Tobermory boat cruise

Tobermory Cruise with a Baby or Toddler (2023)

Heading to Tobermory this summer, and wanting to take a Tobermory boat cruise with a baby or toddler? You’re in the right place! Boat tours in Tobermory, when well planned, are a fun thing to do with kids of any age – including babies and toddlers. 

Boat cruises are a main attraction in Tobermory, because they bring visitors to the famous Flowerpot Island, the Sweepstakes 1800s shipwreck, the Grotto, Niagara escarpment coastline, and other natural local wonders.

Going on cruises and travelling with a toddler can present some unique challenges to babies and older kids, so its best to be prepared.

Tobermory boat cruise with my baby
Boarding the Bruce Anchor vessel

There are three companies that offer boat cruises in Tobermory; Blue Heron, Bruce Anchor and Tobermory Wave.

Blue Heron and Bruce Anchor allow stay-on, and drop-off cruises options- (meaning, to stay on the ship for a round-trip cruise, or to get off the ship at Flowerpot island, and be picked up later.) You select your preference for stay-on or drop-off when you book your ticket.

We’re going to go through what the stay-on and drop-off cruises entail, and the similarities and differences between each cruise line so you can make the best decision for your family while you’re visiting Tobermory. 

So, let’s dive in – Tobermory boat cruises with babies and toddlers.

Since the stay-on option is generally what I’d recommend for families with young kids, I’m going to start with what the two cruise offer for their stay-on cruises.

STAY-ON cruises (Blue Heron and Bruce Anchor)

Here’s an outline of Blue Heron and Bruce Anchor stay on options: the similarities and differences between them so you can make the best choice for sailing with your baby or toddler.

Both stay-on cruises with Blue Heron and Bruce Anchor:

  • Have glass bottom boats, which means there’s a small area inside the vessel that has a glass bottom. 
  • Have both indoor and outdoor seating options (I liked this option so I could sit in a shaded area with my toddler)
  • Children under 4 are free, but still require a ticket
  • Allow online booking
  • Destinations include Big Tub Harbour to see the shipwreck and lighthouse, and Flowerpot Island
  • Are pet friendly (with some restrictions)
Tobermory boat cruise
Inside the cruise vessel

The differences between Blue Heron and Bruce Anchor STAY-ON options:

Blue Heron 

  • 1.5 hours long cruise (if you select the stay-on option)
  • Stay-on cruises leave daily at 10:50am, 12:45pm and 2:50pm
  • Operates from June 24th to September 3rd
  • Stroller accessible boarding
  • Leaves from Little Tub Harbour
  • You can cancel/get a refund before 48 hours
  • You can park at any of their parking spots located at: 7425 Highway #6, 7456 Highway #6, 7445 Highway #6 or 20 Head Street.

Bruce Anchor 

  • 70 minutes long cruise (if you select the stay-on option)
  • Operates from early May to early October
  • Departs every hour throughout the day from 8:30 – 3:35pm
  • They have their own dock, and its not in Little Tub harbour like Blue Heron’s is. It’s at 61 Front St, which is a 5-10 min walk from Little Tub Harbour
  • The boarding area is NOT stroller accessible. There are three flights of stairs to get down to the boat (however, they do allow umbrella strollers on the boat)
  • You can cancel/get a refund before 24 hours
  • You receive free parking during your cruise

Both DROP-OFF cruises

  • If you choose to get off at Flowerpot Island, you will be there for 3 hours before the next boat comes

You must buy a Fathom Five National Marine Park pass if you’re stopping on Flowerpot Island. Adults cost $6.90 each, and youth 0-17 years old are free of charge. You can buy these passes from the cruise provider directly, or online through Parks Canada.

Should you stay on the boat, or get off at Flowerpot Island? 

Flowerpot Island is beautiful, but its covered in very uneven, rocky terrain, and also has flights of stairs. It’s not stroller-friendly, and none of the cruise companies recommend that you bring a stroller with you onto the island.

