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Bruce County, Ontario, Canada Questions

We will be staying in Port Elgin for a week in July. We've been going there for ten years and have done a lot of things in the area but not everything. The problem is that my domestic partner has become disabled and cannot walk very much any more. So I have some very specific questions:

Are there nice things to do in the Bruce Peninsula National Park that involve only a tiny amount of walking? Is it possible to enjoy the Oliphant Fen Trail and/or the Petrel Point Nature Reserve with a minimum of walking? Can anyone tell me about the Fishing Islands Pontoon Boat Tours? What is there to see and do at the Cape Croker Indian Park? What is there to do in Owen Sound other than visiting the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery which we've done? Can anyone recommend any day trips to the northern half of the Bruce Peninsula or into Grey County (east of Owen Sound) along Georgian Bay that won't involve much walking once we get there? We're not interested in taking the ferry to Manitoulin Island.

We've been to and enjoyed the weekly flea market at Keady, but it's now just an impossible amount of walking for my partner because it and the parking lot are so huge. Is there anything similar in the area that's significantly smaller and just as much fun? There are 3 First Nations reserves in Bruce County. We've yet to find anything of touristic interest advertised at them. Is there something to check out that we're unaware of? Is the tour of the Bruce Power nuclear power plant north of Tiverton worthwhile? The admission fees for the two of us at the Bruce and Grey County Museums are pretty steep. Are either of them worth the visit? We've seen very little of the Bruce County interior except for a number of visits to Paisley. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Posted by
8293 posts

I know nothing about Bruce County, so I can't help you there, but I wonder if you have considered renting a wheel chair for your partner. By the way, how "steep" are the admission fees to the two museums? Considering your problem, I'd say pay the darn entrance fee and hang the expense.

Edit: I just googled the Bruce County museum and the adult fee is $8, seniors $6. If you think that is steep, don''t ever come to Montreal !

Posted by
103 posts

Thanks, Norma, for taking the time to reply. I'm happily surprised at what you found about the Bruce County Museum's entry fee. I'll have to follow up on that. The last time I checked, it was something like $25 each. I'm wondering if (a) there was some extra special exhibit at the time that raised the cost, (b) they've gotten some kind of new grant or government funding since then, or (c) something else. I've looked into wheelchair rentals. If there is someplace in Bruce County that rents them, I can't find it. The county Chamber of Commerce which runs the tourist info office in Port Elgin doesn't know of anyplace. I inquired at the national park. They have just one which visitors can use when it's available. We can't rent one at home and take it with us because there's no room in the car with all of the stuff we have to take for the cottage. Not that any of it matters because my partner is vain and won't use one. He'd rather just miss out on going places. That, of course, is a totally different issue!

Posted by
1420 posts

Marc, one thing that I have enjoyed doing up there is the glass-bottom boat excursion in Tobermory. The water is crystal clear and there are many wrecks and fish to be seen.

Posted by
3792 posts

I'm just throwing this out there...there may not even be one where you are going, or perhaps they are only available for locals, but perhaps if there is a Red Cross office, they may rent wheelchairs...I know we borrowed a walker locally when my father-in-law needed one...and they also lent out wheelchairs. Maybe they have a rental program...just a thought...something you could look into...

Posted by
3436 posts

The farming village of Creemore is not quite in Bruce, being located in Simcoe County a little south of Collingwood. Its prime attraction is the Creemore Springs craft brewery, responsible for some very well-respected styles of beer. It's open to the public and the pub across the street does a nice lunch. Although the MolsonCoors behemoth now owns the brewery, it has wisely left management alone.

http://www.creemoresprings.com/en/Home.aspx#
http://www.creemore.com/

Thornbury, a larger town just north of Collingwood in Grey County, has become a haven for well-off Torontonians and its main street is lined with restaurants catering to them. It originated as a water-driven mill town and there is a modern fish ladder right in the downtown that helps lake fish migrate up to the mill pond and spawning grounds higher up the escarpment. It is the centre of the Blue Mountain ski resorts.
http://thornbury.ca/

Posted by
11153 posts

I'm not sure how you are getting from Detroit to Port Elgin, but in your situation, I'd look into renting a wheelchair in Detroit. It will come in handy to get through airports if you are flying, and if you're driving you just stash it in the trunk. You don't ever HAVE to use it, but you will then have it for your partner whenever he needs it. As a large city, Detroit should have many medical supply places that rent wheelchairs.

