The Ultimate Guide To Scuba Diving In Tobermory

Take it from scuba Jay, you don’t have travel to the Caribbean or some exotic location to enjoy world class scuba diving. In fact, if shipwrecks are your thing, then Tobermory is a scuba diving destination and a Great Lakes diving experience not to be missed.

Scuba Jay underwater next to the Niagara || stern.
Scuba Jay on the stern of the Niagara II in the waters of Tobermory.

About Tobermory

located on Bruce Peninsula on the Georgian Bay of Lake Huron, one would be hard pressed to find a more picturesque and quaint town than Tobermory.

Beautiful Tobermory.

Tobermory is not only known for its scuba diving – being called the scuba diving capital of Canada – but also for its beautiful landscaping with interesting rock formations.

Tobermory interesting rock formations by the water.
Landlubbers will enjoy the stunning rock formations.

Whether above or below the waves, there is a little something for everyone in Tobermory. Bruce Peninsula is home to not one, but two national parks – the Fathom Five National Marine Park and Bruce peninsula National Park.

Getting There

Tobermory is a rather remote site. You should be prepared for a little bit of a drive, which at times can feel like you are headed to the ends of the earth. However, the end destination is worth the travels!

Map of Tobermory bruce peninsula.
X marks the spot of your final destination….pack a lunch.

Scuba Diving In Tobermory

There is a reason why Jacques Cousteau brought his famous Calypso to Tobermory to film in 1980. Amazing shipwrecks preserved in the fresh cold water, beautiful underwater formations and crystal clear water all add up to create an amazing experience for scuba divers.

Shipwreck called Sweepstakes underwater.
The shipwreck Sweepstakes is easily visible in the clear waters.

There are many dive sites that have a shallow depth. So snorkeling is also an option for those that do not have their open water certification, but still want to get in on the fun.

One word of caution though, Tobermory’s clear waters are also cold waters. It is not unusual for a diver to hit more than one thermocline while scuba diving on some of the deeper shipwrecks. Even in the Summer months, bottom water temperature can be in the 40s – or below – depending on depth.

Scuba Jay and his crew on a diving boat in Tobermory
Scuba Jay and crew getting on their 7mm wetsuits and dry suits.

Most divers will want to wear at least a 7mm wetsuit, or perhaps even a dry suit while tackling these cold water temperatures.

For dive shops for rental gear and dive boat charters the main game in town is Divers Den located in Little Tub Harbor. With several dive boats, this dive shop offers various opportunities to visit the many dive sites within and out of the Fathom Five National Marine Park.

Tobermory dive boat.
One of the boats of Divers Den heading out to dive a wreck.

In order to get to the dive sites within the marine park, you will have to purchase a diving pass. This can be done at the Parks Canada Visitor Center.

Scuba Diving Sites Within Fathom Five National Marine Park

Designated in 1987, Fathom Five is Canada’s first national marine park. The park encompasses over 69 square miles of beautiful waterways and picturesque islands, such as Flowerpot Island.

Considered the shipwreck capital of the world, wreck divers will be in their glory inside of the marine park. With over 20 shipwrecks, divers of all qualification levels will find some amazing dive sites. Below are some of the most popular dive sites within the park.

Tobermory fathom five national marine park.
Nope that’s not the’s part of the Fathom Five National Marine Park.


Located off of Echo Island is one of the most sought after shipwrecks. The Arabia is a beautifully preserved wreck. She was a three-masted barque that foundered after taking on water in heavy seas in October 1884. This wreck’s bow is extremely intact with its anchors, windlass and bowsprit all still there to be seen!

Divers beware!! while the Arabia is one of the best dive sites in the park, it is also one of the deepest – sitting in about 120ft of water. It is a cold and dark dive with potential for strong currents.

There have been a number of diving fatalities at this site. Divers that want to see this beautiful shipwreck should be at least advanced certified and strong consideration should be given to the use of a Divemaster.

W.L. Wetmore

At the other end of the shipwreck diving spectrum from the Arabia is the Wetmore. Lying in 28ft of water, this wreck is a favorite dive site in the park and a good place to do your first dive to check out your gear and buoyancy.

The Wetmore can be found just Northwest of Russell Island where she ran aground during a storm in 1901. At the time she was towing the James C. King (see below).

The Wetmore is busted up, but there is much to see. Divers and snorkelers will wonder at the large boilers that come just feet from the surface of the water.