Flowerot island beach
Beach at Flowerpot Island

You know your child, and your hiking abilities best. I personally wouldn’t recommend getting off at Flowerpot Island unless your kids are 5+ years old, OR you feel confident carrying your baby or toddler for a 3-hour time-frame.

There is swimming at Flowerpot Island, but the lake is pretty cold, even in the summer. The average temperature would be around  15 C (59 F) on average; it might be closer to 20 C (68 F) by the end of July – but either way, it’s not comfortably warm.

There is a beach, but its not the sandy kind – its all rock. When the boat pulls up to Flowerpot island, you’ll probably see tons of kids on it, but most of them are school-age kids.

Flowerpot Island

There are washrooms on the island, but they’re the compost type. There are no change tables. There is also no food for sale, wifi or any other amenities available on the island. 

Flowerpot Island is a sensitive piece of nature that they are trying their best to preserve. If you bring any garbage, be sure to bring it back with you and leave the island better than how you found it. 

If you choose to hike at Flowerpot, you will be there for 3 hours until the next boat comes to pick you up. This is a big part of why I think the drop-off options are more suited to older children.

Is one cruise company (Blue Heron or Bruce Anchor) better than the other?

Bruce Anchor tours and Blue Heron Cruises are both highly reputable, so you can’t go wrong with either of them. Your choice will likely depend on the time of year, and their schedules and availability. 

Tobermory is very busy with tourists in the summer, so the availability of cruises does fill up, so if you have a time you’re very keen on, book it as soon as you can. I booked my cruise a couple of days in advance, and there was plenty of space, but it was a full ship on the day of departure.  

One thing to keep in mind when booking your cruise is cancellation policies – Bruce Anchor allows you to cancel 24 hours in advance, but with Blue Heron you must cancel 2 days in advance. So just be pretty sure you can commit to the time when you book it, because the tickets aren’t cheap. One adult ticket is around $50-$60. Children under 4 are free on both cruise lines.

Other Tobermory boat cruise options with Blue Heron and Bruce Anchor

In addition to stay-on and drop off at Flowerpot boat cruises, Blue Heron and Bruce Anchor both offer:

  • Flowerpot express cruises (that take you straight to Flowerpot without stopping to see anything else)

Blue Heron offers:

  • A sunset cruise leaving at 7:30pm in the evenings, which takes you to the Niagara Escarpment coastline, Indian Head and the Grotto. These cruises are non-stop. Children under 4 are free, and youth 4-17 are about $10 cheaper than an adult

How does Ticketing Work?

I chose to sail with Bruce Anchor, for reasons I’ll get into below. However, one thing I find more convenient (especially with travelling with kids) is how the ticketing works with Blue Heron.

With Bruce Anchor, you need to go to 10 Bay street 60 minutes before your cruise to show your e-reservation to their ticketing office. 10 Bay street is a short 2-minute drive away from the docking area.  If you don’t pick up your ticket by 60 minutes before departure, then they may sell them to someone else (I don’t believe you’d get a refund because of their 24-hour cancellation policy.)

I had my little one napping right before our cruise, so I called Bruce Anchor to ask if I could pick up my ticket much sooner – such as 4 hours before, or even the evening before. They were alright with this, and extremely accommodating. So if you have a similar predicament, just call them. They are helpful over the phone. 

Blue Heron allows you to show up 15 minutes prior to departure and just show them your email reservation ticket. Bruce Anchor has plans in the works to make their ticketing process smoother as well for the future.

Line-ups for Tobermory Boat Cruises with a Baby or Toddler

The tickets you buy guarantees you a spot on the vessel, but not in a specific seat. There’s no priority seating option – its just first come, first served. Some people prefer to sit on top of the vessel, even though its direct sun, so that they can get the best view and shots.

Some people (like me) prefer the lower, indoor part of the vessel, in order to avoid the direct sunlight. However, I also wanted to sit directly by the ships edge, so that I could get good photos.

Tobermory Boat Cruise
Boarding our cruise

Its a personal preference, and I don’t find that one option fills up faster than the other. It just depends on the group. If you have a strong preference, try to show up 15-30 minutes before your cruise (regardless of whether its with Bruce Anchor or Blue Heron) so you’re more likely to get a spot you’re happy with.

