Ferry Boat: Foot of Bay Street
1858, when the peninsula separated from
mainland to become the main island
The legendary baseball player Babe Ruth, hit his first major league home run at Toronto’s baseball stadium, originally located on the Toronto Islands.
Full View of the City
For Torontonians and visitors alike, Toronto Islands is the place
to go, especially on a hot summer day. Where else can you enjoy
a ferry ride on the lake, ride your bike, go for a picnic, play on the
beach, swim, watch fireworks, see an incredible view of Toronto’s
skyline and even visit Toronto’s only official nude beach. With
more than 2 million visitors each year, Toronto Islands, a chain
of 15 islands, is one of the city’s favourite go to place.
Not Always Islands
The Toronto Islands once was a series of floating sandbars
carried westward from the Scarborough Bluffs by currents in
Lake Ontario. One of the sandbars grew to be over 5 miles long.
Early settlers named it “Island of Hiawatha”, even though it was
still connected to the mainland. There was a hotel that opened
in 1833 to accommodate tourists during the summer to swim,
fish and picnic, and ice fish in winter. Today you can still walk
part of the route, following the boardwalk on Centre Island to
the original Gibraltar Point Lighthouse.
In 1852 a storm flooded sand pits on the peninsula, to the west
became known as today’s Toronto Islands. When Canada was
formed in 1867, the islands were transferred to the City of
Toronto, which divided the land into lots and allowed cottages,
amusement areas and resort hotels to be built.
Centre, Ward’s and Hanlan’s Point
There are 3 main islands, the largest island being Centre Island.
The second largest, Ward’s Island, named after a local fisherman,
David Ward, who settled there in 1830 and raised 7 children on
the then-peninsula. The smallest of the three, Hanlan’s Point,
was named for the first year-round residents, the Hanlan family,
which settled on Gibraltar Point in 1862.
Hanlan’s Point became the “Coney Island of Canada” – a kind
of summer suburb of the city in the late 1800s, with many small
cottages as well as large Victorian summer homes. To amuse
its many summer guests, Hanlan’s Point hosted a vaudeville
theatre, dance halls, a large amusement park, and a baseball
and lacrosse stadium until the Island Airport was opened on
the site in 1939.
Island Life all year round
The millions of visitors each year to the islands continue to enjoy
family fun on Centre Island where there’s an old-fashioned
amusement park and fabulous maze. School groups attend a
week-long camp at the Island Science School, and those who
enjoy birds and wildlife can get a rich experience finding many
species that thrive on the island. Ward’s Island is still an idyllic
residential community and Hanlan’s point is now home to the
Billy Bishop Airport.
When the harbour freezes in the winter, many residents lace up
their skates and cross on the ice! The city also has an urban ice
breaker ferry, the William Lyon Mackenzie, that cuts through
the frozen waters.
Travelling to the Islands: Historic Island Ferry Boats
The ferries that take the 10 minute trip to the Toronto Islands year
round continue to remind us of their historic connection to Toronto’s
past. In the early days, horse-powered ferries carried folks across the
harbour; followed by a variety of paddle steamers. Today, trips to the
island are made via diesel boats built between 1935 and 1960. In fact,
one of the early ferries, the 103-year old Trillium, still does the run
across the harbour to this day – giving travellers a superb view of the