Places to Visit

A Perfect Tour Guide to Know about Toronto Islands

Toronto Islands are a charming sight to behold, the views are magnificent and so bold. The largest of the Toronto islands is Centre Island, which features a boardwalk where you can explore shops, restaurants, and many attractions. Other popular spots include Ward Island (which is home to many quaint cottages) and Point Beach of Hanlan Island ( clothing optional beach)

Take a virtual tour of the Toronto Islands and explore its beauty! Read this blog to find out more.

1. A Broad view of the Toronto Islands

Toronto islands, located in Lake Ontario just off the coast of downtown Toronto, provide a range of activities and attractions, making them one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations.

The Toronto Islands consist of 15 tiny islands. These islands are:

  • Centre Island: Centre Island is the largest among the Toronto Islands and is home to Centreville Amusement Park, a popular destination for families. Centre Island also features picnic areas, beaches, bike paths, and a marina.
  • Olympic Island: A wildlife sanctuary located at the mouth of the Humber River that is used for recreational activities such as kayaking, canoeing, and fishing in the summer months
  • Algonquin Island: Home to some of Toronto’s most luxurious homes and stunning views of Lake Ontario.
  • Wards Island: Ward’s island beach is a popular attraction of the Toronto Islands. It offers some recreational activities such as paddle boating and bird watching.

Fun Fact – The Centre Island port and Centreville Amusement Park are on Middle Island, which is frequently misidentified as Centre Island.

To avoid confusion, Centre Island is sometimes known as Toronto Island (thus the singular form).

The following are the other Toronto Islands:

  • Mugg’s Island: It is connected to the mainland by a small bridge and is residence to the Island Yacht Club. Mugg’s Island also has an observation tower that offers breathtaking views of Lake Ontario and the metropolitan skyline.
  • Forestry Island: Forestry Island is a small island off the coast of Toronto. The University of Toronto formerly used the island for forestry studies. It is heavily forested and has no stable connection to neighboring islands.
  • Snake Island: The heavily forested beach facing Toronto Harbour (Snake Island Park) is a great place to enjoy the outdoors. The pedestrian bridge on the south side provides access to Centre Island, where you can find plenty of activities to keep you busy.
  • North Chippewa Island: North Chippewa Island is a small island located in the Toronto Harbour, just off of the city’s shoreline. The City of Toronto owns the island, which is managed by Parks, Forestry, and Recreation.
  • South Chippewa Island: It is located just off the coast of downtown Toronto, Canada. The island is accessible by ferry from Jack Layton Ferry Terminal on Queens Quay West or Centre Island Ferry Docks at the foot of Bay Street.
  • South Island: The area boasts some of Toronto’s best beaches and waterfronts as well as an array of entertainment options. With its proximity to downtown Toronto, it is easy to access all the great amenities this part of the city has to offer.
  • RCYC Island: It is owned and operated by the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, and provides a unique venue for members to enjoy sailing and other recreational activities. The island offers stunning views of the city skyline, as well as a variety of amenities including a pool, beach volleyball court, and barbecues.
  • Hanlan’s Island: Situated between Centre Island and Hanlan’s Bay, close to Lighthouse Pond. Hanlan’s Point Beach is a popular destination on the island, with beautiful views of Lake Ontario and downtown Toronto. Other attractions include a golf course, tennis courts, playgrounds, picnic areas, and more.

What was previously Block House Bay and Long Pond is now home to three unidentified islands:

Senator Frank Patrick O’Connor Island: It is named after the first senator of Irish descent to be appointed to the Canadian Senate. The island is home to a variety of wildlife, including seabirds and other aquatic species, and contains several historic sites related to its namesake.

Doughnut Island: located in Toronto’s inner harbor, is a small man-made island that serves as a hub for recreational activities and environmental education.

Duckling Island: located just off the shore of the city’s downtown core. Throughout the summer, Duckling Island holds a variety of events such as music festivals and art exhibitions.

