Last year, my Mom and I had to come up to Owen Sound for less-than-stellar family reasons. Despite the reason for the trip being depressing at best, we enjoyed the weekend away and decided we should do it again… hence our latest trip to Owen Sound! My family has roots in the area, so I’m always captivated by the old tales and family history my Mom shares with me while we’re there. We made it a Wednesday to Friday trip to save a few pennies on the travel costs, so we hit the road mid-afternoon on Wednesday!
Wednesday was a quiet day of just wandering around the city, but Thursday we decided to make our way up to Tobermory while hitting as many lighthouses as we could along the way. It was an all day affair but we managed to hit four along the eastern coast of the peninsula. Made for a late night but a fun one nonetheless!
Since it was a beautiful day we opted to take Grey Road 1 along the coast instead of making a beeline along Highway 6. The drive is beautiful with lots of lovely houses and cottages along the road. Our first stop was in Wiarton where we had lunch to fuel up before heading for Cape Croker. Wiarton’s waterfront is absolutely beautiful with some cute little statues of our famous little groundhog, Wiarton Willy. Dockside Willy’s, a little restaurant next to Willy’s permanent home, is a great place to grab a bite to eat. After filling our bellies, Mom and I wandered around the waterfront a bit, and afterwards attempted to say hello to Willy. Apparently Willy thought otherwise as he ran into his burrow just as we approached the glass. For such a famous groundhog, he’s not the most personable character! We took that as our cue to get back on the road towards our first lighthouse.
The drive past Wiarton towards Cape Croker is a… well… interesting one. You cross into the Nawash First Nation, and as you get further in the roads become less paved. The road to the lighthouse is fully gravel and causes quite the dust cloud as you drive on through. After a fair amount of driving we made it to the lighthouse, which is honestly more like a beacon. For our first lighthouse it was a bit of a let down, but the shoreline was quite beautiful. We got out and explored some of it before making our way back.
On the way we drove by a small street called Lil North Bay which lead along the shore of, surprise, North Bay! This shore was actually sandy as opposed to rocky, unlike most of Georgian Bay’s shoreline. I’m not sure if the area was private property or not as there were houses on the opposite side, but I still got out to take a brief look at the area. Once my shutter finger was happy, we were onwards to our next stop – Lion’s Head!
We made our way over to Grey Road 9 and took that up into town. Lion’s Head is named after the view it has of the Niagara Escarpment as it resembles the face of a lion. A quaint little town with small shops and restaurants, I’m sure it would be lovely to spend a few hours in. The Bruce Trail also runs right through the town, with many side trails nearby. One day I’ll make it out to explore, but we were on a mission! After spending some time admiring the shoreline and the quiet harbour (that will be much busier come this weekend I’m sure), we were on the road again.
Whenever I travel in Canada, I carry my Lonely Planet guidebook which I affectionately refer to as my ‘bible’ and it’s allowed me to discover so many great destinations. I’ve found out so many amazing lookouts and restaurants thanks to its suggestions, and this was another time it didn’t fail me. In the Canada ‘bible’, it mentioned a tiny little town called Dyer’s Bay as a place to visit since the architecture of the homes and overall feel resemble that of Cape Cod. Having never been to Cape Cod, I wouldn’t know the difference, but to me it resembled the little towns of Eastern Canada. Constantly missing that east coast lifestyle, I was happy to find a resemblance to the area… it also meant that we were less than 20km away from yet another lighthouse. Without much thought, we were off to lighthouse number three.
What the book neglected to mention (and what we didn’t realize until it was too late) was that the road leading to the Cabot Head lighthouse was not only a single lane, but also gravel. This would be fine if there was more room between the edge of the road and Georgian Bay, and if my mother was not being deathly afraid of drowning. However she was a trooper, and I quietly enjoyed the beautiful scenery, as we slowly made our way up the 18km to the lighthouse. Unlike our first dirt road adventure, this was well worth the trip. Cabot Head is centred within the Wingfield Basin Nature Reserve, and sits 80 feet above Georgian Bay’s waters. Built in 1896, it was originally lit by kerosene lamps with mirrors rotating to disperse the light for marine vessels. Now it has been replaced with an automated light, and the house-style building is continuously being restored thanks to The Friends of Cabot Head Organization. I was most excited about the fact that I could actually go in this lighthouse, and the view from the top was quite beautiful! The sun wasn’t quite co-operating as it was slowly making its descent, but you could see the shoreline of the entrance to the Wingfield Basin.
It was quick visit as Mom was dreading the drive back before we even got to the lighthouse, but much to both of our surprises heading back wasn’t so bad. Maybe it was because we knew what we were in for, or maybe it was because Mom had become a pothole dodging champion – either way we appreciated getting back on the road quicker. The drive back wasn’t without it’s hidden gems. Besides the crystal clear water of Georgian Bay, about half way down the road there’s a slightly hidden waterfall which you can barely see when heading towards Cabot Head. We took a moment to admire the beauty, take a breath, and then it was off to Tobermory.
The race against daylight began as the sun was starting to set, but the driving later in the dark was well worth seeing the beautiful colours in the sky as we arrived at our final lighthouse of the day. Big Tub was originally built in 1885, but it was torn down and replaced with the lighthouse that currently stands. To this day she’s still in use as the waters between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. Unfortunately for some her light just wasn’t enough which has led to a number of shipwrecks, making Tobermory a hotspot for divers. We walked along the shore admiring the beauty of the northernmost section of the Niagara Escarpment while I resisted the temptation to find the Northern Terminus of the Bruce Trail. Better to save that for another trip when I can fully explore the area… or maybe even hike the entire trail! After taking a breather at the harbour, Mom and I called it a day, hopping back onto Highway 6.
A solid 9 hours of driving and exploring was enough to tucker us out as we were grateful to rest our heads at our hotel. Although the explorer in us still wasn’t quite satisfied come Friday, but let’s save that for another post.