Locals head here to birdwatch, spot salmon and photograph butterflies in one of the most superb natural parks in Toronto.
Located just west of downtown Toronto—and easily accessible via public transit—Humber Bay Shores is the place to go if you want to hit refresh and spend some time in nature. The area is abundant in native species, with an incredible mix of wildlife making guest appearances throughout the year.
This part of Toronto also has a storied Indigenous history. For the Anishinaabe people, it was part of an important trade route, with this section of the Humber River acting as a portage route connecting Lake Ontario with the lower parts of Lake Simcoe. It was called "Kabechenong," which translates as "leave the canoes and go back."
Farther north along the Humber River is the Toronto Carrying Place trail, another significant landmark for First Nations people, who used the area as a trade route and as a place for fishing and hunting.
Today the incredibly tranquil Humber Bay Shores is where you can access some of the city’s top wildlife-spotting areas.
Spring bird migration
Each spring millions of birds migrate through Toronto, turning the city into a hub for amateur and professional ornithologists. As the flocks fly north for the summer—some coming from as far south as Argentina—there’s a good chance you’ll have a noteworthy sighting.
Keep an eye open for herons, hummingbirds, orioles and robins, to name but a few. So, pick a perch or hike through the parklands and it shouldn’t be long before you come across some feathered friends—just don’t forget your binoculars and the long lens for your camera.
Summer wildflowers and butterflies
Could you imagine a more bucolic scene than walking through Canadian wildflowers and spotting butterflies? Each summer, the Humber Bay Butterfly Habitat comes out of its winter cocoon and life bursts forth. The open-air habitat is home to a large variety of butterflies: monarchs, viceroys, red admirals and eastern tiger swallowtails. You can discover them all in the different ecosystems you’ll pass through—there’s a short grass prairie, wildflower meadow and a traditional home garden. These vegetation zones offer ample viewing opportunities and support all the life stages of the butterflies.
Fall salmon migration
If you’re in town between early September and November, head to the Humber River to see a renowned Canadian migration. Watch as thousands of salmon swim upstream from Lake Ontario to spawn. At the Old Mill dam, you’ll be able to see the salmon make a spectacular (and hair-raising) metre-and-a-half jump as they continue north.
Dedicated birders who brave the cold will be rewarded with sightings of the endemic species that don’t fly south for the winter. Follow the walking trails through Humber Bay Park East and West and head north along the Humber River to catch sight of different varieties—both elusive and abundant.
Spot the vibrant red foliage of the northern cardinal, the multi-coloured hues of the king eider, or the striking black and white feathers of hooded mergansers. Lucky watchers might also eye a peregrine falcon, American goldfinch or the ubiquitous Canadian geese, all of which are here during the colder months.
Getting to the Humber Bay Shores:
- Take the Line 2 Bloor-Danforth subway to Keele station, then the 80 Queensway bus to the first stop west of crossing the Humber River
- Or take the 501 Queen streetcar to the Lake Shore Boulevard West at Park Lawn Road stop