Tips for Camping at Bruce Peninsula National Park
Crystal clear beaches with unbelievably blue waters, plus scenic hikes and lush green forests. Could this be Canada?! Better yet, is this gem only a road trip away from Toronto?! No one knows quite like Canadians just how precious summer days are and this summer everyone seems to be talking about Tobermory and the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario. So for anyone looking to explore the great outdoors and enjoy more than just a patio, here's everything you need to know about camping at Bruce Peninsula National Park this summer.
Why Bruce Peninsula?
After six months in Mexico, Wes and I returned to Canada determined to keep the adventure going all summer long. All it took was one photo of the blue waters at Bruce Peninsula for us to plan a camping trip up north with friends to celebrate Wes' birthday. As with most trips, we planned very little, packed up our bags and were excited for an adventure. There's been a pretty big spike in interest at the park over the years so this has definitely become a popular destination in Ontario, especially during the summer months. If you like road trips and camping as much as we do, here are some of our tips to help you enjoy the great outdoors at Bruce Peninsula National Park.
The easiest way to get to Bruce Peninsula National Park is by car. If you don't have one available I would consider renting one as it adds to the road trip/camping experience and, when split between a group, is still pretty affordable. The park is 4 hours from Toronto and through very scenic farms and countryside. Take highway 10 and then continue North on highway 6 until you've reached the park entrance at Cyprus Lake Road. The speed limit on these highways is between 70 and 80 km/hour so you're pretty much forced to sit back and enjoy the ride!
For those who don't have access to a vehicle, Greyhound buses do run from Toronto to Owen Sound but that's still about an hour away from the park.
We camped at Bruce Peninsula National Park for two nights. The park has over 200 campsites divided between 3 campgrounds: Tamarack, Poplars and Birches. We were lucky to get a spot at Poplars near Cyprus Lake and it was beautiful. If you can get a spot close to Cyprus Lake, book it. The site was $23.75 per night plus an online booking fee. We had 2 picnic tables, one fire pit and access to potable water taps. Washrooms were also nearby but there were no showers available at the park. The park doesn't have any serviced sites either and cell reception is poor once you're off the main road.
So maybe you're not a huge camping person and prefer to sleep under a roof where there's more of a guarantee that you'll be warm, dry and safe from them bears. I don't blame you but don't rule out Bruce Peninsula just yet! Though camping is the most affordable way to spend the night, there are plenty of options indoors as well.
The next time we visit the park, I'm booking a yurt. We drove by Cyprus Lake to see them before leaving and they look like the perfect choice for beginner campers or anyone who wants to be close to the lake without having to mess with camping gear. More information about yurts and reservations can be found here.
If you want to enjoy the park and rent a cottage for your group/family, check for rentals in Tobermory, Wiarton, around Lion's Head and Miller Lake.
Things To Do
The list is long! You could easily spend an entire week camping at Bruce Peninsula National Park with a different activity to tackle each day. Our favourite? The FREE things to do. After setting up camp on our first day, we drove to Tobermory to explore the town. There are plenty of cute shops around Little Tub Harbour and in town you'll see a couple of different companies offering tours to the Flower Pot Island. The glass bottom boat tours are a bit pricey ($30ish) but they take you to the island and to visit some of the many shipwrecks around the peninsula. We spent the rest of our first day enjoying the shallow waters of Cyprus Lake and watched a beautiful sunset from the shores.
The next day we planned a birthday hike for Wes and there's no shortage of trails here! We decided to start along the Marr Lake Trail visiting Boulder Beach and then the Overhanging Point. The entrance to the lower part of Overhanging Point is quite hidden and we struggled going down (and coming up) but it was worth the unique experience. Afterwards we admired the waters around The Grotto and even swam at the beach by Indian Cove. The trails were marked and easy enough but definitely bring hiking boots or at least running shoes if you're planning to cover a lot of ground in the park.
Aside from camping and hiking, there are tons of boat and fishing tours offered in town and a variety of places renting bikes, canoes and even paddle boards.
Where To Eat
The best place to eat would be your campsite, right? But if your cooler is empty and you're on the hunt for food, there are plenty of options in Tobermory around Little Tub Harbour. That's where you'll find coffee shops, ice cream parlours, diners, an LCBO and a selection of restaurants like Shipwreck Lee's that serves all you can eat fish and chips for $15! Foodland is the main grocery store in this part of town and we stopped here from some camping essentials like marshmallows, firewood and ice.
Things to Note
- Don't be stupid! People have legit died swimming at the Grotto so take the warning signs seriously and avoid cliff jumping among other things. The waters can get extremely cold and the waves are unpredictable.
- Bruce Peninsula National Park and the other camp grounds nearby are all family friendly and some even limit camping to families only. If you're in a group of twenty-somethings, keep in mind that things like loud music and all night partying probably won't be tolerated.
- We found the park officers/rangers to be pretty strict and we were warned when they noticed we were using non-local firewood that had been left behind at our site by other campers. They were constantly patrolling the grounds to make sure coolers and garbage were properly stored and were threatening to issue fines for those who had collected fallen wood for their campfire.
- The only place in the park where alcohol is permitted is on your campsite. Though it's not allowed along the trails or by the lake, we did see plenty of people with full coolers and travel mugs for their um... coffee? Also noteworthy, there is a full alcohol ban at the park for all long weekends during the summer.
- One of the most notable downsides of camping at Bruce Peninsula National Park is the fact that it gets quite busy. Camp sites fill up on weekends and people are visiting the park all summer long. So if you're looking for a place to avoid crowds altogether, this might not be the ideal getaway for some peace and quiet.
- Because of the crowds, we had to switch campsites during our stay and at our second site we noticed lots and lots of stubborn mosquitoes that lingered despite our repellent. If you're camping at Bruce Peninsula, definitely bring bug spray or some sage to burn and repel them the natural way.
- If you're planning a day-trip during the summer, keep in mind that cars are frequently turned away once the parking lots fill up. Avoid weekends if you can, arrive early to get a spot and keep your fingers crossed!
All in all we had the best time camping at Bruce Peninsula National Park and we hope you do too!