toronto islands

10 things you might not know about the Toronto Islands

The Toronto Islands are at the forefront of our urban mythology. They're an almost magical place that remain serene even as the mainland is developed at a dizzying pace. As such, many Toronto residents know a fair bit about them. It's not news that they used to be a peninsula, for instance, or that Hanlan's Point is a clothing optional beach. But, there are quirky facts and storied hiding here.

Here are 10 things you might not know about the Toronto Islands.

1. At their closest point -- the Western Gap -- the Islands are only separated from the mainland by just over 100 metres. That's about a two minute swim for the average individual, though you wouldn't want to try that for fear of getting clocked by the heavy marine traffic.

2. The first Island ferries were powered by horses, and began making the trip across the harbour in 1833.

3. Construction on a tunnel to the Island was first started in 1935, but the project was ultimately killed when federal funds dried up and the work completed to that point was filled in.

4. You can camp on Snake Island but only if you're a Boy Scout or Girl Guide. On occasion, provisions are also made for other youth and community groups.

5. There's a stand of radio towers near the Water Treatment Plant that still broadcast the signal for CHIN's 1540 AM station.

6. Hanlan's Point is named after John Hanlan not after the famous rower Ned Hanlan, who was his son. John Hanlan opened a hotel on the western side of Island in the 1860s well before his son won accolades for his athletic prowess.

7. Between 1926 and 1961, the TTC operated the Island ferry service before that responsibility was transferred to the city's Parks Department.

8. Sediment from the Scarborough Bluffs created the peninsula that would eventually become the Islands, but the Leslie Street Spit blocks much of this gradual build up today.

9. The remaining houses on the Islands -- concentrated on Ward's and Algonquin -- will all come up for lease in 2092.

10. It's not an urban myth. There really was a diving horse at Hanlan's Point Amusement Park.

Know of a quirky fact related to the Toronto Islands? Let us know in the comments.

Photo by Piotr Helka

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