10+ Things to do on Toronto’s Waterfront

By Steven Wright

Feels like summer in the city even thought its barely spring in Toronto, that has inspired me do a series of articles of things to see and do in this great city! Toronto is Canada’s largest city, the capital of the Province of Ontario and is constantly evolving. It is a vibrant and culturally diverse city, who’s unique neighborhoods are great to explore to get the whole experience eh. The second article of this series is dedicated to Toronto’s waterfront a bit of an oasis from the traffic in the city and the ultimate place to ride your bike, strap on your in-line skates or stroll with the family and spend the day at your favorite part of this strip.

Toronto Islands
(Via Ferrydocks at 9 Queen’s Quay West, TTC LRT 509/510 Ferry Dock from Union)
Pack a picnic lunch and head to the Island, whether you are traveling alone, as a couple or with family and friends, the islands have something to offer everyone. Remember to bring a towel and your bike or roller blades to explore all this waterfront picnic park. Recreation activities on the Islands include: volleyball nets, beaches, boat and bike rentals, restaurants, cafes and snack bars, Far Enough Farm, Centreville Amusement Area, wading pools, tennis courts, softball diamonds, disc golf course, and public boat moorings. The beach at Hanlan’s Point is one of the few public locations in Canada where full nudity is permitted. The Ferries travel to 3 arrival points on the island: Hanlans Point, Centre Island and Wards Island, a return trip costs $6.00 for adults, $4.00 for students and seniors, $3.00 for juniors (under 14) and children under 2 travel for free.

Cruise around the Islands
(Boardwalk from the Ferry Dock to Bathurst, TTC LRT 509/510 Harbourfront Centre)
The boardwalk along the waterfront from the Ferry Docks to Bathurst Street, includes a number of tour boats that cruise around the islands. Some of the operators specialize in brunch, lunch or dinner cruising and private charters; some offer more of a party atmosphere with a live dj; and some offer just the cruise. There are a number of different boat types including the Tall Ship Kajama, a 165′ Schooner and the Hippo bus, a sightseeing bus that floats. The tours can last up to 3 hours and give you an amazing view of the city skyline, and a great view of the Toronto Islands as you travel around them. Bring your camera for the best shots of the city!

Stroll along the Boardwalk
(Boardwalk from the Ferry Dock to Bathurst, TTC LRT 509/510 Harbourfront Centre)
The recent and continuing redevelopment of Toronto’s waterfront now includes an incredible boardwalk and a series of piers along the water from the Ferry Dock to Bathurst Street. Its a great way to enjoy the waterfront with interesting public art, gardens, an urban beach, galleries, restaurants and cafes along the way. Stop at Queen’s Quay Terminal for travel wear from Tilley Endurables, grab some Dim Sum from Pearl Harbourfront Restaurant or visit the Museum of Inuit Art. Continue down the boardwalk to HTO Park (339 Queen’s Quay West), an urban beach with bright yellow umbrellas, beach sand and Muskoka chairs to soak up some rays watching the boats travel around the Island. Travel down to The Toronto Music Garden the three-acre public garden with a design based on the “First Suite for the Unaccompanied Cello” by J.S. Bach.

Harbourfront Centre
(235 Queen’s Quay West, TTC LRT 509/510 Harbourfront Centre)
Harbourfront Centre is heart of the waterfront and the premiere destination for arts and culture. Every weekend all summer long head to Harbourfront for the Summer Festival series and drop by the World Cafe and International Marketplace, even canoe in the Natrel Pond, while enjoying all of the other multi-discipline programming across the site. Don’t forget to visit the artist workshops inside to see glass blowing pottery and more. The property offers programing year round and programs and venues for visual arts, artist workshops, live music, theatre, dance, kids programs, cultural festivals, a literary festival, film, skating and much much more. The Power Plant contemporary art gallery is part of the site.  Many of the programs at Harbourfront Centre are free of charge, and have a box office on site for ticketed events.

CN Tower / Metro Toronto Convention Centre / The Roundhouse
(301 / 255 Front Street West / 255 Bremner Boulevard, TTC Union)
The CN Tower at 553.33 m is the World’s Tallest Tower and probably one of the most recognizable structures in the city. Tourist attractions at the CN Tower include the glass floor, 360 degree viewing platform, the 360 Restaurant and its newest attraction EdgeWalk which gives patrons the chance to walk around the top of the tower on a platform where you are tethered to a rail above the platform. EdgeWalk is a must for adventure seekers and the best view of the city from above. Tickets for observation decks range from $24-$36 and EdgeWalk is $175). The Metro Toronto Convention Centre is a popular destination for trade shows and exhibits in Toronto including the Auto Show, the Sportsman Show, the Interior Design Show, the Travel Show and much more. Behind the tower stop at the historic John Street Roundhouse for the Steam Whistle Brewing tour and taste. Enjoy the Roundhouse Park and follow the pathways heading down to the waterfront.

