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A Perfect Escape from City's Hurly-burly
On a pleasant summer day, no one can beat the charm of Toronto Islands.
With beautiful beaches, lush green gardens, amusement park and lots of recreational activities, the islands are one of the most popular destinations for people looking to beat the summer heat.
A short ferry ride from city's downtown core, the Toronto Islands are a chain of islands in Lake Ontario spread over 600 acres.
Travelling on the grand old ferry to the Islands can be as pleasant as the Islands themselves.
If you are overwhelmed by stress of the city life and looking for a break to relax, head to Toronto Islands. On a nice sunny day, enjoy swimming at the beautiful beaches or laze on the beaches. Enjoy the bike ride or simply walk around the islands. Rent a boat and paddle away in the calm water. If you are sports buff, there are several tennis courts, volleyball courts and a golf course. It's also venue for the annual Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival, an exciting summer event.
If you have kids, the Centreville amusement park is a must for you. The amusement park offers around 20 fun rides, many of which are specially intended for young kids. Pack your food and beverages and enjoy picnic at the lush green gardens of the Toronto Islands. All in all, there is no dearth of exciting activities to keep everyone in the family entertained.
The Toronto Island parks are full of greenery, colourful flowers and plants. Really great treat to eyes and soul! Also, the Toronto Islands boast as the largest car-free urban area in North America.
The Toronto Islands consist of 3 main islands and several small islands. The major islands are - Centre Island, Ward's Island and Hanlan's Point.
Centre Island, Toronto
Centre Island is the largest island among the lot, located right between Ward's Island and Hanlan's Point. It is one of the most popular Toronto Islands.
One of the most famous attractions of the Centre Island is the Centreville amusement park. At this old-fashioned amusement park you will find lots of fun and exciting things to do. There are several interesting rides for kids as well as adults. You can enjoy the Ferris Wheel, Log Flume ride, Swan ride, and antique Carousel. Hop on the Centreville train and enjoy tour of the park. Or grab a seat on Sky ride and fly over the island.
The 14-acre amusement park is like a late 19th-century village and features a Main Street, a town hall, tiny shops, a firehouse and a small railroad station. The Far Enough Farm has several farm animals including piglets, horses, cows and lambs.
There is no fee for admission to the park, however, the rides are not free.
If you like boating in serene water, there is a boat rental on the Centre Island just south of the amusement park. Rent canoe of your choice and enjoy boating at your will.
There is a beautiful, sandy Centre Island Beach on the southernmost edge of the Island. You can swim here. Or lie on beach and soak the sun. Or enjoy the amazing views of calm and composed Lake Ontario. But be careful, you should not swim in the absence of lifeguard. There are few fully accessible washroom and change rooms are available on the beach.
There are several walking trails on the island. You can enjoy leisure walk around the islands. However, the islands are too big to explore by foot. One of the best option to travel around the islands is to bike. Rent a bike for an hour and enjoy peaceful ride of the islands. This will also help you to burn extra fat:). On the Centre Islands, the bike rental is located on the southernmost end of the island. You can also bring your own bike (thought it might not be allowed on ferry during busy summer weekends, so make sure on the day of your visit).
If you are running out of time, you can take Toronto Island tram tour. This historical sight-seeing tour of Toronto Islands costs $6.50 for adults, $4.50 for seniors (65+) and students, $3.50 for kids (2-12) and free for children under 2 years of age. The guided tour takes 35 minutes and covers almost all major points of attraction. Plus point is that the tram is wheelchair and stroller accessible.
If you like to try your golf talent, there is Frisbee golf course on the Centre Island. Plunge into the wading pool and splash pads to cool down.
Or take your kids to the Franklin Children's Garden, a beautiful park inspired by the popular children's storybook character Franklin the Turtle. The garden provides interactive learning experience with recreational activities to the kids.
With lots of things to do and see, you need lots of energy too. The Center Island features Carousel Cafe, several snack bars, fast food stalls and restaurants.
You can enjoy hot and fresh pizzas at Pizza-Pizza, relish the yummy funnel cake, or chill with mouth-watering ice-cream varieties.
But best thing is to bring your own picnic food and enjoy it under shade of trees at the picnic table. You can also use one of the BBQ pits, if available.
Ready for the second half of exciting expedition? Let's explore the other tow major islands.
Ward's Island, Toronto
Located on south-east corner of the Toronto Islands, the Ward's Island is more of a residential island with colourful Victorian style old homes.
The island features some of the most beautiful gardens.
The walking trail from Ward's to Centre Island offers stunning views of the Lake Ontario. Take a bike from Centre Island to Ward's Island and enjoy the breathtaking waves coming from the lake.
