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An Afternoon on the Toronto Islands

Bucolic parks, quaint cottages, sun, sand and more, just a fun ferry ride from downtown.
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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 4.3 miles
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly

Overview :  The Toronto Islands are essentially the remnants of an ancient sandbar that projects into Lake Ontario, creating Toronto Harbour.... more »

Tips:  Getting to the Ferry Docks: Departures to & arrivals from the Toronto Islands utilize the Toronto Ferry Docks, located behind the ... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Toronto Ferry Docks

Lines can look massive on summer weekends, but it all moves fairly smoothly. While you're waiting enjoy one of the nearby buskers. Once inside the waiting area you will see signs above the gates for the destination being served. Head over to the lineup for Ward's Island and take your place.

2. Ward's Island Ferry Dock

As you dock, to your right is the channel separating Centre Island from Algonquin Island, filled with boats belonging to members of the Queen City Yacht Club. To your left across the lawns are the laneways of the Ward's Island community. Straight ahead lies the Ward's Island Association Clubhouse with its Island Cafe.

As you disembark the ferry, follow the path (Bayview Av) to the left (east) along the water's edge and head into the tranquil atmosphere of Ward's Island. As you ramble the lanes you'll notice that some of the cottages have retained the ramshackle and handmade look that predominated back when their future was tenuous, and others have been... More

4. The Boardwalk

The boardwalk hugs the Lake Ontario shoreline. It is constructed atop rocks which were placed to stabilize the sandy island and prevent its eventual erosion by the lake currents.

For about half the distance to the Centre Island pier the boardwalk looks directly across to the Leslie Street Spit, or officially the Outer Harbour East Headland, a... More

The Rectory is a very pleasant cafe with a charming outdoor terrace reminiscent of what you might stumble across somewhere in the French countryside. The menu is lunch-friendly and the food is good. On a warm summer afternoon, it is an unbeatable place to stop for sustenance, refreshment, and rejuvenation. The interior dining room is also lovely, ... More

At the mid point of Centre Island is a plaza with change rooms and washrooms, bicycle rental shop, and food concession, housed in a pair of buildings that frame the accessway to the pier. City-operated concessions on the Islands are leased to food service providers, none of whom push the envelope in terms of creative or healthy food. Having said... More

Nothing special about the pier, really. It's a 1960's era concrete structure projecting out into the lake, but who can resist the urge to walk out above the water and take a look? Immediately to your right you'll be able to check out the main public/ family beach on the islands. And most days at the end of the pier there will be a couple of... More

8. Arched Bridge

Turning 180 degrees from the pier and walking north away from the lake will take you through a plaza flanked by water features, gardens, and towards a centrally placed fountain. Just beyond the fountain is a pretty arched bridge that will take you off of Centre Island onto Middle Island, home of the Centre Island ferry dock and to the youngsters' ... More

As noted above, Centreville is a great destination for the amusement of youngsters. Although they claim to be an all ages facility, it is doubtful that a tween or teen would find much to be amused about. But if you have a young one, a ride in the Twirling Tea Cups or the floating swans could be fun.

Should you need refreshments, at the foot of... More

10. Gibralter Point Lighthouse

Between Centreville and the Gibralter Point Lighthose you will pass buildings belonging to the water filtration plant, and access to the Gibralter Point Beach.

The lighthouse is one of the City's oldest structures, dating from 1808. It once sat at the water's edge, but sand buildup over the years pushed the shoreline further to the south.

Other... More

So, here we are. The proverbial "Fork in the Road". What is it gonna be? Go right and follow the safe and pleasant path that skirts the inner waterway, or go left and walk a little on the wild side- a beach where you can go wild that is, and one where there will be some folks without any clothes on?

If you want to avoid the beach... More

Hanlan's Point beach has a few things going for it. It has some of the cleanest water of all of Toronto's beaches, most of which are already clean enough to merit certification according to the standards of the international Blue Flag program. It faces west, meaning that it has great sun position for ray-catching. That westward exposure also means... More

The path that follows the "inland" water's edge, known officially as Lakeshore Avenue, runs adjacent to a continuous mooring wall at the shore. Depending on the time of day you are likely to pass by dozens of relaxed folks chilling on the decks of their boats, or sitting on the grass nearby. The scent of charcoal & grilling burgers... More

So you've made it to the end of our circuit. Well, almost! You're now going to board the Ongiara, a small vehicle- transporting ferry, to take you back to the city.

At certain times of the day in the summer, usually later in the afternoon and on the weekend, you may have to share the ferry deck with a car or truck or two. Mostly though it's just ... More