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Sunday, June 24, 2018

What to see and do on the Toronto Islands

The Toronto Islands are unlike any other destination in the city. What feels like heading to a far-off destination, a land of dreamy beaches and amusement rides, is in reality just a 15-minute ferry ride away from the downtown core. 

While the entirety of this archipelago can realistically be explored in one day, chances are you won't be able to visit all the attractions and enjoy them to the max.

If you are, however, gung-ho to see it all at Centre Island, Hanlan's Point and Ward's Island in one go, here's a roundup of things you should check out while you're there. 

Hanlan's Point

The most westernmost side of the Islands, Hanlan's, is best known for its clothing optional beach where you can rid yourself of all the trappings of city life and  swim butt-naked in the lake. 

things to do toronto islands

The Ned Hanlan Memorial sits right at the Hanlan's Point ferry docks. 

But aside from that, this section has a handful of unique sight-seeing hot spots worth stopping by, like the sexy memorial of the island's namesake, Ned Hanlan, who according to the plaque was "one of Canada's greatest oarsmen." 

things to do toronto islands

You can buy boozy refreshments at the Mermaid Cafe. 

There's the Mermaid Cafe, a small licensed counter with a patio selling some cheap brews and little snacks. You'll likely hear the music from this stop before you see it; equipped with bathrooms it makes for a good pit stop after Ned Hanlan's Memorial. 
things to do toronto islands

The Gibraltar Point Lighthouse is one of Toronto's oldest buildings. 

The Gibraltar Point Lighthouse is a must. One of Toronto's oldest buildings (it was built in 1808), this brick structure is also the oldest lighthouse on the Great Lakes.

things to do toronto islands

All sorts of artists complete their artist residencies at the creative space Artscape Gibraltar Point. 

Directly across from it is the old public school-turned-artists' getaway Artscape Gibraltar Point, where thousands of people have churned out their craft through the seclusion of artist residencies and studio spaces.

things to do toronto islands

A boardwalk leads you to Gibraltar Point Beach where you can admire the sand dunes. 

Further on the path heading east you'll spot a sudden boardwalk to your right leading you toward the lake. Here is where you'll the sand dunes of Gibraltar Point Beachthings to do toronto islands

To the west on Gibraltar Beach you'll find an inaccessible walkway jutting out into the lake. 

Constantly shifting, these sand dunes stretch both ways along the water, and while not as busy as the other island beaches still has its fair share of sunbathers.

Centre Island

You'll know you've entered Centre Island territory when you start to see an influx in four-seater and tandem bikes.

what to do toronto islands

You can rent all types of bikes on Centre Island. 

Closer toward the Centre Island ferry dock is where you'll find the island bike rental company which charges renters for day rates or by the hour. 

what to do toronto islands

The Centre Island Pier offers a great view of the lake. 

Jutting out into the water is where you'll get one of the best vistas of the lake around: Centre Island Pier, a beautiful lookout equipped with binoculars and the perfect vantage point for photos. 

what to do toronto islands

The Wiliam Meany Maze is small but its trees are tall. 

Deeper into the island, across the Avenue of the Island bridge, you'll  find the William Meany Maze. Small but mighty, this labyrinth of evergreens is a briefly distracting getaway. 

what to do toronto islands

There are over 30 amusement rides at Centreville Theme Park. 

Of course, you can't forget the rides. There's over 30 rides as the Centreville Theme Park, from splash rides to mini golf that will fulfill all your childhood dream. what to do toronto islands

You and a plus one can take a tour of the pond on the swan rides. 

They even have the quintessential amusement park swan rides. It's a minimum of two people per swan so if you're approaching it solo, you better partner up. 

toronto island to do

Toronto Island BBQ & Co. offers one of the best views of the Toronto skyline. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

And if you're needing some sustenance, there are food options like Carousel Cafe and the Toronto Island BBQ & Co., which has one of the best views of Toronto and offers Mac 'n' Cheese burgers.

Ward's Island

Getting into the easternmost part of the island with a large residential population, Ward's is cosy and secluded, with a few leisurely activities that scream island life – like admiring Algonquin Island Park or stand up paddleboarding (more colloquially known as SUP.) 

toronto island to do

Chain nets mark the playground of frisbee 

Heading toward the beach, you'll likely come across several chain baskets attached to poles. There's 18 of these frisbee golf nets, with the first appearing right beyond the Firehall. If you've got a frisbee you can try your hand at this oddly challenging sport. 

toronto island to do

Snake Island is actually much less scary than it sounds, with picnic sites and fire pits. 

If you're feeling adventurous, you can cross a bridge to head to Snake Island. There are actually no snakes in this foresty, slightly buggy area, but there are picnic sites and fire pits to post up at for a good part of the day. 

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The popular cafe The Rectory has re-opened after closing due to floods. 

Along the way you'll pass by The Rectory, a Ward's island favourite that's re-opened after shuttering its doors following the floods of 2017. 

toronto island to do

A boardwalk lined with trees takes you along the water. 

Under no circumstance should you skip out on the boardwalk a.k.a Lakeshore Avenue, which allows you traverse the land with lush trees to your left and water to your right. But beware of closures which will force you to turn all the way back to re-take the main path instead.

toronto island to do

You can play lawn bowling at the Ward's Island Clubhouse as long as you have a membership. 

As you finally get to the main part of Ward's Islands you'll notice way more residences, along with the lawn bowling field belonging to the Ward's Island Clubhouse. It's member's only, so if you're serious about that life you better sign up to rent.  

toronto island to do

The Island Cafe offers snacks, meals, and seating near the Ward's Island ferry dock. 

Before hitting up Ward's Island beach, one of the more private and intimate beaches on all of the islands, you can stock up on snacks at The Island Cafe. Full off of butter tarts and rock fish ceviche, you'll be ready to pass the rest of your day lying in the sand, under the sun.
toronto island to do

by Tanya Mok via blogTO

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