The Bruce Peninsula is one of the most beautiful destinations in Ontario for an outdoor getaway. Located four hours’ drive northwest of Toronto, this finger of land that juts into Lake Huron is home to two national parks — Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park — as well as Caribbean-blue water, unusual rock formations, and miles of hiking trails.
And while you might not think of Canada as a place for scuba-diving and snorkeling, you can do both along the Bruce Peninsula. It’s one of the best places for shipwreck diving, and even snorkelers can see the remains of several historic ships that met their watery end in this Great Lakes region.
I’ve been lucky enough to make several trips to the area while researching and updating my travel guide, Moon Toronto and Ontario. Here are three of the choices of Bruce Peninsula hotels that I’d recommend when you’re looking for a place to stay.
If you’d like to stay in the heart of the Bruce Peninsula’s action, sleep in Tobermory, the small summer-holiday town at the peninsula’s northern tip. The National Park Visitor Centre is located here, and nearby, you can hike to the Grotto and Indian Head Cove, two of the park’s most beautiful shoreside spots. From Tobermory’s Little Tub Harbour, you can take a boat tour to Flowerpot Island to see the distinctive “flowerpot” rock formations or head out on a snorkeling or diving excursion.
When it comes to where to stay in Tobermory, the town doesn’t have much for “luxury” accommodations; most sleeping options in town are simple motels or inns. One of the nicest of these comfortable motels is the friendly, family-owned Blue Bay Motel, just above Little Tub Harbour.
The 16 guest rooms are basic, but they’ve been updated with new linens, coffeemakers, and mini-fridges. Half the rooms have queen beds, some have two doubles, and a couple of rooms have one king. Book a unit on the second floor for peek-a-boo water views (the first-floor rooms face the parking area). The motel has two bicycles that guests can borrow to tour the area on two wheels.
Like many Tobermory lodgings, the Blue Bay is open seasonally from May through mid-October. Make reservations early for weekend stays, particularly in July and August. High-season double room rates are CAD$159-215.
TIP: While you’re in Tobermory, stop for a butter tart at the Little Tub Bakery.
The quiet town of Lion’s Head overlooks Georgian Bay at about the midpoint of the Bruce Peninsula, which makes it a central base for exploring. Lion’s Head Beach is a peaceful sandy spot to swim, and on Saturday mornings, there’s a beachside farmers’ market. On the town’s south side, Lion’s Head Provincial Park is known for its unusual “potholes,” deep cylinders eroded into the limestone rocks.
Set right on the lake, the Lion’s Head Beach Motel and Cottages is a good choice if you’re traveling with kids or you’d like a little more space. This independently owned lodging feels old-fashioned, but the larger-than-average rooms, all with kitchenettes, give you room to spread out. In addition to the motel units, which start at about CAD$125/night, there are several newer two- and three-bedroom cottages that would be even more comfortable for a family.
Located at the southern end of the Bruce Peninsula, the town of Owen Sound is filled with cultural attractions. It’s close enough to the peninsula’s parks and beaches that you can find plenty to do both indoors and out.
In Owen Sound, the excellent Grey Roots Museum and Archives highlights the region’s history and culture with multimedia exhibits, radio stories, and interactive displays. The Tom Thomson Art Gallery shows work by the noted Group of Seven landscape painter and other Ontario artists, while the Billy Bishop Home and Museum was the childhood residence of William Avery Bishop, a fighter pilot who became one of the most decorated Canadians to serve in the First World War. In the late 1880s, many former slaves who escaped from U.S. plantations via the Underground Railroad settled in the Owen Sound area, and you can also explore several sites related to the community’s Black Heritage.
While Owen Sound is well worth visiting for its historic attractions, what if you also want some time at the beach?
A stay at The Inn at Cobble Beach, set on Georgian Bay about 15 minutes north of Owen Sound, lets you pair your in-town adventures with accommodations by the shore. The property has rooms in its historic inn building, as well as a number of cottages around the grounds. See our full review of the Inn at Cobble Beach here.
For more information about planning a trip to the Bruce Peninsula, check out Visit Georgian Bay.
Have you stayed at any of these Bruce Peninsula hotels? What did you think?
Hotel feature by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, author of the books Moon Vancouver + Canadian Rockies Road Trip, Moon Toronto and Ontario, and Moon Vancouver. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller.