Toronto beaches: Bluffer's Park
Bluffer's Beach is perhaps the most beautiful beach in Toronto. Nestled at the foot of the Scarborough Bluffs in the city's east end, Bluffer's is a rare man-made park that still succeeds in feeling wild and timeless.
If you're searching for a large sandy beach, where sand — not rock — greets your feet as they enter the water, and which feels isolated while being easily accessible, then the beach at Bluffer's Park is for you.
One of the beach's main attractions is the Scarborough Bluffs that surround it. These towering 20-story white cliffs cover 20-kilometres of Toronto's eastern waterfront, and make for a striking contrast when paired with Lake Ontario's shining blue waters.
Formed over the course of the last 100,000 years, the bluffs are always changing. Unprotected, they erode quickly, at a rate of about 1-metre per year, and this erosion is powerful. In fact, sand from the bluffs formed the Toronto Islands.
It washed away from cliff tops to form the jagged spikes of the Cathedral Bluffs that overlook the beach, and if you put your ear right up to the bluff wall, you might even hear the sand shifting at the base of the bluffs.
You can access Bluffer's by transit or bike, but remember that you are descending down to the bottom of the bluffs. It is nearly two-kilometres from the bus stop to the heart of the beach and it is uphill all the way, so don't exhaust yourself in the water. Most people choose to cover the windy stretch of Brimley Road that leads to Bluffer's by car.
Once you get to the park, head to the very eastern edge to access the large supervised beach. This is one of the city's better beaches for those who are usually uncomfortable with lake swimming, as it's not rocky, the water quality is good, and it's shallower than most other city beaches.
There are a few areas in Bluffer's Park that are well-suited to swimming, but others sometimes suffer from poor water quality. Bluffer's Beach once had some of the poorest water quality in Toronto.
After a 2006 study by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and investment in restoration from the City of Toronto, water quality improved dramatically. For safety's sake, stick to the main beach, which has only failed daily water quality tests three times in the last year.
If swimming isn't your thing, don't despair, there's a lot to do at Bluffer's. You can fish from the shore or charter a fishing guide who will take you out on the water in search of sport fish.
The park itself is huge, and makes for a great spot to enjoy a picnic. If you didn't pack a lunch, there is a full service restaurant and bar at Bluffer's Park Marina.
A series of stormwater management ponds that are prettier than they sound dominate the west end of Bluffer's Park. These ponds capture stormwater from the city above and filter it in an effort to keep pollution out of Lake Ontario.
As you walk the interconnected boardwalks around the ponds, you often catch glimpses of birds and other wildlife. While some people fish here, you are better off casting your line into the cleaner waters of open Lake Ontario.
Built in 1975, Bluffer's is a magical place. Being Toronto's most appealing beach, and boasting tens of thousands of years of earth history in the bluffs, you have to visit at least once to truly know this city.
Number of days closed due to water quality problems since June 1 2011: 3
Sand quality: Very sandy
Nearby trails: Walking paths and trails line the bluffs if you know where to look
On-site facilities: Restaurant, Marina, Boat Launch
Directions by car: Pay parking at the foot of Brimley Road.
By TTC: 12 Kingston Road Bus to Brimley Road, then walk down the hill (and back out when you have to leave!)
Other perks: You can ride your bike up and down Brimley Road and pretend you're in the Tour de France
People watching potential (out of 3): 1 (This ain't no Woodbine)
Aggressiveness of seagulls and geese (out of 3): Birds are most pesky near the picnic area, but due to the bird relocation program, there aren't many to bother you right now.
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 Irina No