If the cost is high, look instead into buying a chair. If your partner's disability is permanent (you didn't specify), you'll want one sooner or later anyway, and by buying one you can get the quality and features you want.

Note that there are "wheelchairs" that the occupant can wheel him/herself (large back wheels that the occupant can reach to wheel), and "transport chairs" with four small wheels, which the occupant cannot wheel him/herself. My mother bought a top quality transport chair for about $275 a few years ago. One place to start looking is MaxiAids, which carries different brands: http://www.maxiaids.com/categories/327/Wheelchairs.html. Do be sure to look at the manufacturer's own websites as well, as they can have deals.

Posted by
8293 posts

Harold, the OP has already scotched the idea of a wheelchair, saying his partner is "too vain" to use one.

Posted by
2 posts

I would consider exploring the town of Kincardine, just about 20 km from Tiverton/the power plant. They have a Scottish Heritage festival the first weekend of July, a weekly pipe band parade, and a lovely lighthouse (though I would of course skip the tour with numerous steps). Also, while the Keady flea market is wonderful, Kincardine has a lovely little (very small compared to Keady, but quite a variety too) market on Mondays with free admission and lots of shady benches. Another quaint town to explore would be Bayfield. There might not be tons to do, but you can enjoy the views by the pier, people watch, and perhaps find an outside cafe. Sounds like you have done quite a bit of exploring in the Bruce County area and we are in a bit of a rut... any favorites from your past?

Posted by
103 posts

Thanks, cancan119, for your reply. We've done Kincardine. In fact, we stay there every trip in the Lakeview Motel the night before we claim our rented cottage in Port Elgin. We've gotten to be friends with Mary Lynn who runs it. We always eat dinner on the patio at the Bruce Steak House, though we liked it better when they were just trying to be a great bar and grill. We've never been in Kincardine at the time of the Scottish festival, though, because we avoid crowd scenes whenever we can. We've also seen Bayfield. Once we got stranded there for an afternoon in November when an unexpected blizzard blew in from Lake Huron and we had to wait for the snow plows to do their thing.

Our favorite things to do are driving around the town square in Goderich on our way north (not as pretty since the great tornado of a couple of years ago); shopping at the Saturday morning farmer's market at the baseball field in Kincardine; stopping at the Pine River Cheese Coop; loafing in our cottage and reading murder mysteries; walking from our cottage through the playground past the Port Elgin marina to the beach and back again; checking out what's happening locally at the Chamber of Commerce visitor centers in Port Elgin and Southampton and various branches of the Bruce County Public Library; watching the sun go down "into" Lake Huron some eveninge; listening to the piper at the Southampton war cenotath at sundown other evenings; swimming at Red Bay, Goble's Grove, and the Jerry's Fries beach in Southampton; saying hello to the Wiarton Willy statue; buying souvenirs at the Handicraft House north of Wiarton; spending an evening being fed and entertained by Leslie and Paul at Voyageurs Storytelling in Miller Lake; visiting the Old Mill in Paisley; having conversations with Randy and Karen who manage Northshore Cottages where we rent cottage #3; driving back and forth on the shore road between Port Elgin and Southampton and looking at the Chantry Island lighthouse; visiting our friend Helen who runs the Lighthouse restaurant in Southampton; and eating the best burgers we've found in the area at Red Fish Blue Fish in Wiarton.

We also send lots and lots of picture post cards which we write over the course of the week and mail the day before we leave for home. Last summer we really wowed our friends and relatives by using personalized stamps with our photo on them which we ordered in advance from Canada Post/Postes Canada. We had enough left over that we can add 10-cent stamps from the local post office and use them up this summer.

Posted by
1068 posts

Hi Marc,

I have been watching this thread for awhile and really enjoyed your last post. It really made me think about how much we all have on our doorsteps and may be ignoring. Its an area I would never have considered visiting before now.

My good friend's husband works occasionally for the electricians' union and has taken some calls to work at the Bruce Power Plant. I'm sure he'd tell you a tour would be interesting, but that's his thing. Mind you it is apparently massive so I don't know if your partner could manage it.

