The Toronto Islands are fast becoming my favourite escape from the hectic city of Toronto, and kayaking the Toronto Islands is a perfect way to experience them.
I love cities and their liveliness, but another contrasting part of my personality loves nothing more than nature, impressive landscapes and a chilled out, quiet vibe. As I live in downtown Toronto, there’s not much getting away from the constant sound of sirens and glaring city lights – in all honesty, it can all be a bit overwhelming, but not in the sense that I can’t handle it. I’m incredibly accustomed to cities; it’s just that I know how much I love the quiet, nature side of things and how beneficial that is for me (hence my wish to live in Vancouver or a major city on the West Coast of North America, given that it’s the perfect dose of city and nature).
The Toronto Islands are only about a 10 minute ferry ride from the waterfront in Toronto at the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal on Queens Quay West, $7.50 return trip (adult; students and seniors for $5) to any of the three islands serviced: Centre Island (arguably the main one), Ward’s Island and Hanlan’s Point.
I would honestly put the Islands on everybody’s must-do while in Toronto. And as I discovered the other weekend, one of the best things to do is kayaking.
I kid you not: kayaking on the Toronto Islands gives you the best view of the city’s skyline in the whole city.
The Toronto Islands Boat House on Centre Island (I’ve given instructions on how to get there in a little fact box below) doesn’t allow you to into the open water towards Toronto’s waterfront – which was fine by me, as there’s a lot of boat traffic and choppier waters that I’m very happy to avoid – but you can go down the little waterways between the mini islands before they spill out into the open lake. This is where I think the best views of Toronto are; my personal favourite was beside Snake Island – we even saw a mink there, which have apparently recently started inhabiting the island.
If you DO want to kayak on the open lake (please only do this if you’re an experienced kayaker!) there are a few rental places on Toronto’s waterfront.
Before you head out, grab a map (or just look at it at the entrance of the Boat House) so you can figure out where you might want to go. I had a great time just enjoying the views of the low-hanging trees, banks, water and bridges as we paddled along our rough route. It really is incredibly peaceful compared to city life.
A few tips:
- Put the sun screen on! I got an awful t-shirt mark and we were only out there for an hour in the morning. Seriously Toronto, your summers are crazy to this English girl.
- Bring water – it’s thirsty work.
- Make sure your valuables are well stored in a dry place within the kayak – it gets wet so make sure your bag with money, phones, cameras is tucked away. Or use ziploc bags if you want easy access to take pictures (honestly, I didn’t do this as I knew I’d stop paddling/warn my boyfriend to stop when taking a picture so I just kept my phone and camera safe in my bag. It depends how precious you are with your stuff I suppose).
- Watch out for oncoming traffic – there are boat docks (have fun picking out which one you’d like to own if you were rich) and other people in kayaks/canoes so make sure you’re alert and can change direction easily enough
- If you pass the farm, just beware of the smell…
And most of all, have fun and relax!
Ferry location: Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, 9 Queens Quay West.
Ferry timetable: click here – it depends on season and which island, but ferries roughly start from the city at 6:30 am and leave the islands at 11-11:30 pm. They come about every 30-45 minutes.
Ferry prices: check this link as they might change. At the moment (from May 2016) prices are $7.50 adult; $5 student and seniors; junior (2-14) $3.65; infants under 2 go free.
Kayak rental: Toronto Islands Boat House, Centre Island – follow the signs and when you get over the bridge, (some fountain pools and the beach will be ahead of you) turn left down a little pathway where there’s a little building by the water.
Kayak opening time: 11 am. Last rentals are 5pm Mondays-Fridays (summer: June-August); 6pm weekends and holidays (summer); 4pm weekends only (September).
Kayak prices: click here – we got a tandem kayak, $34 for one hour.