Toronto Islands: Open Again After Spring Flooding
Earlier in the year, the Toronto Islands were shut down due to flooding. Water levels are now back closer to normal, so you don’t have to bring your hip waders. The islands are open for business again.
If you’re a Toronto native, it’s easy to forget about them, until you go, which leaves you wondering why you don’t visit more often. If you’re a visitor, you might not even know that Toronto has islands – with beaches no less.
They’re just a short ferry ride from the foot of Bay Street and the terminal is convenient to transit. So, in no time you could be tanning your beautiful body on Toronto Islands’ long sandy beaches.
You’ll be in a fairyland world of tree-filled picnic spots, car-free streets, bike paths, boardwalks and beaches. Look back for postcard views of Toronto’s ever-growing skyline. If you’re a photographer be there at either sunrise or sunset for spectacular shots of the city, boats criss-crossing the harbour and commuter planes landing on the Island Airport.
Getting To the Ferry is Easy But Don’t Take Your Car
Do yourself a favour and take the subway to Union Station. From there you can walk to the foot of Bay Street in minutes. Or take any of the streetcars from inside Union Station and get off at the first stop. The Jack Layton Ferry Docks, where all Toronto Island ferries leave from, are right next to the Westin hotel.
If you have to take the car, there is limited parking nearby but it can be expensive. Save it for cold beverages.
As of this writing, ferry tickets are $7.50 for adults, $5.00 for students, $3.65 for ages 2 – 14 and infants are free. That covers a round trip, about 15 minutes each way. You can take bicycles on board free of charge. Complete ferry schedule and ticket information is here. You can buy advance tickets on this page, and skip the lineup. It’s worth it.
As an alternative to the ferry, you can also take one of the water taxi services. They dock a little west of the ferry. Just search for “Toronto island water taxi” and you’ll get a list of choices.
Toronto Islands’ Beaches Are On the Lake Side
Whether you take the ferry to Ward’s Island, Centre Island or Hanlan’s Point, just walk straight through the island to get to a beach.
Ward’s Island beach is the smallest and least known of the three, so likely the least crowded.
The biggest is Manitou Beach at Centre Island. This is where you’ll find the pier and where you can rent bicycles.
And finally, Hanlan’s Point beach is the one that’s in the news because it’s clothing optional. Technically you can be clothed, but the naturist fans have been complaining about dressed gawkers, to say nothing of tourists pointing their cameras. So, if you’re ready to strip down, this is the one. If not, you might want to go to the others.
More to Do Than Tanning and Swimming
Once you’re all tanned, what else is there to do on the Toronto Islands?
- Have a picnic
- Rent bikes or bring your own
- Rent boats or kayaks
- Go on a boat tour through the canals
- For children, head to Centreville for rides, a farm, and play areas
- Get lost in the Amazing Maze
- See the houses on Algonquin and Ward’s Island and pine for a simple island life
- Find the Babe Ruth plaque (he hit his first professional home run on September 5, 1914, at Hanlan’s Point stadium playing for the Providence Grays)
It’s Not Just For Summer
Some will tell you that the most magical time on the islands is not the summer, but the other seasons, especially winter. No tourists, very quiet, great for walking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. But check which ferries are running and how often. Schedules change if the harbour freezes over.
Want to Live on the Toronto Islands?
When you find the houses on the island, and walk along the gardens and quiet streets, you could easily fall in love with the idea of living there. When my parents emigrated from Germany to Toronto, they had considered it. Back then, there were many more houses than there are today (hundreds were expropriated to make way for parkland – (read about Toronto Island history here) and the island had about 8,000 residents. But for practical reasons, they decided against it.
Today, there are about 260 homes with 600 residents on the island. Buying a house is complicated (you lease the land from a city corporation) and there’s a long waiting list.
But here’s the good news. Every once in a while, a rental pops up on Airbnb (if it’s your first Airbnb rental click here for $50 CDN off your rental) or one of the other services. (Just checked and found two houses on Airbnb along with a number of boats for short-term rentals. Now that would be fun!) Keep checking if you’re interested.
Going to Toronto Islands and the Island Airport are Two Separate Things
Since you can take a walkway from the mainland to the Island Airport, you might think you could get to the rest of the island that way and skip the ferry ride. But, no. You can’t leave the airport to access the island.
And conversely, you can’t take the ferry to the island and then get into the airport. If you’re on the island and want to get to the Island Airport, you have to take the ferry back to the mainland, and then go west to Bathurst Street and walk over to the airport. Yup, you read that right.
The island and the Island Airport are completely separate.
Looking for a Hotel in Toronto?
Toronto has a wonderful selection of hotels, from intimate boutique hotels, to quirky “art hotels” and of course all of the most popular chains. Some of them are on the lake with a view of the islands. You’ll find the best and most recent rates on Toronto hotels here.
We’re Fans of Lonely Planet Guides
If you’re visiting Toronto, or the rest of Canada (that’s a Toronto joke – ROC = rest of Canada) start with the Lonely Planet Canada guide to find your way around. It’s available in paper and digital for handy reference. We have our Lonely Planet guides on an iPad. Handy!
Tours and Activities in and Around Toronto and Niagara Falls
If you ask people who have never been to Toronto about the city, many will only mention the CN Tower (once the world’s tallest building, but no longer), or that it’s near Niagara Falls. Fair enough, but that hardly scratches the surface. There is SO much to do in Toronto, you could spend years here and never get through it.
Here’s a selection of Toronto area tours and activities, with direct links to purchasing tickets where necessary.
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