Flowerpot Island, shown here, is among the most visited of Fathom Five's small islands. You can even camp overnight — there are six rustic camping spots serviced by one compost toilet. If that's too wild for you, take a boat ride over for a few hours to explore the trails. Look closely and you'll spot the tiny calypso orchid that grows here.
(Photo courtesy Andrew Kisliakov)

Add this national marine park to your list of 'must-see' places
— shipwrecks, lighthouses and nature galore await visitors

Fathom Five National Marine Park sits off the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, near the village of Tobermory. It was created to protect and display the 22 shipwrecks that litter the bottom of Georgian Bay in the vicinity, as well as several lighthouses that sit on the islands within the park’s precinct.  

This spot where Georgian Bay meets Lake Huron boasts perhaps the clearest waters in all of the Great Lakes. In fact, the water is so clear that many people take the glass-bottom boat trip from Tobermory to view the wrecks from above. All but the deepest are visible.  

Fathom Five is in one of the world’s top fresh-water diving locations and divers come from around the world to take a closer look at the wrecks.  

On the bottom, too, they might catch a glimpse of evidence that a land bridge once connected the Bruce to Manitoulin Island to the north. That evidence comes in the form of the remains of ancient trees, the oldest of which has been carbon-dated to having lived 7,500 years ago.  

The land bridge, plus winter’s ice, is also the reason for the abundance of fauna found on the islands. The largest, Cove Island, is home to deer, bears and rattlesnakes.  

Camp in the wilderness on Flowerpot Island

But it’s the smaller Flowerpot Island that is the most accessible, and therefore the most popular with the tourists. You can take a boat trip and stop to explore the island and its trails. And if you’d like to camp overnight, there are six rustic camping spots — served by one compost toilet — that are available on a first-come, first-served (no reservations) basis.  

Overnight camping costs $9.80 per person. Be prepared, though, for the occasional bad weather that could strand you on Flowerpot for another night or two. And make sure to bring all your own supplies — there’s no corner store on Flowerpot!  

Flowerpot has a less diverse animal population than Cove Island, with no bears or rattlesnakes. There are garter snakes and red squirrels, however. You’ll also find the tiny calypso orchid on these islands.  

Boaters and experienced kayakers sometimes like to make their own way to Flowerpot Island, but check the weather forecast and beware of adverse conditions. The open water can become dangerous very quickly.  

Out on the water, you’re also likely to catch a glimpse of the Chi-Cheemaun, the largest passenger ship/car ferry on the Great Lakes. The Chi-Cheemaun can haul 143 cars and 638 passengers on its May-to-mid-October voyages between Tobermory and South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island.  

Any visit to Fathom Five should begin with a stop at the newly built visitors’ centre at the edge of Tobermory. There’s a 22-metre viewing tower from which you can catch wonderful views of the entire park, as well as its sister facility, Bruce Peninsula National Park, located to the southeast.  

There’s also an exhibit gallery and a theatre where you can watch a high-definition program that introduces you to the best spots in the two parks.  

MyNewWaterfrontHome.com — August 2010