This is the crown jewel of Ontario diving. The gem at the apex is Tobermory. If you want to dive, this is the place. But don't make the mistake of assuming that this is the only place. True, Tobermory is the centre for wreck diving. But the Niagara escarpment provides endless coastline for geological diving virtually anywhere you care to take the plunge.
This feature is often called the ‘spine' of Ontario. It stretches over 2300 km from Niagara Falls, up the Bruce Peninsula where it dives below water to re-emerge on Manitoulin Island, and then on into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In places the escarpment towers over 250 metres high.
The escarpment is a faulted layer that is higher on the east side than on the west. This gives the Bruce Peninsula two distinct shorelines. The East shore faces the smaller, and calmer Georgian Bay. The cliffs tower over the water, while erosion chips away at the softer layers below creating separate stacks called ‘flower pots' and many sea caves.
The west coast is exposed to the weather of the open lake and its low sloping shore sinks into the lake in a gradual series of steps. The erosion on the elevated east coast has created numerous deep bays, these were ideal choices for the location of settlements, and a map quickly shows that the bulk of the towns are located at the head of the bays on the east side of the peninsula.
A typical stretch of the east coast might offer some indented ledges leading to interior pools. Some of these pools connect through short tunnels back to the outside. Many of the shorter safer ones are routinely explored. Several ledges can be accessed from dry caves from the top. The flower pots do not only stick out above water, but rubble fields below become a giants playground of tumbled pillars and shifted ledges offering plenty of geological diving. In places it is posible to sit on a ledge and stare below into water over 300 feet below your feet.
From underwater caves and cliffs, boulder fields and petrified forests there are endless possibilities. In the past few years several petrified forests have been discovered and at least one large submerged waterfall that marks some of the past history of the lakes during the Ice Age. If geological diving holds little interest for you there is an excellent collection of shipwrecks scattered along the coast. A good number of them are shore dives, but most will require the use of a boat to reach them.
Currently Fathom Five National Marine Park is Ontario's only underwater park. There are over a dozen vessels to choose from. Depths range from high and dry to 140ft in depth. The bulk of the vessels are located around the tip of the peninsula, but there are several other noteworthy wrecks along the coast. Most of the diveable wrecks are located off the east coast of the peninsula.
This is the destination of choice for those who dive the Bruce. The town has a population of less than 1000 yet has three dive shops. Several charters operate and will take you to a variety of wrecks and general diving sites. At least six shore dives exist around the town. There are plenty of lodgings available in hotel, nearby campsites or several provincial parks a few minutes drive south of the town. This is the southern terminus of the ferry that can carry you across to Manitoulin Island. The town also has a full hyperbaric facility capable of treating DCS, one of only two in Ontario.
A very tiny hamlet off the beaten track for those who want a quiet day. From here you can proceed up the lakeshore via a remote road to Cabot Head for a visit to the lighthouse and small enclosed bay. There are several dives here for the contemplative diver who is tired of the busier sites.
Perhaps this small towns greatest claim-to-fame is 'Wiarton Willy' their groundhog who makes an annual prediction about winter's end. Located at the head of Colpoy's bay this scenic town of 2000 hosts an airport, and numerous tourist facilities. The vista of Colpoy's bay is worth stopping for and there are many trails around the area. Wiarton's importance in sport diving continues to grow. There are at least three shore dives, and a petrified forest off the coast.
This is the gateway city to the peninsula. It is the largest town with a population of nearly 20,000. It is located at the outlet of the Sydenham and Pottawattomi Rivers. It was an important port of call for steamers plying the great lakes. The town was the birth place of Billy Bishop Canada's greatest WWI air ace.
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