The Bruce Peninsula

We left Toronto and were on our way to the Bruce peninsula, a peninsula that is on the Georgian bay of Lake Huron, in the same clear blue water that we swam in at our spot in Collinwood. We drove just to get away from Toronto that day in the direction of where we wanted to go, we were about a hundred kilometres away before we found a spot in between the trees where we stayed that night. All that time I was driving with my fingers crossed, praying that the gearbox would hold up.

The next day we kept driving towards the peninsula while stopping at a couple of different sites. We went to see the Ingles falls, they were named after the family that ran the watermill that was constructed above the falls in the old days. It was a nice waterfall similar to several we would see in the coming days. All these waterfalls came to be because the unique layers of rock in this region, the area all the way from Niagara up to the peninsula and neighbouring island is called the Niagara Escarpment. This escarpment is build up out of harder and softer layers of rock and limestone, and therefore it is sculpted by the elements throughout the time into waterfalls and beautiful rock formations. We would witness all these while hiking the coastline and climbing cliffs later on.

Knowing the beauty of the water we drove into a town called Lion’s Head, that was right on the a bay and had a little marina. We planned to make lunch there and overlook the bay before driving further west. Because we already knew the water of the bay we didn’t expect to be struck again by its beauty but we were wrong, our jaws dropped again on sight of the water while we tried to find a parking. For paco it is all the same, as long as it is wet and deep enough to swim he doesn’t care about the colour of the water. Since we stayed in Collingwood he started to dive up rounded off pebbles from the shoreline, we didn’t think anything would ever be more attractive to him than his ball in the water but pebbles are his favourite right now.

We took a while convincing Paco that we had to leave before we moved on further west onto the peninsula. It was time to find a place to sleep, and since we already saw the pebbely beautiful side of the peninsula we decided to try our luck on the other side. Highway number 6 crosses the peninsula right through the middle with smaller roads leading to the left and the right to be able to reach the coastal towns. The tip of the peninsula is all National Park with the most touristic area all the way at the end, the town of Tobermory. We would go to the park the day after but before getting into the park we took one of the gravel roads leading towards the coast to find a spot. Almost getting to the end of the road it split in 2, with one part leading straight down to the water and the other curving to several cottages. We followed the road that led us to the water, and found us at the end of the road when the gravel turned in to bigger pebbles that slowly dipped into the calm water. The water was clear and shallow for the first dozen meters and through the clear water we could see that the pebbles were dropped to create a road leading to a little island just 50 meters into the water. With a big 4×4 you could probably drive all the way to the island, but we parked a couple of meters before the pebble road touched the water.

The view was beautiful, the little island just laying there in the bay and all the land around the bay was covered in trees only to be interrupted by a cottage here and there. We love sleeping at these spots because it makes us feel so privileged, living the cottage life without actually owning a cottage. The next morning we took a bath in the clear water before moving on to the park.

We drove into the park and followed a road leading to the beautiful northern coast, we were told there were good hikes there and that’s what we set off to do that day. The first part of the hike was about 1 kilometre to the pebble beach, another stunning view over white pebbles the size of melons being splashed by clear blue water. From the water it took about 20 meters inland before trees started sprouting from in between the pebbles, and from there on trees took over into the forest. After we checked out the beach we started hiking up the forest trail that quickly led us parallel to the coastline inclining steeply up the cliffs. The root covered trail was the home of chipmunks and squirrels that kept Paco busy all the time. Every now and then the trial led to an opening in the trees that gave access to a cliff that overlooked the bay. Every time we needed to tell ourselves that this was not an ocean but it was just a bay on a lake that is even much bigger than this bay, and besides that Lake Huron is not even close to being the biggest lake of the great lakes.

Overlooking the bay we saw that below us the pebble beach had gave way to huge blocks of rock and stones that had fallen off the cliffs by the erosion of the lake and the rain. In between these blocks there were little pools filled with the blue water of the bay. It was warm and these pools looked really inviting but so far out of reach from where we were on top of the cliffs. We hoped that later we would be able to climb down and get into the water. But instead of going down the trial led us to another pebble beach further up the coast. The trail itself led all the way to the town of Tobermory but we had to return to the van so we got back onto the trail in the opposite direction when we got off the beach.

When we got back to the first beach that we started off from we got back to the van to get our swimming stuff and started walking the beach in the direction of the big blocks of rock. Really soon the pebble gave way to slats of rock stretching into the water and quickly after that we had to climb over rocks and squeeze in between them to get further ahead. We got to some semi flat rocks that had a slope into the water, this was the spot we had seen from on top and this is where we stayed. We dived into the water and snorkelled around for a while. We ate some watermelon and had a drink overlooking the water, it felt like heaven.

Worn-out from the hike and the swim we got back to the van and started driving toward Tobermory to arrive there in the evening. We drove into town a bit late, we knew it would be hard to find a spot to sleep here but we heard about a parking where people slept overnight. The town was a mix between a harbour town a touristic town and parking lots for cars waiting for the ferry. The centre was just a 300 by 300 metre touristic area hugging a little bay, this area was surrounded by houses and the houses were surrounded by several parking lots for the ferry that took all the cars and RV’s to neighbouring island Manitoulin. There was one little parking designated to overnight parking and that’s where we stayed for the night.

