If you go to Toronto you have to visit Toronto Islands - the views you get of Toronto are absolutely fabulous!
The islands themselves are beautiful - quaint we would say in the UK! - it feels safe, and is like stepping back in time as there are no cars allowed on the islands.
We walked along the boardwalk to central island which was a lovely walk, but we were lucky as the weather on the day we went it was warm with glorious sunshine.
You can walk quite safely all around the islands but just to be warned it can be quite far to get from one island to the other - and out of season the ferry only opperates to one of the islands and the bike hire place on central island isn't open out of season.
A visit to this city is incomplete without visiting the islands once.
In my opinion, just being on an island, makes all the difference. It has the effect of relaxing one. It is as if your troubles are left somewhere else.
What I love the most, is that there is something for everyone. There is a theme park. Rides cater for those who want excitement or something more mundane. There are beautiful parks to walk. It is also a wonderful place for picnics.
The ferry to the island leaves every 15 minutes from Bay St. and Queens Quay by Harbourfront which is just south of Union Station.
The Canadian natural water system, the St Lawrence River, Ottawa River and the Lakes were largely responsible for the exploration and development of South East Canada.
We had the opportunity to take a few hours on Lake Ontario, cruise past some of the islands including Muggs Island, Olympic Island, South Island, Snake Island Park and Algonquin Island Park.
Centre Island is Toronto's getaway, a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city without having to drive for hours. Access to the island is through the ferry or private boat.
During winter Lake Ontario frezees over the icebreaker ferry maintains the service from Toronto to the islands.
Walking on the pedestrian path from the dock to the beach turned out to be a pleasant experience. The island is lush with foliage. Flowers of all kind bloom in the arranged patterns in the beds and in the giant pots. These pots are placed on the pedestrian path itself. We were able to see CN Tower from every nook and corner of the Island.
The Island is a haven for roller skaters and they visit it in droves to skate on the pedesrian path itself.
Our trip to the Island in August 2002 was under a scorching sun so much so that we had to cut the hike short and run for the beach. The trip in June 2005 was under a warm weather and by evening it had become quite humid. The trip in June 2006 was in nippy conditions. Few of us were prepared for that. Yet we enjoyed it purely because we had awesome company.
After exhausting themselves playing soccer and cricket on the lawns, the children entered the amusement park (2006). In our 2002 visit, none of the children with us were able to qualify for the rides where there is a height restriction of 4 feets. Visit in the year 2006 was in nippy conditions with only 1 child of 2 years not qualifying for any rides without company.
The Park has about 30 rides for young children only, carnival style activities, and about 15 food outlets.
During the visit in June 2005, the younger lot in our entourage enjoyed train rides, sailing swans and Kermitt Froggs Bouncing Bog. In the far corner of the Park there is a petting farm for which reason you will keep a sanitizer handy.
2006 ticket prices range from CAD 23.00 for the day for all ages above 4 feet tall to CAD 16.50 for those under 4 feet tall. There are discounts for senior citizens and students. It is better to pay for tickets ride by ride, because we found that young children tend to get bored after 2 hours.
We had a picnic that we would like to classify as a bit off the beaten path. We selected the benches right by the creek through which many ferries were sailing by. Each ferry was beautiful and was different from the other.
We had the constant company of boistrous seagulls on the land and quitely swimming ducks, geese, and swans in the water expecting morsels from the children.
The green lawns were open and children and adults alike were able to play touch football, cricket and soccer.
Taking a ferry to the Centre Island in itself is a great enjoyment. The ferries sail from Queen's Quay.
We parked our cars in the parking lot located on the East side of the building at a distance of about 1 km. Parking fee was a reasonable CAD 10.00 flat. Walking towards the building to board the ferry is a pleasant walk. However, the return, usually in the late evenings, is always under nippy conditions.
Once inside the dock, we waited for the ferry to arrive. Ferries ply at 30 minutes interval and there is nothing to do in the docking area except sit on the benches and wait.
Since it was day time while sailing towards the Island, we were able to go on the top deck and take lot of pictures, including those with Toronto skyline in the background. However, while returning in the late evening, it turned quite chilly (June 2005 and June 2006). We opted for lower covered deck.
There is a beach, amusement park, zoo, bike ramp, bike trails, bird sanctuary, and marina.
There is always a party going on. Concerts and festivals are held here and there are quite a few clubs. You also have party boats that will either dock or cruise around the islands.
Last boat leaves at 11pm after that you will have to take a water taxi to get back to mainland.
Just a short ferry ride away from downtown Toronto, you will find several small islands that provide a quiet, relaxing, walk (or bike ride) away from the city, but with the best view of the skyline that you can get.
There are ferries to Hanlan's Point, Centre Island and Ward's Island daily, although be sure to check the schedules (website below) as there are 4 different ones, one for each season. In winter, for instance (when we went), there is no service to Centre Island and only 4 daily to Hanlan's.
I was told there is the possibility of renting bikes, although it seems not to be the case during the winter. Please also take in mind that there is NOTHING open at that time of year. Do bring own food, drinks as the restaurants and shops (not that I saw them at all) are closed.
It is also quite important that the weather is nice as it was very windy when we went and that made it a bit more difficult to enjoy the experience.
The skyline viewed from the island is absolutely wonderful and it is so quiet. You will also find many squirrels and birds, which makes for some nice pictures. Fall/Winter also has its charms: look at the foliage colours on the picture.
The ferry ride is about 6 CAD each (Sudents and Seniors 3.5 CAD) and takes less than 30 min.
The website also provides good information on how to arrive to the City Docks.
While this is not really off the beaten path, most Torontonian's probably haven't been to the Toronto Islands in a looooong time.
A 10 mins ferry ride from the Harbourfront to Toronto Island lands you amongst a hidden gem of the city.
The island ferry cost around 6 dollars (cash only) and leaves the bass of Bay and Queen's Quay every 45 mins or so. You can even bring your bike with you at no additional cost.
Once on the island you can do a couple things such as go the petty zoo, walk around the rides (for kids) or just sit at a beer garden and get trashed and stab things.
Take the time to wander around the islands (there are 3 or so) by bike, or on foot and check out the few beaches (one of them is clothing optional! WOO!). On the western end of the islands are a few homes - holy crap. I'd love to live here.
If you want a quick ride around the islands, the harbourfront also has boat tours that take you within the island group for a lazy jaunt.
Toronto Island - Where pants! (that's the offical moto I just made up).