Summer time for our family is a gloriously sacred thing. It is a time when we are once again the three people who shared that first newborn summer. Kevin is able to shrug off work responsibilities for a good 11 weeks, and we take advantage of this time to bask in each other’s company and enjoy the chance to get out and explore.
One of the many wonderful things about being married to Kevin is that Toronto is all new to him. With the exception of a handful of trips into the city while home visiting my family, Kevin had never set foot in Toronto when we, you know, decided to pack up our life in Brussels and set up shop in The Junction. I truly enjoy taking Kevin and Aodhan to all of my favourite spots in Toronto. Spots that had different, single-university-student-stay-up-too-late kind of meanings, now get to become sparkly new family memories. With this little past-time of mine in mind, I thought I would write a weekly Tourist in Our Own City post, so that you can share in some of our Toronto adventures and check out the awesomeness that is this little plot of land.
Today, being less like an incinerator and more like a normal ‘damn this is still hot’ summer day in the city, we decided to head out to a spot in Toronto that has always had my heart: The Toronto Islands. Now, given that I am a Hammer girl, born and bred, I managed to escape what would have (for me and my sensitive soul) been the horror of Centre Island trips as a kid; I only discovered this spot while living downtown in my mid-twenties. The island is the unsung gem of Toronto, and can offer something to everyone. It is a great place to bring a date. An awesome place to hang out with friends and play ultimate frisbee or gorge on picnic fare. It is also a stellar place to bring a book and do nothing but read. all. day. long.
As a family, there are endless options to fill an entire day or just a couple of hours!
The Islands are car-free, with pedestrians and cyclists climbing aboard one of three ferries. You can head to Ward’s Island, Hanlan’s Point or to Centre Island – each offering a slightly different set of experinces. The great thing is that once you get yourself over to the Island – you can walk your way around the entire space.
I highly recommend heading out early, especially in the summer months, to avoid the crowds. I suggest starting at Centre Island and hitting up the more ‘attraction’ aspects of this island before they get too busy. Some of the highlights of this area include: Far Enough Farm, which is truly a stunning little ‘hobby’ farm that is impeccably maintained and full of beautiful animals. Don’t miss out on the morning feeding of the farm’s bird friends – it is absolute mania when the workers begin to toss the feed. There is also a cute miniature train that the kiddos can ride around in. This part of the island offers expanses of picnic-tabled green space. But the true treat for us was easily The Franklin’s Children Garden.
We adore Franklin the Turtle. He features in every bedtime, and has been a huge element in the character education we have subtly explored in helping Aodhan in his development. I adore the writing, the art work and the light hearted nature of these stories. I even love the old-school Franklin TV show. Taking Aodhan to the Garden was pretty exciting for Kevin and I. It was a little emotional to watch Aodhan negotiate around his imagination and heart as he looked into the faces of these well-crafted statues. We were impressed with the very hands-on garden plot run by City of Toronto staff, where all summer, kids can come and water the beautiful vegetable, flower and fruit plants. The Garden also includes a story amphitheater, a snail-trail hill, and a turtle pond. All of these options, and you haven’t even hit the actual Centre Island Amusement Park (hint, hint – you don’t need to).
After Centre Island, you could head home or you could head off to the east or west. If you want to play on the beach you can check out Hanlan’s Point (and be sure to stop by the second oldest lighthouse in Canada!) which offers both a clothing-mandatory and a clothing-optional beach. I love to head home by this route because the ferry ride is always a little less hectic, and Aodhan was impressed with how close he was able to get to the Island Airport.
If you head toward Ward’s Island, it offers a lovely boardwalk tour, and who doesn’t love looking at cozy cottages? Ward’s Island also has a nice restaurant that is in the middle of a wooded area, where we have had the chance to raccoon watch while noshing. Bring a frisbee and play in the welcoming green spaces. Lots of fun.
I highly recommend the beaches that hug the north section of the Toronto Islands – so clean, so clear, so quiet!
Whether as a tourist or as a T-Dot dweller, I think you should put the island on your ‘to-do’ list! You will get so much out of the experience and it will leave you wanting to head back the next day. We have already made plans with my dad to head out next week (because someone has to take Aodhan on the roller coaster).