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Sports & Play

Toronto beach profiles: Woodbine

Posted by Guest Contributor / June 21, 2012

Woodbine Beach TorontoWoodbine Beach in Toronto just pulses on hot summer days. The curve of sand that links Lake Ontario to Ashbridge's Bay Park is packed with warm bodies gleaming under the blazing sun. This is a place that's open, gregarious, and undeniably alive.

The beach sits at the foot of Woodbine Avenue, where storms, wind, and time have pulled sand from the face of the Scaborough Bluffs until it finally comes to rest in the half-moon curve of Ashbridge's Bay Park. Woodbine is the gateway to three kilometres of glorious, sandy waterfront stretching eastward to the art deco palace that is the R.C. Harris Water Filtration Plant.

Woodbine BeachThe first thing you notice when you approach Woodbine is the people. This has been a meeting place for at least a century. Once a cottage community with a similar vibe to the Toronto Islands, Woodbine Beach became a popular escape from the muggy heat of downtown and other land-locked neighbourhoods. During special events, like the annual Victoria Day fireworks celebration, tens of thousands of Torontonians flock to Woodbine Beach.

Woodbine BeachOn any given summer weekend, the 92 Woodbine bus and the 501 Queen streetcar are packed with people making the trip to what is arguably the city's most popular beach. Cyclists speed to the area along the Martin Goodman Trail. The parking lots at Ashbridges Bay Park fill up by 10 a.m.

Woodbine BeachIt's also a busy place on weeknights. There are over 90 beach volleyball courts here, most of which are owned by the Ontario Volleyball Association, but a handful of which are designated for public use. Even if you don't want to shell out for a membership, on weekday afternoons, you'll never have trouble finding a court. For the more adventurous, the Donald D. Summerville Outdoor Olympic Pool complex lets you dive from a 5-metre board into the Olympic-size pool. The beach is large enough to accommodate groups of people playing DIY beach sports, like badminton, frisbee, and soccer.

Woodbine BeachYou can swim at Woodbine Beach, of course. That's part of the allure. There's a ribbon of smooth rocks just under the water, but it fades out after a few feet and your toes sink into the dust of the Scarborough Bluffs. There are lifeguards, too. Stick close to their towers and you'll find the sandiest spots on the beach. Water quality is pretty good, rarely failing to meet Ontario water quality standards. The Blue Flags folks like Woodbine Beach so much that they've awarded it the international eco-label for maintaining quality, safety, and community engagement every year since 2005.

If there is a flaw in Woodbine Beach's shiny veneer, it's the periodic smell from the nearby sewage treatment plant. When the wind is blowing the wrong way, the big old plant makes its presence known with a cauliflower scent that's anything but commensurate with the rest of the atmosphere. An odour elimination filter is supposed to be up and running by 2019.

Woodbine BeachAnother drawback is the lack of rental options for key beach items like umbrellas or even bikes (how good would a couple of BIXI stands be here?). In the absence of a beach shop, you have to bring everything you need with you.

These faults aside, the sights, the sounds, and the spirit of Woodbine Beach make it the city's most dynamic playground. If you have never been to the beach before or if you doubt Toronto's street credit as a waterfront town, this should be your first destination.


Water quality rating: Blue Flag

Number of days closed due to water quality problems since June 2011: 0

Lifeguards? Yes

Sand quality: Fine, soft sand with occasional medium-sized smooth rock

Nearby trails: Boardwalk & Martin Goodman Trail

On-site facilities: Snack bar, washrooms, bathing station

Transit: Woodbine 92 Bus, 501 Queen Streetcar. Lot and nearby street parking available, but come early.

Other perks: Off-leash dog park immediately to the east

People watching potential (out of 3): 3

Aggressiveness of seagulls and geese (out of 3): 1 (unless you're near the snack bar!)


Krystyn Tully is the co-founder of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, a Toronto-based charity working for a Lake Ontario in which you can swim, drink, and fish. Check out her Swim Guide smartphone app for more info about beaches in Toronto and beyond.

Photos by Scott Snider



cosmosuave / June 21, 2012 at 10:23 am
To all you smokers the beach is not a giant ash tray just so you know... The amount of butts I saw on Sunday was atrocious and I'm not talking the human kind...
Fred / June 21, 2012 at 10:55 am
Woodbine is, bar none, the city's best beach. Best time to go is at sunset on hot weekdays. Such energy and calm somehow all at once.
wtfskies replying to a comment from cosmosuave / June 21, 2012 at 11:23 am
relax babycakes. the world is an ashtray.
Myles / June 21, 2012 at 12:26 pm
"Cauliflower scent" - that is probably the grossest way you could have described the smell.