Toronto Islands
Photo by Yalın Kaya on Unsplash

2. Amazing Things to do in Toronto Islands

2.1 Take a ferry Ride

The gorgeous ferry voyage begins at Harbourfront Centre, where you will board your boat. From there, you’ll sail among Toronto islands, with stunning vistas of Lake Ontario and the city of Toronto. You’ll see some of Toronto’s most recognizable landmarks along the way, including the CN Tower and the Rogers Centre, as well as close-up views of several of the city’s famous bridges.

The Jack Layton Ferry Terminal on Queens Quay West is another excellent option. From there, you’ll board one of Ports Toronto’s ferries and set sail on Lake Ontario.

As you traverse the lake, you will be treated to some spectacular vistas of downtown. You’ll also get to see some stunning sites along the coastline of the Toronto Islands.

2.2 Go swimming at Hanlan’s Point Beach

This beach is regarded as one of the best swimming sites among other Toronto Islands because of its clear water and sandy shoreline.

Sailing, swimming, kayaking, and canoeing are just a few of the sports accessible at the beach. During peak hours, there are even lifeguards on duty to guarantee that everyone keeps safe while visiting Hanlan’s Point Beach. Boat rentals are also available nearby for those who want to go further out into the lake!

2.3 Explore Ward’s Island

Ward’s Island, known for its laid-back ambiance and unusual residences constructed close together on short acres, provides tourists with an intriguing insight into the island living in Toronto!

Ward’s Island has a fascinating and long history dating back to the 16th century. It was formerly home to the Mississauga Nation and later became a favorite getaway for people looking to get away from city life.

Today, visitors can learn about the city’s rich history by visiting its many monuments, museums, and historic sites.

Ward’s Island
Photo by Meri Vasilevski on Unsplash

2.4 Hike along the Boardwalk Trail

Take a stroll along this 4km boardwalk walkway that winds between the Toronto Islands and provides breathtaking views of Ontario’s lake.

One of the best things about Boardwalk Trail is its year-round accessibility; you may enjoy it whenever you choose! It is also easily accessible from downtown Toronto by public transportation or ferry service. There are also plenty of parking spaces for people who want to drive.

Boardwalk Trail is a terrific destination for families because it is easy to navigate and includes a variety of activities for everyone. There’s plenty for everyone here, from picnicking on the beach to exploring the nature paths. There are also various playgrounds located along the path for children to enjoy while their parents relax.

2.5 Visit Toronto Island Park

Toronto Island Park is made up of 15 small islands that are all connected by connecting bridges. Additionally, this is the only island group in Lake Ontario’s western region.

Toronto Islands Park has beaches, pathways, playgrounds, picnic spots, an amusement park, and other attractions. In addition, there are several options for fishing and boating in the neighboring waterways. Toronto Island Park, with its stunning views of the Toronto skyline, is a perfect location for outdoor activities or a relaxing stroll.

Toronto Island Park
Photo by Abhinna Patel on Unsplash

2.6 Enjoy the views from Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

The Gibraltar Point Lighthouse was first illuminated in 1808. It is one of the Great Lakes’ historic lighthouses and a well-known tourist destination. Its red-and-white striped tower stands towering against the backdrop of Ontario Lake, making it a distinctive symbol of Canada’s maritime heritage. Standing at the base of the lighthouse, you can see the cityscape of downtown Toronto in the distance. On bright days, you can even see Niagara Falls!

2.7 Go Biking on the Islands

Biking on the Toronto Islands is an excellent way to experience the stunning surroundings of this urban sanctuary. Enjoy the bike trails that weave through beautiful gardens, open meadows, and along the shoreline. Rent a bike from Toronto Island Bicycle Rental and take a leisurely ride around them!

2.8 Have fun at Centreville Amusement Park

Centreville Amusement Park in Toronto is a fantastic spot for family amusement and pleasure. It’s on Centre Island and offers a variety of rides and activities.

The rides and attractions at Centreville Amusement Park include roller coasters, water slides, and bumper cars. There are also some kiddie rides specifically suited for younger visitors. During certain seasons of the year, the park also conducts seasonal events such as Halloween Haunt and Christmas Wonderland.

Aside from rides, Centreville provides live entertainment throughout the day, including music performances by local bands and clowns who perform tricks and magic acts for children of all ages.

