Paddling & Diving
Kayaking can be a fun and enjoyable way to see the Bruce Peninsula from a different perspective. The intimacy of meandering amongst the shoreline is something a motorboat can never offer. For a first time endeavour, consider kayaking on one of the many inland lakes or rivers. Kayaking on the big waters of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay comes with inherent risk. Many experienced kayakers from the East and West Coast underestimate the volatility and unpredictability of our Great Lakes. When venturing out, please carry all the necessary equipment to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
There are many rental and retail locations that will be able to outfit you with all the necessary gear and information. The Bruce Peninsula also has a few businesses that specialize in guided tours. This five star experience tends to be more relaxing and safe for begin- ners and experienced paddlers who want the ultimate experience with little planning. An experienced guide can help you understand local knowledge, ensure you are properly outfitted, recognize developing weather patterns and be able to provide you with a trip based on your capabilities. In many cases, they can tailor a trip to your needs, wants and desires. If you are nice they may even show you some secret spots!
The cliff and cove shoreline around Tobermory and some harbours – particularly on the Lake Huron side – are hospitable places for the kayak, and even for the canoe if you stay close to shore. Venturing out into more open water, however, is sport only for the experienced paddler. As with all water sports on the big lakes, al- ways remember to check the marine forecast before you go out, and if it looks bad, don’t go. Winds can be very unpredictable.
For river canoeists, especially those wanting a strong historical buzz, the Rankin River route begins at Sky Lake on Red Bay Road and ends 18 km beyond at Sauble Falls Provincial Park. This is part of an aboriginal Peninsula crossing, completed on the eastern side by a portage trail between Wiarton and Boat Lake. Or you can enter the Sauble River west of Hepworth, and paddle down to Sauble Falls from there - by Zane Davies
Click on image to download PDF paddling guide.
Suggested Canoe and Kayak Locations for Different Skill Levels
• From Hanover, through Paisley and on to Southampton, the serene flow of the Saugeen River – one of the best canoe routes in Southern Ontario – offers idyllic day trips or a three-day excursion with overnights at towns and camping areas en route. Tours and shuttles are provided by outfitters. More....
• The unruly Rankin River provides an adventurous romp, lugging your canoe over tree stubs and deadfall, and running rapids.
• Fun family puttering is what the Sauble River provides. Rent a canoe or kayak from Sauble River Marina & Lodge Resort, or other local outlets, and enjoy an easy paddle upstream to pretty Sauble Falls.
• In neighbouring Grey County, the Beaver River meanders through forest and fields providing a lovely, easy paddle, ideal for families. Tours and shuttles are provided by Free Spirit Tours.
• In Lake Huron, Chantry Island, two km offshore of Southampton, is a federal bird sanctuary that not only features a proliferation of birds but an historic lighthouse and the skeletons of three shipwrecks, discernible amidst the underwater remains of two docks. Note: Walking ashore is prohibited.
• Near Oliphant, the Fishing Islands is a collection of low dolomite outcrops harbouring bird colonies and shipwrecks.
• Lyal and Knife Islands in Stokes Bay are site to a lighthouse, numerous shipwrecks, and to tern, gull and cormorant colonies. The water is shallow and somewhat protected.
For Experts Only
• In Georgian Bay, the coast of Bruce Peninsula National Park and Lion’s Head are where monolithic walls are pocketed with caves and coves, ledges and overhangs. The clear, turquoise, Caribbean-like quality of water makes the experience seem surreal. Melville Sound is another great escarpment-lined possibility.
• In Dyer’s Bay, Wingfield Basin at Cabot Head is a captivating place for to duck into. Inside the nearly enclosed harbour is the ruin of a 10-ton tow barge.
• East from Tobermory, paddlers can skirt the shoreline eastwards, past cottages and rocky shoreline to Dunks Bay.
...You can see them from the shoreline and from the glass bottom boats, but there is nothing more exciting than being in the water with shipwrecks and seeing them with your own eyes. For a family adventure or for group fun, snorkeling on the shallow shipwrecks can be a great introduction to the secrets of Fathom Five National Marine Park. Snorkelers and divers can enter the water from shore or from a charter vessel where they will be educated by the captains on the history of the shipwrecks. These explorers will be witnessing history through the lens of their mask. Our historic shipwrecks date back to the 19th and early 20th century, preserved in the crystal clear freshwaters of Tobermory, paying tribute to our marine heritage.
