Hi there, and welcome (back) to the blog! It’s time to talk about one of my favorite spots on earth: The Toronto Islands! Since I discovered this little gem, there has been no Toronto layover without a quick hop over to the Island Park to enjoy the insane skyline view. So I’d urge everyone staying in Toronto to visit the Islands and enjoy some time away from the hustle and bustle of Toronto’s downtown. Since I want you to be prepared, I’ll tell you more about the best Toronto Island activities so you can already start planning your stay. Enjoy!
what and where are the Toronto Islands?
As you can guess by the name, the Toronto Islands are located south of Toronto (the mainland, to be exact). The Islands are home to around 650 people and a popular attraction for visitors. The Island Park offers many activities for kids and adults, including scenic walking trails, a petting zoo, beaches, and even an amusement park.
The main Island parts (which we’ll mainly cover in this blogpost) are Ward’s Island, Centre Island (with Middle Island), and Hanlan’s Point. Smaller Islands like Snake Island or Olympic Island offer fewer facilities but are still pretty to explore on your walk. Other islands like North Chippewa Island are usually entirely forested and e.g. used by local Marine Clubs to store ships and boats.
Here’s a quick map to better understand what I’m talking about:
How to get to the Toronto Islands
The Islands are a short 15-minute ferry ride away from Toronto’s lakeshore. There are two possibilities to get to the Islands: the official ferry or the (partly seasonal) private water taxis and boats.
TAKING THE FERRY:
You’ll leave Toronto from Jack Layton Ferry Terminal. The ferry connects Toronto’s mainland with the three main Island docks: Ward’s Island, Centre Island, and Hanlan’s Point. While Centre Island and Hanlan’s point ferries are operating seasonal, the Ward’s Island ferry runs year-round. Depending on the season and the weekday, the ferries usually operate at least hourly – timetables can be found on the official website. Tickets can be purchased online or at the terminal and cost 8.50 CAD/adult and always include the return trip.
The Toronto Islands (especially Centre Island) are a popular summer weekend attraction, so ferries can get very crowded. I’d highly recommend purchasing your ticket online to avoid long queues on such days.
TAKING THE WATER TAXI:
The water taxi usually costs around 10 CAD oneway depending on the company. They operate primarily out of Queens Quay terminal. This company offers regular shuttles on their water taxi, for example.
The best Toronto Island activities
1 | explore the Islands on foot
My absolute favorite thing to do on the Toronto Islands is walking! The Island Park is well connected by bridges, making it easy to explore them on foot. The islands are not only fantastic scenery to walk through but also blessed with insane views of the skyline and Lake Ontario.
My favorite walking route would be from Hanlan’s Point to Ward’s Island. The trail along the lake will also guide you to the pier and the beaches. This route is around 5km long, and it took me about 1,5-2 hours to get from one end to the other. (I did stop quite often to take pictures, walk down the pier, onto the beach, etc.).
This route follows the so-called “Lakeshore Avenue” from start to finish if you want to look it up on maps.
2 | bike the trails
Did you know that there are kilometers worth of well-paved bike trails to ride on? Biking the Islands is one of the most common ones of all Toronto Island activities. There is a bike rental on the Island (Centre Island) with hourly rates and many different bikes like single or tandem ones. If you want to rent your bike downtown (the rental station is operating seasonally on Toronto Island Park!), you can bring it onto the ferry without additional charges.
3 | paddle your way through the lagoons
Especially in the summer season, the Island Park can be explored from the waterside. You can rent yourself a kayak or canoe to make your way through the canals. Another great option on hot summer days would be Stand Up Paddling along the lagoon on Ward’s Island. If you want to look deeper into such activities and maybe even try SUP yoga, I recommend checking out their official website 🙂
4 | hit the beach
I’ve already mentioned there are beaches on the Island Park. There are three main beaches, one of them is clothing optional.
→ Ward’s Island beach: This Blue Flag Beach is very close to the Ward’s Island dock, directly on the opposite side. After a 5 minute walk, you’ll see a beautifully located beach. (this one is also accessible by wheelchair) You’ll have a view of Lake Ontario and the Lakeshore Avenue Path.
