The wind is howling off the bay, the grey-white clouds of Autumn whip overhead as our small party peers precariously over the edge of the Niagara Escarpment. The rain of the night before has broken and in the bright early morning sun the contrasts below boggle the senses. Laid out before us is the tropical turquoise blues of Georgian Bay, the stark white of the boulder beaches and escarpment cliffs, and all around a riot of Fall colours.

Every middle-aged boomer in southern Ontario knows of the classic ‘Fall drives’ that must be taken with the family. The safe, scenic, and more often than not, boring tour of ‘oooh’s’ and ‘aaahh’s’, as the family van rolls through the rural hills of Ontario. Vying for space along back roads and crowded lookouts.

Yet tack on an extra hour or two of driving north, turn your wheels towards the Bruce Peninsula and the cold blue expanses of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, and things begin to change.

Autumn in Ontario Travel - Jamie MacDonald 6

As you roll into the last town before the peninsula, Wiarton, of Wiarton Willie fame (that is for a whole other article in of its self, “the weird and wonderful of small-town rural Canada”), the change is immediate and dramatic. You begin to climb the escarpment; cliffs pop from the sides of the road, the forest changes. The huge trees of the south turn into the small, squat, ancient cedars, that have weathers hundreds, if not thousands of years on the Bruce. Punctuated among them, are huge swaths of Birch forest, painted a vibrant yellow as the Autumn takes hold.

Autumn in Ontario Travel Trees

From Wiarton on, there is nothing but road, forest and the occasional farm until you reach the tip at the town of Tobermory and cold deep waters of Georgian Bay. The peninsula is one of the most remote and beautiful areas of the province, if not Canada, and is protected as a UNESCO Bio-Diversity site.

If you don’t want to travel the extra hour or so to the tip of the Bruce, a short drive north and east of Wiarton is the First Nations Community of Neyaashiinigmiing or Cape Croker. One of the very few unceaded communities in eastern Canada, also meaning that they have one of the most beautiful camp-sites and communities in all of Ontario, and a beautifully secret spot for escape and adventuring year round.

Autumn in Ontario Travel Lighthouse

Tucked on a small peninsula jutting out into western Georgian Bay, the area is surrounded by water, high cliffs, beautiful rock beaches, and kilometers of trials. Cape Croker Park is a beautiful, spacious, and secretive campground right on the water; a must for the Spring and Summer. For the colder times of the year, or those who just enjoy a bed with no roots underneath. The bed and breakfast ‘Cozy Cats’ (don’t let the name fool you, these guys are incredible, as in top five B&B’s I’ve been too) sits right on the main road entering the community, and offers up gigantic breakfasts, jaw-dropping views, and easy access to the Bruce Trail.

Autumn in Ontario Travel Neyaashiinigmiing Cape Croker

Descending back down the escarpment, out of the wind and through the high marshes, we pass into the sprawling birch forest and the entire world seems to glow gold as the sun ignites every leaf. Visiting the area and seeing its beauty and diversity first hand it is easy to see why the First Nations communities on the Bruce Peninsula have been along the shores and among the cliffs for thousands of years.

Autumn in Ontario Travel

Autumn in Ontario Travel

Autumn in Ontario Travel night sky

Autumn in Ontario Photos by James MacDonald