No, not this one:
The other Tobermory, the one in Ontario, Canada. Settled originally (can you guess??) by Scottish fisherman who were reminded of their home on the Isle of Mull.
I do love the “original” Tobermory on the beautiful Scottish island of Mull, but I’ve only been once. And it rained. And it’s a bit too far away now. We discovered the other one quite by chance, a long weekend was coming up just a couple of years after we moved to Michigan and we wanted to go camping somewhere, so A asked a work colleague for somewhere nice to go. He recommended Tobermory and the rest is history, we’ve been going back ever since, we’ve even taken friends and family when they’ve been visiting us from England.
It’s quite a hike to get there as there’s only a short stretch of motorway, after that you’re meandering along rural highways, skirting little market towns, checking out the main street in tiny villages, getting sidetracked by the plethora of roadside small holdings with lovely, fresh fruits, flowers, veggies and eggs for sale, ogling the wonderful old traditional barns and brick homes and catching the odd glimpse of the huge expanse of the blue of Lake Huron off to our left. In total, including navigating Customs and Immigration at The Blue Water Bridge between the USA and Canada, stopping for breakfast and stopping at a couple of the roadside stalls for provisions, we’re usually looking at about a 6 hour drive. But it’s worth it. It’s so worth it. We start off in Metro Detroit, right around where it says Livonia, and we’re headed for that little balloon with “A” on it.
I don’t think this part of Ontario has changed much in a hundred years.
A lot of this area was settled by immigrants from other countries, a lot of them British, and this is reflected in the architecture, the use of brick to build houses with (you very rarely see an old brick building in Michigan), their love of drinking tea and their very charming gardens. This heritage is also reflected in the names of the places we drive through, Kincardine, Port Elgin and Southampton being just three examples. It’s also reflected along the more Northern part of our drive, where the cattle replace the market gardens, when we reach Kincardine and see the large Scotsman painted on the towns water tower, when we begin our drive through Bruce County and onto the Bruce Peninsula, when we pass the signs for the summer Scottish Festivals and bagpipe competitions held every year in this area and obviously there’s Tobermory itself, and it’s yearly Celtic Fesitval and Ceilidh….. which we missed by one day. Bummer!
But there is also a little green revolution happening in this sparsely populated area of the world. The land is pretty flat, to the West is the huge expanse of Lake Huron, with it’s winds and winter storms that whip across the fields, and that wind is now starting to be harnessed by whole fields full of wind turbines. They’re beautiful in my opinion, very striking, but it is a little odd to see a field of cattle with a couple of wind turbines keeping them company; or a field full of golden, glowing wheat punctuated by these gentle giants. It’s an interesting juxtaposition that’s for sure. And they have the land to do it with, without plonking them down in peoples back yards, because I have to admit that as much as I’m in favour of green energy, I wouldn’t want it in my back yard either!
Eventually, a few hours later, we arrive at our destination. Tobermory is a small village of about 400 year round residents, but that number is swelled considerably all summer by the visitors, cottage owners and those passing through to catch the car ferry over to Manatoulin Island, the largest inhabited fresh water island in the world. As tiny as Tobermory is, it is also home to two National Parks. The Bruce Peninsula National Park, and Canada’s first ever, largely underwater park, Fathom Five National Marine Park, and no, it’s not some weird theme park based on a Jules Verne novel, it’s a park based in the cool, crystal clear waters of Georgian Bay and it attracts underwater scuba divers from the world over. Tobermory is the dive capital of Canada. And it’s all because of the Niagara Escarpment, a fault line extending from Rochester, New York State, through Niagara (ever heard of the famous falls?), through Ontario, along the Eastern edge of The Bruce Peninsula and diving under the lake at Tobermory, to reappear in numerous rock shelves and small islands around the village itself before finally giving way to clear open water and then Manatoulin Island, before hitting mainland Canada and arcing through Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois! The islands and rock shelves have proven fatally hazardous for dozens of water craft over the centuries to such an extent that within just a couple of miles out in the lake from the village you will come across a good 20 or so wrecked boats of all shapes and sizes. They’re all scattered about, some very close to shore in incredibly shallow waters (we’ve kayaked over a couple of them before), and easily visible from the surface. The visibility, clarity and coldness of the water is what’s preserved the wrecks, some of them are over 100 years old, and the wrecks along with the formations of the rock shelves are what attracts the divers. Tobermory is also the ending/starting point of the Bruce Trail, an 800km (over 500 miles) long distance walk along the fault line between Tobermory and Niagara Falls. We’ve day hiked many sections of it on The Bruce, it’s very beautiful, sometimes gentle, sometimes arduous, always stunning. Then there’s the wild flowers, it’s known as the orchid capital of Canada, and with good reason too. Orange and red lilies grow wild, as do aquilegias, corn flowers, asters and sweet peas. It’s a feast for the eyes at any time of year and so relaxing.
Thankfully the little village is not overly touristy, being home instead to a quite eclectic range of small shops and businesses. There are a couple of pubs, a couple of little restaurants, a couple of little coffee shop/lunch spots and a couple of more expensive restaurants for more formal dining too. Our favourite store in the village is Natures Gifts, run by the lovely Danielle, I would imagine we’ve paid one or two of her mortgage payments by now! The Bruce, and especially it’s National park are designated UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve sites which means the building is strictly controlled and the area maintains it’s natural charm. It’s a haven for outdoor folks, what with all the water sports and diving available, it’s miles of hiking trails and the quiet roads for biking, it’s safe, sandy beaches, there’s lots of nice campgrounds available too, one of them inside the Park. For the last few years though we’ve opted to rent a cottage for a week, as much as we love to camp, it’s just so much easier since we acquired our own kayaks, it’s safer too, as we always chose a property with a walkout basement, so we can keep the boats inside for safety. There’s such a choice too as many people own a cottage as a second home and then rent it out when they’re not using it. And the word “cottage” is a bit of a catch all term… some of the properties are bigger than my own house and have en-suite bathrooms, hardwood floors and granite counter tops in the kitchens and baths, with fancy decks and boat docks! We don’t go for one like that!! But I have been known to drool over their pictures on the rental companies website!!
So, that’s rural Ontario and The Bruce Peninsula. Hopefully I’ve whetted your appetite for another post with our own holiday piccies!