12 Best Beaches in Toronto
Author Michael Law lives near Toronto and enjoys spending time at the beaches in summer.
Toronto's beaches are some of the best beaches in Ontario. They are easily accessible to all, with lots of space - you'll have no trouble finding your perfect patch of sand.
On warm summer days, they can be packed with families, teenagers, and retirees enjoying the wide-open spaces. Activities include swimming, playing in the waves, strolling, or just reading a book in a chair. Lifeguards are on duty at most locations to keep an eye on you.
The beaches are an escape from the densely populated city. Here, your views are huge, with the other side of the lake not visible. At many locations on windy days, you'll be entertained by kiteboarders or windsurfers racing back and forth offshore.
Public transport options are good in most cases; however, if you are driving, note that parking is tricky at some locations; go early on hot days. In fact, many of the beaches are connected via the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, making it easy to bike or walk between locations.
Playgrounds, changerooms, washrooms, and concessions are available at all locations. Pack a lunch - most beaches have green space in behind, with picnic tables and, in some cases, free barbecues.
Of the 12 beaches listed, four of them are on Toronto Islands: Ward's, Centre Island, Hanlan's Point, and Gibraltar. Reaching them involves a ferry ride and a walk ranging from 10 to 15 minutes in length. I prefer to bring my bike with me on the ferry. Anyone can do this free of charge.
Find a place to relax by the water with our list of the best beaches in Toronto.
- 1. Woodbine Beach
- 2. Bluffer's Beach
- 3. Kew-Balmy Beach
- 4. Centre Island Beach, Toronto Islands
- 5. Hanlan's Point Beach, Toronto Islands
- 6. Ward's Island Beach, Toronto Islands
- 7. Gibraltar Beach, Toronto Islands
- 8. Rouge Beach
- 9. Cherry Beach
- 10. Sunnyside Beach
- 11. Sugar Beach
- 12. HTO Beach
- Map of Beaches in Toronto
- Best Time to Go to the Beach in Toronto
1. Woodbine Beach
Highlights: Action and urban vibe
One of the best true urban beaches and easily accessed beaches in Toronto, is Woodbine. This 15.2-acre hot spot for beach fun has long been a destination for a younger crowd looking to have a good time.
The beach is a long, curving arc of soft sand, some of the best in the city, and is backed by a boardwalk and treed area. The beach faces east, and a large headland on the south side of the beach protects it from strong winds. As a result, the waves stay small and the water tends to warm up nicely — a real bonus in chilly Lake Ontario.
Extensive volleyball courts with lithe bodies doing their best to get that perfect set and spike set up are located at the back of the beach. Pack a picnic lunch, or grab lunch at the fast food concession, ice-cream truck, or the full-service restaurant nearby.
Parking at Woodbine is extensive, but on hot weekends, the large lots still fill up. Note that there are three main lots; the largest is just off Eastern Avenue.
2. Bluffer's Beach
Highlights: Scenery and swimming
Bluffer's Beach is considered by many (especially those who live in Scarborough) to be the most beautiful beach in Toronto. Beige-colored bluffs with flowering trees at their baseline the beach, while out front, lake Ontario sparkles in the sunshine. It's hard to believe that just behind you, a city of three million people exists.
This large beach has some of the softest sand of all the Toronto beaches and ample areas for just about anyone who wants to lay out in the sun and imagine they are in the Caribbean. Lifeguards are on duty and keep a watchful eye on bathers swimming and splashing about in the shallow water. Unlike other beaches in the Toronto area, the picnic tables and BBQs are not located at the back of the beach; at Bluffer's they are off to the right in a treed green space.
Parking for the beach is limited, and the lot closest to the beach fills up fast. However, another much larger parking lot is located one kilometer away, about a 15-minute walk along a wide, paved trail. Drop your gear and crew at the beach and then draw straws to see who has to go park the car and walk back!
Note that the iconic, steep bluffs so frequently photographed are not at the beach area. Those are at the far western edge of the park and quite a distance from the beach.