Scuba Diving is not just for Divers anymore! The dive shops of Tobermory offer PADI Discover Scuba Diving experiences for the first time diver who has always wanted to try diving. The courses are conducted at shallow dive sites in pool-like conditions where they will see shipwrecks and marine life. All Divers must register with Parks Canada before entering the water. Fathom Five Marine Park Tags can also be purchased at the two dive shops in downtown Tobermory.
Certified scuba divers can enjoy dive charters aboard Transport Canada Certified Vessels with knowledgeable captains, to destinations within 45 minutes from Little Tub Harbour. Most two-tank charters are four hours in duration.
Although Tobermory is best known for its shipwrecks, it is also a geological wonderland both above and below the surface, with swim-throughs and overhangs, limestone shoals, whalebacks, deep pitting, pinnacles and sink- holes. Within the waters of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron lives a unique marine ecosystem that is diverse and fragile and continually changing. Regardless of your experience as a diver or snorkeler, the dive shops of Tobermory will introduce you to Canada’s premiere dive destination. So come dive into history and experience the wonder of Fathom Five National Marine Park! - by Mike Marcotte
Fathom Five National Marine Park offers some of the best freshwater diving opportunities in Canada. Clear, clean water, submerged geological formations (cliffs, caves, overhangs) and over 20 historic shipwrecks offer a variety of underwater experiences. Everyone, from the novice snorkeller to the most advanced diving enthusiast, can find lots to explore and enjoy within the park.
Harbour Area Sites: Except for the white, numbered areas shown on the map, diving is prohibited in the Tobermory harbours. Divers are asked to respect the rights of private property owners near dive sites.
Extreme care should be taken at all times, since considerable vessel traffic may be encountered. All divers must be within 30m (100 ft) of a displayed dive flag.
Vessel operators are requested to use extreme caution when piloting a boat in the area of diving activities.
Tour boats do enter the Big Tub shipwreck area. Divers must follow the special operational policies for this site. A controlled access schedule is in effect for this site from the last Friday in June to the end of Labour Day Monday in September. For more information please contact Parks Canada at 519-596-2233.
1 - SWEEPSTAKES (schooner)
Built: Burlington, Ontario, 1867
Length: 36.3 m (119 ft)
Depth: maximum depth 7 m (20 ft)
This two-masted schooner was damaged off Cove Island then towed to Big Tub Harbour where she sank in September, 1885. The hull is still intact, with the windlass and a portion of the bow rail still in place. For both conservation and safety, penetration of the wreck is not permitted. One of the most popular wrecks in the park. It is visited by divers, snorkellers and tour boat passengers.
2 - CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS (steamer)
Built: Grand Haven, Michigan, 1879
Length: 37 .3 m (122.5 ft)
Depth: maximum depth 5 m (15 ft)
The City of Grand Rapids was an elegant passenger steamer until it burned and sank in October, 1907. Its charred remains now lie in shallow water about 30 m (100 ft) from the wreck of the Sweepstakes. Its rudder and propeller are displayed at the local museum. This site is suitable for both divers and snorkellers.
3 - BIG TUB LIGHTHOUSE POINT
(Lighthouse was built in 1885)
Depth: maximum 23 m (75 ft)
Limited parking - access via brick walkway - a washroom is available. Please respect the rights of adjacent private property owners. An interesting wall dive. Look for numerous crayfish in crevices in the rock. For your safety, limit diving to the area inside the restricted boating area markers.
4 - THE ANCHOR
Depth: maximum 21 m (70 ft)
This large, wooden-stocked iron anchor from an unknown vessel provides an interesting viewing opportunity. This site can be approached by boat or by a long swim from the "Gap" access area. Stay close to the shore. You must tow a dive flag. Please respect the rights of adjacent private property owners.
5 - THE TUGS
Depth: maximum 13 m (40 ft)
Wreckage of four small steam tugs. (Alice G, Robert K, John & Alex, unidentified).
