Having just returned from our wonderful trip up to Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula, I felt it was important to share some of my insights of this fantastic meeting of rock, trees and water. Here are my top 5 reasons to help you get off at Flowerpot Island.
5. Flora and Fauna
Flowerpot island is nothing if not green and lush. The bush surrounding the trails is so tightly covered that it makes each discovery a special treat. While we wandered the trails we kept our eyes peeled for one of the many garter snakes the island is known for. Strangely, we didn’t see any. We did see several of the red squirrels running this way and that, up and down the trees often surprising us and making us laugh.
I cannot think of any where else where I have seen so many ferns growing wild. The layer upon layer of green were broken up by little hints of colour from floowers including orchids. As we were walking down one of the trails, we came across a pile of tiny pink petals. We kept looking up and down and all around to see what could’ve left them as the pink stood out clearly against all the green, brown and grey.
The only other living creature (besides us humans) we found was some snails. With the rain they were out in abundance and I took a picture of one of the little guys coming down a rock near the area where I slipped and skinned my knee. Word to the wise, don’t try climbing big slippery rocks in the rain without kneepads!
4. Boats above and below
Not only does it feel awesome taking your land legs and climbing onto a sturdy boat that is going to take you across a big body of water, but you also get to see below the surface where some of the shipwrecks lie as part of the Fathom Five Marine Park.
There are pros and cons to all of the charter companies offering glass bottom boat service to Flower Pot Island and I have used two of them. For this trip, we used the Bruce Anchor Cruise Company which docks directly at the tip of Tobermory. The dock overlooks the Big Tub Harbour and the Big Tub Harbour lighthouse.
Within minutes of setting sail we were directly over the remains of the Sweepstakes. Built in 1867, the ship had sustained hull damage off the coast of Cove Island in 1885. It was towed into Big Tub Harbour for repairs but the damages were too extensive. They stripped her down and let her sink where she lay. It seemed surreal to be a few feet above a 119′ schooner, but there we were.
A few feet away, lay the City of Grand Rapids shipwreck. Also a part of the Fathom Five Marine Park, the City of Grand Rapids caught fire in 1907 while in Little Tub Harbour. It was towed into Big Tub Harbour as it was less populated and they didn’t want any other ships to catch on fire. The ropes used to pull the double decker passenger steamer caught fire as well and her final resting place ended up being only 6-10 feet deep. Pieces of the boat can still be seen above the waters edge. Even without scuba gear you can get up close and personal thanks to these glass bottom boats!
Flowerpot Island is fantastic to see by boat, but it’s even better when explored on foot.
Trails of varying difficulties run throughout the island. The easiest involves taking the Loop Trail from Beachy Cove (where the boats drop off passengers) past the flowerpots to the Lighthouse Keepers Homes. There you can stop and have a picnic, get snacks and explore the beach.
To keep it easy, head back the way you came but for more of a challenge, you can head in the opposite direction to take a loop around the remainder of the trails.
My husband and I went in the complete opposite direction of everyone on our boat. We wanted a challenge, even if it was raining. We walked passed the overnight campsites on the island which are located on wooden platforms in the forest. Some trails led up steep hillsides, where the only way up is by wooden staircases, others involved large steps to get by objects. For the most part, the trails were easily traversed, even by those with only medium level hiking experience as I do.
I found having a walking stick handy was the best option when traversing the trails on a rainy day. Luckily these are provided on the dock as you depart your boat but this doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt to have your own walking stick when you arrive. In the summer on a sunny day, the island can be teeming with tourists. For out trip however, we were lucky to be the first group to arrive on the island and there were plenty of walking sticks to chose from.
Having been to the island before, I remembered there were caves but I don’t believe I remembered how much of a challenge it can be to see them.
Indications of small caves are all over the island, but the largest you can see from the trails takes some guts to get to. Climbing a series of stair cases that appear to go higher and higher as you turn the bend, you end up at a platform in a large rocky cave. A platform with benches allow visitors to sit down and marvel at the sheer size of the cave, how high up it is on the island and how high you have climbed.
Per the website FlowerpotIsland.ca: ” These caves were formed after the last ice age approximately 12,000 years ago when the glacial Lake Algonquin completely covered Flowerpot Island. As the lake levels fell in stages, the cliffs were exposed the eroding effects of the lake for varying durations of time. This phenomenon caused numerous caves to form in the cliffs in various sizes and locations throughout the island.
1. The Flowerpots
The absolute number one reason to visit Flowerpot Island is the giant flower pots.
Okay, they aren’t really flower pots. These tall sea stacks along the shore line have become iconic with the area of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay. Jutting out high from the rocky shore, the grey and brown columns stand testament to the power of the elements to shape our landscape. Over thousands of years, wind, rain and ice hammered away to help create the structures you see today and if you look closely, you can even see some new flowerpots are being formed along the coastline.
The sheer height of the flowerpots is impressive, although they are not always as it seems. Upon closer inspection on the smallest sea stack, which believe it or not is the one in the forefront of the picture above some repairs were done. The water facing side has been put back together using stone and mortar! We ended up talking with a Parks Canada employee who was sad to admit it was true. He stated the way Parks Canada believes in conservation now, the flowerpots would be left to the elements.
There are so many other words we can use to describe the island: peaceful, serene, stunning, gorgeous, multi-faceted, historical, natural, welcoming, foreboding, unique and rocky. No matter how you describe it, I strongly feel that it is the mandate of all Canadians to get there.
Flowerpot Island is a national treasure and as with many parts of Ontario, it is yours to discover.