The Toronto Islands may only be a few kilometers from downtown, but for those seeking an easy day trip, they can feel a world away. From ferry details to attractions and everything in between, here’s all you need to know to make your next visit exceptional.
The ferry terminal
The Jack Layton Ferry Terminal is located at 9 Queens Quay W. at the foot of Bay Street and offers year-round access to Hanlan’s Point, Ward’s Island and Centre Island.
Since parking can be nightmarish and expensive, it’s best to take public transit. Simply head to Union Station, hop on the 509 or 510 streetcars, then follow the crowd through Harbour Square Park to the bustling terminal.
Because the terminal is often busy, give yourself plenty of time. During peak summer months, nearly 75,000 passengers ride the ferry every day.
When you arrive, pay attention to which line you’re joining — one is for ticket holders, while the other is for ticket purchases.
You can buy your tickets at the terminal using cash, credit or debit, but it often saves time to purchase in advance by going online.
All tickets are round-trip and are inclusive of all island-bound ferries:
Seniors (65+): $5.86
Youth (under 19 with ID): $5.86
Junior (under 14): $4.29
Infants (under 2): free
Though you’ll need to provide proof of purchase when boarding the island-bound ferry, no ticket is required upon return.
Summer schedule (including weekends and holidays)
Centre Island Ferry
First island-bound ferry: 8 a.m.
Last city-bound ferry: 11:20 p.m.
Frequency: Every half hour to 40 mins (on average)
Because this route is, by far, the busiest, scheduling may increase to every 15 minutes, depending on crowds.
Hanlan’s Point Ferry
First island-bound ferry: 6:45 a.m.
Last city-bound ferry: 11 p.m.
Frequency: Every half hour to 45 mins (on average).
Ward’s Island Ferry
First island-bound ferry: 6:30 a.m.
Last city-bound ferry: 11:45 p.m.
Frequency: Every half an hour to an hour (on average).
Click here to see a full schedule and seasonal variations.
A few things to know
The 2 km ferry ride, which takes 15 minutes, is an enjoyable experience offering beautiful views and crisp lake air — so if you easily get chilly, bring an extra layer.
Each boat is wheelchair and stroller accessible and provides onboard washrooms. What’s more, dogs are welcome — so long as they’re leashed.
All the ferries offer indoor seating, and the Hanlan’s Point Ferry is a single-level open-air roll-on/roll-off ferry, making it popular for bikers at no extra fee (there are no fees to bring your bikes on board the other ferries as well).
If you plan on biking but prefer to leave your bike at home, there is a Bike Share Toronto station close to the ferry terminal in Harbour Square Park, plus a bike rental service on the island.
The Toronto Islands
Best known for its turn-of-the-century village consisting of 262 homes, Ward’s Island is delightful. Meander the narrow sidewalks (circa the 1930s), and enjoy colourful gardens and whimsical cottages at every turn — and for those dreaming of living there, you’ll need plenty of luck and patience to get on the Purchaser’s List lottery, which opens every two years in October.
Because Ward’s Island is mainly residential, picnic sites are sparse, but there are several small food venues, such as the Island Café, Riviera Kitchen and the new Castaways Rum Shack, which opened in May.
For a quiet beach-going experience, visit Ward’s Island Beach, hidden on the south shore behind the soccer field. Afterward, stroll the 1.5 km boardwalk. It offers seemingly endless views of Lake Ontario.
Admire neatly kept parterre gardens, explore the topiary maze or enjoy the Franklin Children’s Garden. After that, cross the bridge for family fun at Centreville Amusement Park and Far Enough Farm.
Featuring more than 30 rides, including the iconic log flume and swan ride, you’ll also want to check out the antique Dentzel Menagerie Carousel — the only one in Canada.
Open daily throughout July and August, visit weekdays between 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m. or weekends between 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
Entry to the amusement park and farm is free, but the rides require tickets. Purchase singular tickets at one of three onsite kiosks, or buy more extensive ride passes online in advance.
On the southern shore, admire panoramic lake views from the pier or enjoy swimming at Manitou Beach. Pack a picnic, rent a quadricycle or head to the boathouse for canoe rentals and more.
For restaurants, drop by Toronto Island BBQ & Beer Co, the Carousel Cafe or several outdoor meal options, including Centreville’s food stands.
Hanlan’s Point is an excellent spot for picnics, BBQ get-togethers and bonfires (with a permit).
What’s more, there are plenty of places to get active, including tennis and volleyball courts and a baseball diamond (as a side note, the long-gone Hanlan’s Point Baseball Stadium once saw the legendary Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run in 1914).
Speaking of long ago — head over to the notorious Gibraltar Point Lighthouse for a spooky experience. Built in 1808, it’s one of Toronto’s oldest, most haunted buildings, with legends reporting that its first lightkeeper, John Paul Radelmüller, was mysteriously murdered in 1815.
Getting out of the shadows and into the sun, why not leave your swimsuit at home and enjoy a cheeky day at Hanlan’s Point Clothing Optional Beach? It’s one of only two official nude beaches in Canada.