Across the water of lake Ontario I see the massive skyscrapers of downtown Toronto, and yet, I feel like I’m on a deserted island. My first visit was in the colder months when no one other than the residents of the islands are here. For this reason, it gave off an eerie feel, almost like I had stepped into a place where life once existed, but no longer.
The houses seem so quaint, and the surroundings made me feel like this had all been built as part of a movie set, because it all looks so perfect. There is also a noticable lack of automobiles here. This is in fact North America’s largest car free urban community.
While the rest of Toronto head to and from work via the congested streetcars and subways, residents of the islands are catching the ferry home. Once they are dropped off, they simply hop on their bicycles and ride home, without any fear of being hit by a car. They are no doubt looking back across lake Ontario in pity, feeling sorry for the rest of us who have to take part in the daily rat race. Or maybe they are enjoying the peace and quiet too much to even care.
The residential part of the islands are situated predominatly on the eastern side (Wards Island). As a traveller, if you are wanting to visit the islands, you are most likely going to want to visit Centre Island. Although you can walk there from Wards Island, you are better off taking the Centre Island ferry. In the colder months, out of the 3 ferries, only Wards Island operates.
In the summertime the ferries transport hundreds of people per trip to Centre Island. It will cost $7 for a return trip and takes around 10 minutes. During this period of the year however, Centre Island looks anything but deserted.
There are several beaches on the islands, with the main ones being Wards Island beach, Centre Island beach and Hanlan’s Point Beach. The latter has a clothing optional section, so if you fancy letting it all show, then you can get there by taking the third ferry (Hanlan’s Point Ferry).
Centre Island also plays host to Centreville. This is a children’s amusement park, so maybe not very interesting for anyone reading this (unless you have kids of course). However, I remember thinking to myself, that if my nephews were in Toronto, this is exactly where I would want to take them. It was really cool to walk through this park, as the setup is pretty awesome, and reminded me of illustrations you would find in a children’s story book.
If the beach is not your thing, there are restuarants and cafes around, or better yet find a nice patch of grass for a picnic overlooking a sweet view of the Toronto skyline. There is also boat rentals allowing you to roam around lake Ontario and bike rentals for exploring the islands.
There is a lot to see and do in Toronto, but if you are here when it’s warm and have the time, this is definitely worth the visit. In a city which is becoming more and more urbanised, the Islands are a welcome relief.