Have you ever wanted to hike the entire Bruce Trail from Owen Sound north? How about kayaking the shore of the Bruce Peninsula? And then you started planning and realized the hassle getting vehicles in place so you would have a ride at the end of your trip.
Well, we have a solution!
For your paddling and hiking convenience, Thorncrest Outfitters now offers the new Georgian Bay shuttle service! On Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we will drop you off at one of five bayside locations (see the listing below). Meet us in Owen Sound at 8 a.m. or any of the designated drop offs en route to Tobermory, where you will leave your vehicle, and we will shuttle you and your gear at your trip starting point. From there, you can paddle or hike back to your vehicle.
Level of difficulty
Intermediate to advanced paddlers only! And practice your self-rescues, as and rough open water crossings are a must for paddling the shores of Georgian Bay. The weather and waves can change with a moment’s notice and with the rugged shoreline going to shore to exit is not always possible.
Hikers should have experience on rough wilderness trails. Pick up Bruce Trails Guide at one of our stores!
Starting from the quaint little town of Tobermory you will head south on the Georgian Bay shoreline by either hiking or kayaking.
This 237 km stretch of the Bruce Trail offers many levels of terrain, from light to difficult hiking. You may find yourself hiking down gravel roads, through farm fields, along old logging roads, and up steep rocky inclines. While on the trail, you can view many species of plants and animals (see Flora and Fauna section), and observe how water and time shaped the Niagara Escarpment: an educational treat for people of all ages! As you hike through the many villages en route you will experience different cultures, such as the First Nations people. Meet colourful local people and begin to understand how and why these towns were formed. Several historical sites, such as the ruins of the Corran, a century old mansion, can be accessed from the trail as well. As you travel northbound on the Bruce, the scenery becomes even more spectacular. The view from High Dump is no exception, since several of Georgian Bay’s many islands can be observed across the crystal clear waters. From High Dump heading north, the Bruce Trail becomes quite rugged, hugging the shoreline far above on the cliff’s edge. This bird’s eye perch atop the escarpment allows for some superb scenic stops to break for lunch or to take pictures. Be careful not to get too close to the edge though, since some spots are over 100 feet above the water. You will pass through Bruce Peninsula National Park walking along a large section of open beach referred to as Boulder Beach - a true test of agility for those with poorly chosen footwear. Of course, you cannot hike the Bruce Trail without visiting the Grotto, a large underwater cave in the side of the escarpment that can be viewed from both land and water. As you near Tobermory, details of the nearing islands such as the large rock formations on the far right side of Flowerpot Island can be viewed in the distance. Upon reaching the quaint, friendly village of Tobermory, your hike may have ended, but your journey has only just begun…
If you choose to see the Niagara Escarpment from another perspective, kayaking is an excellent way to do so. Georgian Bay is a very large and often-unpredictable body of water, creating conditions that may be unsuitable for some novice kayakers. There are, however, many stretches that provide ample shelter and can be done in a day or so. The vast stretch of shoreline provides numerous bays and inlets to explore. As you paddle into these coves, you can start to see remnants of old logging towns and fishing villages, providing you with a perspective of how these resources shaped the communities around them. There will be plenty of opportunities to view lighthouses along the way, and if you come at the right time you can take a lighthouse tour that allows you to witness another aspect of the rich history of the Bruce Peninsula. If you are making good time, touring around some islands can be a great way to take advantage of a calm day on the water. When kayaking in Georgian Bay one must take into consideration that much of this route will be shared with larger, motorized boats. Please be courteous to their captains and cautious when approaching them and they will return the favour to you. Also, before you set out on Georgian Bay, make certain that you have the proper navigation charts and that you are prepared with all the necessary safety gear, proper clothing, equipment, food, and plenty of water.
Flora and Fauna
The flora and fauna varies widely on the Bruce Peninsula mainly due to the topography of the Niagara Escarpment. This diversity is most noted in transitional zones such as the shoreline, field peripheries, and cliff edges. The cliffs host an exceptional old growth forest of eastern white cedars. Some of these trees, though small, are well over one thousand years old. On top of the cliffs where protection is minimal you will run across mixed bush of second growth eastern white cedar, balsam fir, trembling aspen, white birch, and many other hardwood species. There are over 35 species of ferns, and more than 40 species of orchids, some of which are common only to portions of the peninsula. Since this unique environment is host to 36 species of reptiles and amphibians, 53 species of mammals, 90 species of fish and over 300 species of birds, the chances of seeing wildlife on your trip are quite high. You might catch a glimpse of a white-tailed deer browsing, a red fox hunting, or a porcupine or a raccoon scrounging. Keep in mind that the quieter you are, the better your chances of seeing wildlife are. One reptile you will see a lot of is the common garter snake, which is often encountered in open areas sunning itself. There is a chance that you will encounter a Massassauga rattlesnake, the only venomous snake in Ontario. If you hear a distinct buzzing noise, locate the snake and move away slowly. They are often harmless provided that you don’t bother them. This rattlesnake is very scarce, so consider yourself lucky if you see one. If you plan on viewing the wonderful flora and fauna take along a field guide book in case you stumble across unfamiliar species. Finally, be wary of poison ivy, which grows in many areas along the trail. Remember, “leaves of 3, let it be!” Long pants and comfortable hiking boots are generally a good idea.
