If you’re looking for a list of the most fun things to do in Tobermory — including loads of important information about the Tobermory Grotto — you’ll find all that and more right here. This is the spot, so make sure you bookmark this post as you start planning your visit to “Canada’s Caribbean.”
And plan you must. Because with all the hype surrounding Tobermory, Ontario, it shouldn’t be visited on a whim. There are accommodations to book, tickets to buy and open/close schedules at restaurants to consider — and you should consider them a good three to six months ahead of time unless you like being disappointed.
It’s definitely worth all of the effort it takes to plan a trip to Tobermory because all of the pictures you’ll see here, and the ones you’ve likely seen on the internet or in magazines that moved you to add this paradise to your travel bucket list, don’t lie. The place is legit stunning.
To get to everything on my list of things to do in Tobermory below, you’ll need at least three nights and four days — and that’s moving at a pretty good clip. Add a night or two if you’d rather be more leisurely about the whole thing.
Here are the top 14 things to do in Tobermory, Ontario:
I’ll go into more detail below about each of these…
- Stay somewhere with a great deck to watch the sunset
- See the Grotto in Tobermory
- Jump off the underwater cliffs at Indian Head Cove
- Hike the Bruce Trail to The Overhanging
- Snorkel the shipwrecks
- Eat fish & chips at Shipwreck Lee’s
- Drive to Little Tub Lighthouse
- Have an ATM pizza experience
- Wander Little Tub Harbour with ice cream
- Cruise to FlowerPot Island
- Walk the shoreline’s wooden walkway
- Get some old skool candy
- Enjoy Little Cove Beach
- Grab a java from Tobermory Coffee Company
Here’s a Tobermory, Ontario road trip map to help you plan:
Note that we added a day trip to Sauble Beach on the way home, so you’ll see some of our top picks added here, too…
Things to do in Tobermory Ontario, No. 1: Watch the sunset from a great deck
The Tobermory sunset is legendary and if you don’t have your own private deck from which to watch it each night (like the Azure Cottage featured in my friend Sonya’s post here), head to a patio like Coconut Joe’s and get in line an hour before sunset to ensure you’re sipping your pina colada as the sky transitions.
Or, hit up one of The Grandview Motel’s two patios for one of the very best viewing spots in town. (We stayed here and it’s got to be one of the best motels in Tobermory; in fact, it was more hotel than motel as far as decor and comfort is concerned.) Not a hotel guest? No problem — there’s plenty of free real estate just across from the property where you can pop a squat.
Things to do in Tobermory, No. 2: Visit the Grotto in Tobermory
I mean, if you go to Tobermory and don’t experience The Grotto, you are sooooo missing out. This is the natural attraction that put Tobermory on the map and created such an onslaught of tourists that Parks Canada had to implement a reservation system. This is not an on-the-fly activity — plan ahead using all of the tips in this post.
Things to do in Tobermory, No. 3: Play at Indian Head Cove
Alright, you caught me: Indian Head Cove is right beside The Grotto, so once you’ve made your reservations and hike in, you get a two-for-one deal. Swimming at Indian Head Cove — even in the warmest months of the year — is not for those who can’t handle cool water. It’s no ocean, even though it looks like one. Little kids will do best if you can put them in a wetsuit and be sure your swimmers are very, very confident in the water if you aren’t bringing water wings or life vests. It can get rough here, the water is super deep (these are underwater cliffs, after all) and there are no lifeguards.
Things to do in Tobermory, No. 4: Hike to The Overhanging
OK, OK — there’s one more thing you can do once you’ve made it to the Tobermory Grotto! And that’s an extra hike to The Overhanging, which is another beautiful lookout onto some of Canada’s most crystal clear turquoise waters. You’ll be transported to the Caribbean in your mind. Plus, if all of the crowds at Indian Head Cove are too much for your still pandemic-weary brain to process, you can hike down just beyond The Overhanging and find a much more secluded swimming spot.
Things to do in Tobermory, No. 5: Snorkel the shipwrecks
If you ask my kids what their highlight of our Tobermory trip was, it would be the snorkelling excursion we did with Diver’s Den. Like most of the things we did in Tobermory, it was an expensive activity, but it was incredibly cool to snorkel over two different shipwrecks. You don’t need to bring any equipment; Diver’s Den will outfit all of you (kids included) with everything you need, right down to a thick wetsuit to keep you warm.
This is also a great way to see Big Tub Harbour (which is where the impressive Sweepstakes wreck lays).
The only requirement is that you know how to swim. Be sure to take an underwater camera or a water-resistant smartphone like the iPhone 13 Pro, because you can shoot some pretty cool stills and video since the visibility is so good in this body of water.
Need some iPhone photography tips? You’re welcome.
Although Tobermory is often called the SCUBA diving capital of Canada, it’s cold-water diving if you really want to go scuba diving in Tobermory, and it requires cold-water diving instruction or significant experience in cold water environments. Snorkelling here is a much more beginner-friendly experience and there are enough shipwrecks here in shallow water that it’s not necessary to dive to see them well.
