The Toronto Islands or Toronto Island Park is a popular natural attraction accessible from the downtown core of the city of Toronto, Canada and is comprised of several islands, including Ward’s Island, Centre Island and Hanlan’s Point. The massive park is visited by millions of people a year and is also home to a small community of residents. The islands are also home to several attractions for people of all ages and interests. Those who wish to visit the islands can do so by either taking the city run ferries or by taking a water taxi from the city’s waterfront located near Bay St and Queens Quay West. If you are looking for things to do on the Toronto islands, check out our list of some of our favourite attractions.
Things to do on the Toronto Islands
1. Centreville Amusement Park
For over 55 years, Centreville Amusement Park has always been one of the most well-known attractions on Toronto Island. The amusement park is very popular amongst families and offers a variety of fun games and rides like their cars on tracks, mini rollercoasters and the ski-lift that crosses the park. Centreville also offers kiddie golf, an arcade, and a splash pad for those looking to cool down.
2. Hanlan’s Point Beach
In the late 1800s, Hanlan’s Point Beach was originally a popular summer cottage resort. The area was named after the Hanlan Family who became the first to settle in the area in 1862. They turned their home into a hotel in 1870. The hotel became popular and attracted many visitors throughout the summer season before being destroyed in a fire in 1909.
Today, visitors can enjoy volleyball, baseball, tennis, the bike trail, and the beach while visiting this side of the island.
The beach happens to be the most-known attraction in the area as it is one of the few clothing optional beaches in the country. Another being Wreck Beach in Vancouver.
3. Gibraltar Point Lighthouse
The Gibraltar Point Lighthouse is the oldest in the Great Lakes and also one of Toronto’s oldest buildings dating back to the early 1800s. The location of lighthouse moved around from different areas across Ontario before finding its permanent place on the Toronto Islands. Built-in 1808, the lighthouse helped with guiding ships to Toronto’s harbour until its decommission in 1958. It was also used to look out for friendly vessels returning to safe harbour and detect enemy ships during the War of 1812 and the Battle of York in 1813.
Spooky Fact: JP Rademueller (The Lighthouse’s first keeper) murdered two Fort York soldiers in 1815, and his body was never found. It’s being said the ghost of JP Rademueller returns to the island every summer and his howls can be heard throughout the island on hot summer nights.
4. Franklin Children’s Garden
Franklin Children’s Garden sets the stage for interactive learning disguised as play. Here, children can engage in a range of educational delights that are both fun and informative. From vibrant flower beds to thriving vegetable patches, little ones can learn the wonders of horticulture and the importance of environmental sustainability. Based on the characters from the “Franklin the Turtle” books, the garden features educational activities through gardening, storytelling, exploring wildlife, and through sculptures.
5. Far Enough Farm
During the spring and summer months, Far Enough Farm is a petting zoo that features over 40 species of barnyard animals and exotic birds. During the winter season, the animals will be transported north of Toronto and will be cared for at the Beasley Farm in Schomberg.
Fun Fact: The horses on the farm receive training for various competitions.
6. Ward’s Island Beach
Located on the east side of the islands, Ward’s Island Beach is adjacent to the residential section of the Toronto islands and doesn’t see as many visitors as some of the other beaches. Life may not be ordinary for the roughly 650 people who live on the island as there are no stores, cars, or public transportation. However, the boardwalk happens to be popular as it provides a great view of Lake Ontario.
7. Toronto Island Bicycle Rental
Bike rentals aren’t just only available on the mainland throughout the Toronto area. The bike rental station is a 15-minute walk from the Centre Island ferry terminal and offers single and tandem bikes along with two types of awning-covered quadricycles. Bikes can be ridden around every part of the island and even on the docks — except for the quadricycles.
8. William Meany Maze
The original iteration of the hedge maze was built in 1967 to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday. Unfortunately, it was removed in 2011 due to years of neglect. But the maze made its comeback in 2015 and was named after William Meany, who donated $200,000 to have it rebuilt about 10 meters from the original site. Now people of all ages can enjoy getting lost again in this black cedar tree maze.
9. Toronto Island Walking Tours
While visitors have the option to tour the islands on their own, there is also the opportunity to have a customized tour with Toronto Island residents as the tour guide. These tours give visitors a better depth of the island’s history and walkthrough of homes, gardens, green spaces, and historic buildings on Ward’s and Algonquin Islands.
Tours are available for groups of four or more and can be organized via email:
10. Where to eat on the Toronto Islands
There are several good places to eat while visiting the Toronto islands and you should try and visit at least one while you are there. I always love heading to Ward’s Island first and stopping by the Island Cafe which is across from Ward’s Island ferry where you get off. They have a great outdoor space and some simple snacks to get you started on your day. Here are our favourite options for food and good views.
• Island Cafe – Directly across the Ward’s Island ferry dock.
• Rectory Cafe – On Ward’s Island close to the fire station.
• Carousel Cafe – Near Centreville and main pathway through Centre Island from the ferry.
• Centrevilla food court – Inside the Centreville amusement park.
• Toronto Island BBQ and Beer Co. – Next to the Centre Island ferry dock.