There’s more to getting wet this summer than hitting the local pool. We are blessed with terrific beaches and a burgeoning lakeside culture in Toronto. Our beaches are tested regularly to ensure the water quality is clean, safe and swimmable.
Our favourite beaches are regularly designated as safe to swim, but do check with the city website for updates or call 416-392-7161 to hear a recorded message with up-to-date beach water quality results. City beaches are supervised: 11:30am to 6:30pm.
How warm is the water? Here’s a nifty guide to Lake Ontario surface temperature.
Beaches designated as Blue Flag have passed a rigorous, internationally recognized program. They meet strict criteria for water quality, environmental education, environmental management, safety and services. You can check with the Blue Flag website for updates.
And now to the beaches…
Centre Island Beach
Take Centre Island Ferry and follow signs to the beach on the far side of the island.
This is a family-oriented sandy beach, surrounded by trees and tall grasses on the eastern shore of Toronto Island, facing Lake Ontario. There are bike rentals nearby as well as snack concessions, ($8 ice cream bars!) change rooms and lockers. If you’re looking to make an extra special day of it, Centreville Amusement park is right next door. Centre Island is a busy, noisy, crowded beach on the weekend though, so peace-seeking families would do well to look a bit farther west to Gibralter or east to Wards.
Take the Centre Island ferry and follow the signs to Centre Beach, then walk West to Gibraltar.
Gibralter’s is a sweet little stretch of beach tucked between Centre Island and Hanlan’s Point which is, and this important to note, a clothing optional blue flag beach. Your call.
Take the Ward’s Island Ferry – from the landing stage, it’s a short walk across the field and past the café to the beach.
Stroll through Ward’s lovely residential community full of quaint cottage-like houses before settling onto the peaceful, sandy beach or stroll along the boardwalk – it’s a 20 minute walk to Centre Island with more beaches, bike rentals and Centreville. On Ward’s, the Island Café is our first choice for really delicious meals, grown-up drinks, finger food, yummy baked goods and coffee. We love their lush vegetable garden and the laid-back wooden seating on the patio. The re-opening of the Rectory Café was very happy news this summer and has possibly the prettiest patio in the city.
Bottom of Cherry St, Portlands
This picturesque sandy beach in the Toronto Portlands is perfect for families. With nature-filled walking trails, it’s a popular bird-watching spot. There’s a sports field, a playground with a wooden ship and Tommy Thompson Park is nearby. Picnic tables and barbeque pits are on hand and a special TTC bus service is available during the summer season.
Marie Curtis Park
At the foot of 42nd St, south of Lakeshore Rd West
Marie Curtis is a beautiful spot with a fantastic playground and is surrounded by picnic-perfect green space. The park is a 5-10 minute walk from the Aldershot Go Station and a smidge longer from the Long Branch loop of the 501 streetcar.
Bluffer’s Park Beach
Kingston Rd & Brimley, Scarborough
Travel south on Brimley Rd to arrive by car
The 14 kilometers of the Scarbourough Bluffs are a 12,000 year-old geographical wonder. Bluffer’s Park is a sweeping, sandy stretch of beach with picnic areas, walks and lookouts. Change rooms and washrooms are available on site. . The park also features access to the 3.1km Bluffer’s Park Trail, plus there’s a Marina with quaint houseboats and a restaurant. Open everyday from 11am until 9:30pm, the restaurant is a fairly upscale option with a lovely view of the harbour but might not be ideal for sandy-bottomed toddlers. The park is surrounded by residential land so bring your own picnic as you’ll be hard pressed to stock up nearby.
A few cautionary notes… if you are heading to Bluffer’s Beach on a weekend, go early! Once that parking lot is full, you are looking at 30 frustrating minutes circling the street parking drain around Kingston Road and then a 2km walk downhill (that’s uphill on the way home). UPDATE! There is now a TTC shuttle bus on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays every 15 to 20 minutes between 8am & 10pm – thanks to our reader Tracy Forsyth for this great news!
If all else fails, head west to Balmy Beach, Cherry Beach or… Secret Beach. (Hint: park at R.C. Harris)
Kew Balmy Beaches
Lee Ave, S of Queen St East
Head over to The Beach, a 1.2-kilometre swath of sand bordered by stretches of wooden boardwalk and the Martin Goodman Trail. Parking can be a challenge on busy weekends but the 501 streetcar will get you there (eventually). Alternatively, you can pop on the bike trailer and hit the Trail.
Rock stacking, stone-skipping, castle-building, frisbee-flipping, dog-watching and lawn-bowling are just a few of high-tech amusements we suggest. Kew-Balmy is terrific for swimmers and paddlers but there’s a playground with a wading pool in Kew Gardens on the other side of the boardwalk as well. You’ll find washrooms at the western end of Kew Beach and the east end of Balmy Beach. If you’re heading east, keep walking awhile and pay a visit to the architecturally astounding RC Harris Water Treatment. To the west, there’s the iconic Leuty Lifesaving Station completed in 1920. Just past the station, there’s a bright, clean snack bar with gelato (the brownies are nice too) and a food truck with dogs and fries if you haven’t come packing your own picnic.
Woodbine Ave, Lakeshore Blvd East
Woodbine boasts a recently renovated changing station with a patio, change rooms, accessible washrooms, water bottle filling stations and a beach shower along side a large sandy beach with volleyball nets and a playground.
Rouge Park Beach
195 Rouge Hills Dr
A popular sandy beach with wetland marshes for wildlife viewing, walking trails and fishing. On transit? You can take the Go Train to Rouge Station and then walk about ten minutes on the Waterfront Trail or take the 54A Lawrence East Towards Starspray for a quick 2-3 minute stroll to the beach.
South of High Park on Lakeshore Blvd
Sunnyside has a wooden boardwalk, swans to watch, shady trees to picnic beneath, good stones for skipping, and a generous stretch of beach boasting the romantic 1920’s-styled Sunnyside Pavilion as a backdrop. There’s a restaurant in the pavilion and snack bars with ice cream nearby. Both the 504 and 501 Westbound cars will get you to within a short walk over the Gardiner to Sunnyside.