The Toronto Islands is a group of small interconnected islands just south of Toronto’s downtown core and may just be the perfect place in the city to go for a bike ride.
The Toronto Islands are very easy to get to. There is regular ferry service from Harbourfront ($7, adult round trip) or you can take a water taxi ($10). The ferry will take you to either Wards Island at the eastern end, Hanlan’s Point at the western end or Centre Island right in the middle.
Centre Island is the most popular route and ferry service runs the most frequently to it. There is also a ferry from the foot of Bathurst Street, but that will only take you to the Island Airport, and I’m pretty sure you need a plane ticket to get ton that ferry. Originally a long peninsula that went out into the lake from near Cherry Beach, a couple of storms in the mid 1850s washed out it’s base to form the islands that exist today.
You can take a leisurely walk from one end of the island chain to the other in about an hour and a half. On a bike, it’s significantly less. But why rush? There is so much to see and do in North America’s largest urban car-free community.
Starting in the east on Ward’s Island and Algonquin Island, you can ride through the quaint residential neighbourhood and see the many artist’s cottages. If you’re hungry, I highly recommend stopping at the Rectory Café and sitting on the patio under the trees. There is a wonderful view out into Lake Ontario and Tommy Thompson Park.
After some lunch, you can continue on the paths or ride on the old boardwalk along the south shore. The paths will take you towards*Centreville*, a charming amusement park best suited for younger children that has a certain 1900’s theme. There is also Far Enough Farm where you can go on a pony ride, and see various farm animals and some peacocks. Depending on the day you go and the time of year, this part of the island is packed with people.
If you took the boardwalk from the Rectory Café, you’ll eventually get to a large jetty that juts out into the lake. Around the jetty, you’ll find some sand beaches and the water is safe for bathing in. Life guards tend to be on duty around here, too. A bit further west along the south shore are more secluded beaches, perfect for a romantic picnic or just to chill with friends.
At the very centre of the islands is a large area of open parkland with picnic tables, BBQs, some snackbars and public restrooms. Once again, depending on the day you go and the time of year, this part of the island is also packed with people.
To the west of Centreville and the parkland are the Artscape studios, and the Gibralter Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse is said to be haunted. Up until the mid 1950s, there was also a residential community on this part of the islands,with many cottages, an amusement park and a historically significant baseball diamond, especially to fans of Babe Ruth.
If you decide to ride to the far end of Hanlan’s Point, you’ll also come across a certain clothing-optional beach where men tend to relax on the sand in the company of other men.
The Toronto Islands have something for everyone. Fun rides, tranquil beaches, great food, water activities, open spaces to play and is a great place to get married. It’s fun for the kids, it’s fun for teens, it’s fun for adults. There is a lot to see and do, so get on your bike, board a boat and head over. It’s the best day trio you can take and you don’t even leave the city.