There was an extremely long line up in front of me and I almost worried I wouldn’t get a good seat – but the ships are quite big with lots of space, so I got my preferred type of spot.

Tobermory Wave Adventures

Tobermory Wave is another boat tour in Tobermory, which leaves from Little Tub Harbour. There’s an option to book private boat tours with them. I wouldn’t generally recommend this company for parties with young children, only because it’s a longer cruise in a boat that is much smaller and doesn’t have any indoor seating options. However, unlike with Blue Heron and Bruce Anchor, you get to see the grotto as well with Tobermory Wave.

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 little one could handle sitting in the boat for 2 ½  hours – no reason not to go for it. With Tobermory Wave, an adult ticket is $70 and children’s are $62. They do have a 3-day cancellation policy, so keep this in mind when you book.

My Bruce Anchor Cruise with a 1-year old

I chose to sail on a Bruce Anchor cruise with my one-year-old, because we were staying at the Bruce Anchor motel, which is near Little Tub Harbour. Technically, it would have been fairly close to either boarding area, but it was much closer to the Bruce Anchor docking area.  I simply strapped my 1-year-old in a carrier and crossed the street to the boarding area.

The first stop on the cruise is Big Tub Harbour. You see a pretty lighthouse on the ship’s right as it’s pulling in to the harbour (if you’re sitting on the left side, don’t worry – you’ll be able to see it on your side on the way back.) 

The boat will spin around (slowly) so that you can see the shipwreck, Sweepstakes which sank in 1885, well preserved in the cool lake waters. The top of the ship is less than 5 feet from the water’s surface, so you can see the outline of the ship pretty clearly from the boat, and have good photo opportunities!

Tobermory boat cruise

The captain of the ship will share some interesting details about the ship. It originally sank in Lake Huron, and was towed to Big Tub harbour. It’s now a popular snorkelling and scuba diving destination.

While I didn’t get off at Flowerpot, you can still see the beautiful rock formations from the boat and the famous flowerpot-shaped rocks. You have opportunities to take photos there as well.

By the end of our 70 min cruise with Bruce Anchor, my 1-year-old had just about had enough, so I was glad that the cruise didn’t last any longer than that!

Baby on Bruce Anchor
My 1-year old enjoying her Bruce Anchor cruise

What to bring on a Tobermory boat cruise with a baby or toddler

None of the cruise options I’ve seen offer any drinks or snacks, so you’ll need to be sure to bring anything your little one might need.

Things to Bring on a Tobermory boat cruise:

  • A good sunscreen (even the shaded areas on the boat can get pretty sunny)
  • Sun hats
  • Bottle of water
  • LOTS of snacks for young kids; especially babies and toddlers

In addition to the above, if you’re getting off at Flowerpot Island, you must bring:

  • Plastic bags to pack any of your garbage back in (diapers, wipes, food wrappers, doggie bags.) Flowerpot Island does not have any sort of waste disposal system, so you must bring all garbage back with you; gross as it may be. To continue the health of this delicate ecosystem, we need to leave no trace of ourselves as visitors
  • Extra water, since you’ll be there for hours
  • Any needed sippy cups or bottles for young children and babies
  • An umbrella for shade if you think you or your little one(s) will be sensitive to the sun. There are trees on Flowerpot, but a lot of the walking areas are not shaded
Flowerpot island
Flowerpot island

Conclusion: Should you take a Tobermory boat cruise with a baby?

By now, you should be prepared for your Tobermory boat cruise with a baby or toddler. With the right planning, Tobermory boat cruises are a fun activity for all ages and allow you to see some gorgeous Ontario natural beauty.

Final thoughts: Tobermory Boat Cruise with a Baby

We believe that a Tobermory boat cruise with a baby is a great way to spend time outdoors entertaining your littles ones, and see some of the most picturesque views in the Bruce Penninsula. You’ll be glad you did it!

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