Tag Archives: Travel

Bring on the Bruce Peninsula

The lake is calling.

Those crisp blue waters meeting with the rocky shore.


As a child, my family made taking vacations together a priority, even if we didn’t have a lot of money. Every summer my parents would book a week off and we took off in the car. Sometimes, we did the day trip thing, and other times we went on further adventures and stayed in motels but no matter where we went – it was always in Ontario.

Ontario, the land we call home.

We hit the open road as often as we could. Sometimes we would bring our bikes, and sometimes we would just all pile in and head out not knowing where the adventure would take us. On occasion, we would end up in places that resonated on our minds for years to come.

The Bruce Peninsula including the town of Tobermory count as one of those places.

Marlene, Corina and Heather Hill on the MS Che Cheemon between Tobemory and
Marlene, Corina and Heather Hill on the MS Che Cheemaun between Tobermory and Manitoulin Island

Located on the Canadian Shield, the shores of the lake are met by smooth rocky shore. Trees have been fighting through the cracks in the rock to create forests. Glacial waters have carved the shoreline to create beauty between Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.

Heading out from Tobermory to that special place called Manitoulin Island is the car ferry, the MS Chi-Cheemaun. When I was about 8, my parents, sister and I went on a family vacation north that included riding on this ship. I remember sleeping in the van and waking up in the belly of the ship before heading above-board. This was my first time ever being on a boat, let alone a gigantic car ferry. The wind was cold, the day was cloudy, but it was still incredibly exciting to look out over the water as we raced across to the next port of call. We were headed towards the Soo, aka Sault Ste. Marie and this was the fastest and most fun way to get there.

When I was in my final year of high school at GCI, I happily signed up to be part of the camping group in our gym class. A huge group of us took off to Bruce Peninsula National Park where we would explore the Bruce Peninsula once again. It was September. Days were warm, nights were cold but it was perfect. We hiked from our campsite over rocks to the lakeshore and discovered the Grotto.

Oh the Grotto. How amazing and gorgeous and stunning and magical.

Per the Explore the Bruce Website:

Everyone hikes to the Grotto. It’s the most popular attraction in Bruce Peninsula National Park. A big cave on the shore, it was carved out by the waves of Georgian Bay over thousands of years. From the Bruce Trail climb down through the natural chimney in the rock of the Niagara Escarpment. It’s a pristine setting; there are no signs, lights, stairs or handrails here. The cave itself is stunning, with sunlight from the outside revealing a brilliant underwater tunnel on the inside. You can walk along a ledge inside its cavity or swim in its cool, clear, turquoise water.

I really can’t describe it any better myself. It was here in the Bruce Peninsula that my love of hiking really started to grow. So many areas are inaccessible by car and there is nothing more satisfying than feeling the slight burn in your legs as you explore.

Also on my high school trip to the Bruce Peninsula, we headed into Tobermory to hope on a glass bottom boat. Yes, I said Glass Bottom Boat. A boat with areas of glass in the middle floor that allow you to see what is underneath.

Trust me when I tell you, it is absolutely imperative to keep your eyes out as looking through the floor you may experience what scuba divers relish finding – ship wrecks. Loads of them.

The area around Tobermory and the Bruce Peninsula is known as the Fathom Five National Marine Park. The park preserves 22 shipwrecks and several historical lighthouses, one of which is found on a layover of the glass bottom boats, Flowerpot Island.

Flowerpot Island is home to natural sea stacks, caves and historic light station and a variety of rare plants. It is only accessible by boat and the day we rode into the island, it was drizzling and a storm was moving in. We packed a lunch in our backpacks and made out to explore the island as fast as we could. The storm would make it impossible to get off the island at a certain point so we all had a very specific timeline to explore.

I do remember seeing the Flowerpots and being in disbelief that these giant stone columns could be naturally made, formed over many years as wind, rain, waves and ice hammered away at the island’s cliffs. The softer rock eroded more quickly, leaving the tall spires of harder rock remaining in the shape you see today. Even looking at pictures online now, it looks as if they were placed like bricks, a man-made phenomenon instead of the natural one they actually are.

The caves on the island, though cool, were nothing in comparison to Fat Man’s Misery near Collingwood and I wasn’t nearly as impressed with them as I should have been. I wanted to get out and hike. I wanted to get through the woods, up and over the rolling landscape. I felt completely at peace with nature on that island and was enraptured by the tranquility of it all.

