Before I went yurt camping in Tobermory I tried to do some research online. Other than what Parks Canada, the official national park website, had shared, I couldn’t find the information I was looking for.
The question I wanted answered was, “What should I expect for Yurt Camping Tobermory?”
Tobermory is a small town located on the edge of the harbour of the Bruce Peninsula, almost 4 hours north of Toronto, Canada. Bruce Peninsula is the region that Tobermory is within, and it is located at the northern tip of Georgian Bay. Bruce Peninsula is known for its crystal clear and bright blue water surrounding the peninsula.
Given Tobermory’s location, you will need a car to get there. If you do not have one, you can rent one.
Find the best rates for car rentals here.
- What is Yurt Camping?
- When Should I Go Yurt Camping in Tobermory?
- What is Like to Go Yurt Camping Tobermory?
- How to Book Yurt Camping in Tobermory
- What to Pack for Yurt Camping Tobermory?
- What Wildlife is There in Tobermory, Bruce Peninsula?
- What is There to Do During the Day in Tobermory?
- My Overall Review of Yurt Camping in Tobermory
- What to do if Yurt Camping is Sold Out?
It was my first-time visiting Bruce Peninsula, and it was also my first-time yurt camping. I was excited to explore a new part of Ontario and experience a new activity. However, I was also nervous because I had heard that snakes frequent Tobermory.
In fact, the only venomous snake in Ontario (the Massasauga rattlesnake) is found on the Bruce Peninsula. I’ll explain more about this later in the article.
What is Yurt Camping?
A yurt is a large, round tent. Traditionally, yurts are a common dwelling in Mongolia. However, the yurts located on Cyprus Lake campground in Tobermory are for recreational camping.
Inside the yurts in Tobermory, there is furniture, such as a bed, some chairs and a fireplace to keep the yurt warm at night. Therefore, it is a more luxurious style of camping than in traditional tents.
You can find detailed information about the yurt on Parks Canada’s website.
When Should I Go Yurt Camping in Tobermory?
Given the long drive from Toronto to Bruce Peninsula, I would recommend you visit Tobermory for at least 2 nights. It makes the most sense to go for a long weekend to make the almost 4-hour drive worthwhile.
That being said, I must have picked the busiest weekend of the year to visit, during the September public holiday. So, as a recommendation, make sure you research when the public holidays are for a quieter experience.
Just a side note: alcohol was not allowed on the campsite during public holiday weekends.
The Cyprus Lake yurts are available in the winter as part of a pilot project. Read about other winter activities in Ontario here.
What is Like to Go Yurt Camping Tobermory?
As I mentioned before, it was my first time going Yurt Camping, and I had no idea what to expect. Therefore, here are some little things I noted during my time at the park that you may find useful to know.
- The yurt has a fire place inside it, which means the yurt has a strong smell of smoke when you arrive, leftover from past guests. So, make sure you bring clothes that you don’t mind smelling by the end of the trip.
- I went yurt camping in Tobermory in early September and the temperatures dipped at night quite significantly. You will definitely need to bring warm layers, including hats and gloves for the evenings. A blanket might even be a nice touch while you sit by the campfire roasting marshmallows.
- As you are “car camping” (as opposed to backcountry camping with no access to resources), you can bring as many belongings as you want.
- I had troubles getting the temperature right in the yurt at night. On my first night, the fire burnt out rather quickly and I spent the rest of the night shivering and wearing all of my layers. The second night the was fire roaring before I went to sleep. However, in the middle of the night I was ripping off layers and opening the windows of the yurt to let some cold air in.
- For those who enjoy a little luxury in the wilderness, there are 2 warm showers on the campsite as well as flushing toilets.
How to Book Yurt Camping in Tobermory
If you would like to use one of the Yurts at Bruce Peninsula (or any other park), you need to reserve it on Parks Canada’s website. Scroll down and click the button “book online”, then select Parks Canada Accommodations in Bruce Peninsula.
Reservations opened on March 21, 2023 for the upcoming year.
On the morning the reservations open, make sure you are ready early and prepared with a date in mind and which yurt number you would like to stay in. All this information can be found ahead of time so that you get the spot you want.
To give you an idea of the rush, I booked my spot for the Long Weekend in September by 8:03 am. When I went back to the website to look at 8:08 am, all of the yurts for that weekend were taken. But if you are looking at a less popular date, you will not likely need to rush as much.
