With stay-at-home orders on the cusp of lifting in our province, we asked the kids where we should go once local travel restrictions ease, and it was a resounding “Tobermory” all around! We had an unforgettable mini escape to this wonderful harbour village on the Bruce Peninsula last Summer. Appropriately called “Canada’s Caribbean”, it’s Ontario’s Azure water wonder where you’ll feel like you’ve teleported to somewhere exotic. We call it “Tob-amore” and think you’ll fall madly in love too. So, we’re sharing Where to Stay, Eat & Wander as a Family in Tobermory, Ontario if your gang wants to make your way there for some fantastic memory-making this Summer!
Article has been published on AllWaysTraveller.com.
*Disclaimer: At the time of writing this, most destinations have specific safety protocols in place to operate responsibly due to COVID-19, including modified time openings, occupancy restrictions, sanitization/ requirements, crowd-control measures, etc., which may change over the course of the Summer. Definitely have a peek at their social channels (Instagram, Facebook, etc.) or main websites before you travel to stay on top of updates & avoid disappointment. This post contains partnerships – meaning we have or may earn income from our recommendations & links that are used to keep our blog running. As always, opinions are our own.*
Family Itinerary for Tobermory
This suggested Itinerary for Tobermory is based on a 3-night, mid-week stay. We travelled from the Greater Toronto Area to Tobermory by road trip, which is about a 3 ½ hour drive. A pit-stop in Owen Sound to refuel on the way there with burgers & shakes at 50’s-style Elsie’s Diner was a good call. A stop at Casero Kitchen on the way back home for burritos, tacos and “sneaky wings” on their outdoor patio was worth the stop also – highly recommend!
Where to Stay as a Family in Tobermory, Ontario
“𝘓𝘦𝘵 𝘠𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘏𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘚𝘰𝘢𝘳 𝘏𝘦𝘳𝘦” were the first words we saw settling into the Azure by Blue Bay Cottage and that it did. As a property tucked away from the bustle of the main action in Little Tub operated by the same owners as Blue Bay Motel, Azure Cottage is a perfect large group accommodation with the feel of serenity and seclusion yet a stone’s throw to the family amenity haven of downtown Tobermory. The tourist village, shops, restaurants & grocery store are all within walking distance.
The lasting allure of the cottage, however, is having nearly an acre of private limestone waterfrontage all to yourself – right where Lake Huron & Georgian Bay kiss! You can watch the MS Chi-Cheemaun ferry dock & sail from your gazebo or catch one of the spectacular sunsets right from one of your multi-level outdoor decks.
The features of the cottage are perfect for families (especially large ones like ours), offering a fully appointed kitchen, three bedrooms and three bathrooms that can comfortably accommodate up to 8 guests. The open concept family/dining area provides lots of space and stunning views of the blue Georgian Bay water. The outdoor shower on the upper deck was next-level cool!
The only things you’ll need to bring are your personal belongings & food. All kitchen utensils, bed linens & bathroom towels are provided. Check in is 4 p.m. & check out 12 p.m. Not only were the accommodations fabulous, the customer service was exceptional. Hotel Manager Alison made sure everything was golden from booking until the day we checked out.
IMPORTANT NOTES & TIPS ABOUT BOOKING THE AZURE COTTAGE BY BLUE BAY, TOBERMORY:
- Campfires are prohibited on the Azure Cottage property – try one of our “No Campfire Required S’mores Recipes“!
- Reservations for the Azure Cottage open in January of each new year & book up swiftly! The cottage is open for bookings from April – October each year (right after Thanksgiving).
- We were told by locals one of the best times of year to visit Tobermory is right after Labour Day when kids are back in school, the village much less crowded & warm weather can still be enjoyed!
Where to Eat Tobermory, ON
Your family will have no trouble finding delicious eats (most options just steps from the cottage!), even for your fussiest foodies. Some of the spots we wanted to try had long line-ups during our visit (The Fish & Chip Place), but we were more than satisfied from the places we did get to enjoy.
COCONUT JOE’S HARBOUR BAR & GRILL
A fantastic spot for our first dinner on our trip, Coconut Joe’s Harbour Bar & Grill offers a menu inspired by The Islands with lots of outdoor, well-spaced seating for families with tiki-patio vibes. Time it so you can watch a spectacular sun set while you dine – this spot has the best outdoor dining sunset views. Our top menu pick – the Jerk Chicken meal. Cool factor – the restaurant was featured on Netflix’s Restaurants on the Edge!
A taste of Georgian Bay White Fish is a foodie family MUST in Tobermory, and enjoying a take-out fish n’ chips feast fit for a crew of pirates was devoured from Shipwreck Lee’s while watching the breathtaking sun set from our deck. There are (2) locations: 1) Shipwreck Lee’s Pirate Bistro with Take Out (*The location with the nicer patio, in my opinion, and a super short walk from The Azure Cottage; 2) Shipwreck Lee’s on Bay Street – with an All-You-Can-Eat option. Parents – grab a couple of Landshark or Shipwreck Lee’s Lager Beers to wash it down with!
