Fathom Five National Park: world-class diving and beautiful Flowerpot Island
Fathom Five National Park is adjacent to but separate from Bruce Peninsula National Park just offshore from the Town of Tobermory. It is a marine park which surrounds the end of the Bruce Peninsula. It was established in 1987 Canada’s first National Marine Conservation Area.
Encompassing a total area of 130 sq. kilometres of surface water it protects the unique landscape both on and off shore and includes the ecosystem 200 meters below the clear, cold blue waters of Georgian Bay. 20 islands also lie within its borders and these can only be reached by boat providing a welcome escape to the wilderness only a few hours north of Toronto.
What makes Fathom Five National Park so unique and significant is a remarkable collection of 21 shipwrecks that are open to divers. Diving is world class and the area around Tobermory is considered one of the best diving sites in the world.
One of the most visited spots in the Fathom Five National Park is Flowerpot Island. Named for the unique geological rock formations known locally as “flowerpots” the island is a definite must see site if you are in the area and makes for great photo opportunities.
Flowerpot Island is 6.5 kilometres (4 miles) from Tobermory harbour and can only be reached by boat. There are two companies that offer daily services (weather permitting), to and from the island from mid-May to mid October. They are glass bottomed boats that also pass by a few shipwrecks located just a few feet below the surface for your viewing pleasure without the need to dive and get wet.
You can also reach the island by kayaking or canoeing but this is only recommended if you are a very experienced paddler. The waters of Georgian Bay are extremely cold and conditions can change in a very short time so this can be an extremely dangerous adventure.
Once on the island there are numerous things to do in addition to viewing the “flowerpots”.
Lightstation – The historic lighthouse is maintained by volunteers and inside gives you a good idea as to the living conditions of a lightkeeper. The deck also gives superb views over Georgian Bay.
Hiking – After being dropped off by the ferry boat at Beachy Cove the most common hike leads one straight to the flowerpots. You can then continue up some steep stairs to view a sea cave. It is then only a short distance further along to the lightstation. Another more lengthy trail circles the island and involves lots of rocky terrain and several steep stairs.
Picnicking – Flowerpot Island makes for a great day of picnicking. There are picnic tables available near the lightstation or simply unwrap a blanket and enjoy yourself anywhere near the beautiful shoreline. There is also a picnic shelter available near Beachy Cove.
Please note: There is no garbage facilities available so you must bring everything back with you. You must also bring all food and water required as no services are available.
Swimming and/or snorkeling – You can partake in these activities anywhere on the island but please be forewarned that there is no beaches and the shoreline is rocky with deep drop-offs.
Camping – There are 6 campsites on the island near Beachy Cove. They are very popular so pre-booking is recommended. Booking can be done at the Park Visitor Centre in Tobermory or call ahead at 519-596-2233. Please note that because of the variable weather conditions the ferry services cannot run daily. You may therefore be stuck on the island longer than anticipated. Bring extra supplies just in case.
All in all Flowerpot Island make for a great half day trip. Plan on spending anywhere from 2 – 5 hours if not camping.
As stated earlier Fathom Five National Park is considered one of the best diving spots in the world. There is plenty to experience including some magnificent geological formations such as sea caves, cliffs and overhangs and of course the shipwrecks for which the park is famous. Making the experience truly remarkable is the fact that the water is so clean and clear, making the shipwrecks easily visible, even from the surface.
Please note that all divers must first obtain their dive tag at the Park Visitor Centre.
The following dive sites are available at the Fathom Five National Park or inside Tobermory harbour:
Harbour Diving Sites
# 1 Sweepstakes – This 119 foot (36.3 metre) schooner was built in 1867 and lies 20 feet (7 metres) below the surface. Sunk in the harbour in1885 with its hull still intact it is one of the most popular dive and snorkeling spots in the park.
# 2 City of Grand Rapids – This 122.5 foot (37.3 metre) passenger steamer was built in 1879 and burned and sank in 1907. It lies 15 feet (5 metres) below the surface 100 feet (30 metres) from the Sweepstakes. A very popular dive and snorkeling spot.
# 3 Big Tub Lighthouse Point – Just offshore from the 1885 lighthouse the Niagara Escarpment drops dramatically and provides a submerged sheer cliff 75 feet (23 metres) deep.
# 4 The Anchor – At a depth of 70 feet (21 metres) this large iron anchor from an unknown vessel provides an interesting dive site.
Fathom Five Natonal Park Diving Sites
# 5 The Tugs – The wreckage of 4 small steam tugboats all clustered together at a depth of 40 feet (13 metres). An excellent diving and snorkeling site.
