Nothing says summer more than a visit to Toronto Island Park. Locals and tourists flock to experience the chill island vibes happening on Lake Ontario.
The fun begins at Jack Layton Ferry Terminal for a 13-minute ferry ride from Bay Street and Queen’s Quay in downtown Toronto. You can bring strollers, bikes and wagons full of goodies onboard the lower deck of the boat. Dogs on a leash are permitted if you want to spend the day with your furry best friend. The second level of the ferry is perfect to capture views of the famous Toronto skyline with the CN Tower in the distance. Toronto Island consists of 15 islands inter-connected via bridges and pathways so you are actually able to walk the 5 km from one end to the other. There are ferry boats traveling to three different islands – Centre, Hanlan, and Ward’s Island. Check the ferry schedule for specific times and keep reading for all the adventures you can have upon arrival.
Bike Along the Trails.
Biking is fun for all ages and the perfect island activity. If if you haven’t brought your own bike you can rent one at the rental shop near the pier. There are single and tandem bikes and unique quadricycles that are perfect for families and couples. Once you have your bike you are free to explore in either direction and zoom past the parks, gardens, fire station, lighthouse, and school. Stop to take pictures from various lookout points and have a snack. Make sure to bring cash for the bike deposit and valid identification.
Pack a Picnic Feast.
Bring your own blanket and sit under a huge willow tree or find one of many picnic tables scattered through the island (favourite picnic sites are on Centre Island, Olympic Island and Halan’s Point). Some tables are located along the shores of Lake Ontario and ducks and Canada Geese will keep you company while you eat. There are several barbeque stations for use, just bring your own charcoal. If you didn’t bring food and get hungry there are several restaurants to choose from including Island Café, Carousel Café and the Centreville food court with their famous tasty island fries. There are also small kiosks selling sticky pink and blue cotton candy, popcorn and candy apples – a summer treat the kids are sure to remember.
Swim at the Island Beaches.
Pack a bathing suit because there are plenty of opportunities to swim at the island. There are three sandy beaches to choose from to build sandcastles and sunbath under the hot summer sun. Hanlan’s Point Beach and Ward’s lsland Beach have Blue Flag designation, meaning good water quality and environmentally responsible management. There are change rooms and lockers on Centre Island next to the pier as well as near Ward’s Island Beach. Lifeguards are on duty at all beaches from 11:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Be warned that Hanlan’s Point Beach has a clothing-optional area at the south end where all you need is your birthday suit.
Check out the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse.
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse was used to guide ships into Toronto’s harbor. This ancient lighthouse located on Hanlan’s Point was built in 1808 and is one of Toronto’s oldest buildings. Although it no longer functions as a lighthouse it’s an important site to visit as it’s also the oldest building of its kind still standing on the Great Lakes. There are rumours of ghosts and spirits among the cool gray stone walls of the lighthouse and many haunted stories of years gone by.
Paddle in a Kayak Canoe or Pedal Boat.
Toronto Island Boathouse rents single or double kayaks, canoes and the popular pedal boats, should you want to explore the island by water. They are located along the lagoon near the garden promenade and it’s suggested you get there early if you want your choice of boat. Once floating along the water be on the lookout for nesting swans, turtles, herons and over 35 different fish species swimming right along with you.
Hop on Fun Rides at Centerville Amusement Park.
Gather the kiddies together and get ready for fun and laughter at Centerville Amusement Park. Most rides are for younger kids (ages 3 – 7) but older kids and kids at heart will love the Haunted House, Antique Car, Bumper Cars, Sky Ride, and of course the Log Flume, where even adults scream and laugh as it races down the hill splashing everyone. All rides require tickets or a day pass but there is no charge to enter Centreville. There are also games, mini-golf, a splash pad, several food outlets and a store for Toronto Island souvenirs.
Enjoy the View from the Toronto Islands!
Image of Gibraltar Point Lighthouse courtesy of Andrew Rivett (Skeezix1000) Wikimedia Commons.
Image of ferris wheel courtesy of CentreIsland.ca.
Image of Island Marina courtesy of Herman Ho, CAA South Central Ontario.