Heading for the islands
During the summer months, Toronto casts off its stereotypical image of crowded skating rinks, glistening white parks and snow-covered gardens. Everyone is out and about, enjoying the lovely, long sunny days.
Nature-lover at heart, this stay is all about discovering the islands of the Canadian city: an archipelago of around 15 small islands connected to each other by small bridges. It is a world away, yet only ten minutes away, from the city-centre skyscrapers.
Your adventure starts at the Jack Layton Terminal where you step aboard your ferry. You barely have time to realise that you are on the waves of Lake Ontario, when you come face to face with an impressive view of the Toronto skyline. You have three destinations to choose from: Ward's Island, Centre Island and Hanlan's Point.
The charm of Ward's Island
Your Canadian trip starts on Ward's Island. As soon as you step off the ferry, you fall under the charm of its wooden houses, each one prettier than the last. It is a haven of peace for the island's 700 inhabitants who leave this little corner of paradise every day to go and work downtown. The small community has its own fire station, police station and church. However, you have to get about on foot, by bike or electric golf buggy as no cars are allowed.
A wonderful holiday atmosphere reigns over the place. Make time to stop off at the Island Cafe for breakfast or simply an americano coffee and a yummy home-baked muffin. You immediately tune in to the unique spirit of the place. It is, at the same time, a café, a restaurant, a living and meeting space, with a simple, friendly atmosphere. When you see the vegetable garden surrounding the cafe, you will soon understand why people are happy there.
Next up, head to the beach. Lake Ontario looks and feels like the sea: swimming, sailing, kayaking, pedalos and even stand-up paddle-boarding are all possible. There is something for everyone, whether seasoned sporty types or enthusiastic dabblers. Come on in – the temperature of the water hovers around a pleasant 20°C. After your sporty interlude, take well-deserved time-out on the banks of the lake and simply enjoy doing nothing.
20 Withrow Street
Toronto, ON, M5J 2C4
Centre Island – fun and games for all ages
The pace steps up a gear for the rest of the day as you head over to Centre Island and the Centreville Amusement Park – a must-visit attraction if you have kids in tow. If you are on a bike, or tandem if you prefer a two-wheeler for two, it only takes a few minutes to get there on the numerous bridges that connect Toronto's small islands.
In the heart of a lush-green landscape, over 30 different rides await in all sorts of fantastic forms and formats: twirling teacups, the log flume for budding adventurers, bumper cars and even bumper boats for young drivers in search of thrills and spills… There is also a petting farm so that kids can get up close and personal with over 40 different species of animals in their natural environment, including mini-ponies, pigs, donkeys, sheep and exotic birds… This visit also gives farmers and farm hands the chance to gently remind children of the importance of respecting the environment and treating animals properly.
After a restorative nap, jump back on your bike and pedal off to the north of Centre Island. Very soon, Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, dating back to 1808, comes into view. It is the oldest monument in Toronto and a plaque gives you a brief history of the place. It also tells you that some believe the lighthouse is haunted by the spirit of John Paul Radan Muller, its first keeper, who mysteriously disappeared in 1815! From 1832, its lamps were static and fuelled by whale oil, then changed to coal and finally to a rotating electric light in 1917. Pay no heed to the island's ghostly legend, just enjoy the peace and natural surroundings. The area around the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse is now also known as Hanlan's Point, after the Hanlan family that settled here, and whose son Ned (1855–1908) became a famous rower and world sculling champion five years in a row.
Centreville Amusement Park
9 Queens Quay W
Toronto, ON, M5J 2H3
Hanlan's Point and its breathtaking sunsets
As the day draws to an end, go back to Hanlan's Point, the western-most point of the islands. The sunsets from the beach are absolutely amazing. As amateur musicians show off their talents along the coast, you just have to take a few photos to capture the moment, rounding off your magical visit to perfection. You can linger a bit longer by dining at the Toronto Island BBQ & Beer Co., a restaurant with spectacular views of the city. Tomorrow, your trip to Toronto continues and still has plenty of fabulous memories in store for you.
Toronto Island BBQ & Beer Co.
30 Centre Island Park
Toronto, ON, M5J 2E9