Attractions & things to do for the kids in your life

TIPS about a Tobermory getaway

Family getaways | Fun summer

Tobermory_end_of_Hwy_6_torontofunplaces.comTo this day, the long-weekend getaway we did around Tobermory remains our favourite family vacation in Ontario. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of it. We had booked our accommodations sort of last minute (mid-August for a trip during the Labour Day long weekend) and could still find something. I think now is not too late for you to plan this very cool family getaway. 

When to visit: Throughout the summer until mid-October is the best time to visit the area. After that, many shops and restaurants close for the season. Tobermory is a famous divers' haven (masochist divers, if you ask me, considering the water temperature). There are at least three places by the harbour where you can rent snorkeling and scuba diving equipment and book charter boats to diving spots. They also rent canoes and kayaks

About accommodations: Tobermory is at the end of Hwy 6 (just a 30-minute drive from the Bruce Park). It is the port from which the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry takes visitors to Manitoulin Island. We really enjoyed returning to its lovely harbour, good grocery store and nice selection of restaurants after a day in the wild. Whatever the accommodation you find, remember that unless it rains, you will not spend much time in your room. We went two days in a row to the Bruce Peninsula National Park and did one full day at the Fathom Five National Marine Park. Never a dull moment!

Check for suggestions on where to stay. Note that the accommodations located at 34 Bay Street and lower are the closest to the water in the harbour (but not all their rooms offer a clear view to the harbour). The website points out campgrounds, B & B, motels & cabins and hotels, and it offers a last-minute accommodation search section.

We chose to sleep at the Bruce Anchor Motel because it provided access to a deck across the street by the lake, the perfect spot to admire sunsets. Plus, it was just a 5-minute walk from the action of Little Tub Harbour. (We got to see a few magnificent sunsets but note that anyone can reach the shore near that deck, at the very end of Hwy 6, to enjoy the view. It is open to the public. Bring bug repellent and wear long sleeves and legs!) I just checked and they now charge $170 for a room with two double beds (they offer an outdoor BBQ pit where you can cook your food).

On the last day of our 3-night stay, I took the time to drive around to check out some accommodations. Some caught my attention, for different reasons. I suspect they are the ones going first but try your luck, or keep this in mind for next year!

Lightkeeper Cottage (very pretty cottage overlooking the harbour); Tobermory Lodge (at the end of Bay Street, facing the ferry. It is the only one where I noticed an outdoor and an indoor pool); Peacock Villa Motel and Cabins (hidden from Hyw 6, not far from the main street, it features the tiniest cabin for 2 and one for 4-5 people, so cute); Grandview Motel and Dining (its restaurant seemed to offer the best view over the harbour); Harbourside Motel (near the cruise boats, this photo shows a view from #11); Big Tub Harbour (the closest accommodation from the shallow section of Big Harbour, where we can clearly see shipwrecks, and they rent paddle boats, canoes, kayak and standing boards).

About camping: Bruce Peninsula National Park holds 242 semi-wild campsites. You can make online reservation at Tobermory's website includes four other campgrounds.

About restaurants/stores:  We had a ball at the cool joint Shipwreck Lee's (at the corner of Bay Street and Hwy 6) where a cute pirate with his beard split into three small braids served us “all you can eat” delicious fish and chips (the Georgian Bay Whitefish is the best). Kids used to paid only $2 for a generous portion. I don't know if it still stands but I just found this post which confirms the place still offers the fun experience we had.

Tobermory_Mermaids_store_2_torontofunplaces.comA Mermaid's Secret at the entrance of Tobermory used to be our favourite place to eat. It has changed hands and is now called Sharkies Grill and friends told me the food has nothing to do with the tasty fair we ate back when we visited. But the store attached to it is still as whimsical as before and worth a stop. Otherwise, we had true greasy spoon breakfasts at Craigie’s Harbourview Restaurant (which hasn’t changed since the 50’s) at the foot of the harbour. We ordered yummy thin-crust pizzas from Della Rocca Pizzeria (30 Bay Street) and had sweet treats at The Sweet Shop nearby.

We really enjoyed browsing through Marco Polo Cargo shop (16 Bay Street). It was much bigger than it seemed from the outside and filled with an eclectic assortment of merchandise. Another surprise was the vast books selection in the Mariner Chart Shop (17 Bay Street South, on the other side of the harbour, near the cruise boats).

The Visitor Centre to the Bruce Peninsula National Park is a 10-min. walk from Little Tub Harbour (at the end of Head Street). It is worth the visit, to enjoy the view from the viewing tower and to admire the elaborate displays. Don’t miss the “boots” tree.

(At Marco Polo Trading)

(At Mariner Chart Shop)

(At Shipwreck Lee's)

(At The Sweet Shop_

When we saw this sunset from The Sweet Shop, we ran to the waterfront and saw this...

(Take-out from Della Rocca Pizzeria)

(The Lightkeeper Cottage)

(Peacock Villa Motel and Cabins)

(Harbourside Motel)

(Grandview Motel and Dining)

(Tobermory Lodge)

(Big Tub Harbour Resort)




Buy the book Toronto Street Art Strolls

Nathalie's tips for a smooth outing

After years of doing all kinds of outings with my children, I can assure you the secret to a perfect outing lies in the details, not the destination.


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