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Friends of Fathom Five and Friends of Bruce Peninsula
Tobermory, Ontario

In 1897, during the zenith of the shipping industry on the Great Lakes, a navigation light was put into service on the north-easterly point of Flowerpot Island. The light was to mark the main channel through the treacherous reefs and islands of the Tobermory Archipelago. That summer, a square wooden keepers cottage with a wooden tower for the light was erected atop Castle Bluff at a cost of $1,137. From a height of 33 meters (88ft.) above the water, the fixed white dipodic light was visible for 22.4 km (14 miles). Donald Smith, the first lightkeeper to be stationed here was paid $300. a season.

The original lighthouse building was burned and pushed from the cliff in 1969 after being replaced by the steel tower still at the site. The fog plant, which was decommissioned in 1995, now stands where the original lighthouse once stood.

Costing a total of $4,410.65, a building which housed the fog alarm machinery was established at the cliff site in 1909, replacing less effective bells and hand horns. This building was also destroyed in 1969. The observation deck occupies the site where the original fog building once stood.

The two-storey lighthouse keeper’s dwelling was built in 1901 at a cost of $1,396.93, on 24.37 acres of property that was purchased in 1900 from the Department of Indian Affairs at a cost of $8.64. The one-storey dwelling was built in 1959 at a cost of $18,000. Prior to its building, the assistant lightkeeper lived at the lighthouse on the cliff. The boathouse/workshop was erected in 1963.

Beside the boathouse are the remains of a dock which was destroyed by a fierce winter storm in 1987. Chunks of its concrete wreckage can be seen from the cobble beach in front of the houses. As the lightstation was to be unmanned at the end of the 1987 season, the dock was never replaced.

Occasional witnesses to marine disasters and heroic rescues, the lightkeepers and their families lived out lives of hard work in lonely isolation from April to December for the 90 years that this station was manned. With the decline of the once-vital shipping industry and the introduction of automation technology, the era of the lighthouse keeper has passed into a much romanced part of our Marine Heritage.


In the winter of 1995, concern over the deteriorating condition of the abandoned lightstation sparked an interest which led to an understanding between the Friends of Fathom Five and Canadian Coast Guard. A group of dedicated volunteers set to work refurbishing the site in the spring of 1996.

Thanks to the generous support and efforts of our volunteers, the work at the lightstation continues. In 1997, a new roof was put on the one-storey house. Construction of the public composting toilet was completed in 2000. Also in 2000, the roof of the original lightkeeper’s home was replaced.

1997 marked the 100 year anniversary of the establishment of the Flowerpot Island Light and the Friends hosted a big party.  Former lightkeepers, assistant lightkeepers and their families were invited and they came - many of them had not been to the site since they were children.  It was a fantastic party and the Friends continue to celebrate the anniversary of the lightstation - on the 3rd Saturday in July every year.

The Lightkeeper’s Host Program was started in 1998. This program allows volunteers to live at the lightstation for a period of time, doing the many jobs that are the responsibility of the lightkeeper. These volunteers paint, keep up the gardens and provide interpretation services for the many visitors to the site.

Flowerpot Island Lightstation is part of the Bruce Coast Lighthouse Tour. If you are hiking on the island, please drop by, tour the lightkeeper’s home, purchase a cold drink and/or snack and enjoy a visit with the volunteer lightkeepers. Admission to the lightkeeper’s home is free. Donations are welcome.

If you would like to learn more about Friends and the Flowerpot Island Lightstation, or would like to become involved, please contact the Friends at P. O. Box 66, Tobermory, Ontario, N0H 2R0 or email

For a copy of the Friend's Flowerpot Island Map - click here

For more information on the complete Bruce Coast Lighthouse Tour, check out
For information about Tobermory check out