Fantasy Islands: Fathom Five, Lake Huron

Ready for adventure? We’ve roamed the world’s oceans and lakes to compile this look at eight of our favorite island escapes, from lounging in the palm trees of the South Pacific to paddling with whales in the Bay of Fundy and gazing at grizzlies in Alaska. We’ve also included one escapade that’s so daring, it may never be repeated. 

At the tip of Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula, where the white, fossilized cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment plunge into the cold, cobalt waters of Lake Huron, lies a constellation of limestone islands protected within Fathom Five National Marine Park. The park’s name is borrowed from Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made; Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade.” A fitting eponym given that the park, much of it underwater, was founded in 1972 to preserve the more than 20 shipwrecks that litter its shoals.

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A natural absence of silt and algae makes for spectacular water clarity, offering divers, snorkelers and kayakers the chance to view the ghostly remains of 19th-century schooners that once supplied the villages of Georgian Bay. Above the waves, the park’s seven main islands are home to two historic light stations, walking trails and—most famously—the flowerpots, dolomite sea stacks eroded into fantastic shapes.

Flowerpot Island is a four-kilometer crossing from the Tobermory town docks in Little Tub Harbour. This is the only island with camp- ing and the six sites fill quickly; overnight visitors should reserve when registration opens in early May. From the camping area, short trails lead to the two Flowerpots, a large cave and the immaculate red-and-white clapboard light station at Castle Bluff. Fathom Five’s many smaller islets beckon further exploration by kayak. Crossings are generally short but exposed, and paddlers should be prepared for near-frigid waters and boat traffic. —Virginia Marshall

If you go: May through September is the best time to visit. Kayak rentals and guided day trips are available through Thorncrest Outfitters ( in Tobermory.

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