Hidden Gems in Bruce Peninsula, 3-Day Family Guide & Itinerary
Disclosure: We partnered with Explore The Bruce, and were generously hosted by their wonderful partners so that we could share this experience with you! As always, the thoughts and opinions we share below are entirely our own, and the experiences we agree to participated in align with our family’s interests and lifestyle.
After spending three days in Bruce Peninsula, Ontario, it’s truly hard to describe the beauty and peacefulness of the area – even while traveling with the kids! Sometimes when you book a trip to a brand new location, all you can do is rely on Google searches to plan out your days. To us, this is an exciting opportunity to learn from locals or other experienced tourists, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. We started out with a long list of things we wanted to see and do, there is a tonne to do in the area, but we only had three short days to fill with our top choices! So, if you’re like us and and have never been to Bruce Peninsula & Tobermory, we’ve made it easy by laying out our entire itinerary, along with some tips we wish we knew before hitting the road!
Highlights of our Trip
- Staying at Lions Head Beach Motel & Cottages
- Touring the Fathom Five National Marine Park by boat with Tobermory Wave Adventures
- Enjoying ice cream at The Sweet Shop in Tobermory
- Visiting the Parks Canada Visitors Centre in Bruce Peninsula National Park
- Playing in Sauble Falls
- Stumbling upon beautiful, road-side sand dunes
- Treating ourselves to the “Best Butter Tarts” at Big Tub Bakery
Where to Stay
Lions Head Beach Motel & Cottages is a year-round resort located in Lions Head, just a 30 minute drive from Tobermory, and 4 hours northwest of Toronto. It’s the perfect place to stay if you plan to explore the peninsula because anywhere you plan to go will be within a 30 minute drive, or less. Plus, you can skip the tourist hustle and bustle when you want to relax at the end of a long day! When we first arrived, we checked in and went straight to the playground so the kids could burn off some steam! We began chatting with a fellow guest, and as our children played together, he refereed to the owners by first name, and described how much his family loved staying at Lions Head Beach Motel. He went on to say that they return every summer, and have for several years – That’s when we knew we were in good hands!
In just a few days, we absolutely fell in love with this special gem, the owners, Wilfred & Joanne are amazing hosts and made us feel at home. We stayed in the motel portion of the resort, all the rooms are on the ground floor, and just steps from the sandy beach and playground, and a short walk from the Lions Head marina, lighthouse, and viewing deck for the cliffs*. Each large unit features a full kitchenette stocked with dishes and utensils, four-piece bath, two double beds, and spacious living area. There is also a charcoal barbecue and picnic table available; we love these features because it allows us to conveniently & inexpensively prepare meals during our stay.
* Tip: If you’re feeling adventurous and your children are able, spare 2-3 hours to take on the Lions Head Lookout Trail. Stand on top of the 200 ft. cliffs overlooking the stunning, vibrant blue waters of Georgian Bay.
Day 1 | Driving to and Enjoying Lions Head
We set out for Bruce Peninsula with an excitement in our hearts – We’ve heard amazing things about the area, and it’s been on our list to visit ever since we arrived in Ontario this past Winter. As we entered into the lower Bruce Peninsula, the vegetation changed, hills became more pronounced, forests popped up, and lakeside cottages could be spotted everywhere.
The day was a hazy, cloudy day to begin with. Although, as we finished our dinner outside on our picnic table at Lions Head Motel & Cottages, the clouds parts and sunshine peeked through. By the time twilight came, the skies were blue and turning shades of pink and purple. It was the perfect ending to our first day in Bruce Peninsula, it has us extra excited for tomorrow morning
Day 2 | A Day in Tobermory; Touring Fathom Five National Marine Park by Boat with Tobermory Wave Adventures & Ice Cream
The drive from Lions Head to Tobermory is about 30 minutes of beautiful landscapes. You’ll know when you reach the small, lakeside tourist town when you can’t drive any further, you’re at the very tip of the peninsula. One of the first things we noticed is the abundance of boat tours available. We were generously welcomed aboard a tour with Tobermory Wave Adventures, and it was something we, and I hope the kids, never forget!
Tip: Beat the rush and schedule a trip to Tobermory mid-week and arrive in town before noon to score a decent parking spot!
Before hopping aboard, we enjoyed a quick picnic lunch on one of the many picnic tables along a pathway overlooking the Tobermory Marina. We also got to watch the MS Chi-Cheemaun ferry board and blow it’s loud horn – They kids really enjoyed that! The Chi-Cheemaun is a vehicle passenger ship that travels to Manitoulin Island, an island on Lake Huron known as the Heart and Spirit of the Great Lakes of Canada.
