legend, the two flowerpots represent two young lovers from opposing tribes. As the two lovers tried to escape their tribes together, their boat crashed and they became petrified on the beach as these two pillars.
Once you’ve enjoyed the views of the flowerpot formations, keep hiking along the trails and down to the shore. The water was a brilliant shade of blue and turquoise. There’s also lots of beautiful wildflowers on the paths, as well as sprawling moss and lush greenery.
Once you reach the end of the hiking trail, you’ll find a wooden path from the lighthouse. Now, the original lighthouse building no longer exists as it plunged off the edge of the cliff in 1969. It was replaced with a lighthouse tower that you can visit today. There’s also a centuries-old light keeper’s house that you can visit that offers drinks and souvenirs in the summer.
Quick Tips to Plan Your Trip to Flowerpot Island
When you visit Flowerpot Island, wear hiking shoes or running shoes, dress in layers (in case it gets warm or cold), and bring your own water. Drinks and snacks might be available at the light keeper’s house in the summer months, but be prepared in case it isn’t open. Most importantly, leave nature as you found it and don’t litter.
If you only want to hike the main trail to see the flowerpots and the lighthouse like we did, plan to stay for 1.5 hours. If you want to explore the cave (when it opens again), plan to spend a little bit longer on the island (3 hours). And if you want to hike the entire loop trail, have a picnic, and see all of the landmarks, plan to stay for 4-5 hours.
Things to Do in Tobermory: Bruce Peninsula National Park
Our final stop on our Toronto to Tobermory journey was Bruce Peninsula National Park. This is one of the most amazing things to do in Tobermory and the main draw for the Grotto and Indian Head Cove. From the end of April to the end of October, you need to reserve a timed parking permit to visit the Grotto. This isn’t necessary if you’re camping there as you’re already on the property.
The park gets extremely busy, especially on the weekends in the summer. It will be difficult to book a parking permit during these times. It’s even super busy here on weekdays in the summer. If you’re looking to beat the crowds, visit in the spring or the fall. It’s also possible to visit Tobermory in the winter for a whole new perspective. Spoiler alert: it looks super beautiful in the winter, too (and you might have it all to yourself).
While there are numerous hiking opportunities, we ventured down the main green trail to the two main attractions of the park: the Grotto and Indian Head Cove. The trail was a fairly easy, flat path through the woods. It really didn’t take too much effort to walk to the end of the trail. Before long, we were already at our first stop, Indian Head Cove.
Indian Head Cove
Indian Head Cove is a picturesque inlet beside the Grotto. There are large, flat rocks to climb on and numerous scenic vantage points. If it’s warm out, you can go swimming here. Please note that there isn’t a beach, but you can lay out your towels on the long, flat rocks.
The water is a vivid shade of light turquoise blue, much like waters in the tropics. These crystal clear waters make Tobermory and the Bruce Peninsula such a sought after destination.
The Grotto at Bruce Peninsula National Park is a clear, blue pool inside a cave. You can take a peek inside the cave from several spots, including the Grotto Arch beside Indian Head Cove and the Grotto itself, further down the trail.
It’s possible to swim inside the cave, but this is only for experienced swimmers. The waves crash up against the rocks and it can get very choppy out there. Approach with extreme caution. I’m going to show you a photo of what the Grotto looks like in the winter, covered in ice and snow:
More Things to Do in Tobermory, Ontario
My Tobermory itinerary above provides enough activities to spend a wonderful weekend away. I wouldn’t try packing in any more activities or attractions or you’ll likely feel way too rushed. If you are looking for even more things to do in Tobermory if you plan to spend three days in Tobermory (or even 7 days in Tobermory!), here are some more suggestions for you.
Make a Trip to Manitoulin Island
Extend your trip to Manitoulin Island. Take the Chi Cheemaun Ferry across to Manitoulin Island where you can continue your adventure. There are many beautiful hiking trails, waterfalls and more to discover on Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world.
Go Scuba Diving in Tobermory
Tobermory is one of the best places in the world for freshwater diving. More than 20 shipwrecks, geological formations and crystal clear water provide for unique and exhilarating experiences. You can also go snorkeling in Tobermory, too. For more information on the dive sites and dive companies, please check out the Fathom Five National Marine Park website.
Visit Halfway Log Dump
Halfway Log Dump is another area at the Bruce Peninsula National Park. You will need to make a reservation to visit between June and September. Halfway Hog Dump is home to a rugged white cobble beach.
It is also possible to hike from Halfway Log Dump to the Grotto, though this should only be attempted by experienced hikers. It takes about three hours to hike from the Grotto to Halfway Log Dump in one direction, so you’re looking at a six hour hike in total. There aren’t any taxi or shuttle services between park destinations.
Another popular destination in the Bruce Peninsula, located south of Tobermory, is Lion’s Head. Lion’s Head is a cute town with a small harbour, shops and restaurants. It’s also home to Lion’s Head Provincial Park, another amazing hiking destination. This one is also pretty challenging and will take at least a half day to complete.
Singing Sands Beach
Looking for a beach near Tobermory? Singing Sands Beach is your best bet. Singing Sands is also part of the Bruce Peninsula National Park. There’s also a short boardwalk trail at Singing Sands where you can admire the intriguing plants that grow in the Singing Sands Fen habitat. You might be able to spot some orchids or insect eating plants around the wetlands.
Tobermory and the Bruce Peninsula aren’t really known for the best beaches in the province. I suggest heading down to Sauble Beach, Southampton Beach or Port Elgin Beach for a beach day if you’re looking for a spacious, sandy beach. Check out my guide to the best beaches in Ontario for more details.
Go Camping at the Bruce Peninsula National Park
Bruce Peninsula National Park offers semi-wilderness, yurts and backcountry camping. At the Cyprus Lake Campground, there are campsites and yurts, roofed structures that are similar to glamping. One of the best perks of staying at the national park? You can hike to the Grotto from your campsite, no additional reservations required.
More Things to Do in the Bruce Grey Simcoe Region
Looking for more things to do in Bruce County, Grey County or the Simcoe County region? We’ve got some great suggestions for you!
Lauren is the full-time travel blogger and content creator behind Justin Plus Lauren. She started Justin Plus Lauren in 2013 and has travelled to 50+ countries around the world. Lauren is an expert on vegan travel as one of the very first vegan travel bloggers. She also focuses on outdoor adventure travel, eco and sustainable travel, and creating amazing travel itineraries for cities and small towns.