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Your guide to Toronto’s Lake Ontario shore

Sailing near Toronto Island

Your guide to Toronto’s Lake Ontario shore

Almost like an ocean -- that's how enormous Lake OntarioExternal Link Title seems. One of five North American Great Lakes, the 19,000-square-kilometre freshwater body is flanked on the southeast by New York State and TorontoExternal Link TitleOntarioExternal Link Title on the west. It has 1,145 kilometres of beautiful shoreline, including offshore islands. And as you might imagine, the shores are lined with tree-filled parks, sandy beaches, and restaurants with a view -- all near urban Toronto. There's a reason "Ontario" means "beautiful lake" in Iroquois. Find out why with this guide to fun on the Toronto-area shoreline.

Toronto’s waterfront

Canada's largest city also boasts one of the world's longest urban waterfronts with nearly 48 kilometres of beaches, marinas, and green spaces. If that wasn't enough, the shores of this great lake are also home to art galleries, concert venues, and even a BMX bike park. Enjoy a roving lunch as you stroll. Swim and work on your tan at popular Woodbine BeachExternal Link Title, sip cocktails at a lakeside patio, take a sunset gourmet dinner boat cruiseExternal Link Title, sail on a 19th century tall ship, windsurfExternal Link Title or kite surfExternal Link Titlecanoe or kayakExternal Link Title, or venture out in a paddle boat for two.

Music, concerts, and butterflies

One must-see on the shores of Lake Ontario is the unusual Music GardenExternal Link Title, a venue that's home to free public concerts in summertime on Thursdays and Sundays. A collaboration between landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy and world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the lakeside garden portrays, in plants and blooms, the six movements of Bach's Suite No. 1 in G Major for Unaccompanied Cello. You can take a free guided tour from Harbourfront CentreExternal Link Title or buy the self-guided audio tour and explore on your own. Other favourites are the Budweiser StageExternal Link Title for large stadium-style, open air concerts as well as the intimate Echo BeachExternal Link Title. Lunch at the 1922 Art Deco Sunnyside Caf?External Link Title near the Martin Goodman TrailExternal Link Title is a must and so is watching for the ephemeral, fluttering insects in the flower-filled meadows of Humber Bay Butterfly HabitatExternal Link Title.

Scarborough Bluffs Park

See the dramatic white cliffs some 12,000 years old towering 14 kilometres high at Scarborough Bluffs ParkExternal Link Title, a sedimentary escarpment of geological interest and also the site of the longest sandy beach in the area. Bring a picnic lunch and hike the network of walking trails and boardwalks. You can charter a fishing excursionExternal Link Title, too, angling for carp, pike, bass, salmon, and trout. Four hundred-acre Scarborough Bluffs includes several parks, such as Cathedral Bluffs ParkExternal Link Title with its towering spires and Bluffer's Park and BeachExternal Link Title. Bluffer's is the only lake access point and its beach has the highest eco rating for healthy wildlife and clean water. Stop in at the large marina afterwards for dinner with a view from the patio of Bluffer's Park RestaurantExternal Link Title.

Budapest Park

At the foot of Parkside Drive, tree-filled Budapest ParkExternal Link Title is ideal for picnicking, jogging, or hiking along the Martin Goodman TrailExternal Link Title. Find a nice spot by the fountain or throw a blanket on the sand at Sunnyside BeachExternal Link Title and take in the city skyline. Gus Ryder poolExternal Link Title is another spot for swimming during the city's hot summer months. But if you'd rather be on the water than in it, nearby Humber RiverExternal Link Title is an excellent place to rent a kayak, canoe or paddle board.

Ireland Park

Ireland ParkExternal Link Title tells the story of the 38,000 Irish immigrants who traveled to Canada fleeing the Great Potato Famine in the 1850s in hopes of starting a new life. ?ireann Quay, next to some large abandoned grain silos, houses five bronze sculptures and symbolic artworks on its grassy lawns shaded by large oaks as a reminder. A compelling spot a decade in the makingExternal Link Title, the park's limestone wall of black stones imported from Ireland and etched with names of the deceased commemorates the hundreds who perished in the ship crossings in a stirring tribute. Strikingly beautiful, this work is paired with downtown panoramas, making for the perfect place to reflect and enjoy the quiet.

Leslie Street Spit

At the foot of Leslie Street near downtown, Leslie Street SpitExternal Link Title juts 5 kilometres into Lake Ontario, a 1,236-acre (manmade) peninsula and portion of Tommy Thompson ParkExternal Link Title. It's also a former dumping ground that's happily, and pretty much by chance, turned into a biodiverse urban wildernessExternal Link Title. It's carpeted in wildflower-filled meadows, marshes, beaches, sand dunes, and cottonwood and poplar forest, crisscrossed with blissfully car-free roads and trails, and a solar-powered lighthouse. The spit actually represents Toronto's biggest chunk of waterfront natural habitat. You'll want to rent a bike and cycle here, looking out for stealthy coyotes, shy muskrats, butterflies, and 300 species of birds, including migrating flocks and owls. Hike, rollerblade, or fish here, too.


After you've combed the lake's shores, tack on an Ontario getaway to see more of the countrysideExternal Link Title.

Plan your adventure at the Ontario Travel website.