Thanks
Andrea

Posted by
103 posts

Andrea, I've been trying to talk my partner into taking the Bruce Power tour for years without success. However, now that the proposed nuclear waste repository looks like it's really going to be built practically beneath the shore of Lake Huron at Kincardine, he may agree. All of our drinking water in Detroit comes from Lake Huron via the St. Mary's River, Lake St. Clair, and the Detroit River, so the potential threat to our water supply if anything goes wrong has become big news here, and my partner's suddenly interested.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks for your great ideas and wonderful post, Marc. I'm sorry my few ideas were re-treads for you and that they didn't speak much to your original post, but if you have only been to the farmer's market in Kincardine and haven't been to the flea market in the park on Mondays, you might try it as a low-impact alternative to the Keady market. If you do go to the power plant, you might check out the tiny town of Tiverton... there is a sandy beach, an antique store, and the "Pearl" pub. On a side note, we have been following the DGR news a lot in our household, and you might also be on the lookout for events by SOS (Saugeen) and the Inverhuron Committee, among others, to raise awareness of the issue that may be going on this summer.

Posted by
103 posts

Since my original posting generated a bit of interest, I thought I'd post what's new now that I've returned from my trip.

We didn't visit the Amphitheatre on the First Nations reserve north of Southampton since the band has an interesting program going on to redo much of the stonework. Right now, the parking area is closed and set up as a work area. They have partnered with an English group that specializes in an old form of masonry without grout to set up an apprenticeship program to train band members to become certified stone masons which may create some very real well paid skilled trades career possibilities. Hopefully, we'll be able to visit next summer.

The band is also working with the Bruce County Museum to give cultural demonstrations twice a week. After visiting South Dakota a few years ago and seeing local Lakota reservations doing a decent job of generating some income through tourism, it's good to see the Saugeen First Nation band starting to do the same. And the admission to the museum is indeed only $8 CDN per person.

We discovered a wonderful scenic drive along Georgian Bay between Wiarton and Owen Sound by following Grey County road #1. There are wonderful views of the bay and also the towering escarpment, one interesting conservation area, and a large city park along the route. The roadway is currently in excellent condition.

Each year we visit Paisley, but this time we stopped at the Old City Mill where there happened to be a quilting exhibition in progress. There was lots of great stuff, and I spent too much on a small quilt in a technique I've not seen before showing a panoramic view including the Chantry Island lighthouse off of Southampton.

If anyone has seen my recommendation on the Chowhounds web site about the formerly wonderful Power Valley Restaurant on Ontario highway #21 between Underwood and Port Elgin, I regret to report that they and the attached motel are closed and up for sale. The Highview in Southampton which used to be a wonderful, quirky, old fashioned restaurant has failed under their new management, no doubt due to the fact that they had turned the place into an inferior restaurant, and is now closed and for sale. One Fish, Two Fish in Wiarton continues to serve wonderful fish and chips and has the best hamburgers I've found in SW Ontario. The Chipican restaurant in Sarnia continues its downhill slide. A great new place for breakfast and lunch called Just Like Mom's has opened in a former gas station on the north end of Southampton. They also have a bakery selling their menu dessert items plus butter tarts and frozen meat pies.

The Saturday morning farmer's market in Kincardine continues to be interesting with several Mennonite families among the vendors. Our innkeeper informed me that they have broken all attendance records this summer. We got magnificent beefsteak tomatoes and several kinds of interesting locally made jams and preserves.

There is still construction in Goderich to recover from the big tornado of a couple of years ago, and the court house square looks forlorn without all of the huge old trees that were uprooted. What reconstruction has been completed seems to intentionally match the scale and style of what remains so that in a few years it will probably look very nice.

I'm running low on both news and characters, so I'll stop now.

Posted by
103 posts

I forgot to state in my previous posting that Wiarton has a wonderful visitors center in the waterfront park near the Wiarton Willie (Canada's answer to Punxatawny Phil) statue. It's in the old train station which includes a small and very interesting railroad museum. If you go, be sure to look up at the unusual ceiling in the main room. The staff members are very friendly.

Also, Bruce Power has added bus tours which were so successful for the first few weeks that they are doubling the number each week for the rest of the summer. If anyone has ever been curious about nuclear power plants, this is your chance. After the recent expansion, they provide something like one third of the entire power needs of the province of Ontario.

To answer one of my original questions, I think that the boardwalk at the Petrel Point Nature Reserve is too narrow for safe wheelchair use.