Island escape minutes from downtown Toronto

The beauty of Toronto’s islands is well known to most locals, who have been taking advantage of the large green space for picnics, bike rides, sunbathing, and even music festivals. For tourists wanting a little escape from the concrete jungle, the islands offer serenity but also lots of entertainment options, particularly for families. Most of the islands are connected via bridges and waterways, so you can make your way across them by boat, on foot, bicycle or trolley since (these are care free zones). The islands also offer the absolutely best view of Toronto’s beautiful skyline.

View of Toronto skyline from the ferry

View of Toronto skyline from the ferry

Getting there

There are three island ferries – Ward’s Island, Hanlan’s Point, and Centre Island – which generally run every 30 minutes and cost $7.25 return for adults, $4.75 for seniors/students, and $3.50 for kids under 14.  Check the full schedule and get your tickets online here.  The ferry ride is about 15 minutes and departs from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal next to the Westin Harbour Castle hotel at Queen’s Quay and Bay St. The Centre Island ferry is by far the most popular because it takes to, you guessed it, the central point of the islands where the majority of activities are located.

At 570 acres, the islands offer the city's largest green space

At 570 acres, the islands offer the city’s largest green space

What to do

You can do as much or as little as you like when visiting the islands. Here are just a few options to consider:

  • Visit the charming homes and gardens on Ward’s Island, which comprise North America’s largest urban car-free community. Several hundred people have lived here since the early 1900’s.
  • Bask in the sun on one of several beaches. Centre Island Beach is best suited for families with its shallow safe water and proximity to facilities, while Hanlan’s Point Beach is one of the few public locations in Canada where full nudity is permitted.
  • Discover all the nooks and crannies of the islands by bringing your bike or renting a single, tandem, two seater or quad at Centre Island (find prices here).  Canoes, kayaks and paddle boats are also available for rent if you prefer to explore the waterways instead.
  • Keep your kids entertained at Centreville Amusement Park, which offers over 30 rides and attractions, or Far Enough Farm, which lets you get up close and personal with 40 varieties of animals and birds.
  • Enjoy a peaceful picnic by using one of the BBQ stands or fire pits located throughout the island.  If you prefer to leave the cooking to someone else, try the patio at the Rectory Cafe on Ward’s Island instead.
One of several beaches found on the islands

One of several beaches found on the islands

Pier overlooking Lake Ontario

Pier overlooking Lake Ontario

Waterways traverse the islands providing opportunities for kayaking and paddleboating

Waterways traverse the islands providing opportunities for kayaking and paddle boating

Getting around the islands is easy on foot, bicycle or a trolley tour

Getting around the islands is easy on foot, bicycle or a trolley tour

Have you visited the Toronto islands?  What’s your favourite spot or activity?

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