Perfectly situated between two national parks on the shores of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, Tobermory’s clear blue-green water enchants visitors every year. As the freshwater scuba capital of the world, Tobermory and the entire Bruce Peninsula are worth a visit for any active nature lover (it is in our 2019 Canadian travel bucket list for a reason).
The Bruce Peninsula features dramatic nature views, charming islands and beaches, and famous trails to write home about. With so many things to do in Tobermory and the peninsula, you could return again… and again… and again.
What will you put on your travel itinerary?
When to Visit Tobermory
Tobermory comes alive from May to September every year. Tobermory in May to June sees the weather starting to heat up, but the crowds are quieter than in the summer. The May long weekend does tend to get busy though, so be aware if you’re planning for spring.
The summer months of July and August are peak season for the area. Tobermory’s weather 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: With the busy crowds, it’s best to plan for popular activities early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
If you want a quieter Tobermory experience, go in the early fall. In September, the weather is only slightly cooler and most businesses are still open while the majority of visitors have gone home.
From November to April, most businesses in town and park services are closed for the season. (We recommend a winter ski trip instead).
Things to do in Tobermory
If you like to hike, Tobermory’s Bruce Trail is an absolute must — it’s one of the most picturesque hikes in Ontario. Canada’s oldest and longest footpath starts in Queenston and ends in Tobermory, making this trail a whopping 840 km long. This is one of the top things to do in the Bruce Peninsula, so park your car at one of the parking lots near the trailheads and hike a portion of the trail.
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, always give the trail signs precedence over any map you may have because of how often trail reroutes happen. If you follow the signs, you’ll be in no danger of getting lost.
Around early June every year, Tobermory hosts the Bruce Peninsula Orchid Festival. You can go on a guided tour, there are both car caravans and hikes, where locals point out the best blooms. If you want to see some local wildlife, there are usually turtle tracking events as well.
While Tobermory’s weather is fairly warm in the spring, it might not be hot enough for every visitor to want to take a trip to the beaches in Tobermory.
If you still want an enjoyable beach experience that doesn’t require summertime heat, 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” whenever the wind blows.
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 snorkelling 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 unique natural formations underwater.
There are 20 islands in Fathom Five National Marine Park. Flowerpot Island is the most popular summer destination for hiking and kayaking. For picturesque travel photos, visit the Flowerpot Island Lighthouse. Hiking around the island to see all the sights, including the historic light stations, takes around three to four hours.
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 dropping you off on the island. Make sure you get your tickets in advance and keep in mind that parking at the harbour in Tobermory is limited.
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. Once you’re there, 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.
If you want to enjoy the fresh water and skip the hike, rent a canoe or kayaking to explore the Upper Peninsula lakes. You can also visit one of the many beaches in the area, we recommend the nearby Sauble Beach. This sandy beach is the second longest freshwater beach in the world and it is only an hour away from Tobermory. (Learn more about other beaches in Ontario you shouldn’t miss this summer)
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.
In September, the things to do in Tobermory take on a much more relaxed vibe. You can 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 dedicates its space to the marine history of the are 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: If you’re looking for a bite to eat, try the Fish and Chip Place. Yes, that is its real name! They serve locally caught fish from Georgian Bay. For a sweet dessert afterwards, head to Peninsula Supply Ice Cream & Treats.
You can also take a Tobermory tour in a helicopter by Blue Heron in the fall to see the area by air. If the fall weather is too cool for diving or snorkelling, see the Fathom Five shipwrecks from the sky. Custom tours are also available if you want to see a specific part of the Bruce Peninsula.
For the athletic travellers, be sure to check the Tobermory Trail Race Weekend happening every September. There are two races — one in Tobermory, and one around Flowerpot Island. All proceeds from the race go towards a local cause, like funding a daycare in town. If you want to participate in the race during your visit, consider signing up as a group for the relay marathon.
How to get to Tobermory
The drive from Toronto to Tobermory clocks in around four hours — if you don’t stop. Because Tobermory is at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, it’s worth it to take your time on the drive. There are 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. Bus tickets include 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 by the Bruce Peninsula waters is the best way to get ready for all the things to do in Tobermory the next day.