→ Centre Island beach: As the name states, this beach is located at Centre Island, right next to the pier. Since Centre Island is a prominent attraction, this beach is usually the most crowded. There are plenty of options to sunbathe and enjoy the lake view.
→ Hanlan’s Point Beach: This beach also received the blue flag and is one of the quietest spots of all three beaches. The south part of Hanlan’s beach is clothing optional. Since the shore is quite spacious, there is quite a separation between the “regular” and the clothing-optional part of the beach. The closer you get to Centre Island, you’ll come to the Gibraltar point beach area, which is also really beautifully located and usually a very tranquil spot. There’s also a small pier at Gibraltar point.
5 | get lost in William Meany Maze
The William Meany maze is very close to the Centre Island pier and is such a fun activity for everyone. With a size of approx. Fifteen thousand square feet, you can (literally) get lost in one of the newest Toronto Islands attractions.
6 | stroll through the neighborhoods on Ward’s Island
Did you know people are living on the Toronto Islands? The number of inhabitants is currently at around 650, and most of them live on Ward’s Island. Their houses (and especially their gardens!) are fantastic. The whole area around Ward’s Island consists of little lanes and cottages with such a peaceful and friendly vibe. It makes you want to move there asap!
Please be respectful of local’s properties. Don’t step into private gardens or behave like a creep next to the windows!
7 | visit Centreville Amusement Park
On Centre Island (or “Middle Island,” to be exact), you’ll find an amusement park called “Centreville Amusement Park.” Especially amongst families, this is one of the main things to do on Toronto Island. The park has more than 30 rides and opens its doors during the summer season (usually May-September). Once you get hungry, you can purchase snacks like pizza, cotton candy, or ice cream from the vendors inside the park.
The entrance to the park itself is free; the rides are paid separately. There are day passes available, so if you’re planning on spending a lot of time in the amusement park, check and compare the fares. You can also purchase your tickets on the park’s website in advance if you want.
8 | pet farm animals at Far Enough Farm
This farm is home to over 40 species of exotic birds and farmyard animals. The entry is free, and you can go into the pond and pet the animals for a small donation. The animals seemed to be taken care of very well, everything was clean and fresh, and there was a lot of staff around to take care of the animal’s well-being. Far Enough Farm is another viral Toronto Island activity, especially for kids.
9 | have a picnic/bbq
Many large lawns make the perfect place for a picnic. It is also allowed to have BBQ on the islands, as long as you don’t use propane. Conveniently, there are BBQ stations that one can use. The only thing you need to bring would be charcoal and – obviously – your food to grill. Enjoy!
Hanlan’s Point or Snake Island areas offer some fantastic picnic spots.
10 | enjoy the skyline- and lake views
The Islands are the perfect spot to get an ideal view of Toronto’s skyline! The ferry ride itself offers some great views, but it’s spectacular once you reach the islands! My three favorite spots for the perfect skyline picture would be:
→ Ward’s Island ferry dock
→ “Fredas Garden and beach” (Ward’s Island)
→Hanlan’s Point (right next to the ferry dock)
The other side of the Island complex (the south coast) opens up to Lake Ontario, which also offers some great views. Especially Centre Island beach, Centre Island Pier, and the waterside path (“Lakeshore Ave”) between Centre Island and Ward’s Island will give you the possibility to overlook the endless blues.
11 | play disc golf
On Ward’s Island, there is a disc golf course with 18 baskets. It is very well maintained and offers excellent views of the skyline and Lake Ontario while playing. Unfortunately, I’ve never played disc golf, so I can’t give any personal recommendations – most forums and websites state this course to be challenging and not suitable for beginners.
What is disc golf? → Similar to golf, but with throwing discs. Instead of hitting a golf ball into a hole, you’ll have discs thrown at targets.
12 | learn more about “spooky” Gibraltar Point Lighthouse
Dating back to 1808, this lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse on the Great Lakes and one of the oldest buildings in Toronto. However, this lighthouse is especially popular due to the spooky stories about its first keeper, J.P. Rademüller. According to the Tales, Rademüller disappeared in 1815 – killed by two soldiers. But, it is said, the ghost of its first keeper still haunts the site.
