Originally a peninsula, the islands were formed when the rushing waters of the Don River separated a spit from the mainland during a ferocious storm in 1858. There are more than a dozen islets and mid-sized islands in this urban archipelago, some of them connected by bridges, others accessible only by boat. A thriving residential community of creative characters calls Ward’s and Algonquin islands home, while Centre Island is a popular destination for its amusement park. No cars are allowed on the islands, adding enormously to their tranquil charm. Along with exploration on foot, two great ways to get the most out of the island experience are to rent a boat or a bicycle and paddle your way through the extensive lagoon system or cycle to a secluded picnic spot. It is easy to forget that you are right beside one of the busiest ports in Canada.

Ferry schedule

  • 416 392 8193

Canada’s Coney Island

The heyday of Hanlan Point began in the 1880s as city dwellers flocked to its vaudeville theater, dance hall, hotels, and amusement park. Two decades later, thousands of fans cheered on baseball great Babe Ruth as he hit his first professional home run, on September 5, 1914, at the Point’s new stadium. By 1937, however, the declining resort had been torn down to make way for the Island Airport.

Numerous fast-food spots and snack bars ensure you won’t go hungry on the islands. Or bring a picnic lunch.

Ferries depart from the terminal at the foot of Bay Street. Centre Island ferries operate in summer only; Ward’s Island and Hanlan’s Point ferries, year-round.

The ferry ride ($6.50 round-trip) takes about 10 minutes. Bicycles are permitted on board, except on the Centre Island boat during weekends and holidays, when it can be very busy.

Boat rentals

  • 416 397 2628

Bicycle rentals

  • 416 203 0009

Top 10 Features
  1. Ferry

    Enjoy one of the best views to be had of the Toronto skyline aboard a ferry dating back to the 1950s – some in the fleet even to the 1930s – as it chugs across the lake to the Toronto Islands.

  2. Boardwalk

    The 1.5-mile (2.5-km) boardwalk runs from Ward’s Island to Centre Island and is great for a lakeside stroll.

  3. Ward’s Island

    Over 700 people now live here in what began, in the 1880s, as a tiny tent settlement. Stroll along the pathways and marvel at the creative ways the cottages have been ornamented to reflect their owners’ tastes. As on neighboring Algonquin Island, the gardens of Ward’s Island are in delightful bloom in the warmer months.

    Cottage, Ward’s Island
  4. Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

    Toronto’s oldest lighthouse has served as a shipping beacon since the early 19th century. The historic limestone landmark is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of its first keeper, who disappeared without a trace in 1815.

  5. Centreville Amusement Park

    This small amusement park on Centre Island has more than 30 rides, including swan boats and a colorful 1890s carousel.

  6. Far Enough Farm

    Kids will love feeding and petting the lambs, goats, cows, geese, pigs, and other farm animals at this small petting zoo.

  7. Algonquin Island

    Island residents’ creativity is most exuberantly expressed in their quirky, colorful gardens. The green thumb enthusiasts of Algonquin Island are often happy to share their tips with passersby.

  8. Hanlan’s Point

    Two sandy beaches, popular with sunbathers, are the big draw here. In 1999, one of the beaches reclaimed its clothing-optional status, which it enjoyed when it first opened in 1894.

  9. The Rectory

    This cozy restaurant also functions as Ward’s Island informal social center. Main course soups, salads, and sandwiches are healthy and hearty, and the desserts are delicious.

  10. Bicycling

    The best way to tour the islands is on wheels along the pedestrian-bicycle trails stretching the 4-mile (6.5-km) archipelago. Rent a one-person or tandem bike or quadracycle.

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