Most Torontonians know the allure of the Toronto Islands and hold a special place in their hearts for the lush landscape of this small island chain. Residents spend hot summer days riding their bikes on the many paths, swimming and bathing at the numerous beaches and playing games of Frisbee on the bountiful grassy fields.
But, what about the Islands during winter? Surprisingly, few locals would even consider spending a day on the Islands during mid-January. It’s simply not a destination that comes to mind for winter activities, when in reality, its winter bounty nearly rivals the city itself.
Torontonians can escape the hustle and bustle of city life while enjoying the following winter activities available on the Toronto Islands:
Fall and winter bring gorgeous natural light to the Toronto Islands that can’t quite be matched in the summer, making the city skyline glow in the early winter sunsets. On top of this, there is the added bonus of a whole new landscape between your view and the city; ice. A frozen harbour gives the skyline view a whole new feeling. The view alone is often worth the trip over on the ferry, so this is definitely something to consider when planning a winter trip.
Cross Country Skiing
The Toronto Islands are the largest urban car-free community in North America and this makes for some fairly extensive cross country skiing grounds. From end to end the Islands stretch for 9 km, not including the sand spit, and are riddled with pathways and trails which are just right for this winter sport.
The summer harbour is full of boats, kayakers and paddle boarders by the dozen. The winter harbour is an entirely different scene as it ices over and becomes a frozen rink that is perfect for skating. Be sure to follow the rules and only skate in designated areas, as skating on thin ice is dangerous.
Ward’s Island Village
The small wooden houses in Ward’s Island Village are a charming sight during the summer, but in winter, they are the stuff of winter dreams and Christmas fairy tales. The narrow streets become completely covered in pristine white snow, only adding to the effect of the winter wonderland and making it the perfect place to visit throughout the holiday season.
Far Enough Farm
Far Enough Farm is a cheerful petting zoo located on Centre Island which offers free admission year round and a variety of friendly animals including horses, llamas, pigs, peacocks, emus, rabbits and more. The farm is a thirty minute walk from the Ward’s Island ferry dock and can be accessed through the Centreville Amusement Park which is closed during the winter.
Ice sailboat racing was a popular sport in Toronto during cold winters at the turn of the century and you may be lucky enough to spot a hobbyist or two today, but you are more likely to see ice surfers and para-skiiers. Grab a spot on the shore and watch as wind enthusiasts attach boards to their feet, sails to a harness and glide around the frozen harbour.
Once you’ve had your fill of outdoor fun and winter chills, you can retreat to this cozy café and warm yourself up by ordering a cup of hot chocolate and drinking it in front of a glowing fire place. The Rectory Café is located in one of only two remaining historic residences on Ward’s Island and is open year round, including the winter months.
During the winter the ferry runs from the harbour front to Ward’s Island between 6:35am and 11:45pm from Monday to Sunday and between 7:30am to 11:15pm on Sundays and holidays. Remember to dress warm and enjoy the winter wonderland of the Toronto Islands.
About the Author
Seattle Dredge is a young adventurer, travel blogger and photographer who now lives in Southampton, ON, after being based in Toronto for seven years. Seattle is exploring the world one country, one photo and one great adventure at a time, sharing her experiences on Seattle’s Travels. And yes, her real name is Seattle.