All the summers of my childhood were spent with my Mom and brother on the beaches along the Bruce Peninsula. They were leisurely summers spent sunning ourselves, swimming, growing.
From the time my kids were little, we maintained the tradition. This year, before we headed up to the beach for a week at a rented cottage I checked out a few web sites to see what was new and what we might add to our week. Tweens are fun to travel with and mine have been visiting the cottage for years already, so I wanted to add something new to the mix.
My girls have the hearts of explorers, so happily they joined me the first day of our vacation for a tour of some lighthouses and other less travelled spots along the Bruce Peninsula. We started our day in Southampton where we have rented for easily 15 years now and we met up with Kim Clarke, tourism manager for Bruce County and Shane Bage, web content developer. You might have seen them driving around the Bruce with that jazzed up pickup that has Bruce County logos all over it.
Our day started at the Southampton Lighthouse in Pioneer Park where we took a boat ride over to Chantry Island. Unbelievable but after decades of visiting Bruce County and lounging on the beach I had never set foot on Chantry Island. Chantry Island is a bird sanctuary with lighthouse restored. We spent much of the morning learning about the island and climbing the lighthouse stairs to learn about the history of that area. If you know the beaches in Southampton area at all, then you understand why the rocky shoals are also home to 50 known shipwrecks. On clear days you can see some of the wreckage on the boat ride over.
Chantry Island was first lit on April1, 1859 and is home now to over 25,000 pairs of migrating birds. We spied egrets, herons and cormorants. Interesting fact – cormorants are gross and destructive. Their fecal matter (I cannot say Poo after a week with my four-year-old nephew who likes the word Poo a bit too much!) is so acidic it burns the trees, so if you look in the shots at top and see several dead trees, well that’s because of cormorant excrement. Also the home on the island has been restored and has a museum quality to it, that illustrates how many dedicated lighthouse keepers once took care of the island. Once there was a cow that lived on the island and they rowed him out on a boat. Rumour has it the cow did not like it much out there. The climb up the lighthouse was fun for us and there’s a great view at top of the beach across the way. Excursions are offered throughout the summer. Check the tour office for times.
From there we sampled butter tarts. Several of the baked tarts made on the Bruce have garnered awards over the years. Harley’s Pub and Perk in Mildmay has some of the best tarts on the Bruce Peninsula. They were awarded that status by a writer in the Globe and Mail several years ago. After a snack, we got a quick introduction to the Adventure Passport, now in its ninth year. The Passport has been completed by over 50,000 people to date on foot, by car and motorcycle. It is simply a brochure style passport you carry along with you on your Bruce County Adventures. There are stops in Southampton, MildMay, Tobermory, Wiarton, Purple Valley and so on. The passport is given out each year to all the school children in Bruce County. It runs until October 31st and will be back again next year. You punch each stop at the destination on the passport and then submit the passport for prizes. In case you are wondering if it’s worth it – the prizes are substantial. You must complete at least seven of the stops to win a prize, but if you do as many as 12 you have chance to win a week long stay at a cottage in Lion’s Head. There are a lot of great prizes!
We headed off to the Bruce County Museum, a lovely spot our family has visited annually for the last decade. The schoolhouse on the property holds great charm for families of all ages. Inside the Museum this year, is an exhibit about shipwrecks and lighthouses. We went back again later in the week with my nephew Taiga who got to help shoot a cannon. Other years we have visited and seen some amazing displays of sea monsters and dinosaurs. Read about our first visits to the Bruce County Museum here.
Last destination for us was the Kincardine Lighthouse and Museum, a wee bit smaller than the Chantry Island lighthouse. A highlight here was the scenery. Kincardine is a very pretty spot to visit. Again there are numerous historical details highlighted within the museum about shipwrecks and the lighthouse keepers over the years. The fog horn on one of the top levels is a fun hands on tool for kids to learn about fog, weather, boats and history. The Kincardine lighthouse is the only Bruce County lighthouse that is in a downtown area. It was built in 1874 and sits on the Kincardine Harbour Hillside. It operates July 1st to Labour Day. This lighthouse sits atop what was once the lighthouse keeper’s home and is 74 feet tall. The Kincardine Yacht Club now hosts a marine museum inside.
Finally to end the day we hit Anastasia’s Soda Fountain and Ice Cream shoppe. Delicious handcrafted cones that we watched being made (talk about time-consuming work) in a vintage 50s type soda shoppe. Adorable little gifts and trinkets available inside, plus chocolate and fudge treats. Take a look at the crazy Elvis statue. I totally tweeted that. Not sure why a completely fun destination restaurant shop like this is not yet on Twitter. But see above link and like them on Facebook.
|Ainsley proclaimed this a little bit creepy.|
Many thanks to Shane and Kim and all the other volunteers for our day exploring the Bruce. Bruce County Travel is very family friendly as you might gather from this post. Remember there’s still time to get those stamps in for the Passport. Wiarton, Tobermory and the Bruce are gorgeous spots to visit as the leaves turn to autumn shades. Bruce County Travel is lovely every year. Also summer is not over until I say it is.
Disclosure: This was not a sponsored post, but I received perks and admission to several events and destinations for the day.