The yurts at Cyprus Lake are now available to book for the winter period, from October to April, as part of a pilot project.
What to Pack for Yurt Camping Tobermory?
If you are a regular camper, you will likely already have all the items needed to go Yurt camping. However, if you are a newbie, you will need to ask friends to borrow items or purchase some camping gear.
Below is a list of items you will need to bring with you. I have recommended some options to help you get started.
7 Items You Need to Bring Yurt Camping
Many of these items are useful for other camping trips in Ontario.
1. Sleeping Bag
Bedding is not included in the yurt in Tobermory, so you will need to bring your own. You can bring a duvet and pillow, but it may be too bulky to fit in your car. Therefore, I recommend bringing a sleeping bag because it rolls up small.
A mattress is provided, so you may also want to bring a fitted bottom sheet to make your bed a little more comfortable.
You will want to bring a pillow to ensure you get a good night’s sleep.
I brought one from my bed at home, but you can also bring a camping pillow if you are worried about getting it dirty or smelling of campfire.
MEC sells a range of camping pillows, including these highly-rated NEMO fillo camping pillows as shown in the picture.
If you’ve been camping before, you’ll know that once the sun goes down, it gets dark very quickly. Given the remoteness and that there are no lights in the yurt, you will need to bring your own.
You may want a few different types of flashlights/torches.
For example, a lantern for when you are sitting outside or for inside the yurt.
I recommend you also bring regular flashlight for the late-night bathroom trips or moving around the campsite at night. Buy your flashlight here.
Plus, you will find a headlamp useful if you need to use both of your hands at night around the yurt. Click here to purchase your headlamp.
4. Insect Repellent
If you are anything like me (an insect magnet), bug repellent will be a must for a camping trip. Going camping in September meant that there were less insects than there would be in June and July. But I always like to be prepared.
Make sure you also bring allergy tablets if your skin usually reacts to mosquito bites.
5. Camping Cookware
Just because you are camping, doesn’t mean you have to eat badly. With the right cooking equipment you can still put together a nice meal in the wilderness.
Some typical meals I have when camping are fajitas, stir fry and pita bread pizzas.
There are several camping cookware sets on MEC.
Read more about cooking on camping trips here.
6. Reusable Water Bottle
While you are out and about exploring Bruce Peninsula, you will need to keep hydrated.
I suggest that you bring a reusable water bottle that is lightweight and easy to carry in your backpack or by hand.
I use the below water bottle because it has a clip in the lid that makes it easy to hold. Also, it is sturdy so it will survive most knocks and drops.
I recently bought two more Nalgene water bottles because I wanted to update mine to a new colour.
What Wildlife is There in Tobermory, Bruce Peninsula?
One of my biggest worries when visiting Bruce Peninsula was the wildlife I would encounter.
I have come to terms with the fact that I may see a bear when visiting regions of Ontario located further up north. I have also learnt exactly what I should do should I see one and how to avoid seeing one. Therefore, my next problem was that the highest population of snakes in Ontario is found in Bruce Peninsula.
To be honest, researching what to do in case of coming into contact with a snake did nothing to settle my fears. However, I still think it is good to do some research beforehand to be prepared. Read more about snakes – (warning: there is an image of a snake on this website).
All I wanted to know was how likely it was that I would see a snake. So, if you are like me and are worried about the presence of snakes, I will tell you that during my trip I did not see any snakes on the campsite. I also did not see a snake on any hikes through the forest.
My group did, however, come across a small snake (not a rattlesnake), while we were climbing through the Grotto area surrounding the rocks. I was warned that snakes like to sun themselves out on warm rocks by the water. They are also most commonly found near the Grotto.
If I had wanted to see the snake, I could have gone over to look. But, I decided it was best to avoid it. Once someone spotted it, we allowed it to move aside and then we swiftly continued our journey in the opposite direction.
What is There to Do During the Day in Tobermory?
Before arriving at Cyprus Lake Campground, I wasn’t sure how I was going to spend the daytime during my yurt camping experience. Therefore, here are some activities that I got up to during my time in Tobermory.
One of the main attractions of Bruce Peninsula is visiting The Grotto. It’s essentially a shoreline with brilliant blue waters, green trees lining the coastline and grey rocks.
It is a stunning place, but due to its popularity, it is very difficult to enjoy it if you are visiting at a busy time of year. One of the perks of staying at the yurt campsite is that it is in walking distance to the Grotto. This means you can get there before the car park opens for the general public.