Georgian Bay is such a large body of water and with the large cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment; unsettled weather can sneak up on you very quickly. Storms pass through this area with tremendous power, but often disappear soon after. Wind can switch direction and place you and your kayak in harm’s way before you realize it. The best way to stay safe is to observe the sky above the cliffs, which will probably give you the best indication of the weather to come. If you see signs of foul weather go to shore as quickly as possible and take shelter. Before leaving on your trip, be sure to check Environment Canada’s five-day weather and marine forecast for the area.
This does not constitute as a trip guide, and should only be used as a supplement to the Bruce Trail Guide for land, and navigation maps for the water. Current copies of the Bruce Trail Guide and topographical maps of the area can be purchased at Thorncrest Outfitters. On many maps, water distances are measured following the shoreline. One can greatly reduce these distances by paddling from point to point, a technique only recommended to advanced level paddlers since the open waters can be dangerous at times.
Tobermory Harbour to Dunks Bay
Leaving from the Cairn in Tobermory Harbour (the end or starting point of the Bruce Trail) you will walk up the road to the mail office located behind The Princess Inn Hotel, turn left onto Head Street and continue straight into the bush after the first bend in the road. After a few minutes of walking you will come across a large open area, which is a construction site for the future Bruce Peninsula National Park Visitor Center. Be sure to follow the Bruce Trail markings here because it can be quite confusing. From the construction site you will hike on a gravel road that turns into a snowmobile trail. Stay on the snowmobile trail for awhile until it straightens out. At this point you will be on a survey cut that leads to Dunk’s Bay Road. Turn left, walking down past the cemetery towards a parking lot where you may choose to park your vehicle. Remember that the beach is just a stone’s throw away if you need to cool down or bask in the sun for the afternoon. This hike is fairly short - only 2.7 kilometers, but it would be a great start to prepare you for longer hikes over the next couple of days.
Leaving from the boat launch in Tobermory’s Little Tub Harbour, you will leave the small port on the right hand side in order to flow with the other boat traffic. When leaving this area, remain cautious of the Chi-cheemaun ferry – you may obtain copies of their arrival and departure schedule at the Tobermory Information Centre.
You can follow the Georgian Bay shoreline to Dunk’s Bay, viewing the cottages and limestone cliffs up close and the islands from afar. The five-kilometer trip should take approximately two hours, or you can spend some time exploring Fathom Five National Marine Park and the islands within it. Keep in mind that several islands prohibit trespassing, although you can observe them easily from the water.
Some of the closer islands (Doctor and Russell) can be traveled around to discover, on the west side of Russell Island, the Wetmore shipwreck, which is in only 20 feet of water. Cove Island is one of the larger islands in Fathom Five National Marine Park and, if the conditions are right, you can tour over to see the spectacular lighthouse that separates Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. For a chance to get out of your kayak and stretch your legs, visit Flowerpot Island, the only island in the park that you can depart onto. There is a fee to visit the island so be prepared to pay when you arrive. Flowerpot Island is a great spot to stop and have lunch or go for a hike to get your land legs back.
Another option is to go into the larger Big Tub Harbour where boat traffic is generally slower paced. Big Tub Harbour is one of the deepest natural freshwater harbours and is host to two shipwrecks, the Sweepstakes and the City of Grand Rapids. These wrecks can be viewed from your kayak since they are located in only 20 feet of water. Leaving Big Tub on the right hand side, take a minute to view the lighthouse at the entrance of the harbour.
How long your trip takes may depend on your route, how much you explore the area, how much you want to relax on the beach, the amount of paddling experience you have, and the weather conditions. At the end of your trip when you arrive at Dunk’s Bay, carry the kayaks to the parking lot area and bring your paddles, life jackets, and throw bags back to the shop in Tobermory.
How to Get To Dunk’s Bay by Land
Coming from Tobermory, drive 1.5 kilometers south on Highway #6, turn left onto Dunk’s Bay Road and drive 1 kilometer to the parking lot near the beach at Dunk’s Bay.
Coming from the south watch for the large Tobermory Welcome’s You sign with the rock flowerpot next to it. Shortly after the sign, turn right on Dunk’s Bay Road, and drive 1 kilometer to the parking lot at Dunk’s Bay. There is a public bathroom available on the right side of the parking lot as well as a nearby garbage bin.
Dunks Bay to Dyer’s Bay
Leaving Dunk’s Bay heading south, you will walk down an old dirt road behind the cemetery, which curves to follow the shoreline south then ends and continues into the bush. Note that it is very important to stay on the Bruce Trail, since much of the land is privately owned. The trail follows the rocky shoreline for awhile (which is very slippery when wet) before jetting inland to a small parking lot, which is part of the snowmobile trail. Next, follow a survey cut that runs parallel with the roadway and takes you to Little Cove parking lot where garbage facilities have been placed. The distance from Dunk’s Bay to Little Cove parking lot is 3.4 kilometers, and the average hiking time for this section is about an hour and a half. From the parking lot the trail turns towards Little Cove, utilizing the roadway, sending you down a large gravel hill prior to emerging out on the cobblestone beach.
