Made up of 15 individual islands all linked together, the Toronto Islands offers an assortment of activities including biking, boating, swimming, sports, plus an amusement park, scenic viewpoints, maze and a haunted lighthouse. Truly, Toronto Islands offers one of the most fun days out of the city!
Located in Lake Ontario, roughly three km from downtown Toronto, Toronto Islands is easily accessible via several different ferry routes from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal off Queen’s Quay on the harbour front that take you to different islands. There are no bridges connecting the islands to the mainland, so driving is not an option. Plus, vehicles are not permitted on the islands.
For up-to-date information and details on the Toronto Islands, we recommend you visit their website. For information about other places of interest to explore nearby, keep scrolling to see what Destination Ontario recommends.
More about Toronto Islands
Toronto Islands, or as it is called by the locals ‘the Island’ or ‘Toronto Island Park,’ is a collection of 15 small islands all linked together by connecting bridges just off the shore of downtown Toronto. This is also the only group of islands located in the western part of Lake Ontario. It boasts 332 hectares of land that can only be explored on foot or by bicycle with 14 km of trails. Bring your own bike on the ferry or rent one while on the islands. It’s the ideal spot to spend a full day relaxing outdoors.
Toronto Islands beckons outdoor enthusiasts, beach lovers and families. It has been attracting around 1.4 million visitors annually - if you’d like to be one of them, visit their website.
The Toronto Islands were originally moving sand bars in the waters of Lake Ontario that eventually shaped into islands. Since forming, the islands have always been used as a place to relax. At one point, they were connected to the mainland via a peninsula. But the peninsula was badly eroded by a storm in 1858 and the chain of islands was formed. Settlements sprung up on the islands. And there’s still a small population who call Ward’s Island home.
A visit to the Toronto Islands is a day of adventure. The best way, albeit the only way, to explore the islands is by using the nature trails that traverse the entire length of the island. Smaller trails veer from the main path and you can spend all day discovering new parts of the island and amazing views. But if you don’t want to wander around without purpose, there are a lot of places you can enjoy on the island. For a more adrenaline pumping visit, ample space is dedicated on Toronto Islands for sports. This includes tennis courts, soccer field, baseball diamond, frisbee golf course, and beach volleyball nets.
Though the Toronto Islands are a collection of islands, there are three main islands where visitors flock to – Wards Island, Centre Island, and Hanlan’s Point. Though linked together, each promises a different experience.
After disembarking the William Inglis ferry from downtown Toronto, you arrive on Wards Island. Located on the eastern side of the Toronto Islands, Wards Island promises a quieter experience for the rare tourists that venture onto this island. And that’s because the area is predominantly a neighbourhood. Since the 1880s, Canadians have lived on this portion of Toronto Islands. And to this day, roughly 650 people still call the place home.
For day trippers, there are still some things to experience on Wards Island. The big draw to the area is Wards Beach. Close to the ferry dock the beach offers a large sandy beach, children’s playground and washrooms. If you want to get away from the crowds, this is the beach to head to. On the south side of the island is a lovely boardwalk providing amazing views of Lake Ontario.
Without question, the most popular section of the Toronto Islands is Centre Island. Getting there is extremely easy as there are more ferries departing from downtown Toronto to Centre Island than any other part of the Toronto Islands. And the area is extremely popular because of all the fun activities you can do there.
If you’re looking to escape the summer city heat, head to Centre Island Beach. With its cooler waters it is definitely the place to retreat to. But if you just want to relax, enjoy a meal at Toronto Island BBQ, which has one of the best views of the Toronto skyline on the islands.
Or, for a more active visit, rent a kayak or canoe from the Boathouse on Centre Island and enjoy the wildlife found in and around the lagoon and open waters around the islands. Or, you can even learn how to paddleboard in the lagoon.
For families with small kids, the Centreville Amusement Park is a must-visit. This delightful funfair is perfect for children 3-7 years old, and there are a handful of rides that larger children or parents can ride. Admission is per ride and there are snack stands throughout to keep the energy going. Next door, the kids can enjoy the animals at a petting zoo. What a day!
Another option for entertaining children is the Franklin Children’s Garden near Centre Island Beach. The garden is inspired by the Franklin the Turtle stories and features many bronze statues of the characters. There’s also a variety of activities that will keep children entertained for hours. Fun fact: the highest point on Toronto Islands is found in the garden.
Both children and adults will delight in the William Meany Maze. This hedge maze is located on Centre Island and is free to enter. Laughter fills the maze as visitors try their luck in getting out.
For a touch of the supernatural, there’s the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse. It’s the oldest lighthouse in the Great Lakes and the second oldest in all of Canada. Built in 1808, it operated until 1958. Though entry to the lighthouse is not allowed, it still attracts visitors because legend says it may be haunted by its first lighthouse keeper, J.P. Rademuller. In 1815, Rademuller mysteriously vanished, with many believing that he was violently murdered. Though the story has never been proven, that has never stopped the curious gaze from visitors.
When visiting the Toronto Islands, a great option for food is to cook your own meal. Though there are BBQ pits all over the islands, a majority of them are found on Centre Island. If you do want to do a BBQ, you do need to bring your own coal. Picnic tables are also found scattered over Toronto Islands.
Hanlan’s Point is the most westerly of the large Toronto Islands. And its draw is Hanlan’s Point Beach, the largest beach on the islands. Though it’s larger than Centre Island, you will find smaller crowds on the shore. It is also a more relaxed and friendly beach that is very inclusive to the L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ community. Hanlan’s Beach also has a clothing optional section, only one of two such beaches in all of Canada. But if you’re committed to wearing clothes and like your neighbours to be too, don’t worry, the two beach areas are well separated. In the evenings, it is the ideal spot to watch the sunset.
But Hanlan’s Point is just not about the beach. In this section of the Toronto Islands, you can also enjoy a game of tennis on their courts, volleyball nets, and picnic areas.