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The Shipwrecks in Tobermory are Hauntingly Beautiful

Beneath the vastness and calmness of Georgian Bay, lies not only a variety of underwater creatures but also twenty or more shipwrecks that were found, explored, preserved and retold in history books. Two ships sank 22 years apart found fame as one of Bruce Peninsula’s top tourist attractions: Sweepstakes and City of Grand Rapids. These two shipwrecks in Tobermory have been resting peacefully in a turquoise water in Big Tub Harbor for more than a hundred years but they refuse to sink and be forgotten by the world. Unlike Titanic, their remains live on….

Today, though 20 feet underwater, they are still a sight to behold. They’ll amaze you and they’ll blow you away…

Before you start your tour, have some fish and chips. They’re found anywhere around the harbor.

Fish and Chips Tobermory

The tour starts from the picturesque town of Tobermory.

Shipwrecks in Tobermory

It is the gateway to Fathom Five National Marine Park. 

Cove Island Lighthouse Bruce Peninsula

Cove Island Lighthouse

Here lies some of Canada’s oldest and best preserved shipwrecks dating back from 19th century.

Shipwrecks in Tobermory Bruce Peninsula Georgian Bay

One of them is the SWEEPSTAKES. 

Shipwrecks in Tobermory Bruce Peninsula Georgian Bay

It sank in 1885. 

Shipwrecks in Tobermory Bruce Peninsula Georgian Bay

She was a Great Lake Schooner built in 1867 in Burlington, Ontario. 

Georgian Bay Shipwrecks

She weighed two hundred eighteen tonnes and 36.3 meters long. 

Shipwrecks in Georgian bay

She has 23 feet beam and a 10 feet depth of hold.

Shipwrecks Georgian Bay in Tobermory

In late summer of 1885, Sweepstakes was hauling coal… 

Shipwrecks Georgian Bay

…..when it was discovered her hull was damaged.

Tobermory shipwrecks

She was stranded near Cove Island— 

Shipwrecks in Bruce Peninsula

—and they decided…

Shipwrecks in Bruce Peninsula

…..to tow her at the mouth of Big Tub Harbor for repair. 

Shipwrecks in Canada

But before she was completely salvaged from further damage…

Shipwrecks in Canada Sweepstakes

…she sank.

Shipwrecks in Georgian Bay Canada

From then on…

Shipwrecks in Bruce Peninsula

…she was laid to rest. 

Sweepstakes shipwreck bruce peninsula tobermory

Forever…

Grand Rapids Sweepstakes shipwrecks

Few meters away from the Sweepstakes is another shipwreck.

City of Grand Rapids Shipwreck

In her heydays, she was called the “City of Grand Rapids.” 

City of Grand Rapids Shipwrecks in Bruce Peninsula

She’s 37.3 meters propeller steamer and was built in 1879 in Grand Haven, Michigan. 

City of Grand Rapids Tobermory Bruce peninsula Shipwrecks

She carried both cargoes and passengers to Huron Lake and Georgian Bay.

Shipwrecks in canada city of grand rapids

She was a double-decker ship, too!  

Shipwrecks in bruce peninsula

In October 1907, she caught herself a fire…

city of grand rapids shipwreck

…while docked in a Little Tub Harbor.  

city of grand rapids shipwrecks tobermory

For the security of the people and the harbour, she was towed into Georgian Bay and released to burn.

Shipwrecks in Georgian Bay

From there, she was drifted to the head of Big Tub Harbour where she burnt to the waterline and sank. 

sweepstakes grand rapids shipwrecks tobermory

Forever…

How to get there:

Get to the town of Tobermory and buy a tour ticket that goes to the Shipwrecks and the Flowerpot Island. If you know how to kayak or canoe, a local outfitters at the entrance of Little Tub Harbor is renting out equipments you can use for the whole day. The shipwrecks aren’t that far from the Little Tub Harbor.

The Tour: 

The ship would only be in the shipwreck area for about 5-7 minutes. In my bigger opinion, it’s better to take the bigger / double-decker ferry than the smaller one. Take your seat right on the top deck for a better viewing and better pictures, too. Blue Heron company advertises that their ship has a glass bottom but you will be surprised how tiny it is (at least in my ship). So, better go upstairs and enjoy a better view.

Click these links for more information: 

Things to do in Bruce Peninsula
Parks Canada
Fathom Five National Marine Park of Canada

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7 Responses to “The Shipwrecks in Tobermory are Hauntingly Beautiful”

  1. Tanya
    September 18, 2013 at 12:15 PM #

    This is going to be my next destination next summer! Bucket list stuff.

    • TheSojourner
      September 18, 2013 at 1:57 PM #

      Have fun. It’s other-worldly looking down that shipwreck.

  2. Toronto Guy
    September 23, 2013 at 4:11 PM #

    I love the bruce peninsula. check out the manitoulin island. it’s about an hour and a half by ship from tobermory. there are so many things to do there if you are into nature.

  3. Adam P.
    October 2, 2013 at 5:53 AM #

    Amazing! And they are so close to the surface! Is it possible to dive here, explore the wrecks underwater? Or is the vessel traffic just too much so close to the shore? I guess the place must be swamped with tourist boats..

    • TheSojourner
      October 2, 2013 at 10:15 PM #

      Adam,
      Yes, you can dive but they will only allow certified divers. As for the traffic, there’s none. I think there are only two tour operators who are allowed to do this.

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