Going through the daily grind on the mainland, it can be easy to forget that there is an island getaway, just a short $6.50 ferry ride away. The Toronto Islands have lots to offer and summer is the season to enjoy the bike trails, beaches, amusement parks and more. So, all aboard the ferry, here’s how to to enjoy your day on the Toronto Islands.
Centreville Amusement Park
If you grew up in Toronto, it’s likely you have memories of the sedate swan ride or the jerky antique cars at Centre Island’s amusement park. With only about 30 rides, Centreville may be wee when compared to Canada’s Wonderland, but the charm (and nostalgia) is there. This time, board the sky ride for a birds-eye tour of the island below.
Perhaps you think reliving the amusement park moments of your childhood is a little tame. No worries, the Island has parties for those who have other ways of tapping into their inner child. Sadly, Wavelength’s ALL CAPS! Island Festival ended last year, but the Electric Island Concert + Picnic Series is on this summer, with two dates left: August 4 and September 1. One each day, the music starts at 1:30pm, with ticket holders staying to dance until the last ferry departs. Tickets are $35 (including ferry line bypass) and can be purchased here.
There’s more than one way to get to the Island and no, we don’t recommend swimming. Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre rents canoes, kayaks, tandem kayaks, and paddleboards you can take to, from, or around the Toronto Islands. It’s a pretty amazing feeling, to look out at Toronto’s modern skyline from a canoe, one of this city’s oldest methods of transportation. Rental rates range, depending on your weapon of choice, from $60 – $85 per day or $30 per hour for paddleboards.
Biking Around The Island
The best way to get around the Islands is by bicycle. Two wheels (or four, if you rent one of these wacky things) will help you cover the distance of the three connected islands (Ward’s Island, Centre Island, and Algonquin Island). There are biking trails around the island, so bring your own bike, or if you need a rental, Toronto Island Bike Rental on Centre Island is open from May 1 – September 30.
Hanlan’s Point Nude Beach
Going topless in Ontario is allowed thanks to Gwen Jacobs, but there’s few public places in Toronto where going full frontal is completely legal. Whether you really want to swim or tan in the buff or you’re just looking for a great beach, come on in, the water is fine on Hanlan Point Nude Beach!
Ward’s Island Houses
Ward’s Island is where most of the Islanders live. There is a 50-year waitlist to buy a house on the Island and even then it’s mostly limited to those with parents or grandparents who are currently owners. But even if you can’t live in one, these quaint, storybook homes are worth a gawk. Biking or walking around Ward’s Island is a great way to spend an afternoon of daydreaming about Island cottage-living or house-boating.
The Island Café
This restaurant is one of the cutest in the city and miles away (figuratively) from the Pizza Pizza stand in Centreville Amusement Park. The Island Café is an open-air establishment, meaning patrons snack on fish tacos and flatbreads at picnic tables or camped out on the grass. High season begins May 16th, which sees the café open seven days a week from 8am – 9pm, with brunch served on the weekends from 9am – 12:30pm. The menu is both vegetarian and kid-friendly.
If picnic benches and grassy knolls aren’t doing it for you, the Rectory Café should be your Island dining choice. The Rectory is equally as charming, but with a more romantic setting. Their menu features dishes like the Blue Cheese Brisket Burger or Fresh Atlantic Salmon.