Wondering what are the things to do in Tobermory in the summer? Maybe you’re planning to head there and want to make sure you don’t miss some of the stunning natural wonders that there are to see. You’re in the right place. I’ve been going to Tobermory just about every summer for the last decade, and have discovered all the attractions and the best ways and times to visit them.
Tourists flock to Tobermory every summer to see the beautiful, unique rock formations, the crystal-clear blue waters and the tropical vibe. Tobermory is popular in the summer for snorkelling, boat cruises, hiking, beaches and camping.
Tobermory is a small town of 4,000 but for the past few years, they’ve been receiving close to 400,000 tourists every summer (almost 100x their population!) Needless to say, it can get pretty busy in the summertime. Its best to know in advance what you hope to see and do in Tobermory and book things ahead of time so that you aren’t disappointed.
So, let’s jump in. Here are the best things to do in Tobermory in the summer, where and when to book them, and how to get the best experience.
Things To Do in Tobermory in Summer
Don’t miss these things during your visit to Tobermory in the summer. Between stunning natural beauty, the best fish and chips around, Tobermory is truly a gem in Ontario.
1. Indian Head Cove
Indian Head Cove is one of the most picturesque places in Tobermory, and has recently been named one of the top 50 beaches in North America. To get to the Indian Head Cove, you must make a reservation to park in the Grotto parking lot online. From the parking lot, you can hike to the Indian Head Cove Beach, as well as the Grotto.
Keep in mind that the Grotto and Indian Head Cove are highly popular and extremely busy on summer weekends. Get your reservations in soon to avoid missing out.
2. Walk along Little Tub Harbour
Little Tub harbour is also known as Tobermory harbour and it’s where all the ‘action’ is in town: hotels, shops, restaurants, cafés, a dive shop, and a marina with a seawall to walk along.
Take some time to walk around Little Tub harbour and take in the setting. Check out the marina, take a walk along the seawall (don’t forget your camera, the view are gorgeous), visit shops, and grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants.
Little Tub Harbour is beautiful and touristy, and you spend a good 1-2 hours walking around and checking out everything, plus more time for a nice meal.
Good to know: There are two “Tub” harbours in Tobermory: Big Tub and Little Tub. Little Tub is the walkable touristy area, Big Tub is mostly residential but has shipwrecks and a lighthouse that can be viewed from a cruise
Parking at Little Tub Harbour can be a challenge as there are a limited number of spots, with a 2-hour time limit. Another solution is to stay somewhere within walking distance of Little Tub Harbour. There are a few hotels located right in the harbour, or within a 5-minute walk.
Places to Stay in or around Little Tub Harbour
- Bruce Anchor Motel is just a 5 minute walk to the harbour, and also conveniently close to the Bruce Anchor Cruise boarding area. I’ve stayed here personally and enjoy the convenience of not needing a car most of the time
- Stone Cove Waterfront B&B is an adult-only bed and breakfast just 2 km from Tobermory Harbour, tucked away in nature with lake views
- Escarpment Heights Motel is a less than 10-minute walk to the harbour, and in a secluded area surrounded by natural beauty
2. Sail on one of the best Tobermory cruises
Both, Blue Heron and Bruce Anchor cruises:
- Have glass bottom boats, which means there’s a very small part of the ship that has a glass bottom that allows you to look down at the floor of the lake
- Destinations include Big Tub Harbour to see the shipwreck and lighthouse, and Flowerpot Island
- Have both indoor and outdoor seating options
- Leave three times a day, morning, early afternoon and late afternoon
- Are under 2 hours long
- Allow online booking
- Fill up fast, so you should book for the date you want as soon as possible
- Have a fairly strict cancellation policy of (24 hours with Blue Heron, and 48 hours with Bruce Anchor) so keep that in mind
- Are pet friendly (with some restrictions)
Tobermory Wave is another boat tour in Tobermory, which leaves from Little Tub Harbour. They don’t have glass bottoms, but unlike with Blue Heron and Bruce Anchor, you get to see the grotto as well. So if you want to see the grotto in addition to Flowerpot Island, and the Sweepstakes shipwreck from a boat in one tour, then they’re a good option for that.
With Tobermory Wave, an adult ticket is $70. They do have a 3-day cancellation policy, so keep this in mind when you book.
