Your Flowerpot Island Experience
Northern Bruce County is more than just the place to go to see the Grotto. Take a ride on one of the Glass Bottom Boats and bear witness to shipwrecks that are a divers paradise. See the famous rock formations that have been created – and are the reason it’s called Flowerpot Island.
See the 8th wonder of Canada from the water
Flowerpot Island is located in Fathom Five National Marine Park, 6.5 kilometres off the shore of Tobermory and is only accessible by boat. Famous for its natural “flowerpot” rock pillars, it is a scuba diver’s paradise, an explorer’s dream and a family’s memorable vacation. Thanks to Tobermory‘s fleet of glass bottom tour boats, you can plan an amazing day trip to Flowerpot Island that takes you past two shipwrecks, three lighthouses, a few scuba divers or snorkelers, and two flowerpots while cruising the turquoise waters of Georgian Bay.
Blue Heron Cruises and Bruce Anchor Cruises are two private boat tour companies that make multiple trips daily, beginning in the spring until mid-fall. Both companies feature glass bottom boat tours that explore some of the shipwrecks laying just beneath the surface in Big Tub Harbour and share the history of those shipwrecks as you embark on the journey to Flowerpot Island.
Here you can explore the flowerpots, caves, historic light station and ancient cedars, some over 750 years old! To scope out all of the beauty on the island, it is recommended to plan for 5 hours. Bring water and food, and wear running shoes or hiking footwear as there is rugged terrain ahead for the adventurous.
Here’s a Sneak Preview of your Boat Tour Experience
It’s best to book your tickets for the glass bottom boat-cruise well in advance as they book up quickly. Tours leave regularly from Little Tub Harbour and make the 6.5 kilometre trek to Flowerpot Island. To take in the shipwrecks, you’ll want to take the glass bottom boat to the island, but ask about returning on the Zodiac for an adventurous high-speed ride. Keep in mind, if the glass bottom boats are sold out, you can still see the shipwrecks from the front and side of the boats.
Discover incredible visible shipwrecks
Your glass bottom boat will pass over two striking shipwrecks in Big Tub Harbour. The Sweepstakes is one of the most incredibly intact and easily visible wrecks in Fathom Five. Damaged off Cove Island back in 1885, the ship was towed into Big Tub Harbour for repairs, but sank just a month later before she could be fixed. The result is an amazing experience for divers, snorkelers and glass bottom tourers alike. The wreck is about 50 metres in length and sits in only 20 feet of water in the harbour, making for an incredible view from both the top deck and the boat’s glass viewing windows.
Just south of the Sweepstakes, you’ll see the wreck of the City of Grand Rapids – a double-decked steamer that once navigated the coastal trade route between Owen Sound and Manitoulin Island. Back in 1907, the vessel caught fire while docked in Little Tub Harbour. It was towed further out of the harbour and released. The charred wreckage drifted into Big Tub Harbour where it now sits in shallow water.
After you’ve toured the shipwrecks, your cruise continues past the Big Tub Lighthouse. The underwater ledge off this lighthouse is a popular dive location, so keep your eyes peeled for divers entering and exiting the water. On weekends, you may even see a bride and groom tying the knot on the rocks by the lighthouse.
Back on open water, you’ll cruise past the Flowerpot Island lightstation, before rounding the corner and seeing the first of two large flowerpots. These unique sea stacks were formed as wind, rain, waves and ice hammered away at the cliffs along the water’s edge. With careful inspection, you can see the beginnings of new flowerpots forming along the shoreline.
The flowerpot rock pillars are accessed after a moderate hike north along the eastern coastline. When you are at the flowerpot rock pillars, enjoy the sun as it heats up the multi-tiered rock exposure. And for those that keep their eyes open, you will see where a third flowerpot once stood before 1903.
Hike the Niagara Escarpment like few others! The trails lead you through woods, rare wildflowers and a sea cave and lead you to the towering flowerpots and lighthouse. Rugged and adventurous hikes await those that journey through the interior portion of the island.
What you will find on your hike around Flowerpot Island
The hike to the lighthouse station requires solid footwear, plenty of water and about three hours for the round trip journey. The terrain is rugged though many four-year olds manage it just fine every year.
The original lighthouse was built in 1897 to guide ships safely through the shipping channel. A second building was built in 1909 to house fog and alarm machinery. Both were decommissioned in 1969, and today’s functioning steel tower was erected.
In 1901, the two-storey light keeper’s home was built and the one-storey light keeper’s assistant’s home was built in 1959. Visitors can tour the outbuildings and buy light refreshments on site.
In addition to the flowerpots and the lighthouse, is the island’s main cave. Located near the flowerpots, the large cave can be accessed by stairs and viewed at a large platform. Other caves are waiting for you if you are interested in exploring the island.
The Best Flowerpot Experience is: Camping on the Island
The best Flowerpot Island experience begins with waking up in a tent and seeing the flowerpots first thing in the morning before the tour boats reach the island. If you are lucky, you’ll see a morning fog over the water, perfectly calm water, or both!
Six campsites are available on the island on a first-come, first-serve basis. Call Parks Canada to book your stay.
Taking a dip in the refreshing water of Georgian Bay is a popular activity for those visiting Flowerpot Island. Common areas for swimming and snorkeling include the picnic area by Beachy Cove and at the flowerpots. Be careful as the shoreline is rocky, the water is cold, and there are deep drop-offs not far from shore. It is important to note that there are no sand beaches on the island so you may want to bring water shoes with you.