Naomi and I were having a fantastic road trip up the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, Canada and loved our overnight visits at several Provincial Parks including Pinery Provincial Park, MacGregor Point Provincial Park and Sauble Falls Provincial Park. That being said, we couldn’t wait to get to Bruce Peninsula National Park. I first heard about Bruce Peninsula National Park from a picture I saw on Pinterest. With clear turquoise water, gorgeous rocky shorelines, and the Bruce Trail running through the park, I really wanted to visit. Since our trip was a Christmas present for Naomi, I showed her the pictures and she was just as excited as I was to plan a trip. Located on the tip of the Niagara Escarpment, Bruce Peninsula National Park lies between Lake Huron and the Georgian Bay. From Cincinnati, it is about a 500 mile road trip away which we broke up into several short drives by stopping overnight in the Provincial Parks along the way.
Bruce Peninsula National Park
Since we stayed at Sauble Falls the night before arriving at Bruce Peninsula National Park, we only had about an hour drive to get there. Arriving before the permit office even opened, we headed to the Head of Trails lot to hike about a mile to the Grotto where only a dozen or so visitors were looking around. It was gorgeous and peaceful. Once the office was open we drove back down to Cyprus Lake to get our parking pass and backcountry permit for our night at Stormhaven. (Click here for a map.) Now that we had our parking pass and backcountry permit, we headed back to the Head of Trails lot which was already filling up and spent the rest of the morning snorkeling, swimming, hiking the Bruce Trail and exploring the amazing Grotto area. While some people climbed down the rocks into the Grotto, Naomi and I swam around and entered from the water- MUCH safer this way. It is hard to explain how beautiful it is! The water is so turquoise and clear, it seems like pictures of the Mediterranean. I have never swam in such crystal clear water and although cold, it felt refreshing in the hot summer weather. As our visit was during a sunny and hot summer weekend in August, we knew to expect crowds later on and by the time we left just after lunch, the area was packed with visitors!
Visitor’s Center and Hiking the Bruce Trail
Once we left the Grotto, we headed to the Visitor’s Center to check out the exhibits, and use the free Wifi! 🙂 We also climbed up the lookout tower for the beautiful view. We then headed to the Halfway Log Dump parking area for our backpacking overnight at Stormhaven. As I said before, Bruce Peninsula National Park was crowded, and we had to wait 20 minutes or so in a line for cars to leave the parking lot so that we could park. It wasn’t too bad, and we spent our time chatting with the park rangers who were directing traffic. Once parked, it was only a few miles to our campsite at Stormhaven. But don’t let the low mileage fool you- it was some tough hiking for us since we were already tired from all the fun at the Grotto! But even though the hiking was hard, it was definitely rewarding as the views of the Georgian Bay were numerous and unbelievably beautiful!
Before long, we arrived at Stormhaven. Campsites have wooden platforms which are very convenient and actually quite comfortable to sleep on. There are two bear cables and also a privy. Once we set up camp, we headed down to the water where we snorkeled and swam in the crystal clear water. We practically had the beach to ourselves too! This really is an amazing place to spend the night.
Bruce Peninsula National Park: Sunrise on the Georgian Bay
Setting our alarms the next morning, we wanted to be sure we didn’t miss the sunrise, and we were so glad we didn’t! It was spectacular to watch to sun rising over the Georgian Bay while we ate our breakfast. After breaking down camp, the hike out was just as gorgeous as the hike in. So many amazing views. We had an unbelievable time visiting Bruce Peninsula National Park. We are already planning our return visit when we can take the rest of the crew!
If you go:
Whether visiting for the day or camping in the backcountry, arrive early to snag a parking spot. We arrived at 7AM and there were already cars streaming in to park at Head of Trails Parking Lot, which is the closest Grotto access lot. Make sure to pick up your parking pass at the Cyprus Lake office before heading to the parking lot. We saw many cars being turned back in order to purchase a pass. By the time we left the Head of Trails lot at 1:30 PM, it was totally full with a line of cars a mile long waiting to get in. With such a small parking lot, the early bird does indeed get the worm here.
There are several helpful websites to help you plan a trip to Bruce Peninsula National Park. Here are a few of my favorites-Discover the Bruce Peninsula, Explore the Bruce and Tobermory.com
I have never seen such an abundance of poison ivy as we saw throughout our trip up the Bruce Peninsula and we saw it all over the parks we visited. Make sure when camping and hiking in the woods to watch for it. As Naomi is quite sensitive to poison ivy, she made sure to wash with Tecnu Cleanser after hiking each day and she never developed a rash.
Take bug spray! Even in late summer, biting flies were abundant near the shore at Stormhaven.
It is a good idea to reserve your backcountry site ahead of time. Click here for reservations for Bruce Peninsula National Park. We stayed at Stormhaven and loved our site on the assigned wooden platform. A privy and two sets of bear cables were located at the campground.
While we didn’t bring Luna, dogs were welcome at all of the Provincial Parks we visited this trip (Pinery, MacGregor Point and Sauble Falls) as well as Bruce Peninsula National Park. We saw happy hiking dogs throughout the park.
There is a nice Visitor Center located in Tobermory staffed with rangers to help plan your visit. There were several learning exhibits there as well. Free wifi access was available here too!
Make sure to bring a snorkel and mask if you head up this way! Naomi added it to our pack list and we had so much fun using it in the clear Georgian Bay waters! Using them at both the Grotto and Stormhaven helped make our trip to Bruce Peninsula National Park even more memorable. The Mask/Snorkel/Fin Set we have are very basic and quite inexpensive but we’ve used them all over the place and they works great.
We especially enjoyed reading Great Lakes Shipwrecks & Survivals while traveling along Lake Huron and the Georgian Bay and during our time in Bruce Peninsula National Park. Part ghost story and part history, it is a fascinating read!