Only a quick 10-minute ferry ride from downtown Toronto, visiting the Toronto Islands tops many to-do lists in the summer. Even locals don’t realize that the Toronto Islands also make for a great winter excursion, especially if you love outdoor activities. It is a uniquely peaceful destination in the winter as the usual crowds become non-existent, just a stone’s throw from the downtown core. Outdoor enthusiasts will love it in the winter when they can partake in a number of activities usually only available outside of the city. Below are some ways that you can enjoy the Toronto Islands in the winter.
With its wide open spaces and flat terrain, the Toronto Islands are a great spot to go cross-country skiing. Right off the ferry dock, you can head west all the way to Centre Island passing through the disc-golf course, St. Andrew-By-the-Lake Anglican Church, the Royal Canadian Yacht Club and the Centreville Amusement Park (eerily silent for the winter season and fun to walk around). If you don’t own a pair of cross-country skis, you can rent them from Mountain Equipment Co-Op in the city and bring them over on the ferry with you.
If you prefer snowshoeing instead, you can venture off trail and explore more of the island. Make the 5km trek over to Hanlan’s Point, the Toronto Islands’ most westerly point. If you don’t own a pair, snowshoes can also be rented from Mountain Equipment Co-Op.
A really cool feature of the Toronto Islands is that during the winter, the waterways and lagoons between the islands freeze over, creating natural skating rinks. You’ll regularly see the locals (there’s about 250 people who live on the islands year-round) playing games of shinny on the frozen waters. Note: Please take caution when ice skating on frozen waterways and only go on the ice when it is clearly safe to do so.
You don’t have to be burning calories to enjoy a day on the Toronto Islands in the winter. If you’re into photography, you’ll find lots of picture-worthy spots especially after a fresh dusting of snow. From the 200-year-old Gibraltar Point Lighthouse to the frozen lagoons, the ice-covered shoreline and the iconic Toronto skyline all make for beautiful photo moments.
Know Before You Go:
Only the Ward’s Island ferry operates during the winter season. This ferry will take you to the eastern part of the islands and from there you can walk or bring your bike to get around. There are no bike rentals available on the island. The only public washrooms open on the Toronto Islands in the winter months are found near the Ward’s Island ferry dock. Also, make sure to pack some food and water as none of the restaurants or cafes are operational during the winter season. When waiting for the ferry, there is now a warming shelter on the Ward’s Island ferry dock.
All photos by Arienne Parzei.