Toronto Islands are a chain of small islands on the western part of Lake Ontario. Located conveniently from the city centre, the islands are the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a quick getaway to lounge on the beach, soak in the skyline views, play water sports and just relax. The community on the island is considered to be the largest urban car-free community in North America. Although the islands are seen as a place to take a day trip for most Toronto residents and tourists, there are people living on the islands (approximately 300 homes) and it is home to two daycare centres, a school and church.
After a rainy spring in Toronto and across Ontario, the water levels are at record highs. Toronto has seen flooding in several areas of the city but the Toronto Islands, an area that is prone to flooding, has especially been affected by the heavy spring rainfall. And even though many people think the island is actually “closed” right now, it actually technically isn’t. Keep reading…
I visited the island this past weekend, yes despite the flooding that the island is experiencing, you can still technically get over there and enjoy them. However, you need a good reason to be going. My reason was to visit Toronto Island Stand Up Paddle Boarding (TISUP). Started in 2014, TISUP offers experiences and rentals for stand up paddle boarding on the island. Their lessons will teach you the proper techniques to paddling and make you feel more comfortable with the sport. They keep the groups small (limit of 6) and in 75 minutes you’ll enjoy the waters of Lake Ontario, the skyline of Toronto and know how to properly maneuver your board. Lessons are $45 CDN for 75 minutes and run various times during the week and weekend. Private lessons are also available for $70 CDN during the week (10:45 and 2:45).
I did a group lesson with my friend, Asal, and a group of three others. Our teacher, James, gave us a quick rundown on how to hold the paddle and how to go from sitting to standing on our board without tipping over while we were on land. We strapped our leg to the board and headed out for our paddle. Lessons usually start at either Ward’s Beach or Algonquin Bridge but due to flooding they are temporarily only running from the bridge. As you set off, you’ll paddle through the calm waters of the lagoons. The instructor will occasionally stop you to go over some different techniques like the ways you can easily turn your board around, how you can retrieve your paddle if you lose it, a few safety things like how to get back on the board if you fall off, etc. (no one in our group fell off once in our lesson).
As you paddle through the lagoons you come to an opening to the more busy part of Lake Ontario where you’ll see the incredible view of the skyline and have the opportunity to take photos. Your instructor will carry your valuables (wallets, phones, etc.) in a dry bag so you’ll have them to take photos if need be. However, try to pack light and come ready to paddle.
To get to the islands you take a ferry from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal which costs $7.71 CDN return. The ferry runs quite regularly during high season and there are three different ones that you can take—Ward’s Island, Centre Island and Hanlan’s Point. Ward’s Island is my personal favourite and happens to be where TISUP operate and currently due to the spring flooding, Ward’s Island is the only ferry operating. It is estimated that the island will be fully open by July 31 2017 but currently the businesses at Ward’s Island are still operating so with the limited access to the islands and the small (to no) crowds, this is the perfect time to head over to take a paddle board lesson and enjoy the peacefulness of the island before the crowds pour in mid-summer.
If you’re not into doing a full lesson, TISUP also offers rentals for those people that already know the basics of paddle boarding. These run from $30 CDN for your first hour than an additional $10 CDN for each hour after. You can also sign up for a different experience like their SUP yoga classes, their eco-tour and a night adventure which allows you to take in the spectacular lights of the city skyline and the calm waters as the sun sets. Overall the experience was a blast. It was a great weekend activity on a hot summer day and there’s not too many opportunities to get out of on the water and enjoy nature in the busy city of Toronto. This is definitely something worth adding to your summer bucket list and for those living in Toronto, this is a great way to get out and enjoy the island while less people are there (a rare commodity)!
Disclaimer: My lesson with TISUP was complimentary, however I only write about things that I enjoyed and would recommend to others. All opinions in this piece are my own and 110% honest.