There’s no better way to make the most out of a balmy summer weekend than to hit the Toronto Islands – Toronto’s own little escape from reality, where the only reminders of the city chaos are the peaceful and stunning views of the skyline across the water.
Yet, it remains an afterthought to many of us, taking a backseat to city patios and the Beaches. For a lot of us, a visit to the Toronto Islands may seem like too much of a mission, but if you do it properly, it’s actually quite seamless.
Here’s everything you need to keep in mind before a day spent on the Toronto Islands.
Buy Your Ferry Ticket Online First
To minimize at least some of the wait times, buy your ferry ticket online in advance – and make sure your friends do too. That way, you only have to endure the line for the ferry, not the tickets.
Get There Early or at the End of the Day to Avoid Crowds
Especially as Toronto’s density increases one glassy new condo at a time, city dwellers increasingly need an escape from the grind – and that’s exactly what the Island offers. Add a few thousand tourists to the mix, and you have yourself a patience-testing recipe of long lineups (even with a pre-purchased ticket) for super crowded ferry rides. Keep in mind that the peak period for lineups at the ferry terminal is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
You Can Always Take a Water Taxi
If you have places to be, hate crowds, and don’t mind dropping a few extra dollars, a water taxi may be the way to go (although on a hot summer day, we can’t guarantee zero lineup for one). The Toronto Harbour Water Taxis operate all season long, from 8 am to 12:30 am (weekdays) or 1:30 am (Friday and Saturday nights) and cost $10 per adult each way.
Get to the Ward’s Island Beach Early to Score Real Estate on the Sand
Most of the booze-stocked young people end up on the beach at Ward’s Island, behind the rows of cottages. While it often makes for a bit of a day party on the weekends when groups of friends – previously strangers – join forces in fun, you’ll want a blanket on the sand to call home base. If you arrive well into the afternoon, finding lounge space isn’t always guaranteed.
You Can Rent an Airbnb on the Island
Often overlooked by many, there are actually a handful of cottages on the Island that are available as Airbnb rentals quite regularly. You even have the option of staying on a boat on the island. So, you don’t have to worry about catching the last ferry home after an active (and boozy) day in the sun.
A Maze Provides Free Entertainment
Many may remember the tree-lined maze from childhood visits to the Islands. While the original was removed in 2011 after it had seen better days (RIP), it was rebuilt a few years back. The 15,000-square-maze could provide hours of Sunday Funday enjoyment after taking full advantage of Canada’s upcoming marijuana legalization on the breezy island (just sayin’).
There’s a New Brewery on the Toronto Islands
This month, a brewery opened its doors on the Islands, offering another reason to spend a day there this summer. Rebranding the prime piece of the lakeside real estate that’s served up upscale BBQ and beer for years, Toronto Island Brewing Co. is now open for business. Beer-lovers will appreciate the fact that they can enjoy a cold one on a massive patio overlooking the lake.
You Can Freely Take Your Clothes Off
If you’d rather forgo any potential tan lines, you can drop it all on the clothing-optional beach. Hanlan’s Beach – located on the western part of the Island – has been a Toronto fixture since 1999, when it became the second officially recognized clothing-optional beach in Canada.
To Avoid a Ton of Children, Steer Clear of Centre Island
Although you’ll inevitably find no shortage of children throughout the islands (aside from the nude beach), if you’re looking for peace and quiet, stay away from Centre Island, where the Centreville Amusement Park is filled with sugar-amped children each day of the week in the summer months, who spill out into the surrounding area once they (or their parents) have had enough of the games and rides.
Featured image: Instagram/ @juliamelcher
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