Access via walkway to wooden deck area. Please use caution when entering and exiting this site. A washroom and limited parking are available.
This is a good site for both divers and snorkellers, a popular site for open water check-outs and for those wanting to observe divers in action. Site plan maps are available at the Parks Canada Visitor Centre. Diving must be limited to the area inside the restricted boating area buoys.
6 - CASCADEN (schooner)
Built: Southampton, Ontario, 1866
Depth: maximum 6 m (20 ft)
Wrecked in October, 1871, the vessel is badly broken up and spread over a large area.
7 - CHINA (two-masted schooner)
Built: Port Robinson, Ontario, 1863 by J. & J.E. Abbey
Length: 41.8 m (137 ft)
Depth: maximum 3 m (10 ft)
Wrecked on China Reef in November, 1883, it is badly broken up. The main portion is close to shore; the rudder is about 100m (330 ft) northwest of the main wreckage.
8 - JOHN WALTERS (two-masted schooner)
Built: Kingston, Ontario, 1852
Length: 32.9 m (108 ft)
Depth: 5 m (15 ft)
Wrecked in November, 1883. Limited wreckage remains. Items of note: heavy keelson and centreboard box and glacial scours. Suitable for novice divers and snorkellers.
9 - W.L. WETMORE (steamer)
Built: Cleveland, Ohio, 1871
Length: 65.1 m (213.7 ft)
Depth: 7 m (25 ft)
Wrecked during a storm in November, 1901. In addition to the large amount of timber wreckage, look for the impressive boiler, anchor, chain and rudder. Interesting bedrock features. Suitable for divers of all levels of experience and snorkellers.
10 - JAMES C. KING (schooner-barge)
Built: Last Saginaw, Michigan, 1867
Length: 53.4 m (175 ft 3 in)
Depth: 7 to 30 m (25 to 95 ft)
The King was wrecked while under tow by the Wetmore in November, 1901. The second barge on tow, the Brunette, was later salvaged. This site is good for advanced divers only. It is not recommended for novices or trainees.
11 - NEWAYGO (steamer)
Built: Marine City, Michigan, 1890
Length: 59.7 m (196 ft)
Depth: maximum 8 m (25 ft)
Wrecked in November, 1903. The wreckage is scattered, the main portion lying flat on the bottom. Note the massive timbers used during construction. Excellent for all divers. The site’s open conditions require suitable weather.
12 - PHILO SCOVILLE (schooner)
Built: Cleveland, Ohio, 1863
Length: 42.5 m (139 ft 6 in)
Depth: 7 to 30 m (25 to 95 ft)
The vessel was wrecked during a storm in October, 1889. The bow, including the bowsprit, can be found at the deeper depths and the anchors are located about 30m (100 ft) east of the main wreckage. This site is recommended for advanced divers only.
13 - CHARLES P MINCH (schooner)
Built: Vermillion Ohio, 1867
Length: 47.2 m (154.7 ft)
Depth: 6 to 16 m (20 to 50 ft)
The Minch was driven onto the rocks in October, 1898. The wreck is broken up and spread over Tecumseh Cove, Cove Island. The main wreckage is found close to shore near the head of the cove. Of note are portions of two rudders. The second (situated west of the inner mooring buoy), is likely from the schooner Tecumseh, wrecked in the area in 1882. A good site for all levels of experience.
14 - ARABIA (barque)
Built: Kingston, Ontario, 1853
Length: 40. 1 m (131.6 ft)
Depth: maximum depth 37 m (120 ft)
Floundered off Echo Island in October, 1884. The wreck is in good condition. The bow section with bowsprit, windlass and anchors, is particularly impressive. This site is only recommended for advanced diving groups under the direction of a dive master. There are strong currents and weather conditions must be considered.
15 - MARION L. BRECK (schooner)
Built: Kingston. Ontario, 1863
Length: 38.7 m (127 ft)
The vessel struck the rocks and broke up in October, 1901 leaving scattered wreckage in the shallows. The main portion lies in deeper water.
16 - FOREST CITY (steamer)
Built: Cleveland, Ohio, 1870
Length: 66 m (216.7 ft)
Depth: 18 to 46 m (60 to 150 ft)
The ship struck the east side of Bears Rump Is. in the fog and sank In June, 1904 The low lies at about 18 m (60 ft) while the stern is at 46 m (150 ft). Suitable for highly advanced divers only.
