Toronto’s beaches are lakeside retreats that collectively connect the city to our resident Great Lake while offering breathtaking views to slip into your Instagram feed. They’re not all fit for swimming, but from the edge of Mississauga to the far end of Scarborough, each offers a refreshing dose of escape. Just don’t forget the sunscreen.
Sunnyside Beach is the closest it’s been to the hub of activity it represented before the Gardiner cut it off from the rest of the city in 1955. Following a section of the Martin Goodman Trail, its lake air and lapping waves make it a preferred commuting route for west end cyclists, rollerbladers and joggers, Sunnyside Pavilion is a popular rendezvous for watersports like competitive rowing, stand up paddleboarding, and canoe and kayak rentals, and the sandy patches that dot the coast are alive with sunbathers, Frisbee, and beach volleyball, and while the beach isn’t always safe for swimming, there’s always the free pool.
Nestled into the towering claw of the Scarborough Bluffs, Bluffer’s Park Beach is one of the city’s most picturesque locations, and it’s safe for swimming, too.
When we talk about Toronto beaches, everything pales in comparison to what’s on offer on the islands: (this also makes it popular with tourists, so plan your visits accordingly). Centre Island is a must for tourists, Ward’s Island will let you test your balance on a SUP board, Hanlan’s Point’s clothing optional beach is a casual skinny dipper’s dream, and Gibraltar Point is perfect for getting away from it all.
One of the Port Lands’s few saving graces, Cherry Beach offers the industrial neighbourhood a leafy green contrast and attractive integration with Lake Ontario. Added bonus for seaworthy beach bums: it’s conveniently situated across the channel from Ward’s Island, so save your ferry fare.
MARIE CURTIS PARK BEACH
Hinging Toronto and Mississauga at the mouth of Etobicoke Creek in Long Branch, the beach at Marie Curtis Park is a tranquil space flanked by willow trees and suburban housing. At the intersection of several communities and their shared histories, it was originally created in the late 1950s to help control flooding after Hurricane Hazel swept Lake Ontario. Today, City of Toronto parks staff are working with the Region of Peel and Credit Valley Conservation on a design for a new greenspace that will connect the park with the Inspiration Lakeview Lands.
Inspired by Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, HTO Park is Toronto’s original urban beach, conceived as a means to reconnect the city with its waterfront. You’ll want to forget about swimming here, but there’s plenty of white sand you can sink your feet into while you’re lounging on a Muskoka chair under a bright yellow umbrella.
Like the urban beach at HTO Park, Sugar Beach is another sandy bar with Muskoka chairs and big shady umbrellas that look out onto Lake Ontario, but here they’re powder pink. And no, no swimming here, either, so you won’t have to share those seats with abandoned towels.
Named for the red clay French explorers noted in the banks of the namesake river it sits at the mouth of, Rouge Beach is Toronto’s most easterly beach, situated at the far end of Scarborough. It’s close enough you might make friends with Pickering locals here, but it’s also a popular breeding ground for further flung birds on their migration path.
In February, Woodbine serves as giant open gallery as it’s treated to interactive art installations as part of the annual Winter Stations Design Competition, but come summer it’s bustling with beach bums looking to soak up the sun.
(Main photo: Norman Maddeaux)