leslie street spit

Leslie Street Spit is Toronto's secret park for nature lovers

The Leslie Street Spit began as a manmade peninsula of discarded bricks and debris but is now one of Toronto's most beloved nature getaways.

Whether you refer to it as Leslie Spit, the Spit, Tommy Thompson, or the Outer Harbour East Headland (its more formal moniker) this five kilometre path extending from Leslie Street south to the water is a testament to the unrelenting resilience of mother nature. 
leslie spits toronto

Tommy Thompson Park is the beginning portion of the Leslie Street Spit.

A real city-nature mashup, this stretch near Woodbine Beach is home to 400 species of plants and an immense population of birds, all of which reside and flourish alongside hills of eroded cement and rebar along the Spit's shores. 

leslie spits toronto

The street is a popular trail for bikers and joggers.

Entry rules are more stringent here than at other parks, likely because of the dangerous materials located all along the water's edge. There are no cars allowed on the trail here — though there's plenty of parking at the Tommy Thompson Park entrance — and dogs are forbidden.

leslie spits toronto

Lookout points along the beginning part of the path let walkers and bike riders check out the eastern view.

On weekends the park opens early, at 5:30 a.m., and closes at 9 p.m. During the weekdays you'll have to skip the early morning walk and head over for the incredible view of the sunset instead, since the park opens late, at 4 p.m., and closes at 9 p.m. 

leslie park street

There are several little paths that let walkers travel through grassier areas.

It'll take a little over an hour for moderate walkers to cover the entire path well-worn by bikers, joggers and nature lovers craving an escape from the city. Full of grassy trails and cottonwood trees, you'd never guess that a portion of Leslie Spit still acts as a landfill today.

leslie spits toronto

The manmade peninsula was originally built as a breakwater during the 1950s. 

Originally intended as a breakwater in the 1950s, the peninsula was created to accommodate a forecasted expansion of shipping traffic to the city's outer harbour — an increase that never ended up happening. 

leslie spits toronto

Tommy Thompson's shore is full of rebar and construction debris. 

Instead, the city began using the Spit as a dumping ground in the 70s. Construction materials, silt and mud from Toronto's building zones and TTC have transformed the southern area of the Spit over the decades.leslie spits toronto

The natural environment has flourished in Leslie Street Spit, despite being a landfill. 

Despite this, the natural environment has thrived on this manmade piece of land and the naturalization of the Spit has become a big priority (thanks to advocacy groups like Friends of the Spit) with plans to turn the entire area into a parkland in the future. 

leslie spits toronto

There are over 400 types of plants growing in the Leslie Street Spit. 

Today the area is quite a bird lovers paradise, with over 300 species calling it home. Near the last leg of the trail you'll pass a forested area that rings with the cacophony of bird cries and no doubt you'll see a number of gulls, finches and night-herons soaring overhead here. 

leslie spits street

The Bird Research Station is open during bird migration seasons in spring and fall.

Designated an Important Bird Area, the Spit also houses the Tommy Thompson Park Bird Research Station, which is accessible to the public via an offshoot trail on weekends during the migration seasons of spring and fall. 

The Tommy Thompson Park floating bridge marks the halfway point to the southermost point of the Spit. When you get here you'll be rewarded with incredible views to the east and west across the outer harbour toward Cherry Beach. 

leslie spits street

A sheltered lookout provides a glimpse of Toronto's skyline.

Further along the tree-lined path you'll eventually find a little lookout with a quintessential view of Toronto's skyline. It looks especially beautiful when the sun begins to set. 

leslie spits toronto

Vicki Keith Point marks the tip of the Leslie Street Spit. 

As you near the Vicki Keith Point (named after the celebrated Canadian swimmer), you'll see the road fork around an uphill climb to High Point.

leslie spits toronto

A solar-powered lighthouse sits atop High Point. 

Sitting atop High Point is the Toronto Harbour Light, an automated lighthouse built in 1974, that's powered by a solar panel and conducts ship traffic along the eastern channel into the city's harbour.leslie spits toronto

The very tip of the peninsula is littered with brick and steel, but the western skyline view makes up for it. 

Just beneath the hill at lake-level is the anti-climactic tip of the Spit, a barren piece of land littered with industrial junk. The real view is to the west, where — just across the water — you'll see Toronto's skyline uninhibited by trees. leslie spits toronto

Lead photo by

Tanya Mok


Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in Sports & Play

The top 5 quarries and swimming holes near Toronto

The top 10 walking trails in Toronto

This incredible tropical beach is just two hours from Toronto

21 weird and quirky attractions in Ontario

This ancient cave system near Toronto is Canada's oldest

Mars will be at its brightest over Toronto next week

The top 25 beaches in and around Toronto

Three big summer festivals in Toronto just got canceled