17 - AVALON VOYAGER II (motor ship)
Built: Clarenville, Newfoundland, 1947
Length: 41.2 m (135 ft)
Depth: maximum depth 8 m (25 ft)
Stranded in October, 1980. Subsequent weathering and a fire have left only the bottom portion remaining. A good snorkel site.
18 - CAROLINE ROSE (schooner)
Built: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, 1940
Length; 39.6 m (132 ft)
Depth: maximum depth 16.5 m (55 ft)
The Caroline Rose was towed to Driftwood Cove on the Georgian Bay shore by a group of sport divers and sunk as a dive site in late August 1990. Located outside park boundaries. There are a variety of tools and fittings on site.
19, 20 21 - UNIDENTIFIED WRECKS
Widely scattered material of limited interest to the average diver Depths vary to a maximum of 29
m (90 ft)
22 - THE CAVES
Depth: The submerged grotto entrance is at 6 m (20 ft) Located along the Georgian Bay shoreline about 19 km (12 mi) east of Tobermory. Trail access for hikers from Cyprus Lake Head of Trails. Explore the hidden passages that lead from inside the Grotto to the open waters of Georgian Bay. Recommended for all levels of diving experience, and snorkellers. Diving access via boat from Tobermory.
23 - LITTLE COVE (Dave’s Bay)
Depth: 13 m (40 ft)
Popular area for diver open water check-outs. Look for geological formations such as pitting, glacial erratics and bedrock layering. Limited parking. Please respect the rights of private property owners adjoining the access area.
24 - DUNKS POINT
Interesting geological formal including good examples of "pitting" can be found here. A wooden-
stocked anchor lies just off the point in about 18 m (60 ft) of water. Vessel access only.
25 - NORTH OTTER WALL
Depth: maximum 13 m (40 ft)
Popular geological dive site featuring steep walls, overhangs, a small cave and pitting features. Suitable for all levels of diving experience.
26 - NIAGARA II (tanker. then a sandsucker)
Built: Haverton Hill-on-tees, England, 1930
Length: 55.5 m (182 ft)
Depth: 28 m (90 ft)
Deliberately sunk by the Tobermory Maritime in May, 1999 as a dive site. Located outside park
boundaries. Commemorative plaques and lots of machinery to see.
Rules, Regulations, and Diving Safety Recommendations
Regulations are enforced within the park to ensure resource protection and visitor safety. Please be aware of the following:
Prior to diving in the Park, each diver is required to register annually at the Park Visitor Centre. There is a fee for registration
Vessels entering any designated restricted boating area require a permit from the Park Visitor Centre. No anchoring is permitted in any shipwreck site. Use either the provided mooring buoy or the natural lake bed. Note: the controlled access schedule for the Sweepstakes site
A dive flag must be displayed at all times and within 30m (100 ft.) of all diving activity. Vessels may use either the blue and white code signal "Alpha" flag or the red and white Divers’ flag. Towed or anchored floats may only display the Red and White Divers’ flag
Never leave a boat unattended when used for diving. At least one person must be left on board when the boat is anchored or moored
In Fathom Five National Marine Park, camping is permitted only in designated areas on Flowerpot Island
Removal, damage or disturbance of any natural or cultural feature, or on-site equipment, is prohibited.
Diving Safety Recommendations
Parks Canada, in co-operation with the sport diving associations and training agencies, supports and encourages all divers to adhere to safe diving practices, including:
Certification: All divers should be trained and certified by a recognized organization;
Never dive alone: The buddy system offers additional protection in the event of unexpected problems;
Cold water: Low water temperatures in this area can create special hazards; only properly equipped and experienced divers should exceed 18 m ( 60 ft.) in depth;
Drugs and alcohol: The use of drugs or alcohol when diving can have disastrous effects;
Vessel channels and docking areas: Avoid diving or swimming in vessel channels, docking areas or any of the prohibited harbour areas;
Night diving: Only experienced divers should engage in night diving. Each diver should be equipped with adequate underwater light.