Tobermory underwater boilers.
The large and impressive boilers of the Wetmore.

The anchor is another highlight of this dive with its wooden stock still in place!

Tobbermory, anchor of Wetmore.
Anchor of the Wetmore.

The propeller and rudder are also sights you’ll want to explore at this dive site.

Tobermory, Wetmore rudder.
Divers will notice the sheared-off propeller from when the Wetmore ran aground.

James c. King

Not far from the final resting place of the Wetmore, and close to shore, is the James C. King. Originally built as a barque, the James King was used later on as a barge. She sank while being towed by the W.L. Wetmore in a storm in 1901.

At the time she sank, the James King broke up on the Russell Island reef. She was split open by the ferocity of the storm and slide down a steep rocky incline. The wreck remains lying on the incline, with her bow down.

The stern of the wreck – including the rudder – lies in about 22ft of water and is good for diving and snorkeling alike. The bow – with its Roman numeral draught markings – can be seen by advanced divers at a depth of about 93ft.

A great part of this dive is to swim from the bow – up the rocky incline – to the stern along the split keel. As you ascend, the “ribs” of the wreck make it feel like you are swimming over the ribs of a prehistoric animal….an absolutely fantastic dive!

Scuba divers on a shipwreck in Tobermory.
A small part of the “ribs” of the James C. King.

Forest city

Another wreck lying on a steep incline just Northeast of the funny sounding Bears Rump Island is the Forest city (On a side note I wonder if a bear was mooning the first sailors that passed by this island, but I digress).

The Forest city was a three-masted schooner that ran aground in June 1904 due to low visibility from a dense fog. This is the deepest wreck in the park. While her bow lies at a depth of about 60ft, her stern is at a depth of about 150ft.

At 216ft long there is much for advanced divers to see on this wreck. Her bow is somewhat broken up. However, as you swim into deep water you’ll be amazed at the haunting beauty of just how intact her stern is.

This is a very challenging cold water dive site that demands training and attentiveness. The unaware diver marveling at this wreck can easily stray past recreational limits. The Forest City is another wreck site that has claimed the lives of several divers. Take caution!

The tugs

Diving opportunities in the park are not just limited to boat dives. A beautiful shore dive site is the tugs. Accessible by a walkway to a wooden deck, there are four sunken tugboats -including the Robert k and Alice G. – lying just at the mouth of Little Tub Harbor.

The Alice G. is the best of the tugs. Her mostly intact stern railing and boiler are the subject of many underwater photographs.

The boiler of Alice G. underwater in Tobermory.
The much photographed boiler of the Alice G.

Other than the tugboat wrecks, divers will enjoy the rock formations with drop-offs. There is even a sailboat to be found in this area if you search around a little.

This is a very nice place to practice before going out on the lake and is a nice easy way to explore diving and snorkeling.

The anchor

If you’re up for a little bit of a swim, the anchor is another good shore dive site. If diving by shore, you will enter at “The Gap” which is between Little Tub harbor and Big Tub harbor.

In about 70ft of water, divers can explore this old wood stocked large anchor with chain from an unknown ship.

Big tub lighthouse point

Tobermory lighthouse surrounded by water.
Historic Tobermory lighthouse.

The 1885 lighthouse at the mouth of Big Tub Harbor is historic. While hikers will enjoy the surrounding scenery, divers will enjoy the underwater rock formations and wall dive, going to a depth of about 75ft. This dive sight is also used for check-out dives and snorkeling.


one of the most photographed wrecks in the world. The Sweepstakes was a two-masted schooner that sank in 1885 in 20ft of crystal clear water. As such, she is frequently visited for diving, snorkeling and by many a tour boat.

Tobermory scuba diving tour boat.
Tour boat visiting the Sweepstakes.

This wreck is beautifully preserved. Points of interest include the windlass, portions of the bow railing and openings for the holds.

The bow of Sweepstakes underwater in Tobermory.
The spectacular bow of the Sweepstakes.

about 100ft from the starboard side of the Sweepstakes is what is left left of the City of Grand Rapids. This was a wooden steamer that burned and sank in 1907. There is not much left of her, but divers and snorkelers can still see parts of her engine.

The city of grand rapids shipwreck in tobermory.
Part of the engine of the City of Grand Rapids.

Scuba Diving Sites Out of Fathom Five National Marine Park

Outside of the park can be found a couple of wrecks that were sunk on purpose. There are also some interesting underwater rock formations, including the ever popular Grotto.

