A Flowerpot Island Cruise 

A Flowerpot Island cruise is not only entertaining, but it is also very educational as you will see things that you have never viewed before!

Last weekend I travelled to Tobermory to enjoy the Marine Heritage Festival. While all the events were entertaining and educational, I particularly enjoyed a Flowerpot Island cruise. I have made several boat trips to Cove Island and sailed around the other islands which dot the waters off the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula. Although I had seen the famous flowerpots from a distance, I had not set foot on this famous Bruce Peninsula landmark.

Our Flowerpot Island Cruise Begins

On Sunday morning we set off for our Flowerpot Island cruise on a glass bottom boat. As we left the friendly confines of Little Tub harbour, I was immediately struck by two sensations. First the beauty of the deep blue Georgian Bay water contrasting with the green of the islands that surround the entrance to Tobermory. Secondly, the force of the wind and the waves as our boat was buffeted about by heavy waves. As we sailed further into the open water the swaying motion of the boat caused by the wave action increased and the announcement by the ship's captain that the depth of water below us was six hundred feet, gave me a renewed regard for the men and women who had sailed these waters and lost their lives in the many shipwrecks which divers now enjoy as part of Fathom Five National Park.

When our boat docked at Flowerpot Island, we were met by our tour guide, April, a Parks Canada Interpreter. April is a Graduate Student at the University of Guelph, who grew up in Southampton. Her love for nature, and more specifically the Bruce Peninsula and its accompanying islands was immediately evident. With great enthusiasm she pointed out the various trees, plants and landforms which make Flowerpot Island unique.

She told us about the oldest tree in Canada which scientists have discovered on Flowerpot Island. It is calculated to be 1,645 years old. She explained that due to the remote location of the island, loggers and forest fires had left the forest growth virtually untouched. It was particularly interesting to note that many of these trees were gnarled and dwarfed because they existed in very little soil in the cracks and crevices of the rocky outcrops which constitute the shoreline of the island. Combining the winds, ice and snow to this harsh habitat it is truly an amazing feat that these stubby trees could withstand the elements for a few years let alone many centuries.

As we toured Flowerpot Island, we noticed an island with a distinctive shape to the east. Bear's Rump Island is unique not only for its name, but for its profile. On the horizon it looks like a bear lying on its stomach, with its rump in the air as it attempts to catch fish as they swim by the western shore. From a geological perspective it represents a cross-section of the Bruce Peninsula. Like the Georgian Bay coast of the peninsula the eastern end of the island rises sharply out of the water like a craggy promontory and as its slopes to west it levels off and offers a smooth approach to the waters much like the Lake Huron shoreline of the peninsula. 

Flowerpot Island has been part of the National Park system since the 1930s when it was part of the Georgian Bay Islands National Park. In 1987 it became part of Fathom Five National Park.  

The two flowerpots which rise up out of the water on the eastern shoreline of the island have created an aura of mystery and legend to the island. Originally, early sailors referred to them as Roman wine jars. However, native legend surrounding these two pillars predates European travellers to the area.

Scientists have determined that fishing occurred in the area at least 1000 years ago. However, native legend reveals that evil spirits lurked on the island and therefore was never inhabited.  A Native myth tells the story of an Indian warrior falling in love with a princess from a rival tribe. To escape persecution from both their tribes they paddled to Flowerpot Island. Once safely on the island evil spirits cast them into columns of stone. If you look carefully at the largest flowerpot you can see the profile of an Indian warrior in the rock at the top of the largest flowerpot. 

As you can see, there are many great reasons to take a Flowerpot Island cruise. 

A version of this article first appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times in 1998.

Discover More About the Bruce Peninsula

Getting to the Bruce Peninsula is a relatively easy driving trip. Here are driving directions from three regions to the peninsula.

Barrow Bay Ontario a Picturesque Georgian Bay Community owes its origin to the once-thriving Bruce Peninsula lumbering industry. Today it is a quiet summer get-away!

Bruce Peninsula Lumber History details the impact of the forest products industry on the development of the region.

Bruce Peninsula Lumbering provided the stimulus to develop and grow the pioneer economy on the newly settled Bruce Peninsula. 

Bruce Peninsula Municipal Politics: No matter what the venue, or the issue, seldom is a popular decision made that suits everyone. 

Bruce Peninsula Travel Routes were often a matter of debate because in the early years, land travel was virtually unattainable for settlers and lumbermen alike.

