You might be wondering, what are things to do in Tobermory with kids, and is Tobermory kid-friendly? If so, you’ve come to the right place. I’m a mom of 2 and have been going to Tobermory almost every summer with kids for the past decade. This means I’ve brought kids of different age groups; I’ve been to Tobermory with babies, toddlers and older kids. Whether you’re looking for family-friendly places to stay in the area with kids, or the most best restaurants, I’ve got you covered.
Tobermory currently receives 400,000 tourists every summer (almost 100x their population) to see the beautiful, unique rock formations, the crystal-clear blue waters and the tropical vibe. Tobermory is popular for snorkelling, boat cruises, hiking, beaches and camping. Whether you’re in Tobermory for 1 day or 1 week, there is plenty to do in the area with kids.
Here are the best things to do in Tobermory with kids, and the age group they’d d be best for.
16 Things To Do in Tobermory with Kids
1. Swim at Indian Head Cove
Indian Head Cove is a stunning limestone beach with clear water that you can swim in. The water can be cold, even in the summertime, so I recommend lots of towels, wetsuits or something cozy to warm up in after you get out of the water.
Indian Head Cove is connected to the same parking lot as the Grotto, so you’ll need a reservation for the Grotto parking lot which you can make online. Be sure to book in advance, as the area is highly sought-after and especially busy on summer weekends.
Good to Know: When you visit the Parks Canada Reservation Site, click on the “day use” tab, select Parking Bruce Peninsula – find your date, and Select the Grotto Parking.
2. Walk along Little Tub Harbour
Little Tub Harbour is also known as Tobermory harbour and it’s where all the ‘action’ is: hotels, shops, restaurants, a marina and a seawall to walk along.
Take some time to walk around Little Tub harbour with kids. Check out the marina, watch the boats come in, and even feed the ducks at the boat launch. Visit souvenir shops, book stores and small businesses that sell other unique items. Grab a bite at one of the kid-friendly restaurants, or an ice cream cone. You could spend a good 1-2 hours enjoying Little Tub Harbour.
Good to know: To avoid confusion, it’s good to know that 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
2. Sail on one of the best Tobermory cruises
There are three boat cruise companies in Tobermory that you can do in 2 hours or less. The three main boat cruise companies in Tobermory you’ll have to choose between are Bruce Anchor, Blue Heron and Tobermory Wave.
Both, Blue Heron and Bruce Anchor cruises:
- Have glass bottom boats, which means there’s a very small part of the ship that allows you to look down at the floor of the lake and even see fish
- Destinations include Big Tub Harbour to see the 1800s shipwreck and lighthouse, and Flowerpot Island
- Have both indoor and outdoor seating options (I liked this option so I could sit in a shaded area with my toddler)
- Leave three times a day, morning, early afternoon and late afternoon
- Can fill up during peak season, so you should book for the date you want whenever you know which days you’ll be in Tobermory
- Have a fairly strict cancellation policy of (24 hours with Blue Heron, and 48 hours with Bruce Anchor) so keep that in mind
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, and you think your kids are ok in the boat for 2 ½ hours – this might be the one for you.
Tip: Heading to Tobermory from Toronto with kids 7+? Consider this bus day tour which includes a coach bus from the city, lunch, a glass-bottom boat tour, and Flowerpot Island
3. Discover Flowerpot Island
Flowerpot Island is known for its gorgeous, flowerpot shaped rock formations. They are unlike any other rock formations you’ll see.
To explore Flowerpot Island, you’ll need to book a “drop off” cruise option with 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. There are also caves that you can explore on Flowerpot Island.
Things to Keep in Mind about Flowerpot Island:
- There are no amenities on Flowerpot Island: no food, no electricity or garbage cans. You should bring lots of water and snacks with you (as well as prepare to bring garbage back with you)
- There are washrooms, but they are compost washrooms.
- Age range to hike on Flowerpot Island: we would say 5+, because of it not being stroller friendly; you’re there for a long time and the uneven terrain. But parents have done it with younger, you just need to be prepared for the strenuous hike while potentially holding a child, the lack of shade in some areas and lack of amenities
- Flowerpot Island is a sensitive piece of nature that they are working hard to preserve, so please leave it better than you found it.