At this point the trail becomes quite rugged as you hike along the bottom side of the escarpment. Climbing over large weathered limestone rock walls and boulders is a challenge, but often very rewarding when you crest the top for a view out over the bay. Be sure to wear good sturdy hiking shoes in this section.
Continue down the rocky shoreline to Dufferin Point, which got its name from the Lady Dufferin, a ship that ran aground in the fog. Here, you will turn south toward a very steep ascent as the trail follows the top of the escarpment, allowing you to witness some amazing viewpoints. Next, you will turn east to follow the contour of Driftwood Cove. Take some time to admire the beautiful house overlooking Driftwood Cove, which is located at the center of the bay. The trail continues east into the bush where you have the option of taking a side trail to view a sinkhole, or continuing down the trail. We recommend taking the side trail to observe the sinkhole, an interesting formation.
From the main trail, you will turn southeast and cross a private gravel road, which winds down gradually from the top of the escarpment. Along the way, you will tour through thick pine forest, into field areas, and even through re-growth forests that provide you with an excellent wildlife viewing opportunity. The trail soon comes back out onto the shoreline to a cobblestone beach known as Cooney's Dump.
Cooney's Dump was once used to harbour logs before ships towed them away to local sawmills. This beach is an excellent spot to refill your water bottles (using a filter, of course) before continuing on down the trail. After crossing the cobblestone beach and entering into a heavy forested area, you will hike southward before emerging on the north shore of Loon Lake. The trail follows the Loon Lake shoreline before merging back to the Georgian Bay shoreline on a small section of boulder beach. After crossing the beach, enter back into the bush and travel for about 1 kilometer before arriving at Overhanging Point.
Overhanging Point is an excellent spot to stop for a break, perched high upon the cliff top for a flawless bird's eye view. At this point you will descend quite rapidly back to the Georgian Bay shoreline. This section of rock beach separates Marr Lake from Georgian Bay. If you look down you will likely see water flowing between the rocks beneath you. Here, the Bruce Trail merges with Bruce Peninsula National Parks Trail systems, giving you the option of continuing along the Bruce Trail or exploring the National Park starting with Marr Lake Trail. Continuing down the Bruce Trail you will come across a large cave in the shoreline, known as the Grotto.
The Grotto was formed millions of years ago by natural erosion processes, waves beating against the shoreline. Climbing carefully down into the Grotto is a great way to further explore it, providing you with a better understanding of what caused this natural process. Parks Canada has built public composting toilets and garbage facilities here for your convenience.
Leaving the Grotto you will pass a small beach, a favorite spot to swim for many. Next, you will follow the shoreline which ascends gradually along the cliff’s edge before cutting across Halfway Rock Point. Camping is available here provided that you reserve your site in advance at the Cyprus Lake Campground Office. Alternatively, you can camp within Bruce Peninsula National Park. The trail heads back out to the Georgian Bay shoreline, passing by an interpretive display on the north end of the beach. Continuing down the beach for approximately 200 meters, you will walk along an old logging road that takes you back into the bush. The trail then turns left, passing by the side trail that leads you to campsites at Storm Haven, which are also available by booking at the Cypress Lake Office. The trail continues down the escarpment offering many scenic lookout points before heading east through the forest. Continuing east, you will emerge onto a limestone shelf called Cave Point. The trail continues east, clinging to the edge of the escarpment.
The next section is very challenging, so please be prepared!
The trail does many ups and downs leading you to the shoreline at Halfway Dump, another historical log harbouring area. This is an excellent spot to refill water bottles since the next seven kilometers of the trail are on top of the cliff. The side trail at Halfway Dump leads you to the Emmett Lake Parking Lot where there are composting toilets and garbage facilities. Continuing on the Bruce Trail, an old logging road leads you to the top of the escarpment then takes you towards High Dump. Here, the main trail meets a side trail that travels down to the shoreline to High Dump’s nine backcountry campsites. The main trail starts heading inland at this point on old logging roads, taking you alongside of Upper Andrew Lake and then Moore Lake. Be careful not to get on one of the old logging roads that intersect this section of the trail, since these are unmarked and can lead you into the forest. Next, the trail emerges onto an old gravel road, which will lead you to a gate that marks the National Park Boundaries.
At the parking lot, proceed down the gravel road passing by agricultural fields and marshes before turning left onto Gillies Lake Road. Follow this road for approximately 4 kilometers before turning right onto Harkins Road. From there you will continue to the escarpment’s edge leading to Dyer’s Bay Road. Stay on the road when you crest the hill just beyond the boat launch (Approximately 300 meters). This is the Dyer’s Bay parking area, which provides enough space for three vehicles. There are no garbage receptacles available at this point so be sure to pack out your litter.