2.9 Spend time at Franklin Children’s Garden

Franklin Children’s Garden was built as part of the broader Franklin Park project in 2006. The garden’s purpose is to provide an interactive area where children may learn about nature and sustainability through play.

Allow your children to explore this interactive garden loaded with exciting games such as mazes and climbing walls!

2.10 Visit Far Enough Farm

Spend time getting to know various farm animals at our Centre Island petting zoo!

Far Enough Farm’s beauty isn’t confined to its animals; its location on the Toronto Islands affords some breathtaking views of Lake Ontario. Visitors may take in all that nature has to offer while watching stunning sunsets across the lake.

2.11 Dine at the Rectory Café

Enjoy a wonderful dinner with a view at this Ward’s Island café. Rectory Café, with its comfortable ambiance, friendly service, and delicious food, is a wonderful site for resting with friends or family while taking in some of Toronto’s top attractions.

2.12 Watch the sunset from Gibraltar Point Beach

Gibraltar Point Beach is a famous site in Toronto to watch the sunset. It is situated on the western tip of Toronto Island and provides spectacular views of Lake Ontario and the city skyline. The beach is reachable by boat from downtown, as well as by bike or foot from Centre Island.

It’s ideal for a romantic evening stroll down the beach as the sun sets below the horizon. Take in one of nature’s most amazing exhibitions while admiring breathtaking views of downtown Toronto!

Toronto Islands
Photo by Kerry Hu on Unsplash

2.13 Take a boat Tour

See Toronto from a new angle with an exhilarating boat tour around the islands!

During your boat tour, you will also get the opportunity to discover some of the Toronto Islands’ hidden gems. Take a tour of Ward’s Island, where you can view the quaint homes and beautiful gardens before continuing to Algonquin Island, which is noted for its scenic walking trails.

Toronto Islands
Photo by Narciso Arellano on Unsplash

3. Iconic Attractions of Toronto islands

3.1 The Beaches

  • Centre Island Beach is the island’s largest. Centre Island Beach is an ideal location for swimming, sunbathing, or simply having a picnic lunch with friends and family.
  • This beach on Ward’s Island is recognized for its quiet ambiance and stunning views of the lakefront skyline. It’s also popular with windsurfers, who come here during the summer to take advantage of the strong winds blowing off the lake.
  • Beach of Hanlan’s Point is another popular beach on Hanlan’s Point; it has a clothing-optional regulation, making it a great site for individuals seeking seclusion while still enjoying spectacular views of the lakeCentre Island BeachPhoto by Cédric Blondeau on Unsplash

3.2 Toronto Music Garden 

This gorgeous garden was designed by internationally known cellist Yo-Yo Ma and is located on Centre Island. It contains six sections that each symbolize one of Bach’s suites and is an excellent spot to relax and enjoy beautiful views while listening to classical music.

3.3 Ward’s Island Marina

Ward’s Island Marina is ideal for people seeking to get out on the lake. You can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddle boats or participate in a guided tour of the islands.

3.4 The Island Yacht Club

The Island Yacht Club is the ideal venue for people seeking to enjoy some sailing while visiting Toronto Islands; guests can participate in racing events or simply take spectacular views of the lakefront cityscape while sipping cocktails at its waterfront restaurant.

4. Top Places to Stay in & around Toronto Islands 

4.1 Westin Harbour Castle

Westin Harbour Castle is located right on Lake Ontario’s shoreline within walking distance to downtown Toronto attractions such as CN Tower and Air Canada Centre.

This 4-star hotel features spacious guest rooms with stunning lake views plus other amenities like an outdoor pool area and fitness centre.

4.2 Shangri-La Hotel

Shangri-La Hotel is one of the most highly rated hotels in the Toronto Islands. Located right on Queen’s Quay, this waterfront property offers breathtaking views of Lake Ontario and downtown Toronto.

There is an indoor pool, spa services, and fine dining restaurants.

4.3 Radisson Admiral Hotel

Radisson Admiral Hotel offers luxurious accommodations right on Centre Island. The hotel features spacious rooms, a restaurant and bar, an indoor pool and fitness center, and meeting spaces for business events.

4.4 Holiday Inn Express & Suites

Holiday Inn Express & Suites provides easy access to downtown Toronto via ferry service from Ward’s Island.