4. Go on a snorkel adventure with Diver’s Den
Tobermory is one of the best places to snorkel, because of the shipwrecks. Diver’s Den takes you to the Sweepstakes, which as a scuba diver, I can tell you is one of the coolest shipwrecks around.
The top of the Sweepstakes ship is only about 5 ft from the water’s surface, so you can see the whole vessel very clearly. Kids would be fascinated to see this 1800s shipwreck, and it would be an experience they’d remember forever.
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.
Keep in mind:
- Snorkel tours are subject to cancellation if weather doesn’t cooperate
- Age range: 10+ years old. Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by an adult
- Anyone snorkeling must be able to tread in deep water
- You must arrive at Diver’s Den one hour before your snorkel tour
5. Swim at Little Cove Beach
Little Cove Beach is less than 10 mins drive from Little Tub harbour. Like the visitor centre, you do not need a reservation. The parking is first-come first serve.
Little Cove Beach is safe enough to swim with close supervision with an adult. It’s still rocky, so I’d recommend water shoes to prevent slipping, and definitely lifejackets and floaties for younger kids or unconfident swimmers.
Keep in mind:
- 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.
6. Enjoy nature at Singing Sands Beach
Singing Sands is is a 10km car drive south of Tobermory. The beach is very shallow; even if you walk out 500m into the water, it will still only go up to your knees. Its not a great beach for people who want to actually swim, but its a nice attraction for exploring the shore line. It also has walking trails and picnic benches.
There is also a walking trail along a wooden boardwalk which passes by orchids and other plants that are unique to the Great Lakes region.
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.
There is a large washroom building on site, and there are several picnic tables.
7. Check out Halfway Log Dump
As long as you don’t let the name discourage you, Halfway Log dump is a nice beach along the Niagara Escarpment. Like anywhere else in Tobermory, it looks onto a view of beautiful turquoise waters out into the horizon. It’s less crowded than the Grotto and Flowerpot Island, but reservations are still needed.
Similar to the Grotto, you need a reservation from Parks Canada in order to park here anytime between June17 and September 5th. 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.
Good to Know: Halfway Log Dump is a pebble beach, so water shoes or sandals are needed
8. Hike and swim at the Grotto
The Grotto is the top attraction in Tobermory, and also one of the top tourist attractions in Ontario, so expect it to be busy!
You need to book a parking pass through Parks Canada to visit the Grotto anytime between April 30th and October 31st. Reservations for the 2023 season open on March 21st, 2023 at 8 am. The reservation link can be found here.
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.
Keep in mind:
- The hike down to the area where you swim at the Grotto is also very slippery as the rocks are wet. Bring good footwear
- Age range: we would say that children should be at least 6+ years old to climb down into the grotto, because of the large rocks and the maneuvering that you need to, but you will know best about your child’s abilities and comfort level. You can still park at the Grotto, and view it from the cliffs without having to climb down.
9. Eat at Shipwreck Lee’s
There are lots of good places to eat with kids in Tobermory; the Crowsnest and Pharos in particular, are very family-friendly.
But Shipwreck Lee’s deserves a special mention, because of the decked-out pirate theme. The whole restaurant is made to look like you’re on a pirate ship, even the staff are dressed as pirates! You and your kids are both sure to get a kick out of this. Shipwreck Lee’s is famous for their mouth-watering fish and chips, onion rings, fries and deep-friend pickles.
Good to Know: There are now two Shipwreck Lee’s locations in Tobermory, but the only one with kids’ meals is the one on Little Tub Harbour
10. Take the ferry to Manitoulin Island
Manitoulin Island is special because its the world’s largest freshwater island. Its also has interesting history attached to it; settlements for indigenous people, and some of the first European settlers in Canada. Manitoulin Island also a great location for viewing the Northern Lights. You can go to Manitoulin for the day, or overnight for a few days.
The ferry to Manitoulin island is called the MS Chi-cheeman, and you can book it online. It takes 2 hours to take the ferry from the Tobermory Harbour to Manitoulin island. You could spend a day on Manitoulin island, or you could stay overnight. Camping on Manitoulin Island is popular, but there are are also hotels too.
