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Toronto Centre Island

Toronto Islands for some R&R

The multi-cultural megacity of Toronto, Ontario, Canada can boast a wooded, rural, non-hectic getaway gem just a short ferry ride into Lake Ontario - think New York City with it’s Central Park, but in Toronto, with beaches. While only 300 ft into Lake Ontario with no bridge link, the island’s charm and non-commercialism is a relaxing respite from Toronto’s high rises and city center just a short distance away.

Toronto skylineTake a picnic, put on your bathing suit (or take it off at the one of a few of Canada’s official Clothing Optional beaches), rent a tandem bike or family quadracycle or stroll the miles of walking trails in the wooded greenery bird-watching, swimming in Lake Ontario, or exploring Centreville Theme Park. On a summer’s afternoon, there’s a full day of activities to keep yourself and your family busy!

To Toronto Island by Ferry

Getting to the Toronto Islands by Ferry is the easy part (it’s a relaxing 15-minute ferry ride), getting into the downtown core to park Ferry Parking (click to enlarge)may be the challenge. Public transit is best if you live in or near Toronto, but for those outside the city, there is ample parking available at the numerous lots (especially on weekends) near the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal. Expect about $20 for the day’s parking.

The Jack Layton Ferry Terminal is the controlled ticket entry to the three ferries that service the Island – the eastern Ward Island Ferry, the most popular Centre Island Ferry, and the western Hanlan’s Point Ferry. The Toronto Island’s Ferries (schedule and rates) run often with Centre Island getting more trips given it’s high-volume demand. Don’t be stressed about the crowd waiting the next ferry. Capacity is about 900 people, so everyone will most likely get on this trip.

Ferries to Toronto's islandsCost for the ferries is under $10 round trip for adults and about $7 for youth. GoGirlfriend recommends buying the tickets in advance online to avoid the weekend ticket lineups. Tickets are good til the end of the calendar year, so if you get rained out the day you want to go, your ticket is still valid for your next trip. Walk up, scan your ticket and proceed to the waiting area – simple and fast!

Considering you have a round trip ticket, GoGirlfriend recommends taking one ferry to the island (Centre Island Ferry for example) and returning with an alternate ferry after strolling the islands beauty (Hanlan’s Point or Ward’s Island ferries).

Welcome to Toronto’s Islands

Toronto’s Islands (often referred to in the singular as Toronto Island or Centre Island) consists of 15 interconnected islands with Centre Island the largest, outermost perimeter island with Ward’s Island to the east and Hanlan’s Point to the west, and a chain of smaller islands within the boomerang-shaped Toronto Island Park (click to enlarge)protection. Almost all are interconnected with bridges, boardwalks and pathways to make strolling and enjoying the island a breeze.

Link to Toronto Island Map

The main tourist season is May through September as the weather warms and everyone wants to enjoy the fresh air lakeside. As you can see on the above map (click to enlarge), many activities, restaurants, café kiosks and facilities dot the island to make your visit enjoyable.

What to Do on Toronto Island

Whether you are enjoying a couple’s romantic picnic, stroll and beachside visit or as a family enjoying Centreville and the many kid-friendly activities, there is lots to see and do on Toronto Island for everyone.

Romantic relaxation on Toronto Island

  • Picnic anywhere on the grounds
  • walk the beautiful gardens and pathwaysWalk and stroll from one end of the island to the other and 15 islands in between (start at one ferry point and return another) including the Centre Island Pier and the gardens
  • Visit the William Meany Maze
  • Rent a tandem bike or canoe / kayak
  • Visit the Gibraltar Lighthouse (200 years old and the oldest in the Great Lakes)
  • Visit the Clothing Optional Beach at Hanlan’s Point
  • Take a walk over to the Billy Bishop Airport and watch the planes take off and land (Think Maho Beach St. Maarten)
  • Stop at Toronto Island BBQ and Co for a drink on the patio with amazing Toronto skyline views

Family activities on Toronto Island

  • Picnic anywhere on the grounds
  • Gibraltar LighthouseTire the kids out at Centreville Theme Park, the playgrounds or the William Meany Maze
  • Rent a quadracyle (bike for 4) and tour out to the Billy Bishop Airport and watch the planes take off and land
  • Show them the Gibraltar Lighthouse (200 years old and the oldest in the Great Lakes)
  • Play Frisbee golf, visit the Centre Island Pier or pick a beach to swim
  • Relax bird-watching and revel in the Toronto skyline views

Beaches on Toronto Island

Being an island park, Toronto Island’s great beaches comes as a great perk. Lake Ontario, as part of the Great Lakes system - the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world, is a summer recreation destination for the millions that live around the lakes. The cool fresh water swimming opportunity is a natural magnet in the summers heat.

Toronto Island beaches from east to west:

  • Centre Island Beach and PierWard Island Beach – less busy as farthest east - Blue Flag designated
  • Centre Island Beach – most popular centered with the pier - Blue Flag designated
  • Manitou Beach – smaller segment west of Centre Island beach
  • Gibraltar Point Beach – more remote and generally quiet - Blue Flag designated
  • Hanlan’s Point Beach - 1 of only 2 of Canada’s official Clothing Optional Beaches – Blue Flag designated

All these beaches are safely swimmable, with lifeguards at all the beaches. The sand is a smooth grainy soft brown sand and the shoreline, the shore and lake bed are sandy with only a few small rocks. Most busy is Centre Island beach and Hanlan’s Point Clothing Optional beach. Blue skies, hot summers and fresh water (with no salt sting) … what’s not to love!

For more info and activities on Toronto Island, visit:

Truly, what’s not to love about Toronto Island – 5 great beaches, numerous manicured gardens, 15 interconnected islands to stroll, fresh air in a greenspace, a ferry ride with spectacular views of the Toronto skyline? Next time you’re in Toronto in the summer, take the ferry and enjoy a day lakeside within minutes of the city!

Have you enjoyed Toronto Island and experienced the beaches and activities? Tell us your thoughts. Drop a comment below and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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