The Road to Tobermory

I'm yearning for my Hebridean island,The mountains there are heather sweet today. It may be just because my heart is Highland I long for Mull and Tobermory Bay

-- Tobermory Bay

This is the beginning of an old Scottish poem dedicated to the village of Tobermory in Scottland, after which the town of Tobermory, Ontario has been named. Located at the northern end of Canada's Bruce Peninsula, where Georgian Bay meets Lake Huron, Tobermory area is not so much of a highland but rather an interesting mix of dense forests, sandy and rocky beaches, and the wild cliffs along the coast.

Admittedly, I have not been to many places in Canada, but after spending a week at a lakehouse on Dyer's Bay for the second year in a row, it quickly became not just my favorite destination in Canada, but one of my favorite gateways in the world. If a place without cellphone coverage, yet alone WiFi, appeals to you, I have no doubt you would agree with me. And even if you live and breathe connectivity (I am a travel blogger after all), I still think you would treasure the chance to unplug and enjoy this pristine destination.

Dyer's Bay

Needless to say, I was excited when I got the invitation from my buddy Doug to join him, his girlfriend Loraine, his brother Jeff and Jeff's son Jackson to spend a few September days at the family lake house in Dyer's Bay. Doug's great grandfather was one of the first people to discover the bay and he liked fishing there so much that he build a small cabin right on the shore back in 1920s. It is still standing, well cared for and appreciated by everyone in the family with many great memories and even a few marriages recorded in the picture albums stored there.

The family cabin at Dyer's bay

This was my second time going up there, first time being almost exactly a year before, as I was leaving my job for the round-the-world trip. Back then, it was a welcomed break from the hassles of packing, planning, and wrapping up things at work. Without any connectivity, we spent our days mindlessly relaxing, boating, and hiking in the area, accompanied by the trusty Big Bucket. The evenings were spent by the campfire, roasting the marshmallows and watching the myriad of stars above us. And, of course, getting woken up by the sun rising over the bay was simply magnificent.

Sunrise over dyer's bay

8 Mile Experience

This time around, the excitement started before we even made it up to Canada. As we were driving through a not-so-pleasant part of Detroit, the tire blew on our boat trailer. If that was not bad enough, it turned out that the rear axle actually cracked a bit and we needed to fix it before driving for another six hours. It got even more exciting as some guy pointed us in a direction of a body shop and told us to "be careful out there".

Doug and Jeff changing the flat tire

Soon enough Jeff's navigator was telling us to turn onto the 8 mile - a road in the rough neighborhood of Detroit made famous by Eminem song about his childhood there. Even though we felt a little bit uneasy there, it did not seem all that bad, at least during the day. In retrospect, it was a good idea we did not try do drive through the night as we were considering the previous evening.

One Year Without a Job

September 8, 2011 was the day I set out on my crazy round-the-world trip. It was September 8, 2012 so we had to celebrate this anniversary and I could not ask for a better setting than a boat out in the Dyer's Bay with great friends and a Big Bucket bottle of Champagne.

Another beautiful sunset over Dyer's Bay


Dyer's Bay by itself is just a small community of vacation homes on the lake. While there are a couple of hikes in the area, there is not much else to do for someone not staying there. Instead, Tobermory is the focal point of the area. A half an hour drive from Dyer's Bay, it is a place we have frequented quite a bit.

Mandatory Sweet Shop ice cream at the Tobermory Harbor

The year before we brought the boat with us and cruised over to checkout the Flower Pots - a popular rock formation on the nearby island.

Flower Pot rock formation near Tobermory

Another fun place nearby is the Grotto - a swim-through opening in a cliff under water. We also took the boat there last year but it is accessible via hike as well - for better or worse, as it was pretty crowded this year.

Cliff diving inside the Grotto

Curiously, Tobermory is also the fresh water diving capital of the world as there are many ship wrecks in the area due to Georgian Bay's rocky shores. There are a couple scuba diving companies in town with G+S Watersports preferred by Doug. Him and Jeff reminisced about the times when they were able to charter the entire dive boat just for two people for under a $100! The deal is not as great anymore at $90 for a two-dive trip per person if you have your own gear. Renting the gear is an extra $76 so it was a bit too much for me, but Doug and Jeff signed up and the rest of us went along for the ride.

G+S Watersports Dive Boats

It was just five of us on the boat so we were able to pick which of the two dive sites to go to. While Doug and Jeff were diving, I jumped in and swam over to the nearby island for some relaxing at the rocks there.

Relaxing on the rocks

Visitor Center and Burnt Point Hike

Just south of Tobermory is the National Park visitor center. There is a tall fire watch tower that provides quite a panoramic view of the area.

Panoramic view from the fire watch tower

Curiously, this is also the point where a trail starts (or ends, depending on how you look at it) that goes all the way to Niagara Falls. Alternatively, a couple shorter trails available for day-hikers. We chose the backwoods Burnt Point Hike and it was a good one - no groomed roads here!

Our reward - the view at the Burnt Point

On days when the explorer spirit was not with us, there was boating and plenty of beaches to either lay around or even go kiting! This place really does have a lot to offer and it is no wonder that more and more people are coming up here every year.

Tubing at Dyer's Bay

Still, the best time I had was sitting by a small campfire with a bunch of friends, watching the sun go down and, listening to the waves slowly crushing onto the rocky beach below.

I long for Mull and Tobermory Bay!

The night at Dyer's Bay