Toronto Beaches

What beaches used to look like in Toronto

Beach culture ain't what it used to be in Toronto. With the advent of air conditioning, the rise of cottage country and the private swimming pool (not to mention the steady degradation of Lake Ontario), it hasn't been necessary to jump in the harbour to cool off in quite some time. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, however, Toronto's beaches were immensely popular destinations when the city was blanketed in heat (as it is right now).

Anchored at various times by Hanlan's Point, Scarboro Beach, and Sunnyside (all of which also served as amusement parks), Toronto's beaches offered residents both a reprieve from the heat and some much-needed entertainment during a time when the city was, well, let's just say, not as vibrant as it is today. Of these, Sunnyside was the most popular, until waning attendance and the birth of the Gardiner Expressway spelled its doom (the Bathing Pavilion still stands, though).

Although almost all of Toronto past beaches remain in some capacity — with the notable exception of Leslie Beach, which was lost to the construction of the spit — few are major draws for locals and tourists nowadays. Once in a while, however, the area around Kew Beach offers a glimpse at just how busy the city's swimming areas used to be.

I'm not sure if it'll make today's heat any more bearable, but here's what Toronto's beach culture used to look like.

1900s

Scarboro Beach bathers

Scarboro Beac Park


Sunnyside

Sunnyside Beach Toronto


Hanlan's Point

Hanlan's Point


Scarboro Beach Water chute

Scarboro Beach Toronto


Scarboro Beach Park

Scarboro beach


1910s

Kew Beach

Kew Beach Toronto


Beachwear at Kew Bathing Station

Kew Beach Toronto 1915


Hanlan's Point

Hanlan's Point


Sunnyside

Sunnyside Beach Toronto


The former layout of Sunnyside Beach (the intersection you see is Queen, King, and Roncesvalles)

Sunnyside Beach Toronto


1920s

Bathing at Centre Island

Centre Island Toronto


Ditto

Centre Island Toronto


Sunnyside

Sunnyside Beach Toronto


Sunnyside Pool

Sunnyside Beach Toronto


More Sunnyside

sunnyside-beach-1920-f1244_it1362.jpg


Dudes showed off their cars at the beach back then, too (Sunnyside)

sunnyside-traffic-1924-f1244_it2530.jpg


1930s

Cherry Beach

Cherry-beach-1932-s0372_ss0001_it1153.jpg


Ditto

cherry-beach-1933-s0071_it9841.jpg


Leslie Beach

Leslie-Beach-1935-s0372_ss0041_it0385.jpg


1940s

Sunnyside pool from the roof of the Bathing Pavilion

sunneyside-pool-beach-1940s-f1257_s1057_it0092.jpg


1950s

Swimming in Toronto Harbour

island-wiley-60s-f0124_fl0001_id0018.jpg


1960s (late)

Toronto Island beach

Island-beach-1970-s1465_fl0330_it0013.jpg


1970s

Island-beach-1970-s1465_fl0330_it0017.jpg

1980s

Olympic Island beach

islands-80s-sunning-f0124_fl0006_id0056.jpg


north-shore-island-1980s-f0124_fl0006_id0042.jpg

See also our Nostalgia Tripping series, which takes longer looks at the following:

All images from the Toronto Archives


Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in City

Ontario extends pandemic emergency orders for two more weeks

This is how to deal with people who refuse to wear face masks in Toronto

People frustrated as Toronto park remains closed months after completion

Today's thunderstorm caused flooding and wind damage all over Toronto

Home Hardware in Toronto comes under fire for All Lives Matter sign

Several power outages reported throughout Toronto following massive storm

Toronto is now under a tornado watch

Sweltering Toronto heat is expected to stick around all summer long