Parks Canada Announces Free Days for Locals on July 14 and August 14

The Grotto/Indian Head Cove on February 1, 2023. The parking lot is plowed all winter, the trail is always passable (you might need snowshoes) and there are no crowds.

And Is It Worth It To Buy An Annual Pass?

By John Francis, Bruce Peninsula Press

Parks Canada has announced that there will be two free days for locals again this summer — July 14 and August 14.

On Friday, July 14 – residents will have access to the Grotto in the morning (9am-1pm) & Halfway Log Dump in the afternoon (2pm-8pm).

On Monday, August 14 it’s the reverse – residents will have access to Halfway Log Dump in the morning (7am-1pm) and the Grotto in the afternoon (1pm-5pm).

In both cases access is completely free and no reservation is required. Proof of local address is required upon arrival at the gatehouse – eg. piece of mail with local address, driver’s license, municipal parking hangtag etc.

Should You Buy a Park Pass?

But what are the rules if you want to spend a bit more time in the parks?

It’s complicated.

You can buy an “Annual Site-specific Pass” which gives you free access and free parking anytime. That is: free access anytime, anywhere in Bruce Peninsula National Park/Fathom Five National Marine Park and free parking at any lot that doesn’t require a reservation, but there’s a big asterisk on that — you still have to pay to reserve a spot at the Grotto from April to October and at Halfway Log Dump from June to September. You can get a refund of the parking and admission fees, but the $11.50 reservation fee is non-refundable.

Is that a deal-breaker? It depends on what you want and how much you would use the parks.

The “Annual Site-specific Pass”, at $41.75 per person or $83.75 per family or group, doesn’t cost that much more than a single day pass. (Single day pass, including parking, is $23.50 for one person, $31.75 for a family or group of up to 7 people. Children under 17 are always free and seniors pay slightly less; reservation fee extra where applicable. Sorry. I warned you it was complicated.)

It gets even more complicated for people who lived here when the parks were first created. As part of the federal/provincial agreement under which the parks were established, anyone who lived, or owned property, in St Edmunds Township at that time was entitled to free access to the parks for life, for them and their children. But not their spouses, their children’s spouses or their grandchildren. Spouses would have to pay admission, as would grandchildren once they reach age 18. Many end up having to pay the $41.75 per year.

Bottom Line — $83.75/Year

If you buy a “Site-specific Annual Pass” for $83.75 a year, you can bring a carload of family/friends to the park anytime — except the Grotto and Halfway Log Dump in summer as noted above — without having to pay anything. That gives you unlimited access to Singing Sands (early morning and early evening beach walks are glorious and the parking lot is rarely full before 10:00 am or after 5:00 pm). It gives you free off-season access to the Grotto/Indian Head Cove/Cyprus Lake and Halfway Log Dump and year-round access to the Visitor Centre, the viewing tower and the adjacent trails.

And for another $32 per person or $62 per family, you can get free admission to any national park or national historic site in Canada for the year. It’s a total waste of money if you don’t leave the peninsula, but quite the bargain if you do.