In the National park there was an area that had a small natural bay and some caves right at the water. To be able to get to this part of the park we had to make an online reservation, to control the amount of people in the park the maximum parking time parking was 4 hours. Online we had to pre pay our parking spot but because of having the National discovery pass the money would be refunded to us when we would leave the park. It was about a kilometre walk to get to the site at the water, and they were right, we were not the only ones there. The site that was the biggest attraction of the park was a rocky surface of about 150 meters wide that sloped into the water. Because of the erosion several pools and caves were carved in the rocks, there was a small pool in a cave that looked like a little cathedral with a skylight in the ceiling. It took a bit of encouragement to dive in the cold water but the experience and the view were much better while swimming.

We got out of the water to warm back up when we noticed we were missing out on something better. The rocks, the clear blue water, and the whole surroundings were amazing and were more than enough reason to visit this part of the park but overhearing a conversation about another cave grasped my attention. Apparently a 5 minute swim around the corner there was another cave that could be entered by a gnarly climb down the rocks or by swimming. Knowing that the water was a bit cold for a longer swim I doubted swimming there, but it seemed the best option over climbing. Desy stayed behind when I started swimming, I passed the corner where kids were jumping of the cliffs when little choppy waves started splashing in my face. Just around the corner I noticed the people that I overheard talking about the caves chilling on a rock in their wetsuits. I was starting to get colder when the cliff opened up into a little bay with in the middle rocks that pointed up out of the water and on the left the entrance to the cave. The sun was shining and made the water glow in the dark cave. Swimming underwater I noticed light coming from the left wall what seemed about 3 meters under water. It was an underwater entrance to the cave and was used by freedivers to swim in and out of the cave. Me feeling cold but tough I thought to swim down to check it out but not even getting half way there decided that I was never gonna make it even close to the underwater entrance. The ceiling of the cave was being climbed by guys that halfway up there dropped in the water while others swam in and out of the cave.

The cave was amazing but I started to get cold quickly and knowing that I had a cold swim ahead of me I knew I should not stay too long. Getting ready to swim back I climbed on a rock to warm up for a bit in the sun but I slipped and hit my knee and leg on the rounded off rock. Biting my teeth I didn’t want to show my pain to the surrounding cool guys diving and climbing the cave and slowly slid down the side of the rock. The swim back was cold and numbed the pain in my knee, it seemed to take longer than the swim up to the cave. Climbing back onto the rocks where Des was I felt a bit like Paco when he stayed in the cold water for too long, but instead of going after a ball I swam after and experience.

We warmed up and dried in the sun before packing our stuff, wade through the shallow pool and got back to the rocky cliffs. I told Desy about the other cave and that I saw other people climbing down the cliffs into the cave and we decided to find the rocky entrance to the cave. There were 2 different entrances over land, one of them was a climb down an open cliff face and one was to squeeze through an opening in between the rocks, we went for the climb down the cliff. It wasn’t all that hard to do and soon we were halfway down the climb Paco loved it and we passed him in between us from one step to the next. One section we had to hang over the water by our arms while Paco could walk a little ridge and right after that it was a simple climb and we got to the cave. Staying out of the water the view was still amazing, the sun was gently lighting up the cave and I told Desy about my heroic swim and fall of the rock about 45 minutes ago. Hanging around the cave for a bit we decided we had to hurry to the van to not overstay our 4 hour parking limit. The way out of the cave we squeezed ourselves through the tight space in between the rocks and boulders to find people cheering for us when we popped our heads out of the exit on top, Paco was the star of the show when he easily jumped right up while we struggled to wiggle our bodies out.

That afternoon we drove back to Tobermory to sleep at the parking again before getting on the ferry the next day. We woke up noticing we have had neighbours for the night, a white Sprinter van with a yellow canoe strapped to the side and with a Latin couple that seemed to be in their late 20’s. After a short chat the drove off the parking. A little bit later we also drove into town to find a small flea market organised by the local church, we parked halfway on the street next to the sprinter that we saw earlier that morning. While looking for a bargain we stumbled upon the Latin couple and started talking for a while, they were Pau from Mexico and Cris from Chile (click on picture to see their Instagram). They advised us to go for a snorkel if we had the time. Just on the other side of Tobermory there was a popular diving spot that had old wooden ship wrecks that you could see while snorkelling. Since we only had to be at the ferry parking later that day we decided to go there and get the wetsuits out for a change.

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We drove through the little town and saw the parking they told us to go to, the wrecks were not visible from shore so we didn’t know exactly where to get into the water. The parking was for a short time only and was expensive and since we didn’t have lunch yet we drove passed the payed parking zone and had lunch before getting to the water. We jumped into our wetsuits took our snorkelling gear out and walked down the road toward the dock where all the divers started out. While getting into the water we soon saw the first wreck, its wooden ribs clearly sticking from the bottom of the lake and after swimming closer and diving down the hull was easily detected. We hang around in the water for a while and asked some divers that just came up where the second wreck was. It was just a 100 meters swim away, we found the wreck, it was just a bit deeper in the water but was much bigger. It struck me that the wrecks must have been placed there because this big wooden structure was being held down by an iron cattle that was clearly placed there. We got out of the water and walked back to the van to change clothes and get dry. We figured that we could drive back to the parking at the water for a quick dishwash and move on to get to the ferry later on. While doing dishes we saw our first beaver just casually swimming by. Tobermory and the Bruce peninsula were fun and so beautiful but that night we would move on to Manitoulin Island.

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