Although we made our last trip to the Grotto back in the spring, I think it is an escape that anyone whom lives in the area or is just visiting should take the time to visit. The Grotto is a wonderful natural formation that has been created over the millenniums, waves crashing along the shoreline cliff have created a small cave that you can climb down to and explore. The unique feature of the grotto is that there are two entrances to it. The one I mentioned you can climb down and enter into. The other can only be accessed by swimming, there is an underwater tunnel that you will can to swim through and into the Grotto. I have not entered the Grotto this way, as every time I have been there the waves are either too powerful to make a safe attempt or the water is too cold. I have been told that it is doable without scuba gear but some breathing apparatus is recommended.
Getting there is fairly easy, you follow highway 26 to Owen Sound, then hop on highway 6 north towards Tobermory. Watch for the signs for Bruce Peninsula National Park, from Collingwood it is a two and half drive give or take. Once you enter the park it is highly recommended to stop by the visitor centre. Here you will get great information about the park and you can find out where the best parking is. During the busy summer months the first parking area (P1) fills up fairly quickly and you may need to continue down the road a little bit to the second parking area (P2). There is a big difference in the adventure depending on where you park. If you park in P1 it is a short, mostly flat, 1km hike to the Grotto. This is best if you have people in your group who are not used to hiking or have difficulty walking over uneven terrain. From P1, you head towards the shoreline on a well-marked path. When you start seeing signs warning of the dangers of cliff jumping you are almost there. Coming in from P2 parking area, it is a little more difficult hike in. The ground is uneven and there is a good chunk of the hike that is made up of all loose rocks and the last leg involves a short climb to get to the Grotto. I have always taken this way as you get to see a little more of the area and I like a bit of a challenge when hiking. The nice bonus to taking this route is that you pass an area called Indian Head Cove, which is a great place to relax and take it all in. From Indian Head Cove, you climb up to the top of the cliff, following a path, and shortly after you will arrive at the Grotto.
Once at the Grotto, you can take in the breathtaking views from on top of the bluff. On a clear day you can see the entire coast complimented by the brilliant turquoise water. From the top there are multiple ways of climbing down, there is a series of natural switch backs that you can shimmy across until you are down. There is also a small natural chimney a little way down that, if you are brave, you can lower yourself down. Personally, I prefer going up that tunnel as opposed to going down. You can also access the area from Indian Head Cove, but that involves a lot of swimming. Once inside the cave area, you can see the amazing forces of nature at work. You can see the way that the rock has eroded over time and if you look carefully you will see fossils of sea creatures that once inhabited this area. If the sun is shining on the day you visit, you will get a wonderful treat as the light will illuminate the underwater tunnel creating a stark contrast in the color of the water and darkness of the cave itself. If the water is warm, you can hop into the pool that has been carved out of the cave for a nice refreshing swim. Beware, though, more often than not the wave conditions will be too rough. Big waves can cause quite the stir inside the Grotto, even when the waves seem light the undertow and currents will still pose danger. Recommend for experienced swimmers, head to Indian Head Cove if you want to swim but are unsure about the Grotto. Please use your common sense before jumping in.
Over all, the Grotto and Bruce Peninsula National Parks are great day escapes and definitely worth the drive. If you have a few days, there is so much to explore in and around the area as well. Lion’s Head Provincial Park is a short drive south. Fathom Five National Marine Park, Flowerpot island and Tobermory are just north of the Grotto. Tobermory is a great place to stay for the night, and is also where the Bruce Trail starts. Take the time to get out and see this place, it is a piece of paradise that is just around the corner.