3. Kew-Balmy Beach
The Kew-Balmy Beach area is located in the appropriately named area of Toronto called The Beaches. This stretch of sand begins roughly at the historic Leuty Lifesaving station, built in 1920, and runs for just over a kilometer, ending at the beautiful Art Deco-inspired RC Harris Water Treatment plant.
This beach has a calm vibe and more of a local feel, it's less about loud music and more about lying in the sun with a good book. For a more lively atmosphere, head to Woodbine Beach just a bit farther west. The sand here is generally coarse with a mix of small pebbles at the waterline. The shore is punctuated with seawalls that extend into the lake, especially near the eastern end of the beach.
The usual beach activities are popular here, plus the area is an ideal place to go kiteboarding. On days when the wind is blowing from the west, south, or east, you'll see the kiters racing across the waves.
A perfect day at Kew-Balmy Beach might look like this: Go early and snag a good parking spot, walk down the tree-lined streets to the beach, set up your gear, and settle in. Once you start feeling hungry, wander up to Queen Street East and settle onto a patio for a long, lingering lunch. Stroll back down to the beach and perhaps have a nap in the sun until it's time to head home.
An alternative version of this plan is to stay on the beach all day and then hit a patio for an early dinner prior to heading home.
4. Centre Island Beach, Toronto Islands
Highlights: Calm water perfect for families with children
Hitting the beach on the Toronto Islands is a full-day excursion but one that is well worth the effort. The busiest beach and the first one you come to if you take the Centre Island ferry is Centre Island Beach.
This stretch of sand is right at the end of the one-kilometer walkway that leads you through a wooded area, over a couple of bridges, and past a beautiful set of gardens. The waters here are calm and warm owing to the large rock breakwater just offshore. It may not be the best beach on the island, but it is certainly the most popular and the one with the most facilities.
The view from the beach is the best on the island: uninterrupted vistas stretch in front of you in a 180-degree arc. It's the most lively of the four beaches on the Toronto Islands and on a hot summer weekend, it will be packed with people of all ages. A pier extends from the shoreline with a viewing platform at the end.
The beach has changerooms, bathrooms, bike rentals, lockers, and a concession selling cold drinks, pizza, and snacks.
5. Hanlan's Point Beach, Toronto Islands
Highlights: Best Beach in Toronto for wind-related watersports
Located off on its own on the western side of the island, this beach has some of the best sand on the island. The back of the beach is treed with sand dunes covered in vegetation. A one-kilometer section of Hanlan's Point Beach near the south end is the only clothing-optional beach in Toronto. Don't worry, though, a majority of the beach is clothing mandatory.
Owing to its location near Toronto's Island Airport, a steady stream of small planes take off and land, providing some visual entertainment. Other visual stimuli include the kiteboarders at the northwest end of the beach. Hanlan's Point Beach faces southwest and is one of the best places on the island to see the sunset.
Be sure to take the Hanlan's Point ferry when departing from Toronto. It's a smaller car ferry and much less crowded. It also runs east to west across Toronto Harbour making for a more scenic ride than the Centre Island ferry. Count on a 15-minute walk from the ferry terminal to the best part of the beach.
6. Ward's Island Beach, Toronto Islands
Highlights: The closest beach to the best restaurants
Located at the far eastern end of the island, Ward's Island Beach is a pleasant arc of sand with views out towards Cherry Beach on the Toronto Port Lands. This beach has the added advantage of being close to many of the island's best patios, so if you need a bite to eat, it's only a short stroll to satisfy that craving.
The beach itself is wide, with small trees in behind, however, they don't provide much shade, so be sure to bring an umbrella. Break up your day with a stroll down the long boardwalk on the right-hand side of the beach.
Count on a 10-minute walk from the Ward's Island ferry terminal to the beach. Be sure you take the Ward's Island ferry, not the Centre Island ferry, or you'll face a long walk!