# 6 Cascaden – This schooner waqs built in 1866 and sunk in 1871 and lies in 20 feet (6 metres) of water. Unfortunately the vessel has broken up and its wreckage is spread over a large area.
# 7 China – This 137 foot (41.8 metres) schooner was built in 1863 and lies in 10 feet (3 metres) below the surface. Sunk in 1883 its wreckage has broken up and is spread over a large area.
# 8 John Walters – This 108 feet (32.9 metres) schooner was built in 1852 and sunk in 1889 and lies 15 feet (5 metres) below the surface.
# 9 W. L. Wetmore – A very large schooner at 213.5 feet (65.1 metres) was bult in 1871 and lies 30 feet (10 metres) below the surface. Wrecked and sunk during a storm 1n 1901 its impressive wreckage makes for a very interesting dive and snorkeling site.
# 10 James C. King – A large schooner at 175 feet (53.4 metres) is lies at a depth ranging from 25 – 95 feet (7 – 30 metres). Sunk in 1901 its depth makes it a site for experienced divers only.
# 11 Newago – A large steamer at 196 feet (59.7 metres) it was bult in 1890 and sunk in 1903. It lies 25 feet (8 metres) below the surface and its wreckage is scattered over a large area.
# 12 Philio Scoville – This 139.5 feet (42.5 metres) schooner was built in 1863 and sunk in 1889. Its wreckage lies at a depth ranging from 25 – 95 feet (7 – 30 metres). Due to the depth of the wreckage this site is recommended for experienced divers only.
# 13 Charles P. Minch – This 154.7 feet (47.2 metres) schooner was built in 1867 and sunk in 1888. It lies 20 – 50 feet (6 – 16 metres) below the surface and its wreckage is spread over a large area.
#14 Arabia – This 131.6 feet (40.1 metres) barque was built in 1853 and sunk in 1884. It lies at a depth of 120 feet (37 metres).The wreckage is in excellent condition but the site is only recommended for experienced divers under the direction of a dive master as it lies in an area with strong currents and variable weather conditions.
# 15 Marion L. Breck – This 127 feet (38.7 metres) schooner was built in 1863 and sunk in 1900. It lies 90 feet (28 metres) below the surface and its wreckage is scatters over a large area.
# 16 Forest City – This large steamer at 216.7 feet (66 metres) was built in 1870 and sunk in 1904. Its wreckage is scattered at depths rabgung from 60 – 150 feet (18 – 46 metres). This site is recommended for very experienced divers only.
# 17 Avalon Voyager II – This large 135 feet (47.2 metres) motorboat was built in 1947 and sunk in 1980. It lies 25 feet (8 metres) below the surface but very little of the wreckage remains. Makes for a good diving and snorkeling site.
# 18 Caroline Rose – This 132 feet (39.6 metres) schooner was built in 1940 and sunk in 1990 as a dive site. It lies just outside the Fathom Five National Park borders at a depth of 55 feet (16.5 metres)
# 19,20,21 Unidentified Wrecks – Fathom Five National Park also has 3 sites with unidentified wrecks that are visited very little as they really don’t provide much interest to the average dver. They are located at an average depth of 90 feet (29 metres) below the surface.
# 22 The Caves – An excellent diving and snorkeling site is located just 19 kilometres (12 miles) east of Tobermory. There is a grotto whose submerged entrance islocated only 20 feet (6 metres) below the surface.
# 23 Little Cove (aka Daves Bay) – Geological formations such as pitting, layers of bedrock and glacial scouring can be found at depths up to 40 feet (13 metres).
# 24 Dunks Point – A hard to reach but unique diving spot that contains some interesting geological formations at depths up to 60 feet (18 metres).
# 25 North Otter Wall – A good diving spot suitable for divers of any experience. Contains some good geological formations such as steep walls, overhangs and caves located at depths up to 40 feet (13 metres) below the surface.
Location of Fathom Five National Marine Park
How to get to Fathom Five National Park:
Fathom Five National Park is located just off the tip of the Bruce Peninsula and the Town of Tobermory. It is adjacent to but seperate from the Bruce Peninsula National Park.
If traveling from Southern Ontario:
- Travel north on Highway # 6 into Tobermory
If traveling from Northern Ontario:
- Catch the Chi-Cheemaun ferry on Manitoulin Island which travels directly to Tobermory
Whether you visit the park for the diving and snorkeling experiences or just for a trip out to the beautiful Flowerpot Island, Fathom Five National Marine Park makes for an excellent day trip. Combine it with a trip to Bruce Peninsula National Park for a unique experience of the Canadian outdoors.
For more information check out the official Fathom Five National Park site at: