Neighbourhood: Toronto Islands

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Location: A 10-minute ferry ride from downtown. Transit: Union Station, then walk or take the 509 or 510 streetcar one stop to the ferry docks.

Just a stately 10-minute ferry ride across Toronto’s inner harbor will bring you to another world of tree-filled picnic spots, car-free streets, quaint old cottages and beachfront attractions.

Toronto Islands are made up of three major islands – Centre, Ward’s and Algonquin – with paths, bridges and boardwalks that connect the islands. A quick walk or bike ride takes you to one of four sandy beaches – Centre Island Beach, Gibraltar Point Beach, Hanlan’s Point Beach and Ward’s Island Beach.

The most popular spot, especially with families with kids, is Centre Island, which features huge picnic areas, bike paths, a maze, a beach and award-winning gardens. Paddleboats, bicycles and in-line skates are available to rent on the island. You’ll also find Centreville, an amusement park geared towards younger children with some 30 rides, a petting zoo with pony rides and picturesque swan boats circling a small lagoon.

Ward and Algonquin Islands feature summer cottages from the 1920s and charming English-style gardens. Hanlan’s Point provides a quiet escape, with an excellent clothing-optional beach and Toronto’s famous haunted lighthouse.

Hop aboard one of the three regular ferries that depart from the foot of Bay Street at Queen’s Quay. The spectacular view of Toronto’s growing skyline from across the harbour is well worth the trip alone.