After a bit of online searching for weekends away that are doable outside of Toronto, I struck Canadian gold: the Bruce Peninsula National Park. In Northern Ontario, between a 3 and 4 hour drive from the city and heralded on the internet for clear waters, lakes and natural scenery, not very well known to foreigners like me, it simply had to be done.
So that’s what we did, and it’s been one of my favourite weekends yet since moving to Canada. And I think it’s only fair that Ontario gets some credit and you have the reasons to visit the Bruce Peninsula for yourself.
1. Clear water to rival the Caribbean
I’ve seen my fair share of completely transparent water, mainly in the Mediterranean Sea and the Caribbean – to be expected, quite frankly.
It’s not that I didn’t think Canada had clear water, but it’s always been pictures from the west coast, from the infamous Canadian Rockies (which obviously I’m desperate to see for myself!) that has connected ‘Canada’ and ‘clear water’ in my mind.
Well, Bruce Peninsula is in northern Ontario and it pretty much blew my mind. I became such an excited little girl as I stepped onto the lone rocks poking out of the water leading out into miniature lakes (I say miniature relative to the Great Lakes… Canada’s lakes are on a humongous scale) and even more so when we came to Indian Head Cove – it looked exactly like a Mediterranean alcove you would see in the south of France.
2. Only 3-4 hours from Toronto
I’ve always been jealous of the west coast of North America – San Francisco, Vancouver, Seattle, LA – for its proximity to amazing landscapes such as Yosemite National Park, the Canadian Rockies, Big Sur, Lake Tahoe… the list goes on (trust me, I’ve thought about it enough).
I’ll probably always prefer the west, but the discovery of Bruce Peninsula has me one step closer to being enamoured with the east – and isn’t it brilliant when things surprise you? I couldn’t be happier that this little gem is only a 3-4 hour drive from Toronto (depending on traffic), and makes you feel a world away. All things considered, this really isn’t that long and means you can spend the weekend there without taking any time off work.
3. Dive amongst Shipwrecks
Ok, so granted, I didn’t do this when I was there – we didn’t have enough time to organise something we didn’t know existed in the area! But we took a boat trip to Flowerpot Island, passing quite a few shipwrecks. As the water is so clear, you can dive around them – something I would love to go back for in the summer.
If this is the view from above the water, I can only imagine the clarity underneath.
4. Hike to your heart’s content
There are plenty of trails to explore ranging in difficulty all over Tobermory and the Bruce Peninsula. You can take routes through the woods (with some of the most crooked trees I’ve seen) – but watch out for snakes as we had one sliver across our path – and beside the mini-lakes as well as the beast of the area, Lake Huron. You can also unleash your inner explorer and climb down rocks to enter grottos and caves – it probably shouldn’t have, but it surprised me that people of all ages were doing this.
It still shocks me to remember Lake Huron is actually a lake, not the sea. The crashing of the waves against the rocks and the endless horizon is precisely how I think of the ocean – you just obviously don’t get the salty smell.
5. You’re constantly surrounded by nature
I probably don’t need to spend too long explaining this one. Anyone who knows me knows that the thing I love most about travelling is wild, natural landscapes; places I can feel small, where things are put into perspective and it strikes you in an awe as though for the first time how incredible the world we live in really is.
It’s perfect to have those moments where you can truly appreciate that; something I think we should consider a lot more in our fast-paced world.
6. The cute little Flowerpot Island
Another chance for hiking an island simply just full of nature, the boat (there are only 2 companies that go to Flowerpot Island) will drop you off and you’re left to wander around for the day or spend some time camping. It’s named for the large rocks that (slightly, at a stretch) resemble flowerpots. And let’s be honest, it’s a pretty cute island name.
You also have the option of not getting off the boat and just enjoying the ride and the sights if you’re tight on time. It’s a beautiful trip, so whatever you decide to do, everybody wins.
7. Get away from the city
Sometimes when the rudeness of any big city gets too much, or you notice you’re just bee-lining from A to B in a zombie-like state without ever looking around you, you need a place that will rejuvenate you and bring out that childlike wonder again.
Toronto does have the Islands a short ferry-ride away, but for a more remote trip where you don’t see the skyline (as lovely as it is) and out of sight is truly out of mind, Bruce Peninsula is perfect. No city vibe at all and it’ll have you believing you’re in paradise.