Leaving the beautiful sand beach at the Dunk’s Bay public beach, heading southeast along the escarpment, you will notice the change from a sandy beach to the sheer limestone rock faces that this area is most noted for. Following the contours of the shoreline you will round the point and pass a quaint little house nestled on the shoreline. Avoid landing here, since some rare bird species have been known to nest in this area. After turning the next point, the shoreline veers westward into a natural harbor known as Little Cove. The white cobble stone beach is yet another change from the rocky escarpment we are used to seeing.
Crossing the Little Cove inlet, the shoreline continues southeast in the usual rugged format. About a kilometer south of Little Cove you will notice mooring buoys to the left, which mark the artificial reef created by The Niagara 2, which was purposely sunk for use a diving attraction. A little further south nearing Dufferin Point you might see some remains of the Lady Dufferin shipwreck, but most of the wreck lies in over 250 feet of water. The cliffs adjacent to you gradually get larger as you paddle past the boulders beneath the old growth eastern white cedar trees at Dufferin Point.
Turning westward again into Driftwood Cove you’ll notice a large stone house and another shipwreck mooring buoy. The house - along with a substantial amount of land - is a private estate. The mooring buoy marks the final resting spot for the Carolina Rosa wreck which was once a floating restaurant. Continuing southeast down the shoreline you will pass a section of a limestone rock cliff that drops straight down into the water. This rock wall is home to orange lichens that take many years to grow in such a harsh environment.
Following these impressive rock walls you will soon arrive at another cobblestone beach know as Cooney’s Dump, a historical log harbour. Old sunken logs can still be viewed in the clear water nearby. After passing another boulder beach, you will observe the large overhanging point marking the entrance to Indian Head Cove.
Indian Head Cove is a great spot to stop for a break since the cobblestone beach allows for easy shore landings. There are composting toilets and garbage facilities at this location and exploring the Grotto gives you a good chance to stretch your legs. Continuing southeast around Halfway Rock Point, you will see little other than the rugged escarpment for miles, offering a chance to appreciate the silence of an undeveloped shoreline. Credit should be given to Parks Canada for keeping this area in such pristine condition.
Just a short distance further is an area called Storm Haven, one of two camping areas located along the shoreline between Dunk's Bay and Dyer's Bay. Storm Haven is 13.5 kilometers from Dunk's Bay (approximately four hours and thirty minutes to paddle). There are eight tent platforms available by registering with Bruce Peninsula National Park, but there is no group camping permitted. Also available are animal-proof food storage containers, garbage bins, and composting toilets. There are no campfires permitted here so be sure to bring a portable stove and fuel.
If you prefer to continue down the shoreline a little further, there are campsites at High Dump, about six and a half kilometers away. The journey to High Dump takes you alongside some of the most impressive rock cliffs in the area, dropping sharply into the water at times. With the magnificent clarity of Georgian Bay you can see the large rocks that were once at the top of these cliff faces. There are nine wilderness campsites at High Dump along with composting toilets, animal-proof food storage, and an emergency shelter. Campfires are not permitted so personal stoves must be used. Registration must be done in advance. It would be wise to camp here since the next closest campsites are roughly 40 kilometers southeast.
Leaving High Dump towards Dyer's Bay there is a large point of about ten kilometers called Cabot Head that you will paddle beside. The shoreline is very steep and provides few locations for boat landing, so take advantage of any available opportunities to stop and rest. As you near Cabot Head, you will see a lighthouse and an opening to a small bay called Windfield Basin. This makes for an interesting detour for those interested in exploring the nearby lighthouse. Once inside this protected little harbor, have a close look at the old shipwreck that emerges from the water. This old tug caught fire while anchored here and sank to the waterline. Much of the ship’s mechanical equipment can still be observed.
After leaving Cabot Head and rounding the point, the shoreline turns to travel southwestwardly, gradually taking you into Dyer's Bay. At this point you will start to see houses, cottages, and gravel roads. If you pay close attention you will see the old log flume spraying out onto the white rock shoreline through two large culverts. This flume used to move logs from Gillies Lake high up on the escarpment down to the Georgian Bay shoreline. Rumor has it that logs would speed down here with so much force that some would be found driven into the rocky shoreline standing straight on end. Follow the shoreline until you come to the large government dock at the Dyer's Bay boat launch, where you may choose to pull your kayak out.
How to Get to Dyer’s Bay by Land
Heading north on Highway #6, 54 kilometers from Wiarton, turn onto Dyer's Bay road on your right. You will travel for six kilometers to a T-intersection, at which point you will turn right onto BLANK road for 700 meters. Turn left towards the boat launch. Parking is available along the roadside but is limited to three cars.
Heading south from Tobermory on Highway #6, turn left onto Dyer's Bay Road after 24 kilometers. Drive straight for six kilometers to a T-intersection. Turn right and drive for 700 meters before turning left again towards the Dyer's Bay boat launch.
It takes only a couple of minutes to walk from the boat launch to the Bruce Trail at Britain Lake Road.
