toronto islands

How to spend a fall day on the Toronto Islands

The Toronto Islands might be the perfect place to appreciate the fall season, with quiet trails and boardwalks to stroll alongside gardens and beaches, public art installations to admire, and stunning skyline views from across the water.

Here's how to spend a fall day on the Toronto Islands.

Getting there

The most popular and affordable way to get to the island is by ferry. The Toronto Island Ferry departs from The Jack Layton Ferry Terminal at Bay Street and Queen's Quay, with the boat ride only taking 13 minutes.

However, weekends and holidays can be crowded, especially with the reduced winter schedule. Since Oct. 11, the ferry only travels to and from Ward’s Island, as long as weather conditions are favourable.

The ferry service runs every half hour with a few exceptions, starting at 6:30 a.m. with the last ride from the island departing at 11:45 p.m.

Ferry rides are $8.70 per adult for a round-trip ticket, $5.60 for youth and seniors, and $4.10 for children under 14. You can purchase tickets at the ferry port, or online ahead of time.

Several water taxi services also operate from downtown to the islands, costing an average of $10 per passenger each way. The water taxis are a faster and less busy option, though most have reduced their hours of operation until the spring.

What's open

During the fall and winter, most park facilities on the Toronto Islands are closed, but the public restrooms are maintained and open year-round.

Food options are limited, but The Riviera restaurant is a good spot for lunch by the water. This quaint island eatery serves seasonal dishes Wednesdays through Sundays, and is just a 5 minute walk from the ferry drop-off at Ward's Island.

Their smashburgers are delicious and the homemade chili is especially enticing on a crisp fall day.

Fire pits are also available to book at several locations on the island. For the best views of the city, reserve one at Olympic Island.

Things to do

The Toronto Islands are roughly 5 km long, with many paved trails, paths, and bridges shared by pedestrians and cyclists.

There are countless sights to take in, including from the boardwalk that stretches 1.5km along the north side of Ward's Island or the Centre Island Pier with epic city vistas on the horizon.

If you own or rent a bike, you can bring it right onto the ferry and easily ride to Hanlan's Point and back. Roller blades and electric scooters are also popular modes of getting around the island.

After summer, the Toronto Island beaches no longer have lifeguards but are still open to explore. The four on the island include Centre Island Beach, Hanlan’s Point Beach, Ward’s Island Beach, and Gibraltar Point Beach.

Though you'll likely not be jumping into the water, I can't think of a better place to relax and recharge.

Toronto Island is also where you’ll find Canada's longest standing lighthouse.

Built in 1808, Gibraltar Point Lighthouse is over 200 years old, and is Toronto's oldest stone building. The lighthouse also has a spooky history, prompting ghost stories and sightings since the mysterious disappearance of its first lighthouse keeper in 1815.

Many talented artists and creatives call the island home. During lockdowns when the local shops were forced to close, a group of artists took part in an outdoor art crawl they called Tiny Galleries, displaying their creativity in the form of miniature gallery boxes in their yards.

Now, you can follow the tiny gallery map, visiting over 30 rotating art displays.

While fall day trips look quite a bit different from summer visits with jam-packed beaches, the amusement park, activities and attractions, off-season on Toronto Island is a calm breath of fresh air.

Before the cold kicks in and makes leisurely outings unpleasant, the island is the perfect place to spend a fall afternoon and escape the city - without really leaving the city.

Lead photo by

Frank Lemire

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