Camping, Coffee and Crystal Waters in Bruce Peninsula Park [Tobermory, ON]

The crystal clear azure, turquoise and bronze water in Georgian Bay is like no other lake water I have ever seen. The first time I laid eyes on the Grotto and Boulder Beach I was on a High School camping trip with my Gr. 12 Kinesiology class and it was love at first site. I remember hiking to the top of the rocks of the Grotto and balancing myself of the cliff’s edge and feeling on top of the world. It truly was a freeing and empowering experience.

With “End of Summer Sale” signs hitting shop windows everywhere I was determined to return and re-live that defining experience. I must give credit where it is due and the credit for finding the perfect campgrounds goes to my brother and his girlfriend (and their adorable puppy Buddah). Harmony Acres Campgrounds is run by a young woman named Haley who has inherited the responsibility from her parents. She takes care of the horses, the office, the grounds and everything required by her campers.

When I drove into the front gates I was immediately relaxed, passing the horses in the pasture and quaint wooden fence into the forest to our very private site was fantastic. The grounds are perfectly situated in between the entrance to Bruce Peninsula National Park on Cyprus Lake Road and the quaint town of Tobermory. The sites are well-spaced and all very different. Not to mention, if tenting isn’t your thing, they have trailer hookups or you can rent a small cottage with bunk beds and a small table instead.

We were welcomed by Haylea and Brad (her staff of one) and were very impressed by their hospitality. They drive through the grounds every morning and night (picking up your garbage for you at night) and light up the newly built washrooms with outdoor holiday lights for easy navigation at night. Next time I am back in Tobermory I would 100% stay here again and if you are ever headed there I would recommend looking them up.

The town of Tobermory is quaint and beautiful. The marina is filled with a mosaic of local fishing boats and tourist’s yachts and sailboats and the boardwalk is lined with authentic bay-side shops. As I understand it, the town is hopping and busy in the summer and only 500 residents remain come the snow. One of the biggest draws to the water is the Blue Heron glass-bottom boat tours to FlowerPot Island – which is part of the Fathom Five National Marine Park, Canada’s first National Marine Conservation Area. Running around $50 per person the tours, depending on what boat you choose, can last up to 2 hours and longer if you decide to stay on and explore the island itself.

My favourite part of down-town is called The Coffee Shop. It is a small and popular coffee shop on the bay that has a very impressive selection of lattes. After taking 10 minutes to decide, I chose “Chai Me To The Moon” which – in addition to a normal chai latte, included roasted chestnut syrup [something you should know about me is that I am mad for roasted chestnuts and cannot get enough of them come winter!]. Naturally, I was in heaven drinking this latte and, if possible, would transport myself to this shop every morning before my hour-long drive to work just to get my lips on one of them again. Starbucks step aside, this lux has a new “fave”!

Sufficiently awake after a long night of rain beating down on the tent, we headed into Bruce Peninsula National Park to hike to the Grotto and explore Boulder Beach. Although it was a Monday and not a long weekend, the beach beside the Grotto was packed – dive boat and all! It was mesmerizing how the water sparkled and moved from a clear champagne to bronze, then turquoise and deep azure blue as your eye followed the waves from the beach to the horizon. The Grotto itself was just as packed as the beach so we hovered for a few moments, snapped some pictures and then moved to our real destination – boulder beach.

Boulder Beach is one of the diamonds-in-the-rough of Bruce Peninsula National Park – it’s barely a 10 minute walk past the Grotto but, for some reason, no one goes there. It was perfectly quiet with maybe a handful of other people as far as the eye could see. The water was just as fantastic and the beach is impressive. One of the trademarks of the beach is the pure, soapy white stones that reach for kilometers and, not known to many, the great cave on the far side of the bay. After swimming for a little while in the freezing cold water we explored the cave before hiking around Marr Lake back to the park entrance. Oh, and it is worth mentioning that you only pay $12 per car regardless of the number of people coming into the park with you. What a great deal and for a great cause like the upkeep of our National Parks here in gorgeous Canada.

At the end of the day I wish I had planned to spend more time up north. I would have liked to spend another day in Bruce Peninsula National Park hiking the Cyprus Lake Trail and exploring some of the other rock beaches — renting a kayak or canoe would have also been pretty spectacular. Next year I also plan on cruising to FlowerPot Island with Blue Heron tours on their glass-bottom ships – I hear that the shipwrecks look amazing from above.

If you have not had the chance to explore this tip of Ontario I suggest you do. Barely a 2 hour drive from Toronto, Tobermory is sure to please (well, assuming you like camping, amazing sights, wonderful people and DIVINE lattes)!

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