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

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

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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.

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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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