Though Toronto’s high-rise skyline is in sight, the Toronto Islands—a chain of islands scattered off the shore of Lake Ontario—feel a world away. The islands, once a narrow peninsula, were cut off from the mainland by violent storms, and now their sandy coastlines and verdant parklands serve as a peaceful escape for the city-weary.
The three most visited destinations in the Toronto Islands are Centre Island, Ward’s Island, and Hanlan’s Point, which together make up Toronto Island Park. Centre Island features an old-timey amusement park called Centreville, which encompasses a reconstructed turn-of-the-20th-century Main Street, a petting farm, and quaint rides including an antique carousel. Hanlan’s Point is known for its sandy beach—a portion of which is clothing optional—and barbecue-friendly fire pits. Ward’s Island, the easternmost tip of Centre Island, also has an attractive beach. The islands are car-free, so most visitors explore on foot or by bike. Rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboat to get out on the water. To escape the crowds and reach off-the-beaten path locales, try a stand-up paddleboarding tour.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Toronto Islands are a must-see for families and beach lovers.
- Bring sunscreen and a hat if you plan on spending time on the beach.
- Rent a bike to travel between the main islands, which are connected by paths.
- Ferries to the island are accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
The Toronto Islands are accessible only by boat. City-run ferries depart from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, located at the end of Bay Street on Queen’s Quay, and connect with Centre Island, Ward’s Island, and Hanlan’s Point during spring, summer, and fall. During winter, only the Ward’s Island ferry route operates. Private water taxis also go to the islands.
When to Get There
On hot summer weekends, the Toronto Islands are often thronged. Get there early to stake out a good spot on the beach. Hanlan’s Point and Ward’s Island are usually quieter than Centre Island. Stick around until sunset to see the city skyline light up.
Best Swimming Spots on the Toronto Islands
Swimming is one of the most popular activities on the Toronto Islands, as the waters are calm and offer a great way to cool off from the sweltering summer heat. Centre Island Beach is a common choice for families who want to be near the attractions of Centreville. Quieter options include Hanlan’s Point Beach, half of which is a designated nudist beach; Ward’s Island Beach; and Gibraltar Point Beach, home to a supposedly haunted old lighthouse.