summer | island hopping

You’ve been to your local park and drop-in (10 times actually), the library and the neighbourhood swimming hole. The littles are restless and craving adventure and in an act of final desperation you’re about to whip out the little jars of glitter. Wait, don’t do it! What you really need is a vacation. Glamorous wood-paneled ferries leave regularly for Toronto’s Islands from the foot of Bay St and Queen’s Quay – get yourself onboard – it’s a very good idea to book your tickets online ahead of time and avoid line-ups!

Okay – full disclosure– exploring all the Toronto Islands have to offer in one day might make you extremely cranky. Unless your plan is to stay a night or two at a lovely guest house, save your sanity, and pick just one of the following day long adventures. You can always come back for more.

Ward’s Island: A Patch of Tranquility

Pack a picnic lunch, or not (this is a vacation after all), swim gear and sand toys. Download the Free Toronto Island Tree Tour app to your phone and bring several frisbees (we’ll tell you why in a second). Take the Ward’s Island Ferry from the Bay St Terminal. When you arrive at Ward’s, wind your way around the lovely cottages and gardens to the beach, go for a swim and play for a spell. Then spark up the app and take a walk along the boardwalk in search of trees. You may want to record your findings and draw a diagram or two in a special notebook. By now you must be feeling peckish, head to The Island Café (near the ferry dock) for lunch. They have a kids’ menu, ice cream bar, and watermelon and mango slushies. Now, about those Frisbees… finish up your day with a little après lunch Frisbee golf, there’s an 18-hole course on Ward’s – and it’s free!

Centre Island: Where the Action is

Centre Island gets very crowded over the summer months, if you’re able to sneak in a visit on a weekday that’s great, but before school’s out is even better.

The Island is home to Centreville, a lovely, whimsical amusement park for kids 12 and under. Go for a spin on the antique carousel, get wet on the Log Flume Ride and play a round of mini-golf. Spread out a blanket for a picnic lunch, or pick up something from one of the food stands. After lunch stop by Franklin’s Garden for a wander and explore the Franklin sculptures, hear some stories and do a little gardening! The wading pool is open from 11m to 5pm and there are actually spots left in the junior explorers camp right now!

Depending on your gang, you may want to call it a day, or rent a bicycle or watercraft and go for a little wander.Take a walk to Centre Island’s newly restored hedge maze.  Get lost. Have lunch and ice-cream and wend your lazy way to the ferry home.

Hanlan’s Point: Tennis, Fish and Ghosts
Lace up your running shoes, pack a picnic lunch, tennis balls and rackets and head to the ferry docks. Take the ferry to Centre Island. Your first stop will be the Boathouse for fishing info and rod rentals (unless you’re already kitted out of course). Walk the path along the lake and make your way to Hanlan’s Point Trout Pond to fish off the dock. En route, You will pass the notorious Gibraltor Point Lighthouse, built in 1808 (rumoured by some to be haunted). Spacing ran a comprehensive piece in 2015, with a lot of background info on the ghost in question – fascinating! Spend some time fishing, break for lunch and make your way to the tennis courts for an afternoon volley. If you have no rods to return you can strike out to the mainland via the Hanlan’s Point ferry. Otherwise, retrace your steps and head back to Centre Island.

Need more help navigating the Islands? Here’s the official Island Park Map, produced by The City of Toronto.


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