23 July 2015 – Summertime, and my feet just want to head for the water. I am not inclined to argue. Neither is Phyllis, so this week the Tuesday Walking Society followed its four feet down Bay Street to the ferry terminal, and hopped aboard the Ongiara. Destination: Toronto Island (really, a whole complex of islands).


aboard the Ongiara, heading for Hanlan's Point

His is not the only bike helmet on deck. This particular run is to Hanlan’s Point, which is the most western of the three island docks. It is also the most remote from either visitor or residential infrastructure and consequently a big favourite with cyclists who plan to explore all the islands, bays and trails.

I’m delighted to see this statue of Ned Hanlan right at the dock.

statue of Edward Hanlan, at Hanlan's Point ferry dock

The eponymous Hanlan (oh, I do love a chance to use that word…), born in 1855,  took up rowing as a small child when living right here and went on, in 1880, to win the world single sculls championship in England. He held the title until 1884, during his career had a run of 300 successive racing victories, and — this is a complete non-sequitur — went on to become a city alderman.

The statue is quite new, taking over pride of place from the plaque telling us that Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run right here as well. His only minor-league home run, they add: he was promoted to the majors, lickety-split. (The Babe’s plaque is still there, just remounted in a less prominent position.)

The boat has now disgorged its passengers: a couple of maintenance vehicles (only official vehicles allowed on the island), numerous cyclists, one young fisherman busy assembling his rod as cyclists start streaming on ahead, and us.

We putter along the edge of Block House Bay, leaving the hopeful fisherman behind.

Block House Bay, near Hanlan's Point

By nipping over to the lake side, we see the west end of the city itself across the water. We pick out the Humber River pedestrian bridge — an arc of white at water’s edge, about midway along — and use it to orient ourselves on the waterfront, connecting the view from here with what we see when we’re walking on that shoreline instead.

looking to Humber Bay, city-side, from Hanlan's Point

We follow the curve of land, pass by the fingerboard to the Clothing Optional beach, but follow the one to Gibraltar Point Lighthouse. It sits among trees and shrubs, nowhere near the water. Why would anybody put a lighthouse here? you ask.

Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

Because when it was built, in 1808-09, it was only eight metres from the lake’s edge. The shoreline has shifted a lot since then, but the lighthouse endures —  the oldest still standing on the Great Lakes, and the second-oldest in all Canada.

It may no longer be on the water, but there’s plenty of water to be had, and beaches to go with it. Mantiou Beach, for example, nearing Centre Island …

Manitou Beach, Centre Island

Centre Island is the focus for visitor entertainment, everything from spacious gardens & fountains, to bike & quadracycle rentals, to fast food, to a petting zoo … to the absolutely delightful Franklin’s Children’s Garden. It is named for the Canadian classic Franklin the Turtle books & TV series, it has seven different activity areas for kids — all wildly busy today with day-campers — and little sculptures reminiscent of characters from the books.

Such as this beaver, by the Turtle Pond.

beaver sculpture, Franklin Children's Garden

We admire the butterfly chair, and climb the Snail Trail behind it to weave our way up a wonderfully shaggy mound, all its vegetation chosen for its appeal to butterflies.

Franklin Children's Garden

This visit, we don’t wander all over Algonquin Island, my long-ago home — I’d done that when I came out for the concert in the church earlier in spring — we head for the other residential island, Ward’s Island. Another city view across the harbour, this time to the east.

the city, from Ward's Island

We pick out Sugar Beach, and the tree-lined walk to Sherbourne Common, and then head into Ward’s narrow little streets.

Of course there is a tree house …

tree house on Ward's Island

and a wheelie-bin container with a green roof …

green roof for a wheelie-bin container, Ward's Island

and a home with a green roof. A deliberate green roof, too, not one inadvertently born of too much moss on shingles!

Ward's Island home with green roof

Finally, it is time to head back to our own homes.

We make our way to the Ward’s Island dock, and take the next ferry back to the city.

ferry approaching Ward's Island dock

Then we walk up through the city-core bustle, and feel a distinct little jolt of culture shock. It really is a different world, over there …

Leave a comment


  1. Wow! This looked like a great area to take a stroll. Thanks for sharing!

    • It is a great area — but if you’re out in the midwest somewhere, you have lots of great areas all around you as wll.

  2. Beautiful photos and a great post!! Just wanted to let you know that I’ve nominated you for https://sheilarparker.wordpress.com/2015/07/23/reading-habits/! 🙂

    • Thanks for taking time to comment, also for the nomination. I must add, with respect, that on my About page I state that I do not participate in the awards processes that people share online. My feeling is that reading & commenting on someone’s blog is already a big “award” and that this is a space where we are all equal. So again thank you for the compliment; please understand if I do not answer the questions.

  3. I just put a deposit for a night at a B&B on Wards in August! It is a different world and not having a car or a cottage to escape to, this is the best chance there is for me to escape the city!
    Lovely post!

  4. Thank you once again Penny. You certainly make the most of Toronto and area – lovely to see to different environments.

  5. always lovely to walk along side of your photos….love the roof on the house.


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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