Discovering Toronto Island

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Living in the heart of downtown Toronto we are always finding new and greatToronto Island things about the city that are all within walking, boat or streetcar distance from The Boatel. This blog series will be part of an ongoing discovery of all things great about Toronto.

Our first in the series on our discovery train is  a very short version of long and colorful history of the Toronto Island. Best described the Island is an oasis, an escape from the city accessible only by boat, ferry or water taxi across the Toronto Harbour.

Back as early as 1793 the “Island” (althought it was really a peninsula) was a place for wealthy to escape the heat of the new city of Toronto (formerly York). A lighthouse was built in 1808 to guide ships into the harbour. The lighthouse is still there and is a well known landmark on the island. The Island was originally a marshy peninsula until a storm in 1858 created the Eastern Gap turning the peninsula into an island.

In the 1920′s many of Toronto’s wealthy moved to cottage county near Lake Muskoka north of Toronto.  Working modest homes were built on Centre Island and in the 1940 a community sprouted up on Ward’s Island that is still thriving today. In 1954 Hurricane Hazel caused massive flooding resulting in the newly former Metro Toronto government deciding to turn the entire Island in a park. 750 homes were bulldozed but the government found opposition on Wards and Alqonquin Islands. The Islands fought hard to Save the Island Homes and after a 30 year battle the province passed legistation in 1993 preserving the Island community.

Today life on the island is a combination of boating, picnicing, biking, bathing, all living in harmoney with a comunity of summer and year around residents.

We do have our urban beaches in Toronto along the waterfront with sand and beach chairs, but if you want to swim Toronto Island is the place to go.  Along with the public family beaches, there is also a clothing optional beach on the west side of Toronto at Hanlan’s Point. It is one of the few official nude beaches in North America. Just remember to bring the sunscreen!

I would highly recommend purchasing a copy of The Essentail Toronto Island Guide written by two local residents. This guide provides a very detailed and interesting walking tour of the Island. We also recommend a walk along the boardwalk with a stop at Rectory Cafe for lunch or dinner. Returning to the city after dark you are rewarded with a breathtaking picturesque view of Toronto at night.

Ask us for more information to plan your day trip to the Island.

Photo courtesy of Fred Sinclaire

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