You can't visit Toronto without taking a trip to the Toronto Islands, Short on time? No problem, take the ferry out and back for the best Instagram-worthy Toronto skyline views, but if you’ve got a day there’s plenty to see and do.
There are a few ways to access the island, the city operates three ferry routes and private enterprise has led to the development of various water taxis. We suggest you make your way to Hanlans Point and start your cycling journey there with a visit to the monument of Ned Hanlan, one of Toronto’s most famous rowing athletes. The Hanlan family were the first inhabitants of the island settling near Gibraltar Point in 1862. As you cycle toward the south side of the island the lake you will notice the last remaining grandstand once used to cheer for Ned Hanlan as he raced along the channels. From here a visit to the Gibraltar Point lighthouse and original school will further illustrate the islands historic past and place in Toronto’s development. The west side of the island became a popular destination for the people of Toronto and a summer cottage community developed. Soon there were hotels, restaurants and summer amusements. The early development of a summer cottage community, resort hotels and amusements parks have mostly disappeared but there are still some landmarks to help you create an image of those early years.
As you make your way along the south shore don’t miss a visit to the end of the pier for a unique view of the skyline, a stroll through the amusement park is a must if you’re travelling with kids under 12 and a visit to Olympic Island for fantastic views of the harbour and city beyond.
On the east side you will find Ward’s Island and a community that began in the 1880’s as a tent community. In 1899 there were eight summer tenants on Ward’s Island paying $10 for the season and by 1913 the community had grown so big the city thought it necessary to organize the community into streets and the tents evolved into a cottage community. Many of these cottages are still standing today and form part of the Island Community, well worth a ride to explore. The community is run in a very cooperative manner with lots of joint efforts around shopping, children’s activities and recreation. The first community school was built in 1888 and today, the Island Public/ Nature Science School operates a full elementary program for over 600 children and a residential natural science program for visiting grade 5 and 6 students from throughout the city.
If you’re spending the day there are some cafes for lunch and drinks, public beaches, frisbee golf courses, bicycle, SUP and boat rentals. Plan your return to the city for sunset and watch the city transform as you ride the ferry back to the bustling city. If you want to get into the core of the city check out our City Highlights tour.