Travel Canada: Best Things to do in Tobermory

With the perfect location at the most northern tip of the  Bruce Peninsula, the things to do and places to visit in Tobermory are endless. This picturesque town is situated between two national parks on the shores of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay making it an ideal spot for beachgoers and hikers alike.

If you enjoy scuba diving, you’ll be happy to know that Tobermory has been named the freshwater scuba diving capital of the world. Year after year scuba divers visit the peninsula to dive into its clear turquoise water and explore Tobermory’s famous shipwrecks.

Tobermory and the entire Bruce Peninsula are worth a visit if you are a nature lover – it is such a unique place in Canada that it made it into our Canadian travel bucket list.

We’ve rounded up 8 of the best things to do in Tobermory this summer. With all the places to visit in Tobermory which ones will you put on your travel itinerary?

Things to do in Tobermory

Hike the Bruce Trail

If you like the outdoor experiences, Tobermory’s Bruce Trail is an absolute must! The Bruce trail is one of the most picturesque hikes in Ontario and also Canada’s oldest and longest footpath. The Trail starts in Queenston and ends in Tobermory, making it a whopping 840 km long. Hiking the end portion of this trail and taking in the view is one of the top things to do in in Tobermory.

Local tip: The main trail is marked with white signs and the side trails are marked with blue signs. If you hike the Bruce Trail, it is strongly recommended to give the trail’s signs precedence over any map you may have to avoid getting lost. This is because the trail is frequently re-routed so the signs are the most up to date route.

Go on an Orchid bloom hunt

Around early June every year, multiple spices or orchids decorate the trails and parks of the Bruce Peninsula. During this time Tobermory is well known for hosting the  Bruce Peninsula Orchid Festival. For the best experience, we recommend booking a guided tour. Whether it is by car or on a hike, local tourist guides will show you the way to best blooms of the area. If you also want to see some local wildlife, there are usually turtle tracking event you can participate in.

Visit the best beaches in Tobermory

Visiting some of the Beaches in Tobermory is a popular activity among summer travellers. There is a variety of sandy and rocky beaches all around The Bruce Peninsula. While the rocky beaches offer great views from the cliffs, they might present some danger for the little ones in which case you might prefer going on a sandy beach adventure.

Singing Sands Beach

For a family friendly Tobermory beach, check out the nearby sand dunes on Lake Huron’s shoreline and take a walk along the wetland boardwalk. The Singing Sands beach in Tobermory gets its name from the way its sand dunes “sing” when the wind blows. This spot is also a great option if you are visiting in the spring when the water is cold but can still take advantage of the sandy shoreline.

The Indian Head Cove Beach

This pebble beach is probably the most popular of all the Tobermory beaches. It is located at the Grotto in the Bruce Peninsula National Park. If you are a thrill seeker, you’ll love the cliffs where you can jump off and enjoy the view. It is one of the most accessible beaches for hikers, campers and park visitors so if you are there in the summer weekends expect a live atmosphere.

Little Cove Beach

The Little Cove Provincial park is another protected area under the Bruce Trail. Here you can find high rocky cliffs, sea caves and the cobble beach to explore. Once at the park, the hike down to the beach is very short and pleasant, the beach is small but since it’s not as popular as the others Tobermory beaches you’ll find that it’s almost always deserted. This is a great alternative to the Indian Head Cove Beach, especially if you are visiting with children.

Sauble beach

Enjoy the fresh water of the Upper Peninsula lakes at Sauble beach. This sandy beach is the second longest freshwater beach in the world and it is only 1 hour south from Tobermory. As a beach community, the atmosphere here is laid back and alive during the summer season. The town offers a great variety of restaurants and shopping options. Activities such as golfing, aerial parks and day tours are also available and are very popular among families.

Visit the fathom five national marine park

See why Tobermory is called the freshwater scuba capital of the world with a visit to the Fathom Five National Marine Park. Fathom Five is the final resting place for over 20 shipwrecks, making diving or snorkeling the wrecks one of the most popular things to do in Tobermory. Padi certified visitors can sign in at the Tobermory visitor centre to dive the wrecks and the unique natural formations underwater. The Fathom Five Park is known for having some of the biggest draws of water in the country.

Apart from being a popular diving spot, the fathom five national marine park offers an extensive selection of hiking trails and water activities to choose from.

There are 20 islands in Fathom Five National Marine Park, the Flowerpot Island is the most popular one due to its unique flowerpot-like stone formation. Hiking around the island to see all the sights, including the historic light stations, takes around three to four hours. If water activities are more your thing, the island also offers kayaking experiences and most of the shores are open for swimming.

To get to Fathom Five, you’ll need to take the Flowerpot Island ferry from Tobermory. As an alternative to diving, you can also tour the shipwrecks with one of the local boating companies before being dropped off on the island. Make sure you get your tickets in advance and plan to arrive at least 30 min before your ferry departs as parking at the harbor in Tobermory is limited.

