I love to write about Bruce County and share the beautiful region I am blessed to call home. With thousands of visitors now flocking to “the Bruce” annually, you don’t need to read my blog to read about Ontario’s not-so-hidden tourist gem, the Grotto. At least once a week, I see photos of the shimmering turquoise waters and ragged, rock cliffs on Instagram.
There aren’t many “secrets” I can give you as a local either. Truthfully, there are only so many restaurants, watering holes and attractions so it’s hard for something to be hidden for long. And I would gladly share since I’ve seen enough small town businesses come and go, when there is a good one, I want everyone to know so they will hopefully stick around.
Instead, I’ve decided to share some suggestions that hopefully help you make the most of your trip to the Bruce Peninsula while also preserving this special place for the future .
Sure, it may cost a little more but supporting our local stores ensures they continue to operate. Wiarton, Lions Head and Tobermory all have a family owned Foodland store that carry a solid selection. There are also several options in Owen Sound before you get to the Peninsula, including a fantastic No Frills.
There are also some great outdoor stores. My favourite is Thorncrest Outfitters in Southampton and Tobermory. They rent canoes, kayaks and even SUP boards, and they run regular shuttles to save you running around cars on a one-way hike or paddle. Their retail prices on gear are comparable to the city-stores but best of all, their service is unparalleled. I never leave the store without learning something, and they are now my go-to for my Inca Trail gear.
Also check out:
- Howell’s Fish in Wiarton for smoked, local fish.
- Tobermory Brewing Company for seriously good beer.
- Grandad’s Attic above Hellyer’s Foodland in Lions Head
- Earthbound Gardens at Red Bay for neat outdoor decor, a crazy-large selection of lilies and a beautiful spot to chill with a coffee
You are on Bruce County time now which is like island time. There is only one road here, it’s two lanes, and you are sharing it with cyclists, farmers, logging trucks, and a lot of people with cars loaded with kids, camping gear, boats and towing trailers. Give yourself extra time and enjoy the drive, for your own safety and everyone else’s.
Eat like a Local
You don’t need to go far usually to find a community breakfast, fish fry or roast beef dinner put on by the local volunteer firemen, service club or Legion. Who knows you may even leave a winner! Once when vacationing on Manitoulin Island, we attended an elimination draw dinner and I won $100!
Watch for signs next to the road as you come into the small towns and if in doubt, check Google for local community events when you are in town.
No Garbage Please
I can’t believe I have to write this and sadly I do. In 2017, it shocks me people still litter. There are no garbage cans at the Grotto because, well, bears. Plan on carrying your garbage out with you, so if you’re bringing a picnic, know you’re going to take the trash with you so you might want a small garbage bag. Bonus points if you pick up someone else’s garbage. Let’s keep our parks green and beautiful.
Don’t Feed the Animals
Have you ever been crapped on by a seagull? Do you want too? Because throwing your food to that cute chipmunk is a pretty quick way to guarantee being pooped on, not to mention it’s not good for the chipmunk. So, just don’t. Nothing annoys me more than seagulls than someone throwing food around to feed seagulls, or any other critter.
That’s also how we end up with bear problems in our communities. Animals who should be scared of us get used to us feeding them and pretty soon they are a (dangerous) nuisance. If you don’t want your lunch, see above.
Get Off the Beaten Path
Ok, not literally off the path (the Bruce Trail crosses private land so you should always stick to the marked trail), but plan to check out the rest of the area on your next trip to “the Bruce”, not just the Grotto. Lions Head is incredibly beautiful and there are some fantastic hiking loops at nearby Hope Bay.
If you’re looking for a day at the beach, there are several options along the Peninsula. If Singing Sands is to busy, head south to find more great beaches at Black Creek Provincial Park straight west of Lions Head or Oliphant. All three are on Lake Huron, so expect warmer water and beautiful sandy beaches. The latter are also likely to be less busy than Sauble Beach further to the south.