THE SWEET SHOP
Old fashioned candy, Canadian-made fudge & THE BEST Cookies n’ Cream Ice Cream cake we ever have tried was a sweet tooth satisfier for our brood in a big way at The Sweet Shop in Little Tub Harbour – a short jaunt the kids didn’t mind one bit taking on repeat motivated by a sugary reward! NOTE: you now have to order ice cream cakes 24-48 hours in advance.
A stop at the Tacomory food truck on HWY 6 offering all your Mexicana faves is well worth the VERY short drive from the main village. We tried the Pork & Chicken Taco Combos and their signature Nachos – YUM! The taco truck is open only Fri – Sun, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., and you can pre-order online.
LITTLE TUB BAKERY
Don’t leave without a stop for freshly baked goodies at Little Tub Bakery off of HWY 6. The butter tart & pizza haul we picked up didn’t make it to the planned beach picnic at Sauble on the way home – YUM-aze!
Where to Wander in Tobermory, ON
With it’s crystal-clear turquoise waters, Tobermory is the scuba diving capital of Canada and home of two national parks – Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park. Whether your family travel style is adventure to the max, or a combo of adventure and chill, you will have no trouble finding activities for all ages in and around Tobermory. Our travel style is on the loose side, so we didn’t try to cram it all in one trip. But what we did fit in as Tobermory first-timers was more than fabulous and unforgettable!
A FAMILY BOAT CRUISE
A guided glass bottom boat cruise on the Blue Huron was the best way to see all the gems of and learn a bit of history about Tobermory with kids in tow – the shipwrecks, the Big Tub Lighthouse & Flowerpot Island. We booked our “Drop Off Tour” tickets online & picked them up about 30 minutes before boarding along the boardwalk in Little Tub Harbour. If you don’t want to get off the boat to explore & hike Flowerpot Island, you can also book a “Non-Stop Scenic” or “Sunset Cruise”.
Tickets for the boat tour were $40-50 + for each of us (weekday pricing is a bit cheaper than weekends), and while not a low-cost day trip, it’s one of the best family-friendly ways to fit in some of Tobermory’s “bests” in one shot. The cost also includes your admission to Fathom Fives National Park to explore Flowerpot Island.
It’s likely Covid-19 protocols will still be in place as they were during our visit. Bring a mask and sanitizer for each member of your family & be prepared to socially distance on the tour and trails. If you opt for the hop off cruise at Flowerpot Island, bring good walking shoes, towels, swimsuits & a packed lunch (there was no where to buy food on the trail). There are lots of spots to sink your feet or selves in the gorgeous water along the hiking trail, or pause for a family picnic. Bring a small garbage bag to take your trash with you.
THE GROTTO & INDIAN HEAD COVE AT BRUCE PENINSULA NATIONAL PARK
An absolute MUST for any family’s first visit to Tobermory – a hike on the Bruce Trail from Cyprus Lake in Bruce Peninsula National Park, and, just 30 minutes away, a pause to soak in the awe of The Grotto or cliff jump at Indian Head Cove (to the hit on our parental nervous systems 😉). Other unexpected excitement – the (*harmless*) snakes we encountered on the trail! Your kids from tyke to tween will likely never forget this experience!
- The Grotto, and Indian Head Cove adjacent to it, are two of the most popular attractions in Tobermory and not for spontaneous day-trippers! You’ll need to preplan your visit, as a parking permit is mandatory to enter and experience these wonders by booking “GROTTO” parking online with Parks Canada Reservation Service or calling 1-877-RESERVE, a hot tip we appreciated from our pal at KathrynAnywhere blog last summer and have made for our return this year. The cost per car is $11.70 & you’ll have a 4-hour block of time to explore.
- The climb up to view the Grotto from above is rocky and a bit of not-so-easy climbing required. Our kids ages 4 – 12 years old at the time managed well, but travellers with mobility issues may find it challenging. We did not climb down to swim the Grotto, but it is accessible from a more level entry at Indian Head Cove right beside it.
- We visited the last week of August – the water was slightly chilly, but with all the excitement, our family got acclimatized quickly without much notice.
- Visit Parks Canada’s “How to Visit During Covid-19” resource before you go!
More Family-friendly Destinations Near Tobermory
Travelling to-and-from Tobermory, you’ll pass through lots of other fantastic family-friendly towns along the Bruce County Lakeshore that would make great day trips, like Kincardine, Southampton, Port Elgin, & the place we stopped on our way home, Sauble Beach.
We hope you found our suggestions on where to stay, eat and wander in Tobermory as a family helpful. A getaway to Ontario’s azure wonder may be just what your soul needs to restore. Ask any questions you may have, and share your adventures with us if you go! If you’re more interested in day-tripping then overnight-ers this Summer, check out our Ontario Day Trip recommendations HERE.
Keep well, travel safely,