It is hidden in the trees and can be discovered while walking between Hanlan’s Point and Centre Island.
13 | plane spotting at Hanlan’s Point
You know I can’t skip this one – my aviation heart skipped a bit when I first found out there is an airport on the Island. Let’s get nerdy:
The “Billy Bishop, Toronto City Airport” is small, but you can get close to the runway once you reach Hanlan’s Point. Sure, it doesn’t have as many arrivals and departures as other airports, but once planes are leaving/landing, it’s pretty cool to get such a close glimpse. If you’re into planes, you’ll love how close you can get to see/take pictures of the aircraft standing on the apron.
Of course, there are more Toronto Island activities than just the ones listed above. You can play tennis, or soccer or take your kids to the playground after an exciting day on the beach or in the park. Snake Island is great for a walk in the forest, too!
Facilities on Toronto Islands
Restaurants/Cafes on Toronto Islands
You will find many more snack options inside the amusement park or around the Centre Island beach. For example, you can have pizza on the go, cotton candy, cold drinks, or stop by an ice cream parlor. Restaurants and Cafés are operating seasonally.
Which island offers what? – a quick breakdown
Ward’s Island: The friendly neighborhood with a beautifully located beach, soccer fields, gardens, and a great view of the skyline.
Centre Island: Offers the most Toronto Island activities with an amusement park, many food options, rentals, and even a petting zoo.
Hanlan’s Point: The quiet island part with green trails, great picnic sites, and a clothing-optional part on the beach.
When is the best time to visit the Toronto Islands?
In general, you can visit the Toronto Islands all year round. However, most facilities are seasonal, leaving a little less to do for the winter. For example, the amusement park, restaurants, rentals, etc. – many of them are closed from October on and re-open in May.
If you’re coming with your kids, want to play disc golf, rent a boat, etc., you might want to plan your visit for the summer season.
This does not mean the islands are less beautiful. On the contrary, the whole scenery covered in snow is gorgeous. If the frozen grounds permit, you can even go snowshoeing or skate on the lake/in the canals. (please, be careful!). Isn’t that a unique to-do among all the possible Toronto Island activities?!
My favorite time to visit the Toronto Islands is the spring/autumn season. I love the tranquility, especially in the mornings, when only locals and a few tourists are around.
Wow, you made it to the end. Congrats!
Jokes aside – I know this one was quite long and had A LOT of information. I hope you’re now prepared for a great (half)day on the Toronto Islands. Let me know in the comments if you’ve already visited the Island park and which of the Toronto Island activities is your favorite.
(I still wonder if I’m the only one just coming there regularly in the morning for walks and taking in the view, not caring about amusement parks and games 😂)
As always, stay happy and healthy.
See you soon,
F A Q
Absolutely yes. Whether you’re up for a beach day, the amusement park, or just a morning run – the Toronto Islands are such a beautiful spot. I think everyone visiting Toronto has to see the Island at least once. The skyline views alone are already worth the trip!
Yes, there are AirBnB’s and a B&B you can book. However, overnight Camping is not allowed.
Yes, around 650 people are living on the Toronto Islands.
Yes, the Island Park is connected by bridges and offers great paths for your walk.
No, cars are forbidden on the Islands. You can drive your bicycle, though 🙂
It’s hard to say which one of the three is the best. The beach at Hanlan’s Point will be your pick if you’re into clothing-optional. Both Hanlan’s and Ward’s Island beaches are blue-flag beaches. My favorite would be Ward’s Island beach, since it’s less crowded and located beautifully, almost like a bit of bay.
Yes, dogs are permitted on Toronto Islands, yet they must be leashed during your stay.
Yes, the Islands are open year-round, yet the main Toronto Island activities are seasonal. Most facilities and attractions are closed down, so the wintertime is less popular among visitors. There are fewer ferry connections in the winter, and ferries only land/depart at Ward’s Island.