Bike, Skate or Walk the Martin Goodman Trail
(Waterfront Trail from Scarborough to Etobicoke)
The Martin Goodman Trail is a recreation masterpiece along Toronto’s waterfront, extending long beyond the mega city’s borders, it offers pedestrian, bicycle and in line skating literally from one end of the city to the other. To the East it connects with the Scarborough Bluffs, Ash Bridges Bay, Cherry Beach, Sugar Beach and the Ferry Docks. To the West, after the Queens Quay Boardwalk and past Billy Bischop Airport at Bathurst is my favorite strip for a bike ride along the water. The trail is divided into 2 sections, 1 for pedestrians and 1 for cyclists and in line skates, no matter what your speed or ability this is a safe place for you. The trail is lined with parkland offering benches, public art, gardens and playgrounds. There are also parking lots along the way providing great access no matter where in the city you are coming from. I love biking past the marinas and boats passing in the harbour, and watching the condos rise to the North. Heading past the Princess gates and Ontario Place you can see Dragon Boat Races in the Quay. Past the Windmill, around the corner, and up the hill, you can stop for a game of Tennis at the Lakeshore Public Tennis Courts. Then continue downhill and grab a swim at the Sunnyside Gus Ryder Pool. Continue across the bridge and celebrate your accomplishment at the Palace Pier Park with a picnic lunch enjoying the scenery before heading back, or continue West down the trail to Hamilton.

Go See a Game!

Air Canada Centre
(40 Bay Street, TTC Union)
If you love sports there is a lot to offer on the waterfront of Toronto, starting with the ACC, home to Toronto Maple Leafs hockey, Toronto Raptors basketball and Toronto Rock lacrosse. Besides sports, the ACC is also a popular destination for live concerts and other large scale events. located directly south of Union Station. If you are coming to town for a game or concert, I would suggest taking the TTC, train or fly to the Island airport and save the frustration of looking for parking.

Rogers Centre
(1 Blue Jay’s Way, TTC Union)
Sitting under the CN Tower you can find Rogers Centre (formerly Sky Dome), the home of Toronto Blue Jays baseball and Toronto Argonauts football. The Rogers Centre also hosts large scale events like concerts, sporting events and even the Toronto International Auto Show. The premium feature of this building is the roof that opens offering amazing views of the CN Tower above. The Renaissance Toronto Downtown boasts being the only hotel in a major sports entertainment venue in the world and Sightlines and Windows restaurants give you a bird’s eye view of the action on the field from their premiere position.

BMO Field
(170 Princes’ Boulevard, TTC 509/510 Exhibition & GO Transit Exhibition)
Canada’s first soccer-specific stadium, BMO Field is home to Canada’s National Soccer Team and Toronto FC, Canada’s first Major League Soccer team. BMO Field is located at Exhibition Place.

Canadian National Exhibition / Ontario Place
(TTC 509/510 Exhibition & GO Transit Exhibition)
For the last 2 weeks of August until Labour Day Weekend the CNE hosts Canada’s largest annual community event, attracting 1.3 million people to the fairgrounds to experience amusement park rides, games, shows, gorge on food and much more. The site is also host to a number of large events through the year including Honda Indy Toronto, The Royal Ontario Winter Fair, the One of a Kind Show, the Toronto International Boat Show and more at the Direct Energy Centre. Over towards the Dufferin Gate, you can find the BMO Field for soccer events and Medieval Times. Take one of the pedestrian bridges on the south of the CNE grounds, across the Gardiner Expressway to access Ontario Place. Recently announced, Ontario Place is one of the sites that will be under redevelopment starting this year, the first phase will reopen for the 2015 Pan American Games and then will close again to open officially in 2017. That said some of the most popular attractions including the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Echo Beach and Atlantis Pavilions along with the marina and parking lots will remain open.

Watch the sunrise at Sky Bar!
(Guvernment/ Kool Haus Entertainment Complex 132 Queen’s Quay East, TTC Bus Jarvis)
The Guvernment/ Kool Haus Entertainment Complex is housed in over 22,000 square feet and features 8 interconnecting rooms, each with a different sound, every weekend this venue becomes the ultimate party playground. Some of the biggest DJ’s in the world have played this venue over the past 15 years and its still going strong. Expect long lines and a pat down on the way in, while you wait the parking lot is animated with street performers and other special events. Once inside its great to weave your way through the rooms and outdoor patios and tents to find your preferred music and dance the night away. I like to escape the heat and the crowds downstairs about 3AM and opt for the rooftop Sky Bar. Its a great place to dance to DJ Deko-ze and to watch the sun rise over Lake Ontario.

Easy Access to the Waterfront:

Billy Bishop Airport (YTZ)
With many more destinations, you can land right on the waterfront at Billy Bishop Airport on the Toronto Island. As this airport is relatively small, there is less traffic through security, the airport is very accessible at the base of Bathurst Street with ferry service to the Island, (a walkway development starting soon) and there is even complimentary shuttle service to/from Union Station. Air Canada flies direct to Montreal and Porter Airlines destinations include: Ottawa, Montréal,  St. John’s, Halifax, Québec City, Mont Tremblant, Moncton, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Boston, Chicago, New York, Myrtle Beach, Timmins, Burlington VT, and Washington DC.

Union Station
Union Station is Toronto’s central terminal. TTC, the Toronto Transit Commission offers street car service to the Ferry Docks and the waterfront on the LRT and subways north on the University and Yonge lines from this station. GO Transit‘s trains arrive at Union from Oshawa, Hamilton, Kitchener, Richmond Hill, Stouffville, & Barrie, and other Ontario destinations by Bus. VIA Rail is Canada’s national railway with connections to the rest of Canada. Also in the works is a direct rail link from Pearson International Airport to Union. The SkyWalk on the main floor of Union Station will lead you to popular venues like the CN Tower, Rogers Centre and Metro Toronto Convention Centre, to find the Air Canada Centre exit to the ACC from the lower level of Union.

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