Words by Stefanie Richardson. Photos by Alyssa Fleming
An eclectic playlist, tea lattes and a box of locally made pastries is how my best friend Alyssa and I usually begin our road trips — it’s the little things that excite us, which is something we both admire in our friendship. From the initial planning, to choosing outfits, din- ner spots and activities, there is never a shortage of intention and excitement in every small detail. It’s not often we find the time to rally for excursions and day trips, so when a rare opportunity arises to skip out of town and explore the area, you can expect ‘packed and ready’ in under five minutes. In the case of a rare overnighter, we’re easy to please and tend to be content as long as we have access to nature, local shopping and can find a place to grab a tasty bite. Out of all possible destinations, one rang loud and proud — Bruce County and the Bruce Peninsula.
Unlike some, we prefer the road less travelled and make it a priority to experience the gems. With Tobermory in our sights, a 2019 Honda Passport fully gassed, and two whole days, it only made sense for a little Southampton shopping detour. It wasn’t challenging to play the part of a Bruce County local either — we packed sundresses, wide brimmed hats and big-cheeked smiles — natural instincts for two small town gals. With stunning views of Lake Huron and white sand un- derfoot, Southampton is without a doubt a beach lover’s dream. Since there were no signs of surfers, we spent the morning browsing through local shops. Lac Boutique and Sisters on Huron are both independently owned and full of stunning, contemporary pieces for women of all ages and Southampton Olive Oil is a foodie’s paradise — just strolling in the door is a sensory event.
Rolling into town with our windows down and radio on blast, we had noticed a small lighthouse stationed along the Saugeen River which instantly conjured memories of summery beach visits to Prince Edward Island. Add a long floral dress and a straw hat and you might as well call me Anne (with an “e”). The only difference is that this is right here in our own province and that makes it pretty darn special. Full of charm and peace—what a summer gem!
Every summer bucket list leaves room for a trip to Sauble Beach and although we had a busy morning, we were excited for this one. Fortunately for us, we made the right call and picked up some emergency donuts pre-road trip which we stashed in our “give us energy” travel kit. These donuts came locked and loaded with flavour and the ideal amount of sugar to take on one more shopping pit stop; The Patch. Safe to say by the weight of our shopping bags, we hit the jackpot. The Patch has been operating for 26 years and is an iconic thrifter’s dream when visiting this bustling summer town. You’ll work up an appetite browsing — don’t fret though, as you make your way down towards the big Sauble Beach sign there are plenty of burger shops and cafes that’ll do just the trick. Once you’ve decided on something yummy, we highly suggest shaking out a big blanket and plopping into a comfortable position to prepare for an epic sunset. You’ll remember that moment for weeks to come, guaranteed.
With another destination on the roster, it felt good to finally say that we were Tobermory bound. The next hour was spent cruising up Highway 6 all while playing a friendly game of 21 questions and making silly videos. ( If you want to know, we both chose Bradley Cooper.) In the midst of the juicy details of question 4, our headlights hit the “Welcome to Tobermory” sign — at that point, we weren’t sure if we should drive towards the remaining moments of sunset or research the coordinates of our accommodations.
As you’ve been told once and will be told again, we like to latch on to those spontaneous moments and in this case, we chased the final golden glimpse then headed straight to the Blue Bay Motel — our nest for the evening. Heading into the heart of Tobermory really gave us a glimpse into this new world. Contained in a few side streets, a quick stroll is all it takes to see the small shops, quaint motels, tour boats and friendly faces that make up this magical town. We felt instantly at home at the Blue Bay and after a quick local sampling at the Tobermory Brewing Company it was time to cozy up in our harbour front room and call it a day.
After a much-needed sleep with approved-by-me pillows, the warm, beaming sunrise was a wonderful way to start the day. Looking out over the harbour and seeing the turquoise water that wraps all around Tobermory and surrounding provincial parks wasn’t so bad either. I’m talking breathtaking hues of greens and blues you’d think might only be found in the Caribbean.
Tobermory is the jumping off point for Manitoulin Island, Fathom Five National Park as well as the MS Chi-Cheemaun. We opted for a leisurely ride to Flower Pot Island on the Blue Heron glass bottom boat, which gave us ample time to take in the sights along the way and we even hopped off for a few hours of self-guided adventure.
We were given a tip by our friends Andy and Debbie, the Innkeepers at the motel, to begin hiking the trail opposite to where the crowds typically start. Word on the street is that most visitors head right on the trail from the drop-off point and head straight towards the flowerpot structures — also known as sea stacks! Head left and you’ll experience an intimate hike with less foot traffic and still manage to check out the sea stacks on the second half of the loop.
Turns out we weren’t the only ones out for adventure. A small, speedy and absolutely adorable red squirrel followed us up the trail for a good 400 meters and brought us instant joy. The little guy was just looking for some mid-week friends and we were happy to share the moment with him. The three of us soaked up our last remaining minutes on Flower Pot Island, drooling over the clear waters of Georgian Bay and feeling extremely thankful that today this was ours.
With not a second to spare, we met the boat, hopped on for departure and headed back towards “The Tub” – code for Little Tub harbour in Tobermory, if you’re new to the game.
If there were more days to fill, it would be easy to do so here. Whether you have a day or a full week, a trip through Bruce County and up the Bruce Peninsula is destined to offer you a scenic stroll through somewhere beautiful. And if that’s not your thing, you can easily find an independ- ently owned spot to grab some fish and chips or a plate of nachos, or scope out prime seats for a glowing sunrise or sunset. As we made our way homebound we opted for the scenic route, which lead us through Lionshead and all the way down to Big Bay.
You must know that in our books, a summer getaway isn’t complete without a celebratory, final stretch ice cream cone. We have a lot of rules, eh? Operating since 1862, Big Bay General Store was our last stop on the tour and we were pumped to try their infamous house made ice cream. Priding themselves on using natural flavours and seasonal ingredients, they lived up to the expectation. We went for a scoop of classic vanilla and a bit of the espresso chocolate crunch. If that isn’t the sweetest way to end a trip, I don’t know what is. From the sunny shopping in Southampton, the loaded poutine in Sauble Beach, to the straight up breathtaking sights of Tobermory and beyond – we are so in love with where we live.
As long as you have a wicked friend, an open mind and an urge to explore, you can find the magic anywhere you go looking. It just so happens we found it in Bruce County. |E|