Map of Dyer’s Bay
Dyer’s Bay to Lion’s Head
Leaving the Dyer's Bay boat launch follow the road up a steep hill to a T-intersection, then turn left onto Britain Lake Road. Follow the road to the end where the trail continues through the bush. It then turns eastbound towards Georgian Bay. Continuing south on rough terrain down the escarpment you'll pass by the Devil's Monument. A short 100 meter side trail leads to this magnificent sea stack formation. Back on the main trail you will follow the cliff top before descending onto Borchardt Road. The trail follows this road south for 1.4 kilometers, enters the bush briefly, and then crosses Cape Chin North Road.
After crossing the road and continuing through mixed bush, the trail swings south to take you back to the escarpment’s edge above Cape Chin North. From there the trail turns left and travels inland across many fields before arriving at Cape Chin North Road. Continue south on the road for 600 meters as the road turns to direct you straight into the bush. You will climb down a stile, cross a small bridge, and then enter a field. Cross the field, climb down two stiles and enter a heavily forested area before coming to a marshy area and passing by a beaver pond. After approximately 600 meters, you will hike through the bush for 1.7 kilometers, emerging on a stony track before crossing Cape Chin South Road. The trail gets rather wet here as you head south through an open forest area. Continuing from the gate found here, the trail gradually turns left taking you across a cobblestone beach, where the trail ascends back up the escarpment. These cliff tops provide more spectacular views over Georgian Bay, and a great place to rest after your hike up the hill. Moving on, you will pass through a hardwood bush, than pass by a beaver pond.
The trail continues southbound, passing Reed’s Dump side trail. Camping is available at Reed’s Dump. Since it is a 27 kilometer hike from Dyer’s Bay it is recommended that you camp here. These are wilderness sites and fires and group camping are prohibited. Following the main trail south through hardwood bush into a mature cedar bush that continues for about two kilometers, you will notice that this section contains several trails that branch off to scenic spots along the escarpment’s edge. The main trail veers left before emerging over the water, providing a scenic lookout on Whippoorwill Bay and the Lion’s Head Bluffs behind. The trail follows the escarpment’s edge for 300 meters before turning right and heading inland. You then continue through the cedar bush until you emerge onto Bruce County Road 9.
Travel 50 meters on Bruce County Road 9 before the trail heads back into the bush and runs parallel with the road before turning onto a town street. Follow this street to Lion’s Head Beach where there is ample parking.
Leaving the government dock at Dyer’s Bay, you can admire the steep rock cliffs that shape the beautiful area as you head south. Be sure to check out the Devil’s Monument (Sea Stacks) the largest of the area’s naturally formed rock flowerpots. After about 7.5 kilometers you will round the Cape Chin Point. Here, the bay gradually turns southeast to a less pronounced point called Smokey Head. As you approach Smokey Head Point the cliffs slowly become more impressive than ever. Continuing down the shoreline towards Whippoorwill Bay, keep an eye out for the Reed’s Dump wilderness campsites. Located 15.5 kilometers down the shoreline from the Dyer’s Bay boat launch, Reed’s Dump allows group camping, but open fires are not permitted.
Continuing past some impressive white bluffs into Whippoorwill Bay, cottages and homes become more prevalent. Small fishing boats are abundant in this area due to the excellent salmon fishing opportunities. Follow the shoreline down to the Lion’s Head Lighthouse located just before the Lion’s Head Harbor. Be careful as you paddle here, since there is often a lot of boat traffic. Continue past the harbor towards the sandy beach near Lion’s Head Campground. Camping, parking, and garbage receptacles are all available in this area.
How to Get There
Heading north from Wiarton for 30 kilometers on Highway #6, turn right at Ferndale. Drive for two kilometers to a T-intersection, then turn left onto Main Street in Lion’s Head. Drive for one kilometer to the Royal Bank where you will turn right onto Webster Street and drive directly to the beach. Parking is available in this area.
Coming from Tobermory head south on Highway #6 for 44 kilometers. Turn left at Ferndale then drive for two kilometers to a T-intersection. Turn left onto Main Street in Lion’s Head. Drive for one kilometer to the Royal Bank where you will turn right onto Webster Street and drive directly to the beach. Parking is available in this area.
Map of Lion’s Head
Lion’s Head to Hope Bay
Leaving Lion’s Head Beach Park on Joseph Street you walk up to the Hospital. Here, turn left onto Moore Street and follow this road as it turns to gravel then to dirt. From there, the trail turns southwest into the bush and soon passes several side trails that lead to pothole formations in the escarpment’s surface. The trail then curves northwest taking you towards Georgian Bay, where the trail soon appears at the top of the cliff face. This lookout point allows you to see north towards Cape Chin as well as the white bluffs of Isthmus Bay. The trail then descends quickly and emerges beneath an impressive overhanging ledge with large boulders all around. Continuing at the base of the escarpment you’ll walk through dense forest before emerging in an area filled with stunted growth cedars then out onto a cobblestone beach. Continue down the beach and you will come to a wilderness camping area at McKay’s Harbor approximately 7 kilometers away. These backcountry sites do not permit group camping or fires, so be sure to have a personal stove and pack out all your garbage.