Click here for more information on the different Tobermory cruise options.
3. Discover Flowerpot Island
Flowerpot Island is known for its large flowerpot shaped rock formations, its caves and unique flora and fauna. Your options for seeing Flowerpot Island are:
- Seeing the shoreline from taking boat cruise (if you book a stay-on cruise)
- Spending a few hours hiking on Flowerpot island (if you book a drop-off cruise)
- Camping on Flowerpot Island
If you’d like to spend a few hours hiking and exploring Flowerpot Island, you’ll need to book a “DROP OFF” cruise option with either Bruce Anchor or Blue Heron. This will give you three hours on Flowerpot Island to hike, swim, picnic and admire the impressive, one of a kind rock flowerpot rock stacks, the beach and the caves on the island.
Things to Keep in Mind about Flowerpot Island:
- There are no amenities on Flowerpot Island: no food, no electricity, running water or garbage cans. Bring lots of water with you, and bring all garbage back with you
- There are washrooms, but only compost washrooms
- Flowerpot Island is a sensitive piece of nature that they are working hard to preserve, so leave it better than you found it.
Camping on Flowerpot Island
Camping on Flowerpot Island is a unique camping experience for those up for an adventure. You pitch your own tent, and fall asleep under the starry sky to the sounds of the Georgian bay lakes crashing onto the rocky shore. Since Flowerpot Island is apart of the Fathom Five National Marine Park, camping there has to be booked through Parks Canada. You can get to Flowerpot Island by booking one of the cruises through Bruce Anchor or Blue Heron; just make sure you book your return trip for the date you want to return to Tobermory mainland
4. Snorkel with Diver’s Den
Tobermory is known as the scuba diving capital of Canada, because of the crystal-clear waters and shipwrecks – there are over 20 shipwrecks off the coast of Tobermory. Some can be seen from a boat or the shore, like the Sweepstakes ship (pictured below) but others are further away from the coast and can be explored from diving.
Diver’s Den Snorkel Tour
If you choose to snorkel with Diver’s Den, then they will take you to see the Sweepstakes shipwreck, which I can tell you is one of the coolest shipwreck’s around. (I’ve dove half a dozen of the Tobermory shipwrecks by now, but I still always look forward to exploring Sweepstakes again.) Even though the top of the ship is only about 5 ft from the water’s surface, its so well in tact and also looks much bigger when you’re in the water with it.
Diver’s Den snorkel packages are 2 hours long and depart daily at 2pm and 4pm. The $85 + HST fee includes all the snorkel gear.
Things to Keep in Mind about Diver’s Den Snorkel Tours:
- Snorkel tours are subject to cancellation if weather doesn’t cooperate
- You must be able to tread in deep water in order to participate in the snorkel tour
5. Learn to Scuba Dive
I’ve been scuba diving with Diver’s Den almost every summer since 2015, and have nothing but positive things to say about them. Whether you’re learning to dive, or are a certified diver joining one of their tours, you’ll have a positive experience with their instructors and will see some of the most amazing sights underwater.
I’ve taken a few scuba diving refresher courses with Divers Den, and have brought a couple people to Tobermory to take a PADI Open Water Diver course – both had great experience. The instruction at Diver’s Den is supportive and friendly. You feel supported, well-prepared for diving in freshwater and exploring shipwrecks, which is a diving skill in itself.
The shipwrecks and clear water are a big reason to dive in Tobermory. I’ve only been to 5 out of 20 of Tobermory’s shipwrecks, and hope to see them all one day.
6. Big Tub Lighthouse
Tobermory’s main lighthouse is in Big Tub Harbour. Its an active lighthouse built in 1885 and still used today. You’ll get a great view of the lighthouse from any of the boat cruises that travel into Big Tub.
Another way to see the Tobermory lighthouse is to go to the viewing platform of the Bruce Anchor cruise boarding area. The exact address for this viewing platform is 7480 Hwy 6, Tobermory. Its a 5-10 minute walk from Little Tub Harbour.
If you want to stay in Big Tub Harbour, check out Big Tub Harbour Resort. Big Tub Harbour is mostly residential, but this is the one hotel located in this harbour.
