HomeMusic NewsFestivals5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Toronto Island

5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Toronto Island

by: Jonny Dovercourt

As we settle into Toronto Island for the weekend and set up for the inaugural Camp Wavelength, we here at the Wavelength braintrust would love to share some fun facts about the magical land we call the Island.

Camp Wavelength starts tonight (August 28) and runs until Sunday. Tickets are still available at Ticketfly.com, Rotate This, and Soundscapes, or at the gate!

It wasn’t always an Island.

Originally it was a peninsula extending westward from the mainland, making Toronto harbour look like the slavering jaws of a hungry piranha on old-timey maps. Two storms in the 1850s flooded the peninsula’s sand pits and then permanently separated the peninsula from the mainland, creating the Eastern Gap and the Island we now know and love. The Island is really just a sandbar created by sediment eroded from the Scarborough Bluffs – so it literally bridges the so-called downtown-suburban divide.


(Photo by Yinan Chen via Wikimedia Commons)


It wasn’t always so hard to spend the night there.

Camp Wavelength is the only time you can legally camp overnight on Toronto Island – unless you’re a member of the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts of Canada, in which case you can apply for a permit to camp over on rustic Snake Island. Otherwise, you gotta beg your lucky friends with Island homes for a place to crash. But the Island used to be home to numerous hotels, and by the 1870s Hanlan’s Point had become such a popular weekend getaway destination for Victorian Torontonians that it was dubbed the “Coney Island of Canada,” complete with a vaudeville theatre, dance halls and a large amusement park.

Hanlan’s Point, 1907

In the 1950s, legendary a-hole planner Fred Gardiner (yeah, the guy responsible for that expressway) began removing homes and businesses from the Island, until only the Ward’s Island community remained. Those scrappy Islanders began putting up a fight though, resulting in the protection of those adorable cottages with the 1993 establishment of the Toronto Islands Residential Community Trust. Too bad you have no hope of owning one until the 23rd century!

  • RELATED: How To Get To Toronto Island (Detailed Guide)


Hanlan’s Point Hotel and Regatta, 1907


It has some of the world’s best beaches.

Contrary to popular, stereotypical opinions, Lake Ontario is not a toxic cesspool. The Island has some of the best beaches in the world, according to the internationally recognized Blue Flag Program. Come on in, the water IS actually fine.


(Photo by Joseph Morris via Flickr)


It has its own app. Well, it’s super-cute ferries do.

Lose track of time sipping on an, um, iced tea on Gibraltar Point Beach? Worried you’re going to get hosed by Water Taxi charges? Download the Island Ferry Finder app and find out if you need to rush to catch the next boat or hang out for a few more sips.


(Photo by eskimo_jo via Flickr)


It’s a place where people make amazing records.

You might not know it, but some of the best Canadian indie records of all time were recorded on the Island. Our festival site, Artscape Gibraltar Point, is the location of the former Toronto Island Public School, and one of the old school’s portables is home to a recording studio named The Gas Station. Opened by musician & recording engineer Dale Morningstar (who made some incredible noise-rock records of his with The Dinner Ruined in the ‘90s) opened the studio in 2000 and the Station has since been visited by the likes of Gord Downie, Julie Doiron, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, as well as some Tuvan throat singers from Mongolia. More recently, Camp Wavelength artist Digits did a residency there. For musicians looking for inspiration, the vibe doesn’t get much better than here.

(Main photo by Ryan via Flickr)

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