Niagara iI

Hands down one of the most favorite dive sites in Tobermory is the Niagara II. The Tobermory Maritime Association bought this 180ft long freighter (and later sand sucker) and sank her in 1999 to create another exciting dive site. She lies right off of The Bruce Peninsula National Park.

Bow of Niagara || underwater in tobermory.
The eerily beautiful bow of the Niagara II.

Sitting in about 100ft of water, the pilothouse – with ship’s wheel – can be hit at about 50ft. With some opportunities for some easy penetrations, you can dive this wreck multiple times and still have something new to see.

Pilot house of Niagara || underwater in tobermory.
Pilothouse with ship’s wheel that was added for the diving experience.

Other points of interest include a large hold – where a jetski can be found – and ladders to and from her top deck.

Scuba diver on the Niagara II.
The stern of the Niagara II is a diver’s playground.

Finally, no dive on this ship is complete without visiting the stern with the name still clearly visible.

Scuba Jays brother posing on the Niagara II stern.
Scuba Jay’s brother Joe conquering the Niagara II.

Dunks point

Southeast of Park Land Base and Northeast of Dunks Bay is Dunks Pont. Divers can find interesting rock formations and a wooden stocked anchor and chain in about 70ft of water at this site.

Caroline rose

Another ship that was sunk on purpose is the Caroline Rose. Lying in the Georgian Bay in Driftwood Cove, she sits broken up in about 55ft of water.

The Caroline rose was a 132ft long schooner. She was purposefully sunk in 1990 to add yet another dive attraction to the area. While she was sunk intact, a storm that hit shortly after her sinking ravaged her. Even though she was broken up, divers can still explore her spare large propeller and stern with propeller and rudder intact.

Caroline rose rudder, underwater in Tobermory.
Propeller and rudder of the Caroline Rose.

little cove

This is an Ideal spot for shore diving and checking out more interesting geological formations – such as glacial erratics. At a depth of 40ft, this is once again another good area for conducting check-out dives and snorkeling.

the grotto

Scuba diving in Tobermory would not be complete without a trip to the Grotto, which is also accessible as a hike /swim site (see below). Divers can enter this beautiful formation from Lake Huron by two passages. There is a small tunnel, or – for those maybe a little more claustrophobic – a larger wide entrance.

Tobermory grotto underwater.
The larger entrance of the Grotto for those that don’t like tight squeezes.

Once you swim into the grotto look up! you will most likely see hikers swimming above you. The careful diver can surface and say hi to some surprised swimmers. This site is 20ft deep.

Other Activities

There is plenty to do in Tobermory above the water including a well put together historical museum and plenty of hiking trails.

Parks Canada Visitor Center Museum

If you are looking for some educational information on Tobermory and its parks, head over to the museum in the visitor center. In addition to learning about Tobermory’s interesting history, you can see artifacts recovered from some of the shipwrecks that lie within the park. This includes artifacts recovered form the Arabia.

Scuba diving Arabia artifacts in Tobermory.
Some artifacts from the Arabia.

History buffs will also be able to see some cool exhibits on the history of diving.

Old diving suit located in the Tobermory scuba diving museum.
Old timey diving suit.

world class hiking

The Great White North is home to some stunning nature and Tobermory and Bruce Peninsula are right up there with much to offer from our neighbors to the North.

Various opportunities await hikers. Tour boats will take travelers to Flowerpot Island to see the famous “flowerpots” rock formation.

Tobermory flower pots.
The incredible “flowerpots” rock formations.

Those that want to do a little hiking and swimming can take Cyprus Lake Trailhead to the Grotto. At the end of this trail lies a spectacular swim hole that you will want to photograph to show family and friends. If you feel a little tickle at your feet while swimming here, don’t be afraid. It’s most likely a scuba diver playing games as there is an underwater access to the Grotto (See above).

Outside of the Tobermory grotto
After a long hike take a swim in the famous Grotto.

Wrapping Things Up

From the open water dives with ships in deep and shallow waters to the shore diving with incredible underwater formations, Tobermory has so much to offer divers of any level. Scuba divers will not be disappointed in taking the drive to get there and will want to make a return visit soon. Non-divers will also marvel at the beautiful scenery that is Bruce Peninsula.

So good day and “take off, to the Great White North! Take off, it’s a beauty way to go!”

“How boring would the world be if everywhere and everyone were the same. Safe travels and good adventures.” Scuba Jay

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