Aboriginal History: Bruce Peninsula has a long indigenous heritage not just for the native nation living there today, but for other native groups as well.

Aboriginal History: the 1836 Treaty made promises to the native peoples of the Bruce Peninsula which did not last long before everything changed again.

Aboriginal land history continues the story of aboriginal land issues on the Bruce Peninsula. How it happened is a point for discussion by everyone.

Settler Impact on Bruce Peninsula Natives was not only from the imposition of treaties, but also from British military plans.

"Half Mile-Strip" Treaty made it possible for a relatively smooth overland connection to be built between Owen Sound and the Lake Huron shoreline.

Catherine Sutton: aka Nahneebahweequay was a hero, fighting for her Indigenous rights and those of her family.

Allenford United Church history details not only some important information about that community's church, but also about one of the founders of this Ontario community.

Colpoys Bay Vista - Awesome! A short drive from either Wiarton or Owen Sound is one of the most magnificent views to be found in the province of Ontario!

Dyer's Bay Ontario: Began as a Lumbering Settlement and today it is a wonderful vacation retreat.

Elsinore Ontario is the southern-most point on the Bruce Peninsula, located about half-way between Owen Sound and the Lake Huron shoreline.

Forest Products on the Bruce Peninsula contributed greatly to the growth and development of that region of the province of Ontario.

Gillies Lake: aka Ghost Lake has a mysterious past as its original name, Ghost Lake, implies.

Great Grey Owls on the Bruce Peninsula was a surprise discovery for ornithologists and others. Sadly, the story of their visit had an unfortunate conclusion.

Pioneer Campers: Hope Bay mostly considered the peninsula untamed wilderness and some of the locals were not about to disappoint them!

A Pioneer Community: Driftwood Crossing, at the southern-most part of the Saugeen/Bruce Peninsula was at the midpoint between the Georgian Bay and Lake Huron coasts.

Pioneer Missionary James Atkey arrived on Colpoys Bay to minister to the native community near Oxenden until a treaty uprooted his parishioners.

Pioneer tourists first visited the Bruce Peninsula in the 1800s and the region continues as a great recreational and tourism destination today!

Pioneer Vacations on the Bruce Peninsula got an eerie start in the Hope Bay region of the peninsula.

Lighthouses  Lighthouses were vital to Georgian Bay Sailing.

Sauble Beach Ontario has seen it all. A fishing outport; a sawmilling centre; and an internationally acclaimed tourist resort area!

Sauble Beach  This popular beach is known as Canada's Daytona Beach.

Lion's Head  Sailors often sought refuge from the stormy Georgian Bay waters in its well-protected harbour.

Park Head  Grand Trunk Railway in Park Head Ontario was an important railway depot on the Bruce Peninsula when in 1894 the first train chugged through Park Head.

Stokes Bay  Welcomed fishermen as their first non-native visitors. Today, if you are a fisherman, you will also probably want to try your luck landing a walleye, lake trout or any of the other game fish that live in the coastal waters of Lake Huron.

Tobermory Ontario has a rich history and, is the northern- most destination point for travellers visiting the world famous Bruce Peninsula.

Tobermory Ontario Tourism is focused on shipwreck diving which has become so popular that tourism has become an important part of that community's economy. 

Tobermory pioneers experienced a life in a community that was anything but the tourism hive of activity that it is today.

A Flowerpot Island cruise is not only entertaining, but it is also very educational as you will see things that you have never viewed before!

Wiarton Ontario  This historic community was a great place to live in the early settlement days and still is a busy tourist stop on your way up the Bruce Peninsula.

Wiarton  had ambitions to Succeed but while success brought them a railroad and other ventures did not have a sweet ending for many in the town.

Wiarton Ontario’s First Newspaper  A catalyst in supporting road construction and bringing the railway to Wiarton in hopes of making the town the economic leader of the area. But disappointment looms...

Wiarton news: 1890s, as seen in the pages of the local newspaper revealed problems typical of today's communities 

Wiarton Beet Industry was to be a great boost to the town's economy. Instead, it left most people with a bad taste in their mouths.

Travel the Bruce: Owen Sound to Wiarton  A wonderful journey from Owen Sound to Wiarton.

Travel the Bruce: Wiarton to Tobermory  Relaxing and historic journey.

Bruce Peninsula  The Bruce Peninsula is a compelling place, with a rich history, to visit. Once you have traveled there, we guarantee that you will return, again and again!

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