Part 3: Travelling The Bruce Peninsula

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The Wrecks of Fathom Five National Marine Park

Fathom FiveWith the coming of the White Men the numerous violent storms of the Georgian Bay forced their ships to search for sheltered bays along the eastern shore of the Bruce Peninsula. There are very few such bays. But because Georgian Bay was never on the route of the larger trading ships, there are also only very few shipwrecks in the Bay, about 20 (compared to the many on each of the Great Lakes), along the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, where they found their final resting places. The tip of the east shore of the Bruce Peninsula with its wrecks and diving sites has been designated as Canada’s first National Marine Park, named “Fathom Five”.

The wrecks range from small wooden boats to 50-foot schooners, steamers, barges and yachts, lying between 5 and almost 50 meters below the water’s surface. Their locations are well known and mapped. Depending on their depths and locations they are favoured by divers, scuba divers and swimmers with limited to expert experience.

The Grotto

The GrottoA limestone cave overlooking the Georgian Bay, located about 19 kilometers east of Tobermory in the Bruce Peninsula National Park at Indian Head Point. The Grotto can be reached by scuba divers and good swimmers who are used to swimming down 6 meters to the entrance hole. The maximum diving depth without diving gear is about 18 meters or 60 feet. Tourboats will also take you there from Tobermory.


The West Coast Road

The west coast of the Bruce Peninsula begins at Sauble Beach. At seven kilometers it’s the second longest freshwater in the world! Similar to Wasaga Beach, the longest with 14 kilometers, Sauble Beach is a favourite spot primarily for Americans, who travel the 129 miles (207km) from Port Huron or the 211 miles (340km) from Detroit to reach it. And like Wasaga Beach it tends to be much overcrowded during holidays and long weekends. And Sauble also has Piping Plovers, which brings with it special measures that must be followed to protect these endangered birds.

But there is much more to see and experience as you move away from the crowds and travel the west road of the peninsula. Orchids and insect-eating plants are considered by most people to be inhabitants of moist, warm and tropical areas. The Bruce is anything but that, but within its boundaries are found almost 50 kinds of orchids, among them the Alaska-Orchid, the Ram’s Head Orchid and the rarest of all Canadian Orchids, the Fringed Orchid. The impenetrable swamps of the peninsula are the hideouts of most of these fascinating flowers and plants.

In the flat swampy strips between the low dunes you can find the Pitcher Plant, which attracts insects into its hollow leaves with a putrid smell, then dissolves them and absorbs them as food. Here you also find the Sundew, whose sticky “dewdrops” hold insects captive by rolling them into their leaves, until they, too, are digested and absorbed. Even underwater larvae and other small lifeforms are not safe. The Bladderwort catches them in its numerous trap doors, from which they never escape.

The other Beaches on the West Side

The Cove at Ondian Head PointThe beaches of the west side have an eerie, almost outlandish character. The about 70 tiny to large, rocky to sandy “Fishing Islands” near Oliphant, which hover like Fata Morganas over the western horizon and the shallow water and offer shelter from the frequently rough windstorms of the open water. Once there were abundant fish populating their waters, which accounts for their name. There even was a fish cannery on one of the islands for a while. The indigenous people smoked their fish on one of the islands. There are also several shipwrecks on this side of the Bruce Peninsula.

Travelling north along the west road you pass by several interesting bays with your option of staying a while – Little Red Bay, Crab Cove, Red Bay, Howdenvale Bay, Pike Bay, Little Pike Bay, Myles Bay, Stokes Bay, Pleasant Bay, and several more, each with their own character.

Singing Sands Beach

About 10km south of Tobermory on Highway 6 on the west side. It is one of the shallowest on the west coast, allowing you to walk out more than one kilometer into the bay. The beach is one of the shallowest on the west coast has shallow waters with sand dunes and a boardwalk. Orchids, carnivorous and other rare plants, frogs and rattlesnakes populate the swampy area opposite the beach. And the sand sings its song, a tiny sweet sound, caused by millions of sand grains rubbing together on their wind-driven journey onto the beach.

Singing Sands Beach

For anyone who can’t get enough of nature and scenery around the southern Georgian Bay, one or several expeditions into the Bruce Wonderland will give them enough material to think and talk about for quite some time.


Written by

Peter Iden is a resident of Wasaga Beach and a Naturalist and Photographer who has a broad range of knowledge of the natural world. Peter is also a volunteer Warden for the Piping Plover Recovery Programme with the Friends of Nancy Island.