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  • Writer's pictureBackwater Review

Dog Friendly Bruce

Travelling with your canine companion can be both a rewarding and a frustrating experience. Unfortunately, dogs are not always welcome at sites and establishments with equal enthusiasm. Outdoor adventures are often a safer bet. Nonetheless, accommodations, eateries, and shopping can be still pose roadblocks. Thankfully, areas like the Bruce Peninsula offer numerous dog-friendly activities and businesses, making your getaway with Fido a pleasant one.

Recently, we visited the area with our Great Dane, Odin--a one-hundred-and-fifty pound pony--and were delighted with the opportunities presented to dog-lovers.

Dog-Friendly Accommodations

Land's End Park

Only three minutes from the village of Tobermory, we managed to rent a rustic cabin at Land's End Park. Land's End cabins are the perfect solution for dog-lovers. They are roomy and clean and offer immediate access to the outdoors. The cabins each have one double bed and a set of bunks, as well as a table and chairs and shelving for storage. They are finished in rough-sawn pine and fully serviced with both electricity and water. Outside, there is a fire pit and a picnic table. Showers and toilets are conveniently located within a two to three-minute walk. The campground also offers access to a beach and boat docks.

Summer rates are $120CAD/night. In peak season (mid-June to early September), the park requires a minimum three-night stay. Bring your own bedding. Tent and trailer options are also available.

Land's End Park: Welcoming to Dogs

Other Possibilities

Also advertised as dog-friendly:

Mermaid Inn Tobermory

Big Tub Bed & Breakfast

Peninsula Motel

Mikinaak Cottage & Cabin Rentals

Comfort Inn Owen Sound

Dog-Friendly Eateries

Health regulations in Ontario forbid the entry of animals in restaurants. However, establishments with patios have become increasingly welcoming to dogs. Here are a few:

Winifred's English Pub (Thornbury)

Winifred's is a proper English pub with upscale pub-fare. It is located just next to the bridge and overlooks the fish ladder and a park across the street. They welcomed us right onto their covered patio and served Odin a bowl of water. Staff, many of whom were pet owners themselves, came by to pet him and chat with us. Don't leave without trying the Posh Poutine or the local Thornbury Craft Cider.

Shipwreck Lee's (Tobermory)

Shipwreck Lee's has a laid back island vibe and wouldn't be out of place on a Caribbean beach. They have a tiny indoor restaurant, but a much larger covered patio with picnic table seating. The place is busy and hectic and very much open to dogs, who are free to join you at your table. Bowls of water are available. The specialty at Lee's is the fish & chips. They even have an all-you-can-eat special of Alaskan Whitefish. Be sure to try the pub's own brew, Island Time Light Lager from MacLean's Ales in Hanover.

Big Bay General Store

Grab a picnic table outside the Big Bay General Store and share a homemade ice cream cone with your dog. Better yet, get him his own cup! This little stop is just off of the scenic Grey Route 1, which skirts the Georgian Bay between Wiarton and Owen Sound, and is not far from the Bruce Caves Conservation Area. The ice cream uses only natural ingredients, and includes such unique flavours as Chocolate Chai, Aztec, and Pumpkin Pie.

Other Possibilities

Also advertised as dog-friendly:

Lion's Head Inn Restaurant & Pub


Thornbury Village Cider & Brew House

Dog-Friendly Activities

The Bruce Peninsula and surrounding area is home to 2 National Parks, 8 Provincial Parks, 80 Conservation Areas, and more than 1000km of trail. It is an outdoor-lover's paradise, and your dog will thank you for it! Here are a few dog-friendly places to enjoy with your pet.

Bruce Peninsula National Park

Windswept pebble beaches, dramatic cliffs, and boreal wetlands are just some of the highlights in Bruce Peninsula National Park. Your dog will be right at home in this wilderness playground. Two musts include The Grotto and Halfway Log Dump.

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Both destinations, within the park, are easy hikes (an hour to an hour-and-a-half round trip) on flat well groomed trails that culminate at rocky beach areas on the Georgian Bay. There are stupendous views, as well as intermediate and advanced hiking options at both locales. Dogs on leash are allowed full access.

Be sure to book your parking pass in advance for either option. These are busy destinations during the summer season, but well worth the visit.

Bring water shoes, a swimsuit & towel, as well as a picnic and drinks. Do not forget your bug spray; the rock beaches are black fly territory.

Fathom Five National Marine Park

Another gem of the Bruce Peninsula is the Fathom Five National Marine Park. To take full advantage of this park with your dog, you will want to book a cruise to see the shipwrecks in Big Tub Harbour and spend an afternoon on Flowerpot Island. Blue Heron Cruises has the largest glass-bottomed boats on the peninsula, but is also the most openly dog friendly of the purveyors. Dogs, both big and small, are allowed on the back and top decks. The cruise to Flowerpot Island is about 50 minutes in duration and involves a stop at the two tug wrecks in the harbour. The return trip is about 20 minutes.

Once on the island, there is a selection of hiking activities from easy to difficult. There are also numerous rocky beach areas for picnicking and swimming--not to mention the famous flowerpot formations which are the island's claim to fame. You can also visit the lighthouse keeper's residence where there is a small snack bar and washrooms. Ultimately, you can enjoy the island at your leisure as long as you are back at the dock at your prescribed time.

The cruise in question is $60/adult and free for dogs!

Bruce Caves Conservation Area

Formed 8000 years ago, the Bruce Cave System is an easy twenty-minute round-trip hike not far from Wiarton, Ontario. The hike winds through rolling hills and forest and culminates at a sizeable cave system. A good visit can be had in about an hour-and-a-half. Parking is $10CAD and must be paid online or by phone on site. Note that the parking lot is small. As such, the caves are best visited in the morning. Your dog must be leashed while on the trail.

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Inglis Falls Conservation Area

Just outside Owen Sound is the Inglis Falls Conservation Area. This spectacular falls is the largest in the area and a popular day trip from Toronto. The falls is immediately present next to the old mill and parking lot. There are also hiking trails and picnic areas on site. Parking is $10CAD and must be paid in cash. Dogs should remain on leash. Some outlooks are not fenced and present significant drops.

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Indian Falls Conservation Area

Indian Falls is a 0.7km hike on the outskirts of Owen Sound to a gorgeous bridal falls. The trail to the top of the Falls is an intermediate-to-difficult hike with rocky terrain, some steps, and slight elevation gain. Hiking to the bottom of the falls is not encouraged and can be somewhat more difficult. This lower "unofficial" trail is sometimes washed out after heavy rains. Parking is free. Dogs should remain on leash at all times.


The Blue Herron group of stores in Tobermory, like the cruise line, is very accommodating to dog owners. Pets on a leash can browse the aisles of Blue Heron Outfitters, Mariner Chart Shop, and The Net Shed, alongside their owners. Often, dog owners need only ask for permission.

Area Dog Parks

Beautiful Joe Park (Meaford)

Moreau Dog Park (Thornbury)

Kincardine Dog Park (Kincardine)

Wasaga Beach Dog Park and Beach Area (Wasaga Beach)

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