Georgian Bay Sea Kayak Route
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 below), 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.
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