Toronto Islands: A Travel Junkie’s Escape
By Jennifer Merrick | @jenmerrick
Travel is my addiction and cravings for a fix come hard and fast. One trip ends and in no time at all the urge to explore unfamiliar locales and escape the work-a-day routine begins all over again. But with two kids and a day job, it’s not always possible to feed my addiction as often as it demands, which is why I feel blessed to live in Toronto.
With over 140 languages and dialects spoken, and over half of Toronto’s population born outside of Canada, it’s one of the most multicultural and vibrant cities you’ll find.
Wander down the Gerrard Street Bazaar and you’ve stumbled upon the sights, sounds and tastes of India. Step foot into the Pacific Mall and you’ll be convinced you’re in an Asian shopping centre with a chance to indulge in authentic cuisine and buy everything DVDs and car parts to traditional Chinese herbs.
Of course, there are times we travel to escape and relax. To enjoy an island pace perhaps, with cool breezes and blue water and an abundance of hiking and biking trails, not to mention beaches, boats, ice cream, and gorgeous gardens.
Well, Toronto’s got that too. Toronto Islands are one of my favourite places to bring both family, and out-of-town guests. Best of all, this chain of 18 small islands, 600 acres in all, is just a 15-minute ferry ride from downtown.
How to Get There
Once at the Ferry Docks located at the foot of Bay Street on Queen’s Quay (509 or 510 streetcars from Union Station), you can choose from one of three boats: Centre Island, Hanlan’s Point or Ward’s Island. Centre Island is the most popular, giving you easy access to facilities and rental shops. But if you’re looking for less crowded beaches and nature watching of all kinds try one of the others.
What to Do
Once here you can hit the beaches, stroll, roller blade, picnic (there are BBQ pits available), bike (there’s a rental shop on Centre Island) and be sure not to miss these attractions:
Step back in time at this old-fashioned amusement park, complete with a 1907-handcrafted carousel, antique Ferris Wheel, other rides and the Far Enough Farm petting zoo.
This clothing-optional beach attracts crowds who dislike tan lines as well as curious tourists.
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse
Reportedly haunted, this limestone landmark is one of oldest remaining structures in the city.
On the way back to the city, time your ferry ride to coincide with sunset for one of the best photo-ops of Toronto’s skyline.
Useless Toronto Islands Trivia
Up until 1858, there were no Toronto Islands. It was a peninsula before a violent storm caused it to separate.
People live year-round on Ward’s Island. There are 262 homes, which can only be purchased through a lottery system with a decades-long waiting list.
In 1914, Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run at the Hanlan’s Point Stadium.
About the Author
Jennifer Merrick is the author of Toronto Essential Travel Guide iPhone app, where you’ll find insider information on the best Toronto attractions, restaurants, theatres, festivals, neighbourhoods and green spaces, along with useless trivia to impress or annoy friends. As a freelance writer specializing in family travel, she has written for numerous print and on-line publications, including