Leaving McKay’s Harbor via an old logging road on the south side of the beach, the trail turns sharply left and ascends back up the escarpment. The trail follows the edge of the escarpment offering many lookouts as it heads into Barrow Bay. The trail winds down the top of the escarpment before bringing you out on McCague Road. Follow this road to Bruce County Road 9 and turn left. The trail continues on County Road 9 for 4.3 kilometers before turning onto Scenic Caves Road. The trail follows Scenic Caves Road for 2 kilometers before turning right into Rush Cove parking lot, be sure to check out the amazing Caves. The trail continues into the bush on an unopened road allowance taking you over a limestone ridge before crossing a gravel road. The trail continues back towards Georgian Bay emerging high on top of the cliff’s edge. The trail then turns southwest along the top of the escarpment allowing for views of Cape Croker and White Cloud Island. The trail follows many increases and decreases in altitude along the escarpment’s edge before slowly descending into the little village of Hope Bay. Watch for glacial potholes to your right in this section! Next, the trail turns right onto Water Street, following it for 500 meters before turning right and emerging near a general store.
Hope Bay is located 32.4 kilometers southeast of Lion’s Head on the Bruce Trail. It is a small town that hosts many cottages, a general store, and the Cedarholm private campground. There are pit toilets and garbage facilities available at this parking location.
When leaving Lion’s Head Harbor, be sure to stay to the right side of the harbor to avoid the boat traffic. The farther along the shoreline you go, you will notice the escarpment start to rise again as the cottages and houses start to diminish. The crystal clear waters of Georgian Bay become more apparent as you kayak along the sheer rock walls on your right and the white bluffs to your left. As you approach the Lion’s Head Point you will see what was once the natural Lion’s Head image carved into the top of the escarpment. All that remains there now is a jagged limestone cliff. As you round Lion’s Head Point, the shoreline levels out from a jagged rock face to a cobblestone beach. Continuing along the shoreline the water becomes quite shallow, allowing you to view the rock beneath you. Next, the shore moves inland to create what is called McKay’s Harbor.
McKay’s Harbor is located about five kilometers from Lion’s Head. An excellent spot to stop for a break or camp for the evening, there are many wilderness campsites available. A privy is located in the bush, but group camping and fires are not permitted. There are no garbage facilities at this site.
After leaving McKay’s Harbor, the cobblestone beach continues for a distance as you round Gun Point into Barrow Bay. Here, the shoreline slowly becomes jagged again. The high escarpment lining the perimeter of Barrow Bay offers ample protection from northerly winds, but one must remain cautious if there is a heavy east wind. As you approach the bottom of the bay the shoreline becomes flat with limestone shelves. At this point cottages start to appear. For an interesting side trip, locate the navigation light near a channel. After a short paddle through here, you will emerge into Little Lake, a popular cottager’s destination, but a pleasant experience all the same.
Leaving Barrow Bay heading towards Cape Dundas, (the closest point you can see, located approximately seven kilometers away), you approach even more great scenery of the Georgian Bay escarpment. Rounding the point, you will get your first glimpse of Cape Croker and the islands behind it. As you approach Hope Bay, you’ll pass by Jackson’s Cove and Bull’s Landing. The Landing is an outcrop of land that protrudes from the escarpment’s edge with a shoal running westward for approximately 100 meters. By paddling around the shoal into Shoal Cove you will find yourself in Hope Bay. There is camping available at Cedarholm Campground, located at the bottom of the bay.
Hope Bay is located 25 kilometers from Lion’s Head Harbor and is host to Cedarholm Campground and a general store. Parking and washroom facilities are available here. One could camp here or continue for nine kilometers to Cape Croker Park at Sydney Bay.
How to Get There
Heading North on Highway #6 from Wiarton, travel 3.5 kilometers to County Road 9 and turn right. Travel north for approximately 18 kilometers before turning onto Hope Bay Road. Continue on Hope Bay road to the Cedarholm Campground and general store.
Travel for 44 kilometers from Tobermory to Ferndale and turn left. Drive for two kilometers to a T-intersection, then turn right onto County Road 9. Drive approximately 11 kilometers to Hope Bay Road. Turn left onto Hope Bay Road and continue to the Cedarholm Campground and general store.
Map of Hope Bay
Hope Bay to Cape Croker
Leaving Hope Bay parking lot, turn right onto Hope Bay Cottage Road briefly before reaching Brock Street. Turn right onto Brock Street and cross a small stream as you come to the foot of the escarpment. The trail then ascends up a ladder then follows the edge of the escarpment overlooking Hope Bay. Next, you will head inland and cross a gravel road where the trail heads west along the top of the escarpment. This section offers some spectacular lookouts over Sydney Bay. At this point the trail descends sharply using a set of stairs to the base of the escarpment. From there you will continue east on the camp road. You will emerge onto a 900 meter boardwalk that was constructed by the Chippewas of Nawash First Nations people before reaching the beach. The trail follows many old camp roads before reaching Cape Croker Campground.