Hike to the Grotto caves

Bruce Peninsula National Park should be on your to-do list if you’re in town for hiking.

For a rewarding summer hike, take the trail to Tobermory’s Grotto, a scenic cave with bright blue water. Getting to the Grotto caves is not for the faint of heart — it’s a rocky hike with a steep climb — but once you’re there, you can take a dip and cool off in the cold water. There are a few different ways to get to the Grotto depending on whether you’re looking for a longer hike, or the most efficient route. Bring binoculars for bird watching, or go looking for some of the 40 species of orchids that grow around the park.

Local tip: Visiting the Grotto is one of the most popular things to do in Tobermory. This means that Grotto parking is very limited, especially in the summer. Plan ahead to avoid disappointment. From May to October book a parking space online or by phone before arriving.

Try Tobermory’s famous Fish and Chips

This area is abundant in marine life, particularly in Georgian Bay Whitefish– served in multiple variations, fish and chips being the most popular among tourists and locals looking for a bite after a long day of water activities.

If you’re looking for a patio with great atmosphere, try the Fish and Chip Place — yes, that is its real name! This places has been serving the famous dish since 1998 and has great views of the Little Tub Harbour.

For a sweet dessert afterwards, head to Peninsula Supply Ice Cream & Treats.

Go on a culture tour

Take your time getting to know Tobermory’s culture by visiting the Circle Arts Gallery and the St. Edmund’s Township Museum.

The Circle Arts Gallery opened in 1969 when six art students built a studio in the area. There are plenty of unique locally made pieces to buy and see. Meanwhile, the Township Museum has local history on display. The upper floor is dedicated to the marine history of the Bruce Peninsula and on the grounds you can find a log cabin dating back to 1875. You can also tour the 19th century one-room schoolhouse. This museum is only open on weekends in September, so plan accordingly.

Local tip: In late September, the things to do in Tobermory take on a much more relaxed vibe as the water starts cooling down and the regions sees the start of the rainy season. During this time the best things to do in Tobermory include culture and epicurean experiences in town

Take a helicopter tour to see Tobermory

Helicopter tours by Blue Heron are among the most popular things to do in Tobermory for couples and families. This activity is particularly unique to experience in the fall. The Bruce Peninsula is known for having a wide variety of maple trees that turn their leaves in autumn and put up one of the most amazing shows of fall-colours in Ontario. It is such a unique experience that Tobermory has constantly been feature as one of the best places to see fall colours in Ontario.

Apart from see the colourful treetops, helicopter tours normally take travellers on an aerial ship wreck hunting adventure as it is very easy to see the Fathom Five shipwrecks from the sky.

Local tip: Custom tours are also available, if you want to see a specific part of the Bruce Peninsula talk to the helicopter tour company and they might be able to squeeze in a de-tour for you and your party.

How to get to Tobermory

The drive from Toronto to Tobermory clocks in around four hours — if you don’t stop. There are several Bruce Trail side trails along the drive, as well as plenty of pullouts and picnic areas. Sauble Beach is also a popular stop on the route.

If you’re coming to Tobermory from further away, the closest major airport is in Toronto. From there, you can make the four-hour drive or hop on a bus.

Local tip: Parkbus is now running day trips from downtown Toronto and Brampton in the summer — and you get a guided park hike around Cyprus Lake with your ticket! 

Where to stay in Tobermory

While the area is also popular for camping, campgrounds fill up fast in the peak season. For an alternative (with your own running water), consider a vacation rental in Tobermory or along the Bruce Peninsula. Book early to land your perfect waterfront cottage! Relaxing with waterfront views after an action-packed day on the Bruce Peninsula is the best way to get ready for all the things to do in Tobermory the next day.

When to Visit Tobermory

Tobermory comes alive in the summer with travelers heading to the cottages and the beaches of the area to enjoy the warm weather. Temperatures in Tobermory can reach the 30 degrees between July and August.

Tobermory in May, particularly around the Victoria Day celebration, marks the start of the season. With more visitors interested in the area it can get crowded, however, it is not comparable to the tourist the summer brings. If you are planning your visit for the May long weekend, we recommend booking your stay at least 3 months in advanced for the best selection of places to stay in Tobermory.

The summer months of July and August are peak season for the area. Tobermory’s weather really heats up, drawing locals and visitors alike to the many outdoor activities on the peninsula. After the Canada Day weekend, expect crowds and a lively atmosphere.

Local tip: During the peak season in Tobermory, it’s best to book popular activities early in the morning or later in the afternoon.

If you want a quieter Tobermory experience, visit in the early fall. During September, the weather is only slightly cooler than summer, and most businesses are still open while the majority of tourists are gone.

From November to April, most businesses in town are closed. If you are eager to explore the outdoors In the winter, we recommend a winter ski trip instead.