At the northeastern end of Lake Huron lies the Georgian Bay, nestled inside the thumb of the Bruce Peninsula, formed where the Niagara Escarpment juts out into the lake. With no fishing or industry or commerce to speak of, the entire 70-mile peninsula now has a population of only a few thousand, all of whom look forward to the arrival of the summer folks.
These summer folks include: botanists interested in the unusual local ferns and orchids; scuba divers taking advantage of the crystal clear waters in the Fathom Five National Marine Park; relatively well-heeled folks from Toronto getting away from the city to a summer home on the waterfront; even more well-heeled yachtsmen visiting the lovely harbor at Tobermory; vigorous hikers walking the Bruce Trail; and tourists like us planning to see the area Coast Guard boat and then continue north on the ferry Chi-Cheemaun to Manitoulin Island.
Tobermory, where we spent four lovely days, is a wonderful backwater. It has one gas station, which pumps only one grade of gas; one post office; one well-known Sweet Shop; one cook, who provided absolutely identical food, right down to the place mats, at two different restaurants; one rotary telephone in our motel office, and none in the rooms; several campgrounds and gift shops; and plenty of cool rainy weather.
We were crabby when we got in, because of speeders late for the ferry and passing on the double yellow centerline, but we soon felt we'd like to stay here longer just to relax. We're far enough away from the big city that everyone is just as nice and friendly as can be. The Stone Orchid
We waited for the right day with a little sunshine and took a two-hour glass-bottom boat trip through the Fathom Five Park. We looked down on the wrecks of schooners and steamers, watched the Coast Guard working some of the hundreds of buoys in the area, saw a few birds, including an eagle and some loons. We watched the ferry leaving the harbor, and cruised over to Flowerpot Island, long an attraction because of the inverted cones of rock that have been eroded by the waves; another aspect of the geology of the Niagara escarpment. We took lots of pictures of islands and shore, and enjoyed the cool fresh air. We looked at couples and families and singles paddling around in kayaks and canoes, and noticed some dive boats working near a shipwreck. The divers, we understand, now have something called a "dry suit" and take lots of underwater pictures. As usual, we limited our athletic activities to walking around, in town and on trails, and left the more vigorous pursuits to others. Cabot Head Lighthouse
We discovered those identical menus on two successive lunches in town, but finding we had all the "shish-kebob" (made with hard cooked pork), Greek salad, and whitefish (reputedly a local delicacy) we wished to have, we decided to try the Stone Orchid several miles south of town. We are happy to recommend this restaurant, run by a tall, blonde Dutch woman who grew up in Indonesia and then emigrated to Canada. She makes her own soups, which were a wonderful mixture of vegetables and spices, salads, and (this day) chicken croquettes. Dave Brubeck was playing jazz on a CD, and little puzzles or decks of cards were set out on each table. And in a ditch across the road were dozens of wild orchids in bloom, surrounded by hundreds of fragrant mint plants.
Another thing we can recommend is the Cabot Head Lighthouse, situated on the northeastern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, and lovingly restored by a Sunset group of local volunteers. The exhibits and explanations were excellent, the building well-kept. The last human attendant retired in 1987, and the remaining aids to navigation are all automated. There's a short path through the woods to a nearby harbor. As it will happen, we met another couple at Cabot Head. They are retired, doing family history, with Yorkshire ancestors. He had grown up in Tobermory, but left as a young man to work in Toronto. That seems to be a common story in rural Canada.
We have a little mathematical-geographical query for our readers. There is an island called Treasure Island, which has some summer cottages. It is in the middle of Lake Mindemoya, which is to be found on Manitoulin Island, which in turn is an island in Lake Huron. So if you count down from Treasure Island to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, you have an island in a lake on an island in a lake on a continent in an ocean. Let's call this a chain of length five. Is this the longest such chain? Do any of our readers know?