Home to Wiarton Willie the
weather prognasticating rodent
Wiarton Ontario is a small town of 2300 people located on Highway #6 mid-way up the Bruce Peninsula. If you are a visitor going in either direction through this remote tip of land you probably have to pass through it.
Known as the "gateway to the Bruce Peninsula" it has a small historic downtown known as Berford Street that dates from the late 1800's. Now the administrative centre for the Municipality of South Bruce Peninsula it is the last place to rest and stock up for those heading further north.
For most, the only reason they have ever heard of the place is because of the annual Wiarton Willie Festival which happens every Groundhog Day where the local rodent "Wiarton Willie" makes his spring prediction.
Wiarton Ontario is more than just this internationally famous festival though! It sits at the head of a beautiful Coploy's Bay and is surrounded by the Niagara Escarpment, a UNSECO World Biosphere Reserve and is located only 20 minutes away from maybe the best freshwater beach in Canada.
Being at the peninsula's mid point it makes for a perfect home base to explore the Bruce Peninsula as any attraction or destination is at most an hour away.
Location of Wiarton Ontario
How to get to Wiarton Ontario:
Highway # 6 is the main thoroughfare that runs right through town. Depending where you are coming from, navigate to Highway #6 and head north or south.
By Public Transport
Rail travel to Wiarton Ontario is not an option
Air travel to Wiarton Ontario is not an option
During the summer months Park Bus makes a stop near town, otherwise bus service does not exist. Visit: http://www.parkbus.ca/bruce.php
for more information.
Wiarton Ontario attractions and activities
Wiarton Willie Festival
By far the number one attraction in town it has been celebrated for over 55 years with the shy, albino weather forecaster entertaining an international media event that now attracts thousands of people annually.
What began as a lark is now an event that almost every Canadian has heard of. Now an event that can last up to 10 days featuring:
- other special activities and events
It all culminates on the day Willie comes out of his hole to make his prediction.
For those that can't make the pilgrimage during the event Willie is on display downtown everyday across from his statue in Bluewater Park. Turn around and you'll see his cage. Drop by for a visit and see if he comes out. If he stays inside there's glass viewing portals where you can sometimes catch a glimpse of him.
Just east of historic Berford Street sits this jewel of the town. With beautiful views of Spirit Rock Conservation Area across the bay the park also features:
- Victorian Train Station (tourist office)
- Small sandy beach
- Picnic tables
- Wiarton Willie statue
- Hiking trails that connect to the Bruce Tail
- Wiarton Willie himself (across the street in his home)
Surrounded by the Niagara Escarpment on 3 sides Wiarton Ontario is a hikers nirvana. You can park your can in Bluewater Park and hike in either direction along the Bruce Trail.
- Head north towards Spirit Rock Conservation Area
- Head northeast to the Bruce Caves
This is some of the prettiest terrain in all the Bruce Trail, for more information visit: brucetrail.org/
Spirit Rock Conservation Area
Located 2.8 kilometres (1.7 miles) north of town this is an area steeped in native history. It is also the site of the "Corran", the former Alexander McNeill Estate, a 17-room late 18th century mansion that now lies in ruins.
Totaling 87 hectares (215 acres), the site is perfectly perched high atop the Escarpment and offers spectacular views over Coploy's Bay. Easily reached from the Bruce Trail by way of a spiral staircase that leads down to the water visitors will definitely enjoy the scenery along the way.
For those that arrive at the conservation area by vehicle, from the parking lot there is an easy 2 kilometre (1.2 mile) hike that loops past the escarpment cliffs back to the lot.
Please note that minimal facilities are on site.
Bruce Caves Conservation Area
Formed by wave action up to 8,000 years ago this unique cave system is a highlight of many trips to the Bruce Peninsula.
Located 6.7 kilometres (4 miles) northeast of town this tiny 7-hectare (15 acre) area protects a unique ecosystem of wooded swamps, hardwood forest and of course: caves.
A path leads visitors through the cave area and while quite nice the caves are not as big as some I've been through. The hike is fairly easy and the trail does connect to the Bruce Trail so hikers can reach here directly from town.
One of the area's main attractions if you haven't seen a cave system before you may be amazed but they really are worth visiting only if you have some extra time to spend in the area.
Please note that minimal facilities are on site.
Sauble Falls Provincial Park
Only 15 minutes away is this beautiful little park named for the historic waterfalls that is its centrepiece. One of the province's fishing hotspots it is a destination in its own right. Check out my Sauble Falls Provincial Park
page to find out more.
Only a 20-minute drive away this is one of the best beaches in the province. Famed as a summer destination for most Southern Ontarians visit my Sauble Beach
page for more information.
Wiarton Ontario has one of the best ports on the Georgian Bay side of the Bruce Peninsula and has a full service Marina available to boaters of all types. For more information visit: http://www.wiartonmarina.ca
Coploy's Bay itself provides for some excellent boating as it is a rather large body of water protected by from the forces of the much larger Georgian Bay by three islands sitting in its mouth:
- White Cloud Island
- Griffith Island
- Hay Island
Many visitors use the port as a base for traveling further north up the Bruce to places like Fathom Five National Park
or across the Bay to Georgian Islands National Park.
As with most ports on the waters of Georgian Bay the deepwater fishing is excellent. In fact, the waters of Colpoy's Bay are considered amongst the best the Bruce has to offer. Species to be caught include:
The crystal clear waters of Coploy's are fairly deep and access to a boat is preferred. For those that have none charters are available at:
Coploy's Bay is also sheltered enough to provide for some excellent canoeing and sea kayaking.
Wiarton Ontario is also minutes away from accessing the mid way point of the Rankin River canoe route. For those that wish to enter at the beginning at Sky Lake the access point is only 15 minutes north by car.
The Rankin route is by far the best inland route on the peninsula, 18 kilometres (11 miles) in length to its end at Sauble Falls it is a challenging route but not as hazardous as head into out onto Georgian Bay.
If you are interested in canoeing, equipment can be rented nearby at:
If you are looking to cycle on the Bruce Peninsula than Wiarton is the place for you. All of the peninsula's cycling routes radiate from town and you have a different route choice daily.
Recreational destinations such as Sauble Beach, Oliphant Beach, Lion's Head and Black Creek Provincial Park can all easily be reached in a day and for the more ambitious: Cabot Head, Tobermory and Bruce Peninsula National Park are all within reach.
For a complete map of all routes please visit: www.explorethebruce.com
The town also makes for a good place to head out on one of a number of nearby lighthouse routes.
Head north out of town and you immediately have a choice of taking the Lion's Head to Cape Croker tour.
If you continue heading north you can take the Cabot Head to Tobermory tour.
For more information visit: www.brucecoastlighthouses.com
It seems almost everyone in the part of the province owns a snowmobile and the town sits along the main north south recreational snowmobile trail linking the Bruce with other parts of the province.
The town actually comes to life in winter as it does become one of the key hubs of this trail and a destination of sorts.
Snowshoeing and Cross country skiing
There are some good trails both groomed and un groomed in the area and great winter views are to be had for those that can traverse the Bruce Trail around Coploy's Bay in the winter.
Wiarton is also home to one of the few dog sledding companies in this part of the province offering the public access to this exhilarating winter activity.
As of 2013 know longer offering services the website is still operation so I will include a link for you to contact yourself: http://www.singingdogs.ca
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