As London plunges into the dark days of December, I’m reminiscing about our September trip to Toronto: a whirlwind 48 hours of exploring under the hot summer sun.
Toronto isn’t just the bustling, colourful, wonderfully gritty and multicultural metropolis I wrote about in my last post about our walk around Chinatown and Kensington Market. Hop on a short ferry ride across muddy Lake Ontario and you’ve found island bliss.
The islands are home to Toronto’s oldest stone building, the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse and – fun fact – the place where, in a baseball stadium that used to exist here, Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run.
There’s a small community of people who actually live on the islands – less than 300 homes, a school, a church and a couple of daycare centres. There’s also a cluster of artist studios and an artist residency program.
The Islands are car-free (the largest urban area in North America with only service vehicles allowed) with leafy pathways winding around clusters of cottages, sandy beaches (one where clothing is optional) and a long wooden boardwalk trail through the woods. There are places to picnic, kayak, carnival rides for the kids during the summer season and a few cafes with plenty of outdoor seating.
Our afternoon renting bikes there was probably my favourite Toronto experience during our short visit. We rode around for hours, following the circumference of the interconnected islands, stopping to take in the views, breaking for lunch and for a short visit to the beach.
It’s been a long time since I’ve ridden a bike, but it’s amazing how it’s one of those things you just naturally pick up again without any effort, even hands-free to take a few photos while in motion. There’s something freeing about it, wind on the cheeks, feeling the texture of the ground change beneath you, steering around puddles and cracks in the pavement, peddling as slowly or as quickly as you like. Shame London is not more cycle-friendly!
While being surrounded by nature was relaxing, one of the coolest things about the Toronto Islands is the view, both from the beaches and from the ferry, looking back on the stunning skyline of the city.