The Health Benefits of a Mini Vacation

June whizzed past in a blur and July was showing no signs of slowing down. When the heat wave finally ended two weekends ago, it was the perfect opportunity to break free and take a two-day mini vacation on the Bruce Peninsula, one of my favourite places.

There are two National Parks at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula near Tobermory, Ontario. We hiked the rugged limestone cliffs in Bruce Peninsula National Park the first day and rented sea kayaks to explore rocky coastlines and shipwrecks in Fathom Five National Marine Park on the second day.

Even though it was only a short retreat, this mini-vacation provided many health benefits.

  • Unplugging from the grid. More and more we are digitally connected to an endless fire hose of updates, notifications, alerts, emails and e-newsletters that decrease productivity and demand attention unless we consciously plan and choose when to interact. Away from my computer and with no cell signal in either park, nothing digital could tug at me.

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  • Physical activity! We travelled 25 km the first day, most of that hiking in the park followed by some wandering around the little shops in Tobermory. On the second day, we paddled for about 5 hours. 

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  • Bliss. The best word I can find to describe the combination of rejuvenation, stress relief, and relaxation. It was energizing and good for the soul to enjoy the wide open spaces, feel the wind on my skin and watch the sunshine dance over endless swirls of emerald green, indigo blue and every shade of aquamarine in between. We were lucky to see dozens of cormorants take flight and paddle over the large planks, bolts and anchors of shipwrecks. In Big Tub Harbour, all I needed to do was hold still while baby ducks swam under my paddle.

baby ducks swim under kayak paddle

  • Better sleep. According to my Fitbit Flex, I slept soundly for 9.5 hours after the hiking day, much more than my usual 6.5-7.5 hours. The length and quality of sleep has wide-ranging health impacts: sleeping fewer than 6 hours a night can change the activity of hundreds of genes responsible for the immune system, metabolism and how we react to stress. Read more about the health risks of poor sleep here.
  • Humour. Comic relief can take place in unexpected places! A sign prohibiting cliff jumping seemed a little out of place in the trees on the trail, and of course, hearty folks were jumping from the cliffs at Indian Head Cove anyway. And I had to shake my head when I saw people wearing flip-flops — a bizarre choice of footwear for rugged terrain not only because flip-flops can cause serious foot problems, but because there are Massassagua Rattlesnakes in Bruce National Park. The poisonous little nippers were probably all hiding given the scores of people trekking through that day, but still…

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Cliff-Jumpers

If you go:

Getting There: Bruce National Park is about a 3.5-hour drive north of Toronto. Summer hours are 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. but plan to get there well before 10:30 a.m. if you want to get a parking spot in the main lot on a weekend.

Park Fees: Fees in Bruce National Park: family $14.70, adults $5.80, youth $2.90.

Kayak Rental: Thorncrest Outfitters in Tobermory are located right across from Little Tub Harbour on Highway 6. We rented two sea kayaks for the day for $90 including tax. Lifejackets, paddles and all safety equipment are included. Their complete fee schedule is here.

Where to Stay: We stayed at Big Tub Harbour Resort, a pleasant and reasonably priced motel with rooms overlooking the Harbour Marina.

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