It’s no surprise that this many years later I am feeling the pull to go back there again. The past few years my husband and I have explored areas of the US along the border to Ontario, even going as far as driving out to Massachusetts and seeing the Atlantic Ocean. Those trips have been fantastic, but I think it’s time to get exploring Ontario again. After all, it is mine to discover. This summer, I’m grabbing my new hiking boots and I’m going to head up to the Bruce Peninsula. I’m going to share its wonders with my husband and I’m going to make sure I have my camera. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and Bruce Peninsula is worth 10x that.

Port Dover on a Rainy Day #aroundErie

Me with the Port Dover Sign

As mentioned in my last blog post, I have fallen deeply in love with Lake Erie after my husband and I decided to travel around the lake on vacation. Today, I’d like to talk about Port Dover, Ontario which is located on Lake Erie’s northern coast and was the kicking off point for our trip around the lake.

Port Dover is known for great food, good fishing and a fantastic fine-grain sandy beach. It’s a beautiful area, and one we have visited every other year since we met.
The farther we drove from Cambridge to the lake the more clouds rolled in. It looked like the rainy forecast was going to become a reality. This made getting food the first order of business when the rain drizzled down.
For decades, my family has held the tradition of going to the Erie Beach Hotel to get some Lake Erie perch and celery bread. My parents, grandmother, great aunts and uncles would all congregate there at least once a summer in Port Dover to share a few laughs and delicious food. Even with this long standing tradition, my husband had never had the pleasure of trying out the Erie Beach!
James out front of the Erie Beach Hotel
Being a rainy day, the beach was quiet and we somehow snagged street parking right out front. Of course I had to take the obligatory picture of my husband with the sign and then it was up the stairs and in. It’s been a few years since I’ve been in the Erie Beach Hotel restaurant and it appears to have undergone updates in recent years. The restaurant is located on the second floor of the hotel which is situated on a hill not far from the beach and docks. Being so high up, it is easy to see over many of the other shops and areas to the water and for us, this meant watching more clouds roll in.
Half portion of a perch dinner
We decided to continue watching our calories by splitting a full meal and the kitchen staff was very accomodating. What arrived at our plate was the most deliciously battered perch meal complete with fries, a side of corn and celery bread for two. The celery bread was cut into squares and lightly browned on all edges. There is something to be said about restaurants that haven’t changed their menu in decades. When it’s good, it’s very good and the Erie Beach Hotel in Port Dover did not disappoint!
James with the lighthouse
I was itching to get to the shore of Lake Erie after our meal. This was where our #aroundErie journey would begin. This was the moment we were waiting for and hand-in-hand we headed to the beach. It was near deserted but some brave souls were still in their bathing suits despite the cooling temperatures. Clouds began building over the water and fishing and pleasure boats were heading along the front towards the safety of the shore. Beneath the clouds the air was clear and it was possible to make out the opposite shore on the horizon.
A storm front rolling over Lake Erie
Seeing the clouds rolling in, our hearts really started pounding as we headed along the break wall toward the lighthouse. The winds picked up and our hats began to fly off. It was very hard holding cameras and hats when the wind had other plans!
Holding onto my hat by the light house
Leaving the waterfront, we passed many shops and boutiques selling everything from boogie boards and beach wear to wind chimes and a variety of keepsakes and memorabilia. With the chill in the air, and the open road calling us, there was only one other stop that had to be made. My husband needed to get an Arbor Dog.
Getting a foot long hot dog from The Arbor has been a tradition in James’ family for as long as he could remember and he couldn’t survive this trip without one. The Arbor is located at the corner of Main and Walker, which is the first turning point to get to the beach from downtown Port Dover. Not only do they proudly serve Schneider’s foot long hot dogs, They have a variety of condiments, and an orange drink called the “Golden Glow” that has helped make them famous. It’s probably safe to say that The Arbor is the main reason our fridge is always stocked with a variety of sauces, relishes and mustards at all times.
James was pretty stoked that the last place we stopped was the Arbor and with his hands full of delicious hot dog, I took the wheel and we hit the road for our next #aroundErie destination, happy and ready for adventure.
All Smiles on a windy Port Dover day