On the shores of the Bruce Peninsula National Park in Ontario, Canada, is a very special sea cave. Hidden in the cliffside, if you didn’t know it was there, you’d likely miss it entirely.

Located in Tobermory — the scuba diving capital of Canada — on the Bruce Peninsula, the grotto is on the edge of Indian Head Cove. Getting to the grotto is part of the fun. The Georgian Bay shoreline is an expansive stretch of turquoise, royal and cerulean blues. The hike is very easy at the beginning, but the shoreline itself is very rocky and can be a challenge for those with limited mobility or children. There’s a portion that requires rock scrambling and tree navigating.

Getting into the grotto itself requires a shimmy down a rocky tunnel, or a descent down a 40-foot cliff face. But if you’re up for a semi-laborious adventure with an epic reward at the end, this hike is perfect for you.

This 30-45 minute hike is so popular these days that the park is now instituting timed parking limits. In the busy summer months, it’s common for all parking slots to be purchased in the early morning. There are three time slots per day: 7am-11am, 12pm-4pm, and 5pm-9pm. When all the passes are distributed, that’s it — they’re gone. But, starting this summer, the park is going to offer online reservations for high season, so be sure to stay on top of that.

For the return hike, you have options. You can either double back on the Georgian Bay shoreline trail, or loop around on Marr Lake trail or Horse Lake trail — both of which showcase totally different terrain and a more challenging hiking experience. Allow up to an hour to return if you choose to go that way.

How to get there

The Bruce Peninsula Grotto is located in the Bruce Peninsula National Park. The trail to the grotto is accessed from the Cyprus Lake P1 parking lot. GPS coordinates are 469 Cyprus Lake Rd Tobermory, ON N0H 2R0 45.226137, -81.525409 . Check out a map here.

What to consider

  • The Grotto can get very busy, especially during the peak season (July and August) and on holiday weekends. There’s a parking lot for access and during those times, it fills up quickly.
  • Coming this summer, they’ll be taking online reservations for the parking lot. Check back here.
  • No booze in the grotto — alcohol consumption is not allowed.
  • Don’t plan on roasting marshmallows either, as campfires are not permitted.
  • Wear shoes with grip — much of the shoreline trail is slippery.
  • The water is always cold, even in the summer, so be prepared for spine tingling swims.
  • Like all wild places, carry out what you bring in.
  • Don’t stay longer than your time slot—those who do are issued a ticket (or, worse, towed).
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