The Toronto Islands are essentially the remnants of an ancient sandbar that projects into Lake Ontario, creating Toronto Harbour.... more » According to historical descriptions the islands were only born as recently as the 1850's when a storm severed the sandbar at what is now known as the Eastern Gap just east of Ward's Island.
A long outer island, technically known as Centre Island, forms the enclosure for Toronto Harbour. Several smaller islands cluster to the north of the outer island. It is on Centre Island that all of this guide's activities take place.
Public ferries ply the waters of Toronto Harbour from a central "city-side" terminal located just south of the intersection of Bay Street & Queens Quay West. The ferries head to three destinations on the Toronto Islands: Ward's Island dock (not an actual island) at the east end of Centre Island; Hanlan's Point dock at the west end of Centre Island; and Centre Island dock, which is actually located on Middle Island but leads to the pier at the center of Centre Island.
The Islands were once a bustling and populated summer colony of the city, complete with hotels, amusement parks, shops and other tourist amenities, plus block after block of cottages that extended all the way from Hanlan's Point to the still remaining Ward's Island community. An active program of expropriation and demolition in the 1950's & 60's with the aim of creating acres of open parkland destroyed all cottages but those at Ward's Island and the nearby Algonquin Island. A protracted fight by their residents finally led to their stay of execution in the early 1990's. Today the Toronto Islands are a great mix of hidden naturalized land, traditional open parks, manicured and wild beaches, and the two enclaves of charming cottages lining sidewalk "streets". less «