The campground is located 11.3 kilometers from Hope Bay on the Bruce Trail. The campground is run by the Ojibway First Nations people and has full facilities and a general store. The campground offers a range of campsites, from primitive to fully serviced sites. The short distance makes this a perfect little day trip, taking roughly four hours to complete.
Leaving Hope Bay from the water you will travel northeast to Cape Paulett, the closest point from Hope Bay. The escarpment gradually gets steeper and, as you round Cape Paulett, you will see the somewhat sheer cliff edge of the Sydney Bay Bluffs. Deep into Sydney Bay you will see a boat launch, an excellent place to stop for a break. Please ensure that you move your boats out of the way of other boaters.
How To Get There
Heading north on Highway #6 from Wiarton, travel 3.5 kilometers to and turn right onto Country Road 9. Turn right onto Country Road 18, then turn left onto Purple Valley Road. Continue on this road, then turn right onto McIver Road. Drive to the T-intersection and turn left onto Crooked Toe Road which will take you to the campground parking lot.
Map of Cape Croker
Cape Croker to Wiarton
From the Cape Croker Indian Park to Wiarton it is 36 kilometers. Be sure that you have lots of water! Head south on Crooked Toe Road before turning right on McIver Road, which you will follow before heading southeast into the bush. The trail then follows the escarpment around Jones Bluffs providing views of Hay Island, Griffith Island, and White Cloud Island which shelter Colpoy’s Bay and Big Bay. Continuing down the south side of Jones Bluffs, the trail takes you through an open forest area before emerging onto a road. Follow the road to the Cape Croker Access Road and turn left.
From the road allowance you will hike up the escarpment to emerge on an ancient beach ridge. Continue to follow the ridge and enter the nearby hardwood bush. Climb the ladder before turning left and following the edge of the escarpment for 100 meters. The trail will take you through a pasture, crossing over a stile and taking you eastward across an alvar, a rare type of ecosystem where grass species grow on nearly bare rock. You will hike southeast through a pleasant forest and up a rocky ridge back to the top of the escarpment. After walking parallel to the cliff’s edge, you will turn inland and gradually descend onto an old bush road.
Continuing down the old logging road, the trail slowly winds its way across two stiles and down a hill before turning right. You will encounter County Road 9 again and follow it until you reach an old barn foundation. After crossing through a cattle pasture, over another stile, and then through semi-open brush you will pass over a private laneway. Continuing through more agricultural land, you’ll cross over another stile that brings you back to the shoreline near Spirit Rock. At this point you will pass by the ruins of the Corran. This was once a 17 room mansion that was built just north of Wiarton in 1882 by Alexander McNeill. The property, which included many rose gardens, an ice house, and agricultural lands, overlooked Colpoy’s Bay until new vegetative growth overtook the front yard. These historical remains are now owned by the Grey Sauble Conservation Authority.
After descending the winding iron staircase from the cliff top to the shoreline, you can hike along the waterfront into Wiarton. Camping is available at Bluewater Park in this small town.
Sydney Bay to Wiarton totals 46 kilometers of continuous paddling, and is not recommended for beginner to intermediate paddlers. The land surrounding Cape Croker is a First Nations Reserve and much of the shoreline from Cape Croker to Wiarton is privately owned. As a result, rest areas are limited.
Leaving Sydney Bay, follow the shoreline south past Prairie Point and into MacGregor Harbor. There are many bays and inlets on this section of shoreline which are all very interesting to explore. After continuing northwest for awhile, the shoreline gradually turns at Partridge Point and starts heading due north. Follow the shoreline past the spectacular Geeshkaupikauhnssing Cliffs and around Benjamin’s Point before turning into North Bay. Here you will see many houses dotting the shoreline. Continue around the bay to Cape Croker Point where the Cape Croker Lighthouse can be viewed – this is an excellent place to stop to view scenery and have a snack.
The current Cape Croker Lighthouse was built in 1902 and was constructed out of reinforced concrete. It was the first of its kind to be built in the area. It was also the first to have an electrically operating light and foghorn. It is 53 feet high and can be seen as far away as 30 kilometers out in Georgian Bay. There are no guided tours or bathroom facilities here, but it does make for an excellent photo or sketching opportunity. The view of Hay Island, Griffith Island and White Cloud Island at the mouth of Colpoy’s Bay is also quite nice.
As you paddle down the shoreline, the waters become fairly protected by nearby Hay Island. You will soon pass Gravelly Bay and Gravelly Point down a long flat section of beach (Mallory Beach) into Colpoy’s Bay. Shortly after passing by this village, be sure to stop at the Spirit Rock Conservation area and visit the remains of the Corran.
After leaving Spirit Rock Conservation Area, it is just a short paddle to the campsites at Bluewater Park in Wiarton. The park is located just south of the marina where you can pull your boats up on shore and get your pass from the park office, located at the old train station. It is best to book in advance. There are many stores and restaurants only a five minute walk away!
