Touring the tip of the Bruce Sparkling waters, shipwrecks and Flowerpot Island
Spring days, they’re totally, amazingly perfect. The sun shines, the water calls and your Bruce Peninsula adventure awaits. This spring, add a Flowerpot Island boat tour to your vacation plans and experience the wonder of sunken ships, sparkling waters and unique geological formations.
While thousands of tourists make the trek to Bruce Peninsula National Park or visit the village of Tobermory before boarding the Chi-Cheemaun ferry, fewer take the time to visit Fathom Five National Marine Park. A world-renowned scuba diving and snorkeling destination, Fathom Five is just as accessible for those without underwater inclinations.
Thanks to Tobermory’s fleet of glass bottom tour boats, you can plan an amazing day trip to Flowerpot Island that takes you past two shipwrecks, three lighthouses and two flowerpots while cruising the turquoise waters of Georgian Bay.
It’s best to book your tickets for the glass bottom boat-cruise the day before. Tours leave regularly from Little Tub Harbour and make the 6.5 kilometre trek to Flowerpot Island. To take in the shipwrecks, you’ll want to take the glass bottom boat to the island, but ask about returning on the Zodiac for an adventurous high-speed ride.
Your glass bottom boat will pass over two striking shipwrecks in Big Tub Harbour. The Sweepstakes is one of the most incredibly intact and easily visible wrecks in Fathom Five. Damaged off Cove Island back in 1885, the ship was towed into Big Tub Harbour for repairs, but sank just a month later before she could be fixed. The result is an amazing experience for divers, snorkelers and glass bottom tourers alike. The wreck is about 50 metres in length and sits in only 20 feet of water in the harbour, making for an incredible view from both the top deck and the boat’s glass viewing windows.
Just south of the Sweepstakes, you’ll see the wreck of the City of Grand Rapids – a double-decked steamer that once navigated the coastal trade route between Owen Sound and Manitoulin Island. Back in 1907, the vessel caught fire while docked in Little Tub Harbour. It was towed further out of the harbour and released. The charred wreckage drifted into Big Tub Harbour where it now sits in shallow water.
After you’ve toured the shipwrecks, your cruise continues past the Big Tub Lighthouse. The underwater ledge off this lighthouse is a popular dive location, so keep your eyes peeled for divers entering and exiting the water. On weekends, you may even see a bride and groom tying the knot on the rocks by the lighthouse.
Back on open water, you’ll cruise past the Flowerpot Island light station, before rounding the corner and seeing the first of two large flowerpots. These unique sea stacks were formed as wind, rain, waves and ice hammered away at the cliffs along the waters edge. With careful inspection, you can see the beginnings of new flowerpots forming along the shoreline.
Once you de-board the boat, be sure to hit the washrooms at the Beachy Cove main dock. You won’t find any other facilities until you hit the light station. With this crucial stop completed, hike North to the flowerpots for some fantastic photo opportunities. The super brave souls in your group may want to consider a swim in the always-brisk waters of Georgian Bay. Dig into your packed lunch before you begin the three-hour round trip hike to the lighthouse station.
The hike to the lighthouse station requires solid footwear, plenty of water and about three hours round trip. It’s rugged terrain but our party included a pair of four and five year olds and we made it just fine. The original lighthouse was built in 1897 to guide ships safely through the shipping channel. A second building was built in 1909 to house fog and alarm machinery. Both were decommissioned in 1969, and today’s functioning steel tower was erected. In 1901, the two-storey light keeper’s home was built and the one-storey light keeper’s assistant’s home was built in 1959. The Friends of Fathom Five took over maintenance and management of the grounds back in 1996. Visitors can now tour the outbuildings and buy light refreshments on site. The giant Freezies we purchased at the end of our hike were much appreciated!
If you’ve checked out the light keeper’s home and still have energy to burn, make the rocky climb up to today’s light station before heading back to Beachy Cove.
If you’ve enjoyed your day trip, consider heading back for an entirely different overnight island experience. Wake up at sunrise and hike to the flowerpots for a peaceful and unique adventure. Six campsites are available on the island on a first-come, first-serve basis by calling Parks Canada at 519-596-2233 ext 221.
For more information on visiting Flowerpot Island, check out www.explorethebruce.com.