Sunday, September 20, 2015

Cabot Head Lighthouse

At the end of the 9 km. of potholes, we finally came to the Cabot Head Lighthouse.  Cabot Head itself, the bulging northeast corner of the Bruce Peninsula, is named after John Cabot, the early Italian explorer who reached North America shortly after Columbus, in 1497.

The lighthouse was built in 1895, and included the light and a house for the light-keeper in one building.  The original tower was a little higher, but the old light has been replaced by the automated light on the steel tower to the left.

The lighthouse was saved and restored by the volunteer group, the Friends of Cabot Head, and they operate a small museum inside the light station.  There are both one staff person and a volunteer or two on site all summer, as well as a gift shop.

The reason for the light station is obvious once you read about the shipwrecks.  In the 19th century, a lot of shipping went from ports on Georgian Bay to locations west and south, through Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior.  Between 1854 and 1896, at least 7 ships were wrecked nearby, almost all in the gales of October, November and December.  Many more were lost further west around Tobermory.

This light and foghorn became a very important navigation marker in this part of the Great Lakes.  Today you can climb right up into the observation platform at the top, which was originally the base of the light.  You get a 360° view!

There is a light on display inside, but it's not the original type that was used here.

Looking straight out into Georgian Bay, you can imagine the wreckage of those ships spread in the waters nearby.

Looking west over the railing, you can see corner beyond which is the entrance to Wingfield Basin on the left.  It's an enclosed bay with a very narrow shallow entrance.  Often ships were wrecked when they were making a run for shelter in the bay during a storm.  It's the only sheltered harbour in many many miles, and it's often used by sailboats today.

And looking inland you see today's cabin used for staff and volunteers, as well as two of the three large bluffs that mark Cabot Head.  These ones are Middle Bluff on the left, and West Bluff on the right.

The museum inside the lighthouse was quite well done.  I usually judge these small museums by how suitable they would be for a family with children.  This one would do quite well - if only the road to get here was a little easier!!

This is another of those examples of government co-operating with non-government groups in order to maintain facilities.  Or, looked at it from the other side, an example of a local community coming together and volunteering to maintain a historic site, and persuading the government to be supportive.  In any case, I'm very glad it's happened and they didn't just demolish the old lighthouse!


  1. An unusual little lighthouse well-worth preserving. I too like the look of the museum. That Cabot certainly got about; I first of all thought of the Cabot Trail up on Cape Breton Island.

  2. I would love to visit there, but your post is the next best thing. Very interesting lighthouse, and I do like the museum, too. I can imagine what it was like back then. :-)

  3. Awesome photo....we look for lighthouses everywhere we go!

  4. Hi There, I don't always comment but always enjoy your posts. We haven't been to the areas where you were but seeing the shores of the Great Lakes and seeing the lighthouse made me think of my first trip to see some of the Great Lakes area. After George and I were married he took me to Ohio and Indiana --where we saw the Indiana Dunes and also Marblehead Lighthouse (Ohio).... Such great memories.

  5. Well worth preserving too. I'd like to visit the place myself.

  6. Looks like a terrific place to visit. Great photos.

  7. Wow, cool to see this lighthouse as I was viewing your wonderful images, was hoping for the view from it. Thanks for showing the gorgeous view.

  8. I like to visit lighthouses ans learn of their history. This one is unusual with its very modern steel tower next to the older lighthouse keeper house building. The museum inside looked interesting!

  9. wow awesome view, I'm so glad it was restored.

  10. I remember one time in early October of 1979 3 of us helped a friend sail his boat from Tobermory to Wiarton which took 2 days & we overnighted in Wingfield Basin. It was windy that night & I remember a lanyard continuously striking against the mast. To this day whenever I hear that chinking sound I still think of our windy night in Wingfield Basin.