You have the option of taking your car on the MS Chi-cheeman, or going on your own. However, we’d strongly recommend bringing your car to Manitoulin Island. Once you get off the ferry on Manitoulin, its a few kilometres before you reach anything, and the towns and sights to see are fairly spread out. The cost to bring your car with you is roughly the same as the cost for an adult ticket (roughly $35 CDN) but it depends on the dimensions of your vehicle, which you’ll give at the time of booking.
11. Go kayaking
What better place to kayak is there than Tobermory, where the water is so clear you can almost see down to the bottom?
A great place to kayak is right in Little Tub Harbour, at On the Water Kayaks. With kids, you can do their tandem kayak option for $40/hour.
Keep in mind: As of March 2023, we’re unsure of the specific age requirement for On The Water kayaks, and will update this soon.
FREE things to do in Tobermory with Kids
Most attractions in Tobermory cost money, even if its just the parking pass required to visit them. However, here are some of the things to do with kids that won’t cost you a dime.
12. Play at the small playground
The small playground is located at Nicholas st and Highway 6 is one of my favourite things to do with little ones in Tobermory.
It’s close enough to walk here from Little Tub Harbour (5-10 mins) and it also has plenty of parking along the street. Las Chulas restaurant is right across the street – you can grab a burrito and a coffee, and then come here to play.
The playground would be fine for all ages, although its probably best suited to younger children.
13. Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park Visitor Centre
This visitor centre is a government building near town and sells souvenirs, guides, and postcards and provides information.
What most people don’t know is that there is a little hiking area here that leads to Little Dunks Bay lookout, which gives you a beautiful view of the lake. The walk is easy and family-friendly.
Parking at the visitor centre is first come first served.
14. Jump into the crystal-clear water
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-style washroom which is well maintained.
Anyone is welcome to jump into the water from this dock. You can see shipwrecks underwater if you’re snorkeling.
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 is quite cold, especially from May-July. I wouldn’t expect to swim for a long time here without a wetsuit
15. Catch a breathtaking sunset
Go to the boarding area of Bruce Anchor Cruises to see a beautiful view of the lake, with a lighthouse. This is pretty during the day, but at sunset, its quite the beautiful view which my photo does not do justice.
The exact address for this viewing platform is 7480 Hwy 6, Tobermory. Its a 5-10 minute walk from Little Tub Harbour. 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.
Where to Stay in Tobermory with Kids
Here are some of the best places in town to stay as a family.
- Bruce Anchor Motel My favourite thing about staying at the Bruce Anchor that you don’t need a car most of the time. Its a 3-minute walk into Little Tub Harbour. The rooms are comfy, with AC and a flat screen TV, and its a stone’s throw from an area to catch the great sunset
- Cedar Vista Motel This hotel is about a 3-minute drive from Little Tub Harbour, but across the street from several restaurants, with picnic tables to enjoy your food outside at. Cedar Vista is also very close to attractions like The Grotto, or Little Dunks Bay lookout
- Escarpment Heights Motel This place is the best of both words – tucked away in a more private area, but less than 10-minute walk from Little Tub Harbour. Spacious rooms with AC and flat screen TV
For a more family-friendly accommodations in Tobermory, click here.
FAQ: Things to Do in Tobermory with Kids
Below are some frequently asked questions about Tobermory to give you an insider-insight on things to do, when to visit, and how long to stay.
How can I spend a day in Tobermory?
To spend one day in Tobermory, choose between either a morning hike to the Grotto in the OR a boat cruise to Flowerpot island. Then in the afternoon, get a bite to eat in Little Tub harbour, and spend some time walking around there. Admire the marina, seawall and the little shops on the way.
Which beach is best for kids in Tobermory?
The best beach for kids in Tobermory is the Halfway Log Dump
What are the best Tobermory cruises?
The best cruises in Tobermory are Bruce Anchor and Blue Heron. They have glass-bottoms, and some shade, and can be done in under 2 hours.
What are things to do in winter in Tobermory?
One winter activity in Tobermory is snowshoeing to the Grotto. Since this is during off-season, you don’t have to worry about paying for parking.
Conclusion: Things to Do in Tobermory with Kids
Tobermory is truly a gem in Ontario that we’re lucky to have. The Tobermory attractions are perfect for school-age kids. Bringing your kids here will be an experience they’re likely to remember for a long time.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Tobermory with Kids
When visiting Tobermory with kids, remember to treat this pristine location responsibly, so that we can enjoy the crystal-clear waters for years to come!