Fit N Fun Walk: Toronto Islands

Growing up in Toronto, one place that holds many fond memories for me is Toronto Islands – also called the Island, or Toronto Island Park. It’s located in Lake Ontario, a 12-minute ferry ride from downtown Toronto. As an adult, I try to visit the Island as often as I can to savour this beautiful jewel. Here’s my ten favourite activities on the Island:

1. Ride the ferry

There are three main ferry docks on the Island: Ward’s Island, Centre Island, and Hanlan’s Point. Ferry boats go more often to Centre Island than Ward’s Island or Hanlan’s Point because it’s the most popular.

In the summer, the ferries are usually full but service is frequent. The upper deck has open sides for passengers who like a good view and the breeze. The lower deck is more enclosed with glass windows for passengers who bring their bikes or like to be sheltered. Once the ferry departs, the views of the city and Toronto Harbour are wonderful.

Ferry to Centre Island
Ferry approaching Centre Island

2. Walk on the Grass

How often do you see an official invitation to walk on the grass? I love this “Please Walk on the Grass” sign. The green colour has a soothing effect as soon as you arrive on Centre Island.

Walk on the grass sign
Please Walk on the Grass sign

3. Visit the gardens

The gardens and fountains on Centre Island add visual interests as well as provide welcoming places to relax your mind and body when you need a break from walking.

Main fountain on Centre Island
Main fountain on Centre Island

4. Walk the pier

I like to walk to the end of Centre Island pier to see the expansive view of Lake Ontario. It makes me want to inhale deeply and exhale slowly. On a calm and sunny day, it’s a peaceful scenery of the lake dotted with sailboats.

Lake view from Centre Island pier
View of Lake Ontario from Centre Island pier

At the pier, the directional sign says it’s 65 km to Niagara Falls, 1269 km to Halifax, 3361 km to Vancouver, and 4521 km to the North Pole. Having been to the first three destinations, I can say that they’re all well worth visiting. Poor Santa has a long way to come and visit us every year.

Directional sign at the pier on Centre Island
Directional sign at Centre Island pier

5. Have a picnic or Lunch al fresco

I love to have a picnic at one of the tables by the water. If you like to eat out, go for lunch al fresco at Carousel Cafe, or at one of the island restaurants.

Carousel restaurant
Carousel Cafe

6. Paddle on the water

The Island is actually a group of 15 islands inter-connected by pathways and bridges. You can rent a canoe or kayak to paddle in the calm harbour where swans, ducks, and birds also share the waterways.

Canoe on Centre Island
Centre Island waterway

7. Go to the beach

Centre Island beach typically achieves annual blue flag certification for its water quality. It’s supervised from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. from June to September. On a hot summer day, the beach is perfect for taking a swim.

Centre Island Beach
Centre Island Beach

8. Ride a bike

I’ve biked from one end of the Island to the other and all over the Island. Bring your own bike on the ferry or rent a bike on Centre Island to explore interesting landmarks such as Gibraltar Point Lighthouse which was built in 1808 and was said to be haunted.

Gibraltar Point Lighthouse
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

9. Run or Walk 5K

The Island is approximately 5 kms long from Ward’s Island to Hanlan’s Point, a perfect distance for a 5K walk or run. I’ve finished several 5K running races here.

Map of Toronto Island Park
Map of Toronto Island Park

10. View Toronto’s evolving skyline

Before leaving Centre Island, while waiting for the return ferry, I always enjoy the view of Toronto across the harbour and take a few photos of the evolving Toronto’s skyline. Home sweet home!

Toronto skyline summer 2019
Toronto skyline in August 2019

I love that the ferries operate year-round. Return tickets for adults cost CAD$8.20, with discounts for students and seniors. It’s the best deal for an island experience so close to the city. I hope you enjoy Toronto Islands through my lens.

Copyright © 2019 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

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Fit N Fun Walk: Toronto Music Garden

One of my favourite go-to spots in the city is the Toronto Music Garden. I try to come here often and share it with any of my family members or friends who may be interested in coming with me.

The Toronto Music Garden springs from the imagination of renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and garden designer Julie Moir Messervy. Inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach’s First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, the garden is made up of six “movements” whose forms and feelings correspond to that suggested in the music: Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Menuett, and Gigue.

It’s a fun experience to listen to Bach’s First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello while walking through the well-maintained garden and imagine the six movements.

1. Prelude section imparts the feeling of a flowing river. Granite boulders that came from the Canadian Shield represent a stream bed. Low-growing plants soften its banks. Circular designs on the ground and at the edge of the boulders represent the water movements. The trees with straight trunks are native Hackberry trees. This is the only section in the garden that is not a dance form.

Prelude in Toronto Music Garden
Prelude: An undulating riverscape

2. Allemande section imparts the feeling of a forest grove of wandering trails. The allemande is an ancient German dance. The trails swirl inward and move higher and higher up the hillside. A circle of dawn redwood trees and a small birch forest provide shades to the various contemplative sitting areas that look over the harbour.

Allemande in Toronto Music Garden
Allemande: A forest grove of wandering trails

3. Courante section imparts the feeling of a swirling path through a wildflower meadow. The courante is an exuberant Italian and French dance form. The trails swirl upward in a spiral form, through a lush field of grasses and brightly-coloured perennials that attract bees, birds, and butterflies. At the top of the swirling path is the maypole, with Celtic-patterned spirals and iron wheel, designed by Anne Roberts.

Courante in Toronto Music Garden
Courante: A swirling path through a wildflower meadow with a maypole at the top

4. Sarabande section is envisioned as a poet’s corner with a centerpiece. The sarabande is based on an ancient Spanish dance form. The trails go in an inward-arcing circle that is enclosed by tall needle-leaf evergreen trees. Japanese maple trees are also grown here. The centerpiece is a huge stone that acts as a stage for readings, and holds a small pool with water that reflects the sky.

Sarabande in Toronto Music Garden
Sarabande: A poet’s corner and its centerpiece

5. Menuett section imparts the feeling of a formal parterre garden of flowers. The menuett is a French dance movement. Its formality and grace are reflected in the symmetry and geometry of a circular pavilion. The pavilion is hand-crafted with ornamental steel by Tom Tollefson. It is designed to shelter small musical ensembles or dance groups.

Menuett in Toronto Music Garden
Menuett: A formal parterre garden of flowers

6. Gigue section imparts the feeling of a series of giant grass steps that offer views onto the harbour. The gigue, or “jog”, is an English dance. The steps form a curved amphitheatre that focus on a stone stage set under a weeping willow tree. In the summer, informal performances are held here.

Gigue in Toronto Music Garden
Gigue: Giant grass steps that dance you down to the outside world

The Toronto Music Garden is a magical place to visit in all four seasons. This past spring, look what I found at the garden:

Bird nest at Toronto Music Garden
Mama bird in her nest at Toronto Music Garden

I love that the Toronto Music Garden is open year-round, wheelchair accessible, and there is no admission fee. Free guided tours and concerts are available from June to September. I hope you enjoy the garden through my lens.

Copyright © 2019 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.