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Sports & Play

Toronto Beaches: Hanlan's Point Beach

Posted by Krystyn Tully / July 19, 2012

Hanlan's Point BeachThere are three reasons to go to Hanlan's Point Beach: the sand, the view, and the flesh.

The last reason - nudity - is optional. You don't have to take your clothes off to have a good time. You can remain covered, stick to the "clothing mandatory" end of the beach, and enjoy the dunes and the cityscape in their own right.

That said, Hanlan's Point Beach is most famous for being one of Canada's only two official nude beaches. (Wreck Beach in Vancouver is the other.) Skinny-dipping is the main attraction.

Hanlan's Point BeachSanctioned by the City of Toronto in 1999, Hanlan's Point has always been a place where you can strip down. The Mississauga people first inhabited what are now the Toronto Islands. Historians remarked on their swimming abilities - but not their bathing suits. For the first British immigrants, swimming nude was also the norm. From 1894 to 1930, there were "clothing optional" beaches in Toronto. Near the foot of Dufferin Street and Woodbine Avenue, you could swim nude from 5 pm to 9 am. At Hanlan's Point Beach anyone could be naked, any time.

The beach and other public attractions co-existed for decades. Champion rower Ned Hanlan opened the Hanlan Hotel in the late 1860s, attracting guests, swimmers, and picnickers to the newly-formed islands. An amusement park opened in 1895, followed by Hanlan's Point Stadium in 1897. Minor league baseball club the Toronto Maple Leafs (yes, baseball) played here. On September 5, 1914, Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run. The Leafs, like the amusement park, moved to the mainland in 1927.

Around the time of the Great Depression, bathing suit rules changed all over the world. In Toronto, council shut down nude beaches, but relaxed bathing suit rules at other public beaches. Bathers needed to wear "proper" suits and "prevent indecent exposure", but were no longer required to cover themselves neck-to-knees. Attitudes towards baring flesh - in any amount - shifted like beach sand, one day tilting liberal and the next extremely conservative. In 1930, police charged one Toronto resident with indecent exposure for taking off a shirt, at home, in front of a window. His name was John Pleury, and he was 70-years old.

Hanlan's Point BeachAfter the amusement park left, Hanlan's Point Beach languished. The gay community embraced the beach, but few other swimmers made the trip to the island. Those who did often preserved the tradition of the "old-time plunge", though no longer legal. In 1999, pressure from the public convinced Toronto city council to pass a by-law authorizing a "clothing optional" section on Hanlan's Beach. Toronto's nude beach was (re)born.

For the first few years after the new by-law, political will clashed with law enforcement at Hanlan's Point Beach. Sunbathers could stroll around Hanlan's beach fully nude without a problem. The moment they entered the water, however, police issued tickets to swimmers for violating an old Harbour Commissioners rule. At one time, police begged parks officials to remove the bushes and trees that separate dunes from land, exposing the beach to discourage nudism. Parks officials refused, noting that the plant life keeps the islands from being washed into Lake Ontario. After a few rocky years, police moved on and Hanlan's was fully accepted as a clothing-optional destination.

Hanlan's Point BeachThose controversial sand dunes make Hanlan's Beach. They create a secluded atmosphere, and they also create a fantastic beach. Like at Gibraltar Point, you'll find soft sand and virtually no rocks. To preserve the dunes, and the islands themselves, stay on the designated paths and do not join the ranks of people who take shortcuts through the bushes. Every footstep off the path shortens the beach's life.

The view offshore is at least as noteworthy as the view onshore. Hanlan's Point Beach is the only west-facing beach in Toronto, making it the single best place to watch the sun set over water and skyline. In years when there are fireworks at Sunnyside Beach, Hanlan's provides a place to watch them free from traffic jams. Likewise, it is one of the best places to watch the Canadian International Airshow over the Labour Day weekend.

For an in-depth history of nude beaches in Toronto, see Peter Simms' work. For a lighter take on Hanlan's, check out our old GTA Tripping post here.

hanlans point beachTHE SKINNY

Number of days closed due to water quality problems since June 1 2011: 2

Sand quality: Perfect sand dunes

Trails: Walking paths connect you to all corners of the Toronto Islands

On-site facilities: Washrooms nearby

To get to the Island: Hanlan's Point Ferry from foot of Bay Street or Water Taxi from foot of York Street

People watching potential (out of 3): 3 (they're naked!)

Aggressiveness of seagulls and geese (out of 3): 1/2 (there are hardly any)

MAP

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 karin!, alison*h, the Toronto Archives, Tom Podolec and nakedplaces.net on Flickr.

Discussion

17 Comments

Pk / July 19, 2012 at 04:28 pm
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Love the Point.

Not to split hairs, but straying from the paths and trekking into the bushes is the main reason most people go.

If you know what I mean.
canmark / July 19, 2012 at 04:44 pm
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Hanlan's Point Beach is a good place to watch the CNE Air Show. As the planes fly parallel to the shore in front of the CNE/Ontario Place, they fly right over the beach. Also, you can see some of the planes taking off and landing at the island airport.
Woogie replying to a comment from Pk / July 19, 2012 at 04:56 pm
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Yes, we do.

Hanlans Point....Torontos Truck Stop.
Beaadve / July 20, 2012 at 08:07 am
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I like this beach but I only have issues when people play loud music over there. It is quite annoying. I go there because I want to enjoy the nature not the crap loud music!
Paul replying to a comment from Woogie / July 20, 2012 at 10:09 am
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... kinda hot.
JACKINIT / July 23, 2012 at 07:31 pm
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IM HEADING DOWN TO THE BEACH AND IM GETTING NAKED, ITS A GOOD PLACE FOR A WEINIE WATCH
douglas donaldson / December 26, 2012 at 04:58 pm
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Just learned about Hanlons Pointe I'm in michigan dearborn heights, and I found out about this beach. And i would like to take a trip to there,and i plan to this summer.
Ruben / April 8, 2013 at 04:35 pm
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if at least there were no-pictures signs more people would be naked. I personally feel unconfortable being naked when others are pointing at me with their cells.
Robert / May 5, 2013 at 04:22 pm
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Are there children aloud in the beach? I want too bring my 13 year old son.
rita / May 20, 2013 at 05:09 pm
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Fond memories of this beach in the 60s, is there anywhere trans friendly there, would love to work on my tan lines for Pride?
Khristopher replying to a comment from Robert / May 28, 2013 at 11:57 pm
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No age restriction.
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It's going to be end of mine day, but before finish I am reading this fantastic article to improve my know-how.
Rox replying to a comment from Pk / July 23, 2013 at 08:25 pm
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Are you saying that ppl go into the bushes to "play"?
Is it allowed, illegal??
ck / August 22, 2013 at 09:11 pm
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first time being there last sat. (aug 17) great expierence. i was actually thanked by someone for "getting naked" kind of hard to tell who is gay and who is nudist. i would like to chat more about this.
2 days diet / November 15, 2013 at 08:18 pm
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nakedman / February 20, 2014 at 10:48 pm
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Can't wait for summer. Im gonna hangout in the buff all summer hope to see the ladies down there.
james replying to a comment from Robert / August 27, 2014 at 10:38 am
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kids are aloud on the beach

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