Do you have two wheels and a need to get away from the city for an afternoon? Then Tommy Thompson Park at the end of the Leslie Spit near Toronto's docklands may be just the escape you need.
I cycle in Toronto. A lot. Spring, summer, fall and winter. I’ve been doing it for seven years. In that time I’ve learned which are the good streets, and which are the bad streets to ride on. The best routes to ride are the dedicated bike routes that run along and thoughout our many parks.
Toronto is full of parks. Some, like High Park and the Toronto Islands, are quite large and very well known, getting thousands of visitors a year. Others, like the Cloud Gardens on Richmond Street near Bay are incredibly tiny and unknown to most Torontonians due to being tucked away into the space between two tall buildings, but you can’t ride in it. However, there is a very large park that many of us here in the city can easily see when we are down near the lake, but most of us have never been. That park is Tommy Thompson Park located on the Leslie Spit.
The Leslie Spit is a long man-made peninsula at the base of Leslie Street that juts out into Lake Ontario and reaches out beyond the southern shores of the Toronto Islands. Started in the 50s, the peninsula was created from the rubble and fill from many of Toronto’s large building projects, such as the subway system. Managed by the Toronto Port Authority, it seems to still be used as a clean-fill dumping ground today and is closed to the public during the week.
However, on weekends, it is open to the public. While you can walk while it’s empty, flat roads and trails, the best way to experience the place is on a bicycle. When on a bike, you can easily ride out to the lighthouse at the furthest tip of Tommy Thompson Park. It’s also next to impossible to get lost there since there is only one main road and it forms a loop.
Tommy Thompson Park offers some of the best views of the city. Looking north west, Toronto’s downtown core seems to rise through the trees of the Toronto Islands. The park is also an important bird sanctuary, and sections of it are off-limits during certain times of the year due to nesting waterbirds. While riding, you should also keep an eye out for snakes which can be found in abundance around the many rock and gravel piles.
So, now that the weather is warmer, tune-up your bike or rent one of the many Bixi Bikes around town and head down to the Leslie Spit on a sunny weekend. It’s a surprising escape from the hustle and bustle of the urban jungle only a short ride away form the city core.