This was the first time our children had been on a motorized boat, the vessel we experienced is called The Wave, a high-speed boat that has the ability to explore various coves and shallow waters many other boats cannot. The considered unsinkable boat is made to seat 38 passengers, although the company limits it’s tours to 26 guests to enhance guests experience. Tobermory Wave Adventures also features a steel tug style vessel and offers three different tours: The Wave (this is the tour we experienced), a Saturday Sunset Cruise, and a Weekend Swim Cruise.
The tour takes you throughout the Fathom Five National Marine Park, a National Marine Conservation Area in the Georgian Bay part of Lake Huron, Ontario, that seeks to protect and display shipwrecks and lighthouses, and conserve freshwater ecosystems. Our guide (and experienced scuba diver in the area), A.J. was very knowledgeable and shared his experiences, knowledge, and stories during the tour. At one point, a couple of youngsters on the tour (including our Greysen) were nervous about the choppy waves and movement of the boat, he kindly shared fossils and stories of life under the water to help calm them – It was very sweet!
Parking Tip: Be prepared to pay for parking and/or passes in any Provincial or National Parks you decide to visit. The town of Tobermory is all paid parking as well. Parking payment machines accept credit card or coins and cost approximately $3.00 per hour or $15.00 per day, more info here, though this can vary depending on where you are.
Following our amazing, 2.5 hour boat tour, we crossed the street to The Sweet Shop for an ice cream cone! Located on one of the main streets in Tobermory, the entrance to this shop is really neat. Climb the steps just past a retro style coffee shop, called “The Coffee Shop,” (I snagged myself an iced mocha here earlier in the day and it was delish!) and open the doors to candy & sweets heaven! This shop is full of classic and unique candies, chocolate, and ice cream. The staff were very friendly and ready to take our orders, they even helped our daughter Emmersyn decide between which pink ice cream she should pick. Outside, there is plenty of space to sit and enjoy, we spotted a long red bench where we could watch butterflies flutter in the garden between the shop and the local library – I was the perfect little afternoon slow down.
Day 3 | Parks Canada, Butter Tarts, Waterfalls, and Sand Dunes
Our last day in Bruce Peninsula began with a visit to the Parks Canada Visitors Centre, and if we had known any better, we would have visited here earlier in our trip. The centre has a beautiful, self-guided, interpretive tour showcasing Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park. They also have periodic showings of a 15-minute long video that includes some great suggestions of things to do in the area. Climb the 65 foot lookout tower with views over Georgian Bay, and ask helpful staff members if you need help planning your stay.
Tip: I would encourage you to drop-in early on in your trip as we wish we had more time to spend in the area after discovering even more to do!
One of the upsides of visiting a brand new area is the opportunity to ask locals or fellow tourists what their favorite things to do in the area are. This is exactly how we found this literal hidden gem off of Highway 6, Big Tub Bakery. Known for the “best butter tarts,” this humble bakery has a really impressive menu of tarts, cookies, muffins, breads, and other baked goods – Trust us, we stocked up and loved everything! My personal favorite was the Chocolate Hazelnut Tart, so, so good!
Sauble Falls Provincial Park is located in the community of Sauble Falls, a town of South Bruce Peninsula. The step waterfall is easily accessed from either the park entrance or a parking lot on the other side of the river. We just wanted to see the falls and only had about an hour to spend there, so we opted out of the provincial park and parked in the adjacent lot (parking was $5.25). Just a 5 minute walk down a crushed gravel pathway leads you to the rock faced waterfall where you can walk across the shallow falls and swim in small pools. The kids loved running their hand under the falls and feeling extra brave walking across them! Be careful, as some wet rocks are slippery.
After spending a couple hours at Sauble Falls, we decided it was time to head home; that was until we saw this huge, beautiful sand dune! Playing in sand dunes has recently been added to my personal bucket list, since seeing them every once in a while here in Ontario. So when we saw this beauty roadside, we pulled a u-turn, took our sandals off and ran all the way to the top – It was deceivingly steep, and a tonne of fun! You can find this little gem north of Sauble Falls on your way to Oliphant, keep your eyes peeled!
We had an amazing experience discovering Bruce Peninsula, including Tobermory and Lions Head. We hope that you feel inspired to check out the area and check these gems off your list too, or even finding hidden gems in your area to explore!
For more details and information for planning your trip to
Bruce Peninsula, visit Explore The Bruce:
A huge thank you to our partners & new friends:
Lions Head Beach Motel & Cottages
Tobermory Wave Adventures
The Sweet Shop