Exploring Ontario’s Beautiful Grey Bruce Region
Sylvain Champagne of Southampton, Ontario, takes us on a photographic tour of the famed Grey Bruce area of the province.
Welcome to Grey Bruce
When I first visited the Grey Bruce area on a photo expedition in 2016, I found the region’s natural beauty mesmerizing. The rugged landscapes and vibrant colours of the waters off Bruce Peninsula National Park were awe-inspiring. Sweeping cloud formations overhead, and detailed rock formations along the Niagara Escarpment were hypnotic. When I returned home and reviewed my images, they literally took my breath away. Even now, looking at them gives me an intense sense of peace and tranquility. The Bruce Peninsula is far from a well-kept secret. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit each year, and as a result, it’s difficult to capture the landscape on its own, with no people in the frame, but I managed—here are a few highlights.
As you likely know, the Grotto—a picturesque, scenic cave that crashing waves carved into the limestone shores of Georgian Bay over thousands of years—is one of Bruce County’s top summer attractions. Visitors can swim in the clear water, which appears turquoise from a distance, and view an underwater passage that leads to the exterior of the cliff face. The 45-minute hike to access this rare, stunning sight is well worth it. The trail’s cedar trees, wet lands and wildlife are also captivating.
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I visited Cape Croker Park, on the shores of Sydney Bay, for the first-time last year. Cape Croker has been called the Bruce Peninsula’s best-kept secret, and is owned and operated by the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation. This sprawling, pristine patch of land stretches over 520 acres and is a camper’s paradise, buffeted by a large swath of coniferous forest. The park opened for the first time in 1967.
After touring Cape Croker, I made my way north to Lion’s Head, which is said to be halfway between the equator and the North Pole. I was able to photograph the rock formation that gives the town its name, an outcropping that resembles a male lion. Another geological phenomenon along the Bruce Trail are glacial potholes. The dramatic beauty of the escarpment and the ruggedness of the shoreline was on full display. In addition to the mainland trails, I visited Bayside Astronomy, a free program run by the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association and the municipality of North Bruce. This program provides a chance to see constellations, planets, the moon and other objects through telescopes, preceded by a brief star talk at dusk.
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On a trip east of Tobermory, I followed the Bruce Trail to Devil’s Monument, the largest “flowerpot” formation in the Bruce Peninsula. Just before reaching the gorgeous rocky beach with a staggering view, I happened upon a scenic set of waterfalls cascading into the water below. This sight was good for my soul, truly an experience I will never forget.
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The Devil’s Monument
The Devil’s Monument flowerpot formation was formed by wave action from a post-glacial lake 5,500 years ago. This unstable stack of rocks is a rare and unique formation—a true natural phenomenon that everyone visiting the area should take the time to see.
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You’ll want to bring your camera if you visit Skinner’s Bluff scenic lookout, a 455.3-hectare piece of land northeast of Wiarton, Ontario, I know I did. I was stunned at the view. The colours of the trees and grey clouds in the background created a beautiful, majestic, picture-perfect moment. (Here are more fantastic places to see fall colours across Canada.)
As I moved southwest to Southampton, I decided to go for a walk around Fairy Lake, where I spotted a beautiful blue heron and took a photo. If you visit, watch also for ducks, dragonflies, turtles, butterflies, egrets and frogs. While hiking around the lake, you will see wood-slab benches, sculptures made of ash trees, and bird houses. Situated near the downtown area, and offering a peaceful path around the lake, it’s the perfect summer escape.
Sunsets and Stars
The boardwalk along Lake Huron in Southampton is a wonderful place for a peaceful stroll. The sunsets here are some of the best in the world and the sandy beach, which stretches about four kilometres, is marked by dunes and dune grass—a great place to bring the family and enjoy Lake Huron at its best. We moved to Southampton in 2016, and at first, every night
I would pack up my gear, scout an area and get ready to photograph an hour prior to the sunsets. I also stayed in that location for an hour after sunset, or longer. I was so inspired by the beauty and sense of wonder it gave me. Sunsets in Southampton are spectacular to watch— paradise for professional and amateur photographers alike. As the composer Claude Debussy said, “There is nothing more musical than a sunset.”
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My favourite walk is from my house to one of several lighthouses in Southampton, including Saugeen River Front Range Lighthouse. This is a great place to capture star trails—a kind of photograph that appears to capture the movement of stars through the frame as long, continuous lines. This lighthouse is situated at the western end of the pier extending the north shore of the mouth of the Saugeen River. I often sit on the edge of those rocks with my camera and photograph different species of birds, including egrets, blue herons, bald eagles and more. (Don’t miss this gorgeous gallery of Canadian bird photography.)
Winter is always a great time to photograph star trails. I remember being in the kitchen at the house and deciding to look outside to see if there were any stars that night. There were so many, I decided to walk to one of the lighthouses and set up my camera. I was very fortunate that night as I managed to capture a beautiful shot of star trails.
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The Waterfalls of Grey Bruce
When we first moved here, we heard a lot about the great waterfalls in Grey Bruce. Everyone I met kept telling me that I must photograph the beauty of the waterfalls in the area. So, I decided to start mapping the six best waterfalls in the area and ventured out to explore them. We started with Sauble Falls. I was amazed how these falls and rapids flow under the main highway.When I arrived at the falls it was raining, but the photographs were worth getting a bit damp for. We saw a great blue heron bathing and having a great time looking around.
After I visited the falls, I decided to explore Sauble Beach (above), said to be the second-longest freshwater beach in Canada at 11 kilometres. Again, I was lucky. There was no one on the beach when I arrived, so I decided to take my drone and get an aerial shot.
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I’d heard lots of talk about Indian Falls from photographers I met over the years. They told me it’s challenging to get there, but worth the hike. The waterfall is situated in Sarawak Township at the northwestern edge of Owen Sound. This trail was definitely challenging due to the weather, but it was indeed worth the effort. I then went to Inglis Falls in Owen Sound, perhaps the best-known waterfall in the area. I must say, the 18-metre falls really impressed us. The challenge was to find a place to photograph that allowed me to demonstrate the beauty of the falls from its base to its apex—I did and it was well worth it.
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I then headed to Jones Falls in the Pottawatomi Conservation Area, west of Owen Sound. It was a very short walk through the woods to get there. If you’re energized and you want to continue hiking, the trail goes for another seven kilometres from the falls. My last stop was in the village of Eugenia in Grey County. That’s where I first discovered Eugenia Falls, and the only reason I discovered it is because I was lost in the Beaver Valley area. Eugenia Falls is very challenging to photograph, as it’s very narrow and elevated. If you’re in the area, the picturesque waterfalls are well worth taking a Sunday drive—enjoy!
Next, check out our roundup of Canada’s most beautiful waterfalls.