Canoeing Toronto

Canoeing in Toronto is more common than you think

Toronto is a canoeing paradise, some might say it's an urban canoeist's dream. Toronto has river systems, lakefront beaches, and islands in the stream. Escaping the grind of city life is as easy as renting a canoe. 

Here are my picks for the best places to get started canoeing.

Where to rent
Harbourfront Canoe and Kayak Centre

This place might be the most expensive on this list, but I guess there's a convenience fee for being able to rent a canoe from somewhere right on the water, and just a short paddle from a day of exploring the Toronto Islands. Canoe rentals are $60 for two hours or $95 for a day.

Toronto Adventures

Located about a five minute walk from Old Mill station, Toronto Adventures' location makes them a perfect destination for a spontaneous trip down the Humber to the lake. Rental prices vary based on day and size.

The Complete Paddler

Found near Islington and Evans avenues, The Complete Paddler is a highly specialized shop with a full range of water gear. They offer canoes to rent for $65 per day and include PFDs and paddles.

Exclusive Sport Rentals

Currently based in Vaughan, Exclusive is more of a dial-a-boat service for Torontonians who want to paddle around their city. With more than eight canoe models on offer with varying price points and purposes, Exclusive delivers rental equipment all over the GTA. 

Toronto Island

On Centre Island during the summer months, you can rent a canoe from The Boat House near the Shrubbery Maze. There is a limited supply, so be sure to get there early.

Where to go

Now that you have a canoe, where to paddle? Here are my favourite launch options.

Scarborough Bluffs

The Scarborough Bluffs are one of the most geologically distinct landmarks on the coast of Lake Ontario. The water is often choppy, and the beach here is littered with neatly sanded beach glass. Conditions can get quite rough, so pick a calm day to paddle out from here.

Secret Beach

The Secret Beach runs immediately west of Bluffer's Park. It's called the Secret Beach colloquially because of the secret entrance through a hole in the fence alongside the R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant. Paddle here for some peace and quiet. 

Kew Beach

Paddling west from the Secret Beach, the boardwalk picks up and meanders along the sandy coast of Kew Beach. In the heat of summer, power boats creep through Ashbridges Bay, so be sure to keep your eyes open and steer clear of potential run-ins. 

Toronto Island

Whether you launch your canoe in the East, or paddle in from the West, all paths converge on Toronto Island. It's a destination for urban paddlers because it feels like you've left the city completely, but without the stress of driving for hours.  

Rouge River

Enjoy a paddle in Toronto's largest wetland habitat, but a word to the wise: the river is shallow in some points and the weather has a tendency to change quite rapidly. 

How to prepare

Like all activities on open water, canoeing can be dangerous if you're inexperienced or caught off guard. Make sure you wear the appropriate safety gear, like PFDs and any other equipment recommended by the rental company.

Always stick close to shore when out on the lake, and avoid wearing heavy clothes that could weigh you down in the water. Keep a safe distance from any water traffic that poses a threat, like motor boats that drag large wakes behind them or sculling and rowing groups out training on the water.

Above all, plan accordingly so that you're not out on the water after the sun sets. Trying to paddle home in the dark is not safe at all. Be safe, have fun, and enjoy your awesome time on the water!

Lead photo by

Michael Monastyrskyj. Written by Tristan Steiner.

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