Only a quick 10-minute ferry ride from downtown Toronto, visiting the Toronto Islands tops many to-do lists in the summer. But many people (locals included) don't realize that the Toronto Islands also make for a great winter excursion, especially if you love outdoor activities.
Just a stone’s throw from the downtown core, it is a uniquely peaceful destination in the winter as the usual crowds become non-existent. Outdoor enthusiasts will love it in the winter when they can partake in activities usually only available outside the city.
Below are some ways to enjoy the Toronto Islands in the winter.
Go cross-country skiing
The Toronto Islands are great for cross-country skiing with its wide open spaces and flat terrain. Right off the ferry dock, you can head west 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 cross-country skiing isn’t of interest, opt to go snowshoeing instead. You can follow the same trails, but snowshoeing will allow you to venture off the trail and explore more of the island.
Feeling ambitious? Make the 5km trek to Hanlan's Point, the Toronto Islands’ most westerly point.
Go ice skating (where it’s safe)
A cool feature of the Toronto Islands is that the waterways and lagoons between the islands freeze during winter, creating natural skating rinks.
You’ll regularly see the locals (about 250 people who live on the islands year-round) playing shinny games on the frozen waters.
Note: we strongly recommend you take caution when ice skating on frozen waterways and only go on the ice when it is guaranteed safe.
See also: Ice Skating in Toronto
Photography opportunities on the Toronto Islands
You don’t have to burn calories to enjoy a winter day on the Toronto Islands. If you’re into photography, you’ll find many 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 even the iconic Toronto skyline, all make for beautiful photo moments.
See also: Best Places to Take Photos in Toronto
Tips for visiting Toronto Islands in winter
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 near the Ward's Island ferry dock. Also, make sure to pack some food and water, as none of the restaurants or cafés are open during the winter season.
When waiting for the ferry, there is a warming shelter on the Ward's Island ferry dock.