7. Explore Fathom Five National Marine Park
Fathom Five National Marine Park covers most of the body of water surrounding Tobermory. If you’re visiting Flowerpot Island, the dive site at Little Tub and Big Tub Harbour, or any of the other dive sites in the area, then you’d be in the Fathom Five National Marine Park.
This means that if you go snorkeling, scuba diving or take a boat cruise, you’d be entering the Fathom Five park area. Don’t be taken aback if you’re asked to pay for a park pass in addition to the ticket to one of these activities – this is totally normal. Diver’s Den or the boat cruise company you choose can charge you for the pass, or you can buy your park pass online ahead of time.
However, there is a way to explore the Fathom Five National Marine park without having to book a cruise or go diving. From the Little Tub Harbour, if you keep walking along the seawall, past Coconut Joe’s restaurant, you’ll be able to look out onto the clear turquoise coloured lake. This is area is called “The Tuggs” and there are two shipwrecks located in that area.
If you keep walking along the seawall at Little Tub Harbour, you will eventually find a dock to your left. This dock is often used by scuba divers to get into the water. At the top of that dock is a compost washroom which is well maintained.
Both the dock, and the path along the shoreline are great places to view and get beautiful photos of the turquoise-coloured water.
Keep in mind:
- This may not be safe when the tide is stronger
- The water can get quite deep
- Scuba divers from Diver’s Den use this area to shore-dive, so be mindful that you’ll need to be out of their way if needed
- The water temperature is quite cold, especially from May-July. I wouldn’t expect to swim for a long time here without a wetsuit
8. Swim at Little Cove Beach
Little Cove Beach is a gorgeous little beach less than 10 mins drive from Little Tub harbour. Like the visitor centre, you do not need a reservation. Instead, the parking is first-come first serve. Little Cove Beach is rocky; the rocks vary in size, but many of them can be up to fist-sized. Wear runners or water shoes to prevent slips and trips.
Things to Keep in mind about Little Cove Beach:
- Like any other Tobermory attraction in the summer, Little Cove parking fills up quickly, so you’ll want to get here as early as you can.
- The water temperature is on the older side, with an average hovering below 20 °C, even in late July. Tobermory water may look tropical, but it doesn’t feel like it temperature wise.
9. Check out Halfway Log Dump
As long as you don’t let the funny name discourage you, Halfway Log dump is another beautiful beach along the Niagara Escarpment. There are some really neat rectangular-shaped rock formations and Like anywhere else in Tobermory, it looks onto a view of beautiful turquoise waters out into the horizon.
Halfway Log Dump is less crowded than the Grotto, Little Cove Beach and Flowerpot Island, but reservations are still needed if you wish to park here anytime between June17 and September 5th. You can make the reservation through Parks Canada.
Hiking to Halfway Log Dump
If you’re looking for another way to get to Halfway Log Dump, there is a (somewhat challenging) trail leading from the Grotto to the Halfway Log dump beach, so if you’re a confident hiker, this might be a good option. The Grotto to Halfway Log Dump trail is goes along the shoreline and is apart of the Bruce Trail. Its quite rocky and is over 7 kms long, which is why I’d suggest being an experienced hiker and with decent hiking shoes.
Things to Keep in mind about Halfway Log Dump:
- Halfway Log Dump is a pebble beach, so walking on it barefoot isn’t recommended
- Dropping people off at Halfway Log Dump to avoid the parking isn’t recommended; you need a valid permit in order to enter the park at all.
10. Sunbathe at Singing Sands Beach
Singing Sands is is a 10km car drive south of Tobermory. The water is very shallow. Even if you walk out 500m into the water, it will still only go up to your knees. Its a nice attraction in Tobermory for exploring the shore line, as its the only sandy beach in town. It also has walking trails and picnic benches.
However, Singing Sands isn’t a great beach for people who actually want to swim. If you hope to swim, I wouldn’t recommend Singing Sands.
However, if you want to lie on a towel, or even walk along the wooden walking trail which passes by orchids and other plants that are unique to the Great Lakes region, then visiting Singing Sands might be worth it. Singing Sands is also perfect for people visiting Tobermory with young children.
Similar to other destinations in Tobermory, it’s crazy busy to get here on summer weekends. Parking is first-come first-serve, and by mid-day on a weekend in the summer, it’ll be full. Make sure you’re up early and ready to go to get a parking spot. If you can arrive before 9 am, you should be able to get a spot, even on a summer weekend.
