Being deeply involved in the tourism industry has perks, and “experiencing it all” is a pretty major chunk of my job description. After all - you wouldn’t want to take recommendations from someone who hasn’t done it themselves. Most days this is a great line of work. On September 9th it was an AMAZING line of work. One of our partners - Owen Sound Flight Services took me on the trip of a lifetime.
Owen Sound Flight Services specializes in small plane tours. Taking off from Billy Bishop Airport in Owen Sound (Not the Billy Bishop Airport you are familiar with) they have a number of different tours that you can take. The tours range from 20 minute flights that cover the immediate area and give an overview of the Owen Sound area, to the tour that I was lucky enough to take - Around the entirety of the Bruce Peninsula.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the Bruce Peninsula tip to tail and back many times over. I’ve seen the area by land and by water, but I can tell you now first hand nothing compares to the view by air. Peter was our flight captain for the tour - a veteran pilot of more than 40 years experience. We met in the main office and right away he was chatty - loved to talk about the area we were flying over, and talk about his history cottaging in the Bruce Peninsula since he was a young child.
Once in the plane - firstly I was surprised by how spacious it was. Not quite a limo, but certainly not a european compact either. The plane seats 4 in total including the pilot and each passenger is given a headset and microphone. I was tuned in to hear the fun pilot “jargon” along with Peter as he translates the commands and location indicators throughout the flight. We also had a closed circuit connection between us so we could speak freely about the sights and sounds without straining our voice.
The rotor on the front of the plane kickstarts with the flick of a switch. Sticking with car analogies the noise was somewhere between mustang and monster truck - but hey, that’s what the headphones are for. Once the plane positioned itself on the runway, Peter signalled his intention to the main office and we were off. I was impressed by how fluidly we went airborne. I could hardly feel the separation between land and air. We lifted higher and higher into the ski and with one big banked turn we were overtop of gorgeous Owen Sound in moments.
It takes time to orient yourself when taking a birds eye view at an area you so frequently travel. It’s like Google Maps but without the road markers and you follow from recognizable point to recognizable point trying to piece the map back together. It’s get’s a little contagious and you continue to do so almost forgetting to enjoy the view around you.
Our journey left the Owen Sound area and headed straight towards the world famous Sauble Beach and up through the bays of Oliphant, Red Bay and Pike Bay. From above it could easily have been a series of beach towns in the Gulf of Mexico. You see the clear waters from ankle deep or from the docks, but to see the sunlight pierce through from that altitude was unbelievable. Deep gullies and shallow shoals on Hurons lake bed created a beautiful pattern of turquoise tiger stripes. You notice all the tiny remote island cottages that must be the ultimate form of relaxation, solitude and self dependence.
Continuing North we were soon in Tobermory watching the MS Chi Cheemaun departing from it’s bay. Big banked circles over top of Tobermory showcased the many shipwrecks below, the tour boats in port waiting for their next set of adventurers. You get a wonderful perspective on how intertwined Tobermory is with it’s waterside lifestyle.
Headed back south was in my opinion the most impressive part of the entire journey - we passed by weeks worth of on foot exploration, from hikes to lookouts, viewpoints, more shipwrecks and lighthouses. We were able to take on the entirety of the Georgian Bay section of the escarpment in a single line of sight. One of the first jaw dropping sights was approaching The Grotto in Bruce Peninsula National Park - with views of ant sized people exploring the caves and crevices. Continuing onward you watch a series of bluffs that make up the Niagara Escarpment - many directly into the waters edge, some eroded over time to form steep slopes down towards bays and inlets.
Just as the bluffs start to dissipate Owen Sound comes back into view - flying directly over the bay towards Billy Bishop Airport. We land quickly and smoothly. No waiting to debark the plane, no sitting on the tarmac waiting for an open terminal. As I’ve stood with my feet on the ground I was trying my hardest to replay in my head how amazing that experience was. How somehow despite being the same view it didn’t compare in any way to arial photos. There is almost frustration in the fact that I cannot describe the images left in my head in a meaningful way. The only way to know my perspective now is to take a flight yourself - and it really is the best way to see the entire Peninsula in 90 minutes.