January 15, 2014
While the uninitiated might think of Toronto as a fast-paced, frenetic city, there’s far more to this Canadian town than simply the hustle and bustle. In fact, Toronto has its very own day trip destination – one that perfectly combines stunning natural surroundings, uncrowded spaces, and heaps of relaxing activities. Welcome to the Toronto Islands.
Located just off Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, the petite island chain feels worlds away from the city’s buzzing downtown. It helps that the area is strictly car-free: with virtually no vehicles allowed, the Toronto Islands are already that much closer to becoming the perfect secluded escape.
Instead of cars, public ferries convey visitors and locals from the mainland to the islands throughout the day (tickets are under $10). Water taxis are another option. Visitors will also soon have a third transit choice via an underwater pedestrian tunnel linking the mainland to Centre Island, currently under construction and slated for completion at the end of this year.
Once safely on shore, visitors can use canoes, kayaks, and other eco-friendly methods of transportation to explore the local area. The islands are popular among those seeking a recreational day out, and seasonal bicycle rental is an affordable way to explore. Walking is also recommended: given that the islands are all interlinked, it’s possible to amble right across the quaint archipelago.
Those travelling with children will want to set aside a few hours for the Centreville Amusement Park, a theme park with activities both gentle (an antique carousel, Ferris wheel, and swan ride) and a little more adrenaline-fuelled (log flume and bumper cars). Far Enough Farm is also a fun way for kids to interact with animals: the farm is home to a menagerie of creatures both domestic and exotic, from potbelly pigs to alpacas.
In the summer, sunbathers and swimmers flock to the Toronto Islands’ sandy beaches, which are arguably the city’s best – the views of the city skyline and looking onto Lake Ontario are certainly worth capturing on camera. Centre Island Beach is popular with families, and the nearby Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse on the Great Lakes, offers a spot of local history. But watch out for Hanlan’s Point Beach – it’s one of Canada’s only two clothing optional beaches!
After an active day out, the well-regarded Rectory Café on Ward’s Island is the perfect place to put your feet up and dig in. Dishes like the pulled molé chicken sandwich with caramelised onions and smoked mozzarella offer gourmet interpretations of hearty fare. Otherwise, the islands offer up abundant picnic spots for those looking to go BYO.
Wish you could stay longer? While camping isn’t permitted on the islands, those looking to spend the night have a number of bed and breakfast options available, for the ideal home from home.
Header photo: Aerial image of the Toronto Islands © Asish Gupta
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Have you visited the Toronto Islands? What’s your favourite thing to do there? Let us know in the comments below.
Written by Claire Bullen