11. Hike and swim at the Grotto
The Grotto is a sea cave with shallow turquoise water. The rock formations of the cave are unique for the area and very picturesque. You can swim there and get amazing photos. The Grotto is the most popular tourist attraction in Tobermory, and also one of the top tourist attractions in Ontario, so you can expect it to be busy and competitive to get a parking spot.
To visit the Grotto, you need to book a parking pass through Parks Canada (the same one you would use to go to Indian Head Cove) if your visit will fall anytime between April 30th and October 31st.
Once you’re in the Grotto parking lot, it’s about a 20-minute walk to the Grotto. The walk from the parking lot to the grotto is easy, and will take you through a forestry area. Some parts of the walk are right up against the shoreline so you can get a view of the water.
To climb down into the Grotto, you need to use your whole body to climb down rocks that are large and uneven.
Good To Know: The hike down to the area where you swim at the Grotto is also very slippery as the rocks are wet. Good running shoes are needed.
12. Take the ferry to Manitoulin Island
You can take the ferry to Manitoulin Island right from the main harbour in Tobermory. The ferry to is called the MS Chi-cheeman, and you can book your tickets online. It takes 2 hours to take the ferry from the Tobermory Harbour to arrive at South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island.
Manitoulin Island is known for being the world’s largest freshwater island. Its also has interesting history attached to it because it has indigenous settlements, and was also the location of the first European settlers in Canada.
Like Tobermory, Manitoulin Island is surrounded by beautiful clear water. There are unique rock formations along the shoreline, nature reserves, waterfalls, hiking trails, and also some museums, small towns and restaurants. You could spend a few hours on Manitoulin Island, or you could stay overnight. Camping on Manitoulin Island (trailers, tents or cottages) is very popular.
If you’re bringing your vehicle on the ferry (which I’d recommend, as the towns are pretty spread out) then they you will need the dimensions of your vehicle (length, width and height) at the time of booking, and the cost to take the MS Chi-cheeman will depend on that.
How much Does it Cost to Take the Ferry to Manitoulin Island?
It costs about $36 per person to ride the ferry, and roughly the same amount for a standard size car to go across. So, the cost for 2 people to with their car would be $108 plus taxes.
13. Go kayaking in Little Tub Harbour
What better place to kayak is there than Tobermory, where the water is so clear you can almost see down to the bottom? Kayaking in this location allows you to kayak overtop of the shipwrecks in Little Tub Harbour
A great place to kayak is right in Little Tub Harbour, at On the Water Kayaks. You can do their single kayak for $30.00/hour or their tandem kayak option for $40/hour.
14. Try the best fish and chips in town
Being a harbour town, Tobermory’s a great spot to grab good quality fish and chips. While I don’t eat meat myself, my husband is picky about his fish and chips and has never been disappointed in Tobermory.
Some of the best places to grab fish and chips (according to my husband) are Shipwreck Lee’s, and the Crowsnest.
15. Catch a breathtaking sunset
Go to the same viewing platform that I mentioned you could get a good view of the Big Tub Lighthouse during the day, at 7480 Hwy 6, Tobermory. Its a 5-10 minute walk from Little Tub Harbour.
When you come at the right time at dusk, you can see the most beautiful sunset with the lighthouse in view. You will see other people gathered here to watch the sunset too, but there’s plenty of room. The stairs leading down to the boat boarding area provide a lot of space for people to sit and watch.
16. Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park Visitor Centre
The two national parks in the area have a visitor centre you can visit to book tickets and get interesting information on the area. This visitor centre is a government building near town and sells souvenirs, guides, and postcards and provides information about the natural wonders of the national parks.
What most people don’t know is that there is a little hiking area from the visitor centre that leads to Little Dunks Bay lookout, which gives you a beautiful view of the lake. The hike is about a 12 minute walk, and fairly easy.
Insider Tip: did you know that there was a lookout tower at the visitor centre? It took me several visits to Tobermory before I realized this. 113 stairs up, and you have a beautiful, panoramic view of the Bruce Peninsula and and blue Georgian bay.
