Day 66 – August 11 – Owen Sound (Tobermoray)

Today was an awesome day! And an unexpected one. We had been told Tobermoray at the end of the Bruce Peninsula north of Owen Sound was a nice place to visit so that was our primary destination for today. It is a one and half hour drive so as we were going along I looked up the area in a couple of my travel books. (I usually do this a day or so before we reach a place so we have a list of things to see, but the last few days I have not a lot of opportunity other than noting there were some waterfalls to check out.)

I discovered that there are two National Parks near Tobermoray: Bruce Peninsula and Five Fathoms Marine. Turns out Five Fathoms Marine National Park is the world’s best and most popular fresh water scuba diving site. There are 22 shipwrecks off the coast of Big Tub Harbour in the Georgian Bay and the water is crystal clear. About 20 small islands dot the waters and one of them is called Flowerpot Island after two dolomite formations on the shore. The Marine National Park protects the islands and if you want to visit Flowerpot you must book a tour from a private company that also collects the National Park fee. Thousands of people visit the area every year.

When we arrived in Tobermoray at 1:30 we immediately went to the ticket booth at Bruce Anchor to see if there were any available spots left on today’s tours. Luckily there were a couple of spots for the 3:35 sailing in a glass bottom boat that let you off for a couple of hours at Flowerpot Island so you could hike some of the trails.

It was a picture perfect day!

There was seating outside on top of the boat and that is where we sat. It was a good decision because we had awesome views of the two shipwrecks and the scenery as we sailed the 6.5 km to Flowerpot Island.

Both of the shipwrecks we saw are in the harbour. The first was damaged in bad storm but made it to safety. It was found to be too badly battered so they removed everything of use and let it sink. It is about 15′ below the surface of the water so our boat could go right over it. The captain did a slow 360° so everyone could see it.

The second one is not as deep so our boat could only get close to it. It was not as easy to see but is over 100′ long. A fire started in the ship and they towed it into the bay so it would not start any fires in town, but a storm blew it into the harbour where it burned and sank.

Big Tub Lighthouse.

We could see little islands on all sides of the boat as we made our way to Flowerpot.

The islands look like just trees, but there are some pretty large rocks hidden among them.

The lighthouse was manned for many years, but was eventually automated and the lightkeeper moved off island. The buildings were abandoned and deteriorated. A group of volunteers got together and worked to restore them.

The building on the left is now a museum, the building in the middle was the lightkeeper’s house and the building on the right was the assistant lightkeepers. The Friends of Bruce District Parks volunteers maintain the lightstation and which gives a sense of the lightkeepers lifestyle.

Flowerpot Light.

There are lots of caves scattered among the rocks on the island.

The Big Flowerpot and the Little Flowerpot.

Lots of people on the island. There are two companies that provide tours to the island. On some tours you sail out and then back and don’t leave the boat. Others will bring you out and leave you for four hours and others, like ours. leave you for about two hours. There are 6 campsites near Beachey Cove as well, but I don’t think they were available this year.

The Big Flowerpot

The formation at the top of the Big Flowerpot looks like a face and is called the Old Man. And it also proves that trees can grow almost anywhere!

It is suspected that the Little Flowerpot was once attached to the big rocks on the shore and created a cave or an arch, but that tides and erosion wore it down and it collapsed.

There is a nice protected harbour at Beachy Cove that is formed by a man-made breakwater.

Once we disembarked the boat we hiked along the trail that goes past both the flowerpots and all the way to the lightstation. The trail is a 3.5 km loop, but the section from the lightstation back to the harbour through the middle of the island is quite rugged and and has steep stairs. It is considered a difficult hike so most people walk the 1.1 km and then backtrack on the easy path.

The Little Flowerpot.

The Little Flowerpot has a pretty significant lean if you walk around the back side.

It is amazing that what looks just like a pile of rocks forms a tower that stays upright.

This is another of Bruce Anchors glass-bottom boats, but a much smaller one than we were on. Ours held close to 100 people.

We did not hike down to the Big Flowerpot. The path was quite steep and rocky. We were hoping to hike out to the lighthouse, but our boat left Tobermoray over half an hour late so that cut down our time on the island and we did not feel we had time to make it all the way there and back before we needed to be at the wharf for our return boat.

When we drove across Canada in 2014 it became my habit to sit in all the red chairs that had been set out in our National Parks. So, I needed to follow the tradition when we spotted these two chairs a bit further along the trail past the Big Flowerpot.

As we have been driving around in Central and Eastern Canada we have seen so many lovely stone and brick houses, both old and new. Usually I just admire them as we go by, but this one was very photo-worthy.

We thought we would drive around the countryside near Owen Sound, check out a few of the waterfalls I had noted and drive up to Tobermoray. That would have been a good day, but we very much enjoyed Plan B and our trip to Flowerpot Island instead!

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