You can enjoy incredible view of the city from the Ward's Island Beach. The beach has a free change room.
Hanlan's Point, Toronto
Hanlan's Point constitutes the western part of the Toronto Island and offers outstanding views of Ontario Place and Toronto skyline. It is named after Hanlan family who settled at Gibraltar Point in 1862.
There are two beaches on the Hanlan's Point, Gibraltar Point Beach and Hanlan's Point Beach. The later one is clothing optional beach, located on the West side of the island. One wrong move and you will find yoursef at an unusaul place.
The Hanlan's Point features several tennis courts, softball diamonds, volleyball courts and wading pools.
You will find the historic Gibraltar Point Lighthouse - the oldest surviving lighthouse on the lakes, Toronto Islands Natural Science School and extensive park facilities like picnic area and playground here.
Views of Toronto Skyline from Toronto Islands
Ward's Island, Hanlan's Point and Centre Island all offer spellbinding views of Toronto skyline across the Lake Ontario water. But here is the secret. To get the best views of the towering downtown buildings, go to the Olympic Island which is located just east of the Centre Island ferry dock. From here you can take the unobstructed, panoramic views of the city skyline. This is also the excellent place to watch the night lighting at the CN Tower.
Ferry to the Toronto Islands
You can catch the ferry to the Toronto Islands from the ferry docks located at the Bay Street on Queens Quay, just East of Westin Harbour Castle Hotel. The ferries from the main land take you to the Centre Island, the Ward's Island and the Hanlan's Point. It takes roughly 10-15 minutes on each route.
The ferry schedule varies each season. During the peak summer season, the ferries are more frequent. Check the Toronto Islands Ferry schedule at http://www.toronto.ca/parks/island/ferry-schedule.htm
Fares for the round-trip are $6.50 for adults, $4 for students and seniors (65+), $3 for juniors (under 14) and free for children (under 2).
Since islands are all connected, you can take any of the ferries from the ferry docks as long as you don't mind walking. Centre Island is the one which is more popular among visitors with lots of things to do and see.
You can take bikes, strollers and wagons on the ferry, however, during very busy summer season bikes are not allowed on the ferry. You can call on 416-392-8193 and make sure that bikes are allowed or not on your specific day of visit.
On weekends, go early in the morning to avoid the rush at the Ferry dock. Bring some cash, there is only one ticket window that accepts credit card.
Toronto Islands - Downloadable Map
Take a look at the comprehensive Islands park map. You can download it if you want. The map is aboute 3.8MB in size and can be best viewed at 200%. You need Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer for the map.
Things You Should Bring to the Toronto Islands
- Something to seat
- Stroller or wagon for kids
- Lots of sunscreen lotion
- Eyewear and hat/cap
- Umbrella (in case if there are any chances of showers)
Toronto Islands - Tourist Information
Location:Toronto Islands, Toronto, M5J 1A1
Hours of Operation:
Check the ferry schedule by calling 416-392-8193
Best time to visit: May to September
Time to spend: 5 hours to whole day
Admission is Free, only you have to pay for the ferry
Transit and Driving Directions:
The only way to reach to the Toronto Islands is to catch a ferry from the docks at the foot of Bay Street on Queens Quay. Here is the options for reaching the ferry docks.
Hop on the TTC bus or subway going to the Union Station in downtown Toronto. From the Union Stattion, take the 509 Harbourfront or the 510 Spadina streetcar south to the Bay Street and Queens Quay stop. The ferry docks entrance is on the south of the Bay Steet.
Take the Go Transit bus or train to the Union Station. From Union Station, the ferry docks are 10 minutes walk away southwards.
From the North - Take Highway 400 into Toronto, exiting onto Highway 401 West. Continue until you reach Highway 427 southbound. Follow Highway 427 to downtown via the QEW/Gardiner Expressway. Take the York Bay exit toward Yonge Street. Follow the signs for Yonge Street/Queens Quay. Turn right at Bay Street toward Queens Quay.
From the South or West - Follow the QEW into Toronto, where it turns into the Gardiner Expressway. Take the York Bay exit toward Yonge Street. Follow the signs for Yonge Street/Queens Quay. Turn right at Bay Street toward Queens Quay.
From the East - Take Highway 401 into Toronto and exit onto the Don Valley Parkway Southbound. Take exit toward Downtone/Richmond Street and merge onto Eastern Avenue. Then turn left at Parliament Street. Continue onto Queens Quay E until you reach Bay Street.
Parking: There are few public parking lots near the ferry docks. Parking is available 1 block north at Lakeshore and Bay, 1 block west on Queens Quay between Bay and York Street, 1 block east opposite Toronto Star building near Captain John's Harbour Boat restaurant.
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