Parking at the visitor centre is first come first served. Its about a 6-minute drive from Tobermory harbour, or a 20 minute walk.
17. Dunk’s Bay Lookout
Dunk’s Bay Lookout can be accessed from the visitor centre in town. You can park at the visitor centre, and then walk there in about 12 minutes to get to the lookout. The cove is quite small, but its sandy, which isn’t super common for beach is Tobermory. Its a popular place to bring children.
Tobermory Day Tours from Toronto
Want to skip the driving, and be able to sit back and relax on a day trip to Tobermory while seeing some of the most beautiful sights? Here are some of the best tours
- Full Day Tour to Tobermory and Flowerpot Island Take a private tour with a guide that includes a 3-course meal, and a boat cruise
- Tobermory and Flowerpot Island Bus Tour Hop on a bus with a professional guide that will take you to Tobermory and on a glass bottom boat cruise to Flowerpot Island. Lunch included
More Places to Stay in Tobermory
Wanting to stay in town to give yourself more time to see everything? If you’re ok with staying a little bit outside of the Tobermory harvour, these are some great options that bring you close to nature and some of the attractions
- Tobermory Lighthouse Cottage Stay in a multi-room cottage only 6 km from the Tobermory Harbour. Perfect for families, or large groups.
- The Cedar Vista Motel Only 10 minutes into town, the Cedar Vista has outdoor picnic areas and is close to some of Tobermory’s best restaurants. Its sound-proof rooms make it a good option for those looking for a good sleep while in town
- Coach House Inn With a restaurant and swimming pool on-site, Coach House Inn is a great option for those who are want to be close to the main harbour area, but have lots of perks on-site as well
- Escarpment Heights Motel Whether you’re looking for rooms or cottages tucked away in a more private area of town, but still close enough (10 minutes) to walk to the Harbour – then check out Escarpment Heights
- Stone Cove Waterfront B&B If you want a tranquil, adults-only experience 2 km from Tobermory Harbour, then check out Stone Cove
Things to do NEAR Tobermory
Staying in the Tobermory area and wondering what are other things there are to do near Tobermory or on the way to Tobermory? Here are some day trips from Tobermory to consider.
Owen Sound area and waterfalls
Owen Sound is the closest ‘city’ to Tobermory, and about 1 hour and 20 minutes away. Owen Sound is an artsy city, with a variety of restaurants; but my favourite thing about Owen Sound is its proximity nature; hiking and several waterfalls.
Wiarton is a cute little town about 50 mins south of Tobermory. It’s home to Wiarton Willy, the groundhog who determines every year if spring will come early or not.There’s a statue commemorating this groundhog on the beach. Wiarton has a nice main strip with restaurants, cafés and some accommodations.
Sauble beach is a 1 hour drive from Tobermory. Its a large sandy beach and popular for ages. There’s a busy strip with restaurants and accommodations, and there’s also camping nearby as well.
Places to Stay NEAR Tobermory
Check out these places outside of Tobermory, but close enough to visit Tobermory and other beautiful areas in the Bruce Peninsula in the summmer.
- Tobermory Peaceful Quiet Cottage If you enjoyed the log-home style and a balcony overlooking the lake, you might be interested in this quiet and cozy cottage, located on Miller Lake, just 20 km from Tobermory
- Grotto Getaway is located 30 km from Tobermory on Miller Lake, and features teepee style tents for a luxury ‘glamping’ experience.
- Bear Track’s Inn, home to Bear Track’s in restaurant on-site, this hotel is particularly popular with couples and is the perfect location for hiking on the Bruce Trail.
- Tamarac Island Inn features waterfront villas, cottages and rooms on an island off the coast of the Bruce Peninsula. Perfect location for those who want to hike, fish, spot wildlife and see the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises
Conclusion: Things to Do in Tobermory in the Summer
Tobermory is truly a gem in Ontario that we’re lucky to have. The Tobermory attractions are perfect for people wanting to explore Ontario’s natural beauty and a small town harbour on a beautiful freshwater lake. There are plenty of things to do in Tobermory in the summer, especially if you love the outdoors and appreciate Ontario’s natural beauty.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Tobermory in the Summer
When visiting Tobermory, remember to treat this pristine location responsibly, so that we can enjoy the crystal-clear waters for years to come!