This city is made about 3000% better on account of its beaches.
Alex / June 21, 2012 at 12:35 pm
Does anyone know if you are allowed to barbeque on the beach? I never see people doing it, but last time we went there and did it cops that walked around didn't care. I assumed it was legal, but wanted to check to see if anyone has been hassled about it.
Paul / June 21, 2012 at 01:01 pm
Bixi would be good. I see quite a few of them at Ashbridges, and I'm always tempted to ask if the users really know how it works here.
Rob / June 21, 2012 at 01:14 pm
Sand quality: Fine, soft sand with occasional medium-sized smooth rock and buried razor blades mounted on wood chunks.
Akshay / June 21, 2012 at 01:27 pm
I just can't go to Woodbine anymore, a week in Barcelona and things will never be the same...ahh real beaches
Pk replying to a comment from Akshay / June 21, 2012 at 01:32 pm
win/win, then.
Security Window Film / June 21, 2012 at 02:27 pm
With the crazy heat we've had here in TO this week Woodbine beach looks pretty damn good right now
bob / June 21, 2012 at 02:37 pm
Woodbine beach is okay, but the best beach in Toronto is on Ward's Island. Or, if you are on the mainland, head 10 minutes east of Woodbine to Bluffer's for a truly amazing beach that doesn't smell like sewage....
Recycle Stuff / June 21, 2012 at 03:10 pm
Heat wave is on the peak and now is a good time to spend near shores. Planning to go there this weekend!!
Beachy Keen / June 21, 2012 at 04:47 pm
All of Toronto's eight Blue Flag beaches are great! They exceed national and provincial standards for water quality and are kept clean and safe. We have an amazing resource here.
Jay / June 21, 2012 at 06:55 pm
@ Alex - I'm pretty sure you can BBQ at woodbine beach on a small BBQ like a hibatchi in the deignated areas. They are located along the beach on the grassy side. At least I see people doing it every weekend. You cannot BBQ on the sand. Also, you cannot build a fire of any kind. Toronto has a bylaw regarding open flames.
Bob / June 21, 2012 at 10:32 pm
Sigh. The quality of editing on this site gets worse and worse. From the FIRST LINE "Woodbine Beach in Toronto just pulses on hot summer days."
Pulses is the plural of pulse. It's a noun. Not a verb. The word the writer was looking for, and that her editor should've offered, is 'pulsates.'
the lemur replying to a comment from Bob / June 22, 2012 at 08:01 am
Actually pulse is a verb; you just can't use it exactly the same way as pulsate in all senses:
pc / June 22, 2012 at 09:17 am
There is an undertow at woodbine beach. Just west of the Donald D Summerville Olympic pool.
bib / August 4, 2012 at 10:36 pm
are there speed boat rentals at the beach, if so pls inform price range
Pamela / August 30, 2012 at 07:27 pm
I have never been to woodbine beach and am planning on going tomorrow was wondering is there a cost to get into the beach and how much would it be also is it close to the CNE as my kids are going so I thought I would park in a near by parking lot and then walk to the beaxh but I am not sure the distance can anyone help me please
Greg replying to a comment from Pamela / August 30, 2012 at 08:11 pm
While there is no cost to go to Woodbine Beach, it is completely on the other side of town from the CNE - not anywhere close.
Pitney Bowes Frankiermaschinen / May 18, 2013 at 11:02 am
Heya i am for the first time here. I found this
board and I find It truly useful & it helped me out a
lot. I hope to give something back and help others like you helped
Ron / July 16, 2013 at 07:40 pm
I am doing a swimsuit photo session in Toronto with several models. Does the sunset behind the water at Woodbine beach?

At sunset during weekdays is it busy at this beach?

Ron / July 16, 2013 at 07:43 pm
Any models that would like to join the swimsuit free photo session please let me know. Ron Keneske photographer/model scout who discovered Super star Canadian model Linda Evangelista.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Ron / July 16, 2013 at 08:38 pm
HAHAHA!! Good one!
sue Nelson / August 7, 2013 at 12:50 pm
Ron, "does the sun set behind the water"? last time i checked the sun still sets in the west.
Mel / October 8, 2014 at 12:29 pm
I'm not sure exactly why but this site is loading
very slow for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a issue on my end?
I'll check back later and see if the problem still exists.
John Helfrich / February 13, 2015 at 09:17 pm
Re: "Another drawback is the lack of rental options for key beach items like umbrellas or even bikes"... Finally! There's a place that rents/sells all of the above. Beach Toyz at Queen and Woodbine - but only open from May 1 to Labour Day.
Beachbum / August 2, 2015 at 09:30 am
The reason there are no rental stands is that someone negatioated a deal where the owner of the restaurant at the beach has the rights to all sales there so no one else can sell anything, not a hat, a t shirt, and umbrella, nothing.
U.S. visitor / September 7, 2015 at 11:31 pm
I visited the beach on Sunday and was very disappointed. The beach I was on was filled with stones and feathers. Went I got into the water there must have been 15 feet of boulders before you could feel sand.
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