Things to do in Tobermory, No. 6: Eat fish & chips at Shipwreck Lee’s
Now, let’s be clear: there are TWO different locations for Shipwreck Lee’s in Tobermory and only one has all you can eat fish and chips. Each restaurant also serves two different kinds of fish and chips, strangely enough. While I preferred the style served at the 3 Eliza St. location on the ferry dock, Big B preferred the kind served at the Bay Street location. The latter happens to be the one with the AYCE deal. Problem solved — just try them both!
Things to do in Tobermory, No. 7: See Big Tub Lighthouse
There are a whole bunch of lighthouses in Tobermory but one of the most iconic and accessible is the Big Tub Lighthouse. Unless you plan to kayak over, you’ll want to hop in your vehicle and drive to this little gem. There isn’t much to do here but there’s a plaque near the water’s edge that shares an interesting history lesson and it’s so peaceful to stand on the rocks and take in the crashing waves.
Things to do in Tobermory, No. 8: Eat ATM pizza
That’s right: ATM pizza. Just like your bank’s ATM, Pizza Forno dishes out ready-made personal-sized pizzas in the same way. Use the touchscreen to select your pizza and toppings and wait a few minutes while this magical machine in all of its tech glory creates your pizza wishes, boxes it up and delivers it like a wad of cash through a slot below the screen. It’s not expensive and it’s a neat experience — plus, the pizza is actually pretty tasty.
Things to do in Tobermory, No. 9: Wander Little Tub Harbour
With ice cream! Grab yourself an ice cream at Peninsula Supply Ice Cream before you take a stroll through Little Tub Harbour. This is essentially at the centre of “downtown Tobermory,” and there are lots of cute shops along Carleton and Eliza Streets. Plus: boats! Lots of boats to look at in the harbour and great people-watching, too. Time your visit right and you’ll get a great up-close-and-personal view of the Chi Cheemaun Ferry that docks here several times a day as it goes back and forth between Manitoulin Island.
Things to do in Tobermory, No. 10: Cruise to Flowerpot Island
We spent the big bucks for the drop-off boat ride with Blue Heron Cruises so we could visit Flowerpot Island — which is perhaps just as Tobermory famous as The Grotto. Bring your swimsuits, goggles and packable microfibre towels, wear sturdy water shoes and don’t forget water and snacks. You’ll get 3-4 hours (depending on your tour arrangements) to explore this special island, which is technically a national park: the Fathom Five National Marine Park at tip of the Bruce Peninsula.
You can do an easy hike to reach the small flower pot, a longer hike to reach the big flower pot or head right to the edge of the island to see the Flowerpot Island Lighthouse. We had plenty of time to do all three and add on a solid hour of swim fun, ogling the brave souls jumping off these incredible stone sea stacks in Georgian Bay.
Things to do in Tobermory, No. 11: Walk the wooden walkway
The shoreline’s picturesque wooden walkway that runs parallel to Bay St., starting just south of Earl St. near The Grandview Motel all the way to Little Tug Harbour. Not only is it a lot safer than walking on the road, but there are also a few spots with benches and clearings perfect for a bit of nature-bathing, photos and sunset views.
Things to do in Tobermory, No. 12: Get some old skool candy
My kids LOVED The Sweet Shop. That would be putting it mildly. There are cavities awaiting you in every corner of this candy emporium and parents will love the throwback candy from the ’80s. We picked up some Bazooka Joe and Thrills gum to introduce our kids to the iconic gum of our childhoods and we also enjoyed getting some of the in-house treats (the brittle is to die for).
Things to do in Tobermory, No. 13: Enjoy Little Cove Beach
Although it wasn’t secluded, Little Cove Beach was certainly the least busy swimming spot we encountered anywhere during our Tobermory vacation. Now, you do need to pay to park (and we’re talking $20-25 per day, so it ain’t cheap) but getting to the beach is an easy walk from the parking lot and if you pack a picnic lunch and plenty of water, you can stay all day — unlike heading to The Grotto or Flowerpot Island.
The entire beach here is smooth rocks, so you absolutely need water shoes with good soles on them, and the water is just as clear — and chilly — here as it is everywhere else in Georgian Bay, but the water is very calm and much more suitable for novice swimmers and really little kids.
Things to do in Tobermory, No. 14: Grab a java from Tobermory Coffee Company
We loved this cute little coffee shop in the outskirts of downtown Tobermory. The Tobermory Coffee Company is an easy walk from Little Tub Harbour and serves up wonderful artisan coffee — with steep artisan prices to match, of course. You can even pay extra for pour-over coffee here! While I don’t recommend eating anything except the bagels (the breakfast sandwiches are lacklustre and overpriced), I do recommend buying some of the house-roasted beans and sipping your brew on the nicely distanced picnic tables.
We did all of this during a three-night, four-day visit to Tobermory but really packed our days. You may find it too hectic for your personal pace so pick and choose the adventures that feel right for you — because you can always return. I know we will.
DISCLAIMER: There is none. We paid for every part of this trip.