Visible from Toronto’s Waterfront and harbor, the Toronto Islands are easily accessible, easy to navigate, and easy to see in one day. Pick a sunny day of your Toronto family vacation to check them out! While a few islands are largely residential (or home to sailboat slips) or wildlife refuges, Centre Island is all about family fun. Here’s where to start for Centre Island activities kids love:
Franklin Children’s Garden and Park:
The first thing you’re likely to encounter after getting off the ferry on the islands is the Franklin Children’s Garden, Centre Island’s main picnic and playground park. This interactive garden–featuring Franklin the Turtle from the books series by Paulette Bourgeois–allows kids to explore in any manner they’d like. The garden is divided into sections, where kids can garden themselves, listen to storytelling, or play on hands-on sculptures from the Franklin series.
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse:
The Island Lighthouse is the oldest landmark in Toronto. Sitting on Gibraltar Point, it’s light has shone for over 150 years, guiding ships and boats into the Harbour of Toronto. The light is a good destination for a family bike ride: it allows kids to have a fun goal and the route is completely flat. If you’re riding bikes as a family on the islands, you can find them at Centre Island beach, or you can rent in the city and bring bikes across on the ferry.
With 600 acres of amusement park fun, Centreville is no doubt the prime destination for families on the islands. Centreville is from the old-school of amusement park fun: its 30 rides are all young-kid friendly and have been around for decades. In addition to carnival-ride fun, Centreville has a petting zoo, green spaces, over a dozen food vendors and restaurants, and entertainment. Don’t expect big theme park thrills, but rather low-key fun.
Centre Island Beach:
A short walk from the ferry docks, Centre Island Beach can get crowded on summer days…get there early to stake out a spot! Public bathrooms and showers are available, as are changing rooms and several food vendors (including pizza). The bike rental shop is near the pier. While there are a few other swimming beaches on the islands (including a clothing-optional beach…you’ve been warned!), Centre Island beach is most popular due to its proximity to the ferry and the rock breakwater, which is ideal for young kids. The water here is shallow and calm, and clean to swim in due to its position away from the harbor. Remember, however: Lake Ontario is pretty chilly!
Access Centre Island one of two ways: 1. grab a ferry from the ferry terminal at 9 Queens Quay West ($6.50/adult, runs year-round and every 15 minutes in summer) 2. take a Toronto Harbour Tour (LINK), which drops families off if desired at the mid-way point of the tour, picking up on the hour ($15-$25). From the ferry drop-off, it’s easy to find Centre Island activities by signage, or grab a map!