Exploring Ontario: Toronto Island Experience

Only 13 minutes by ferry from downtown Toronto, The Island beckoned to me for awhile, making me wonder what it has to offer, especially after so many months of lockdown.

We lost our excitement when we found the ferry is running at half capacity, and, at that hour in the afternoon there were no more tickets available for the rest of the day. But not to despair, we looked immediately for a water taxi, which they seem to run in a much faster way. My hubby noticed the lines were much shorter at Pier 6, where we walked to in just few minutes, and voila, here we are, waiting patiently in a line, ready for a new experience.

The Toronto Islands, comprising around 332 ha, are basically an archipelago of 15 islands interconnected by pathways and bridges known as a popular recreation destination. Most of the taxis are going to the Central Island, which is in between Hanlan’s Point and Ward’s Island, and here we are in no time, ready for a long stroll along the island.

Once a peninsula connected to the mainland, it was transformed in 1858 into islands after a violent storm that swept through the area. A carriage route along the peninsula connecting from west to east was transformed in Lakeshore Avenue, an approximatively 5 kms promenade.

With several beautiful swimming beaches, sport facilities, bike, canoe and kayak rentals, gardens, playgrounds, one can have so much fun. Recreational boating is very popular, and you can see bigger or smaller boats running slowly through the island channels, or resting lazily in front of the Ward’s Island Beach.

A seasonal park, full of life from May to September, Toronto Island is renown as a popular recreation destination, offering many activities, for the big or the little ones. With plenty of picnic areas, anyone can spend a full day either on the beach, or in any secluded area, less beaten by the crowds.

The first buildings on the islands were built during 1790s, and the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse in 1809.

The Island is part of the treaty lands and territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, and in the 1870s, settlers built the first cottages here, a church in 1884, and a school in 1888.

Developments as a summer suburb of Toronto followed shortly, with few hotels, summer homes, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club, and a tent community which turned into a seasonal cottage community later.  By the 1920s, about 2, 000 people lived on Toronto Island and the population often increased to more than 10,000 in the summer. But after 3 decades, the regional government of Metropolitan Toronto began to clear the land of homes for a public park. After long political battles with Metro for 30 years, only 262 homes were saved in 1993. Today, if you want to purchase a home in this free-car community where only about 700 people live year-around in about 300 homes, you will need to go through a complicated waiting list process which a land trust now controls the sales for.

I’m not going to talk about Ned Hanlan, one of Canada’s greatest oarsmen whose statue stands erected beside the ferry’s terminal with the same name. Nor about the airport located on the island, opened in 1939, and used originally by expatriate Norwegians pilots-in-training during WWII.

A nice surprise of the evening was Gibraltar Point Lighthouse. Currently nestled among the trees, it was originally built few metres from the shoreline of Lake Ontario. Built between 1808 – 1809, this is the oldest surviving lighthouse on the Great Lakes, and the second oldest surviving lighthouse in Canada. Its walls are almost two metres thick at the base, and were raised to their existing height by adding stone in 1832. Fueled originally with whale oil, and coal oil, it was electrified in 1917; the light was changed from white to green in 1945, to distinguish it from the bright lights of the modern city. Nearly 150 years of service, the light of the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse was extinguished in 1957, being replaced by a fully automated, modern skeletal tower.

We didn’t wait to see the city lights in the dark, but rather soon after the sunset we returned on the mainland by ferry, as it turned out it was for free😊

Tip(s) of the day:

  • Parking can be very expensive in downtown Toronto, up to $30/day; municipal parking can be cheaper, but further away from the shoreline;
  • Wear proper footwear if you are for a long stroll on the island;
  • Don’t forget your swimsuit if you are for a swim;
  • Several water fountains are found along the main avenue, so you can fill your water bottle for free;
  • Water taxi is $10 per person, but you can return for free, by ferry, from any terminal.

~ visited in July 2021


19 thoughts on “Exploring Ontario: Toronto Island Experience

    1. The Central Island can be quite busy actually, with the main beach, the playgrounds, and everything else. We returned from the Ward’s Island terminal, and I found that side of the island quieter than the central one. You should definitely check it out when you are in Toronto, and staying after dark will certainly pay it off!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi, Christie, it’s so nice to hear from you again! How are you doing? I hope you are making the most of summertime in Canada.

    Visiting the Toronto Islands is something that I would love to do one day if I ever make it to Toronto city. The awesome views of the city skyline, from the ferries and from the islands themselves look amazing and it would be any photographers dream to take those picture-postcard city snapshots.

    Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Aiva for your nice note🙂 I’m doing ok, trying to take advantage of every nice day, as the weather is kind of finicky this summer.
      I do hope you can visit Toronto one day, hopefully soon🙂 In the meantime, wishing you a wonderful summer ahead!
      Christie, xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Islands is a great addition to a few days in Toronto. It allows to escape the traffic of the city, and to see it from a new angle. At the end of the day, when the lights are turned on, there is a great photo opportunity, provided you have a tripod and keep the mosquitoes away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We actually debated if should we stay longer, but the day was quite long for us, and we opted to leave earlier. The city lights offer great photo opportunities indeed, I was able to capture couple of good shots while on a cruise, several years ago, prior the blogging-era🙂
      Hope your summer is going well, and you enjoy it to the max!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You did well to leave early. July is not the best time as the sun sets late and there are so many bugs. Early September when it is still warm is better.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. How picturesque! I’ve never heard of the Toronto Islands before, but they’re certainly captivating. Looks very calm, too, and if I were to return to the area, I’d love to check them out. Thanks for sharing them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be honest, it was a bit busy at the ferry terminal, but as soon as everyone spread all over, we could find some quiet spots to relax and indulge ourselves. Have a lovely afternoon, Rebecca! Christie, xx

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, after so many months of lockdown and stay-at-home orders, we were so glad to be able to get out. Although quite crowdy at the ferry terminal.
      Hope your new lockdown will end up soon!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I used to try to visit Toronto Island every summer, but haven’t been in a few years. Looks like you had great weather when you visited and great timing to catch the sunset. Glad to hear that it wasn’t too crowded.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have some friends living in downtown, they are almost every week on the island, it is such a great little escape🙂 We’ve had a pleasant afternoon, and the weather was perfect!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You had some great weather on your visit to The Island and took really pretty pictures … especially the one where the sky and yachts reflecting in the water. And what a beautiful photo of sundown on your way back to the mainland!

    Liked by 1 person

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