How to Get There
Drive north on Highway #6 through Hepworth to Wiarton. Turn right at the stoplights in Wiarton and turn right. Drive one and a half blocks and turn left into Bluewater Park. Parking is available at this location.
Map of Wiarton
Wiarton to Owen Sound
Leaving Bluewater Park, the trail takes you past an arena and onto George Street. Follow George Street to Taylor Street, then to Mary’s Street before heading back into the bush. You will ascend some stone steps and a ladder back to the top of the escarpment’s edge. After coming to a stile the trail continues alongside of the airport and crosses the airport access road. Cross the road and the field heading towards large plane hangers. Follow the field’s edge to another access road. The trail follows this road for awhile before it turns left onto another airport access road. Follow the trail to a stile then turn right, soon passing through the town of Oxenden. The trail follows Grey County Road 1 for a short distance before turning right, and then goes straight in for 400 meters before turning left and slowly taking you back to the top of the escarpment. As the trail continues around the escarpment’s edge it passes many side trails. One of special interest is the Bruce Cave side trail, which is only 400 meters long and leads you to some spectacular cave viewing. Continuing east, the trail passes through several hardwood and cedar forests which are interspersed with open fields. Follow the trail as it descends for about one kilometer before emerging onto Colpoy’s Range Road, a gravel road.
Follow Colpoy’s Range Road for a short distance then turn left and cross over a stile on the fence line. Heading south, cross the fields and some open bush to another stile which you will cross before heading eastward for two kilometers. The trail continues eastward through a birch forest, along the escarpment’s edge then coming to a stile. The trail then travels past an old homestead where you can observe the old barn foundation and the remains of the silo. Cross the next stile before merging right onto a road allowance which you will follow for 500 meters. The trail eventually comes to Burgess Side Road which you will follow briefly before turning left onto Lake Charles Road. Hike along this road for two kilometers, and then turn left at Big Bay Side Road. Turn right again onto Graham’s Hill Road before heading into the bush. The trail skirts a woodlot heading east, passing by some impressive limestone outcroppings.
Cross the next stile and hike around the bluff, passing a parking area and eventually emerging onto a road allowance. The trail follows the road allowance for two kilometers before turning left onto Coles Side Road. The trail follows this road for three kilometers before turning right onto paved County Road 1. After passing a farm, the trail turns left onto Lundy Lane and cross the next stile. Continue through the field to the bush periphery where you will encounter an old logging road. After hiking south for about 800 meters, you’ll continue through a forested area in which there are numerous crevices in the ground. Please be cautious when hiking through here! Heading alongside of the escarpment’s edge for a short distance, the trail descends and emerges at the old Lindenwood School. After a short walk down Lindenwood Road, the trail turns right and crosses over another stile. The trail continues south along the fence around the edge of a series of fields and crosses a small stream.
The trail continues south along the escarpment through cedar bush and passes by the Glen camping area. This area is designated as wilderness camping so no open fires are permitted. Drinking water must be treated before use.
Continuing on the trail you will pass through mixed forest where you can see the remains of pine stumps and witness how large these trees used to be. The trail follows the escarpment’s edge to offer many observation points before coming to Gordon Sutherland Parkway. The trail follows this road and turns left onto Indian Acres Road, then leads you past a field, into a meadow, and then into a hardwood forest. The trail emerges onto Gordon Sutherland Parkway again and heads towards the town of Bennallen. Just inside the town the trail turns left and takes you towards Georgian Bay. The trail slowly turns right and crosses County Road 17, then continues along the escarpment’s edge to offer great views of the Owen Sound Harbor. The trail descends slowly down the escarpment and takes you onto Range Road.
Follow Range Road and then turn right onto 30th Street, left onto Somers Street, then left onto 19th Street West. Walk along it until you turn left onto Sergeant’s Parkway, then onto 1st Avenue West towards the information parking lot.
Be very cautious when embarking on the trip from Bluewater Park in Wiarton to the Owen Sound Harbor. This trip is 45.4 kilometers of mostly open water travel, leaving you exposed to sometimes sporadic weather conditions. Most land in this section is privately owned, so camping in this section is not an option. Only advanced paddlers should attempt this trip, and are advised to plan extremely carefully for it.
As you paddle into Owen Sound Harbor, continue past Kelso Beach, around the little peninsula and into the opening of Sydneyham River. Continue up the river a short distance to the boat launch at the Owen Sound Tourist information office. Dock your boats and head back to your car in the nearby parking lot.
How to get there
From Highway 21
Drive into Owen Sound on 10th Street West, down the hill to the fourth set of traffic lights. Turn left onto First Avenue West and drive for a block and a half to the Owen Sound Information office. Parking is available at this location.
From Highway 26
Coming into Owen Sound on 16th Street East, go to the fourth set of traffic lights and turn left onto 9th Avenue East. Go to the first set of traffic lights and turn left onto 10th Street East. Cross through five sets of traffic lights, turn right onto First Avenue West, and drive for a block and a half to the Owen Sound Information office. Parking is available at this location.
Map of Owen Sound