Pioneer Vacations
on the Bruce Peninsula

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

A road trip up Bruce County Road #9 from Colpoys village is a camera-worthy trip. Shortly after passing the road sign announcing Adair, turn right and behold a panoramic view which most certainly will take your breath away!  As you descend into Hope Bay the deep blue of the waters of Georgian Bay, surrounded by the green of the forested cliffs provides a picture which no artist’s brush could ever duplicate.  

Writing almost seventy years ago, author and naturalist Sherwood Fox wrote: “No other indentation on the east coast can show an unbroken wall of perpendicular cliffs of equal grandeur. Indeed, Hope Bay reminds us of a colossal stadium floored with blue, its broad, open end affording an unsurpassed view of the Georgian Bay.” 

Pioneer Vacations at Hope Bay

Although the Hope Bay/Adair region was spurned by most settlers looking for agricultural lands to cultivate, it was not long after the area was opened up that visitors started coming to the area to spend their vacations. It is difficult to determine when the first tourists arrived in the area, but Olive Hepburn, writing in the 1991 edition of the Bruce County Historical Society’s Yearbook, suggests that one of the first cottagers in the area was Reverend Albert Robinson and his wife, Lottie, who were from Toronto.    

Hepburn provides an interesting tale about two young men from Hamilton, who came on a camping expedition to the area in the early 1920s. At that time the Bruce Peninsula was still considered to be wilderness by those who lived in larger centres such as Hamilton and Toronto. When the men arrived at the Robinson’s cottage they seemed extremely nervous about camping in the wilderness. The Reverend and his wife suggested that they pitch their tent in their enclosed yard.  

About midnight a terrible moaning sound could be heard. At times the eerie noise could be heard from a afar and then quite close. At the same time, witnesses say they could hear the sounds similar to that made by an animal’s padded feet. After about fifteen minutes the noises abated and stillness of the night returned.

At daybreak, the Robinsons went to check on their camping visitors. But all that could be found to mark the fact that they had been there was a flattened tin can which they had forget to pick up in their hasty departure from the wilds of Hope Bay!

It was later learned that the boys from Hamilton had been the victims of a series of practical jokes. The previous day, on their way to Hope Bay, the young men had met a local resident on the road. They had been told some scary tales about the bears, wolverines, bobcats and other ferocious creatures who roamed the region. The same local resident had ventured into the night with piece of wood in which he had bored holes at strategic points. This instrument then was tied to a length of cord, which the mischief-maker then used to swing the wooden piece in the air. The movement of the air through the holes created the ghastly sounds which had sent the campers running back to civilization in the middle of the night!

So, if you are camping near Hope Bay this summer and you hear mysterious sounds late in the night, fear not. It is probably just a descendant of the original Hope Bay prankster trying to keep up the image of the Bruce Peninsula as the last untamed wilderness!

The information used in this article came from two sources.  The Bruce Beckons by Sherwood Fox and “Fun in the North Country; Hope Bay 1923-27" by Olive Hepburn in the 1991 edition of the Bruce County Historical Society Yearbook.

A version of this pioneer vacations story first appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times.

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.

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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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