Side note, the park limits car parking spots for people driving to The Grotto. So, if you aren’t staying at the yurt, you have to book your time slot quite far in advance.
I tried to get to the Grotto early, but by the time I arrived at around 10:00 am, it was very busy. I spent some time exploring, before continuing on and eventually finding a more private mini “Grotto”, with next to no people there.
Below is a screenshot of the area because it is not signposted. It was a nice spot to have some food and swim (it was freezing in the water though).
Walk Around Cyprus Lake
Another nice thing to do while you’re at the camp site is walk around Cyprus Lake. It took around 1 hour and it passes some pretty scenery. You can walk even further if you want.
Canoe on Cyprus Lake
My time in Tobermory went quickly, so I never found time to rent a canoe on Cyprus Lake. If this is something you would like to do, the canoes are kept at the lake and you can arrange it with the local office in Tobermory.
While you are in Bruce Peninsula National Park you should explore Tobermory, the main town there. There are quaint shops and cafes, such as a sweet shop and a souvenir shop.
I did my best to be organised and bring enough food for the whole weekend. Yet I still managed to forget a few items. Luckily, there is a supermarket in the town, and it is about 15 minutes away from the camp site.
From Tobermory you can take a boat tour to Flowerpot Island, located in the Fathom Five National Marine Park. Flowerpot Island is 6.5 km from Tobermory and is accessed by boat. Its name comes from the rock stumps, referred to as flowerpots. There are also caves that you can see on the island.
Bring your walking shoes to see Flowerpots and the caves. I read that there was an abundance of snakes on the island, but I personally didn’t see any.
Find out more details about visiting Flowerpot Island, including information on how long to spend on the island.
During the ride over to Flowerpot Island, you will be taken past some shipwrecks. You want to do the boat ride on a sunny day when there are limited clouds to maximize your chance of seeing the shipwrecks. It was cloudy on the day I visited, so it was difficult to see and photograph the shipwrecks.
You get the option of taking the glass-bottomed ship and the jet boat (an open-air boat). Sadly, the day I went it was torrential rain. So, even though I was booked to take the jet boat home, the crew allowed me to take the covered glass-bottom boat back to Tobermory.
The boat companies are quite flexible and if there is space on the boat you can take a different time or boat on your return. You will not get stranded.
Since I visited during a busy weekend, I made sure I booked my boat ride in advance to guarantee a spot. However, as I previously mentioned, if you can go on a less busy weekend, you will have more chance to play it by ear.
My Overall Review of Yurt Camping in Tobermory
Although I spent the weekend a little on edge in fear of seeing a snake, the sunsets and sunrises I saw at the camp site were phenomenal and enough to make me feel blissful in those moments.
While the campsite is very peaceful, there are a number of yurts in close proximity to you, so it is not entirely private because you can hear distant noise. Again, if you go at a less busy time of year you might find it quieter.
One of the downsides of the weekend was that the smoky yurt made me feel a little unclean and looking forward to fresh clothes. However, I do feel like this camping trip would be suitable for those who have never been camping for, as a beginner’s trip, because you are not out of all civilisation.
Overall, I had a great time because I love trying out new activities and exploring new places. I would also recommend Yurt Camping in Tobermory to those who have never been camping before.
What to do if Yurt Camping is Sold Out?
Didn’t manage to book a yurt on Cyprus Lake? Still want to visit Bruce Peninsula? You can go backcountry camping at Stormhaven or High Dump campsites.
Otherwise, consider booking a holiday letting. You can rent a private house in Bruce Peninsula with a group of friends. Here are some examples.
Alternatively, you could book this hotel in Kemble and make a day trip to Tobermory. Although, it is over an hour’s drive.
Further Reading to Yurt Camping Tobermory
- If you want to take your camping to the next level, make sure you check out my article on Backcountry Camping in Rock Lake, Algonquin. You can also read about what to pack for canoe camping trips.
- For more ideas on Bruce Peninsula camping, consider checking available sites on Tobermory Village Campground or Summer House Park.
- Or if you are travelling in autumn, read my article about visiting Algonquin Park to see fall colours.
- Read my article for more information on what to do in Ontario and when to visit Ontario.
- For more adventurous travels in Canada, learn about the difference between skiing in Whistler vs Blackcomb.