There is also a fitness facility, a business centre, and an on-site restaurant. With its prominent location near downtown Toronto, this hotel is ideal for both leisure and business guests.

5. What is the Best Way to reach Toronto Islands?

5.1 Take a boat Cruise

A boat excursion is one of the best ways to see everything the Toronto Islands have to offer. While taking a leisurely cruise across Ontario Lake, you may see amazing views of the Toronto skyline. Harbourfront Centre Sightseeing Cruises and Mariposa Cruises are two firms that offer boat cruises from downtown Toronto.

5.2 Hop on the Ferry

Take the ferry, it is the most economical trip to the islands! During peak hours (May-October), the ferry leaves mainland Toronto every 15 minutes and takes roughly 10 minutes for each trip. It’s also free for pedestrians!

5.3 Take a Water Taxi

If you want a more luxurious method to go to the Toronto Islands, consider taking a water taxi! This is an excellent option for those who want to enjoy the scenery of Ontario Lake while remaining private.

5.4 Sail across Lake Ontario

Nothing beats crossing Lake Ontario by boat for sailing enthusiasts! You can rent a sailboat or join one of Toronto’s many sailing tours. In any case, you’ll have a fantastic time getting to Toronto Islands this way. Getting out onto the Toronto Islands is always worthwhile.

5.5 Ride your Bike

Cycling is another wonderful alternative for people searching for an active way to get around! You can rent bikes on the mainland and ride them across one of the two bridges connecting Toronto to the islands.

5.6 Take the Go Train

If you’re coming from outside of Toronto, the Go Train is a quick and inexpensive method to get to Toronto Islands. Train passengers can take the train to Union Station, then transfer to a ferry or water taxi to their final destination.

6. Best Places to Eat in & near Toronto Islands

6.1 The Rectory Café

Located on Ward’s Island, The Rectory Café is renowned for its delicious breakfast and lunch fare. Their menu features organic ingredients sourced from local farms and suppliers, making it a great option for those looking for healthy eats.

They also have an excellent selection of craft beers on tap and a cozy outdoor patio perfect for summer afternoons.

6.2 The Boathouse Restaurant

This waterfront restaurant offers tasty pub-style food like burgers, sandwiches, salads, and more. They also feature live music every weekend during the summer months so you can enjoy your meal with some entertainment too!

7. Good to know: Quick & Latest Facts

  • In 1858, the City of Toronto bought the island from its private owners and opened it to the public as an amusement park in 1876 – making it one of North America’s oldest amusement parks!
  • The island was created by a massive storm in 1858 which separated it from the mainland and formed the current shape of the island we see today.
  • The island was once known as the “Island of Hiawatha” after an Iroquois chief who lived there in the 17th century before it was renamed by British settlers in 1793 to its current name: Toronto Island.
  • Toronto Island has been used as a backdrop for many films including X-Men, Cinderella Man, Pacific Rim, and Scott Pilgrim vs The World!
  • Three lighthouses on Toronto Island have been guiding ships since 1808. These are Centre Island Lighthouse, Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, and Hanlan’s Point Lighthouse.
  • Two airports are located on Toronto Island – Billy Bishop Airport (formerly known as Port George VI) and the smaller Inner Harbour Airport (formerly known as Little Norway).
  • Toronto Island is one of the most popular places for weddings in the city, with many couples taking advantage of its beautiful views and serene atmosphere.

8. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Which is the best time to visit Toronto Islands?

The best time to visit Toronto Islands is in the spring and summer months, when the weather is generally mild and pleasant, making it ideal for outdoor activities. Moreover, throughout these months, the islands host a number of festivals and activities.

Q2. What is the cost of admission to Toronto Island?

Admission to Toronto Island Park is free, however, there are fees for ferry services and some attractions.

Q3. Is there parking available at Toronto Island Park?

There is no public parking available at Toronto Island Park. However, there is limited parking available at the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal.

Final Thought

In short, The Toronto Islands are a fantastic area to go exploring and having fun. They provide a variety of activities such as swimming, biking, and picnics. So, next time you’re looking for something to do in Toronto, be sure to check out the Islands!

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