by Stephanie Malek
Even when you love a place, sometimes you just need a change of pace and scenery. You need to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and hide by the water, surrounded by trees and frisbee-golfers. Toronto is very lucky in that we have the unique ability to feel far away by simply taking a ferry for 20 minutes to the Toronto Islands.
When you go to High School in the big city, there isn't a lot of opportunity to disappear. Friends who grew up in the country tell stories of bonfires, and barn parties, and hiding out in the woods doing drugs. We had the Toronto Islands. With all the small, connected islands, there was always opportunity for us to disappear and hang out as a group, or go swimming in fountains, or play tag in the maze, or get caught streaking by a group of boy scouts and become a mini-legend among Toronto boy scouts for at least a few years (I wish I was joking about this).
As an adult, the islands still hold a huge amount of charm. Whether it's walking through the housing community on Ward's Island, getting naked (to your level of comfort) on Hanlan's Point Nude Beach (there are many non-nude beaches too and the water is swimmable on the far-side of the Island), or going on the Log Flume or Haunted Barrel Works in Centerville. The Island is a romantic getaway for a date, a family fun centre of activity, a beautiful place to watch fireworks, and just a lovely boat ride.
For artists in the city, be sure to check out Artscape Gibraltar Point and their residencies - because who doesn't want to live on the Island for a bit to help inspire creativity. The centre is in the old Toronto Island School - where Toronto school kids would get shipped to the Island for a week to learn about nature, hear creepy ghost stories about the lighthouse (don't step on the thirteenth step!), and play predator-and-prey. Going back there for musical festivals always brought a twinge of nostalgia for me.
The city-scape from the Island can't be beat - watching the sun set from the beach on Hanlan's Point is one of the most beautiful things you can see in the city. You can also take your bike over on the ferry to be able to get the most out of your trip.
Another favourite on the Island is the Far Away Farm in Centerville - it's free to the public and has a lot of different animals! There have been a lot of discussions about closing down the farm (which would be devastating to me) so make sure to enjoy it while you can!
Hot tip: Always bring your own food unless you really dig chicken fingers and pizza (PizzaPizza has a few kiosks on the island), or you want to pay a lot of money for a sandwich at the dining spots on Ward's Island. The Island has a million places to have a nice picnic!
Hot top #2: Don't go during the festivals unless you have no choice, or are willing to spend some extra money on a water taxi - you don't get to enjoy the same charm of the place, and you'll have to wait hours to get there.
Do you have any favourite memories of the Toronto Islands?