7. Gibraltar Beach, Toronto Islands
If the scene at Centre Island Beach is too much for you, head east to Gibraltar Beach. Perhaps one of the more overlooked beaches on the island, Gibraltar Beach has a wonderful stretch of sand and is rarely busy. The beach is long and wide; a metal breakwater marks the southern end.
Behind the beach, providing shade, are large cottonwood trees, an area that is hard to pass by because it's just so perfect for setting up a beach chair and settling into a good book. If you need a break from the sun and sand, take a short stroll back from the beach across the small road to the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse. It dates from 1808 and is supposedly haunted.
Gibraltar Point Beach is about a one-minute walk from the Centre Island ferry terminal - it's best to take the Centre Island ferry. Alternatively, the Hanlan's Point ferry is an option, but it's a longer walk, and if you do this, you'll probably just end up at Hanlan's Point since it's the nicer of the two beaches.
8. Rouge Beach
Highlights: A beach on Lake Ontario with warm water
Beautiful Rouge Beach is at the southern tip of Rouge National Urban Park, Canada's newest national park. The Rouge River enters Lake Ontario on the left side of the beach, bringing warmer water into chilly Lake Ontario.
This beach is rarely crowded; if you crave space this is the place to come. The beach stretches for roughly 500 meters, and a trail runs through the trees along the back of the beach. Off the beach and near the parking area is marsh, an ideal place for wildlife spotting, paddling, or kayaking.
The views out over Lake Ontario from Rouge Beach to the south and west are quite beautiful, although the sight of the Pickering Nuclear Generating plant to the east is a bit jarring.
9. Cherry Beach
Highlights: Lovely picnic areas under mature trees
Cherry Beach is perhaps one of Toronto's most overlooked beaches. Located in the Port Lands area of Toronto, this gem of a beach is protected on three sides from the wind. From the roundabout, the beach is split into two areas east and west of the lifeguard station; parking on the east side is easier.
One of the great things about this beach is the area off the sand; in behind are large mature trees and a grassy area complete with picnic tables and BBQs. The beach itself has relatively coarse sand, and bathers should be aware that the water drops off quite steeply.
On windy days, kiteboarders and windsurfers put on an entertaining show, while sailors do their thing farther offshore.
10. Sunnyside Beach
Highlights: Easy to access and lots for kids to do off the beach
The beach at Sunnyside is actually a series of four beaches: three named Sunnyside, and one named after Sir Casmir Gzowski. No matter which beach you choose, you'll find a narrow stretch of sand backed by a boardwalk, trees, and an open green space with picnic tables.
The beaches are protected by an offshore breakwater, making the water along the shore calm at all times. The breakwater also pens in the lake water, allowing it to warm up in the shallow enclosure.
A café in the historic Sunnyside Pavilion has one of the best beachfront patios in the city. See if you can snag a table here and watch the non-stop progression of people parading up and down the Sunnyside Boardwalk.
Parking here is easy, with extensive lots just back from the beach. If you feel like a stroll, just take Colborne Lodge Drive north under the Gardiner Expressway and walk up to High Park, one of the best parks in Toronto.
Note that after heavy rainfall, Sunnyside Beach tends to be closed for swimming owing to the nearby Humber River.
11. Sugar Beach
One of two beaches that you can't swim at in Ontario, Sugar Beach still gets a mention because of its funky vibe. The roughly triangular beach has permanent pink sun umbrellas and Muskoka chairs set in some of Ontario's softest sand. Back from the beach is a tree-lined promenade and several giant rocks painted in colorful stripes.
This is a place for hanging out with your friends and catching up on the latest gossip while undertaking some serious people watching, and checking out the lively scene. The beach is located across from the Redpath Sugar factory, hence the name Sugar Beach.
12. HTO Beach
Similar in nature to Sugar Beach, HTO Beach is a non-swimming beach. More wide-open and less industrial than Sugar Beach, HTO Beach offers easy access to the waterfront for the residents living in the concrete box towers of downtown Toronto.
A play on the chemical make of water, H2O (the T from Toronto is substituted for the "2" in the chemical formula) HTO is more than just sand. Here, you'll also find 16 acres of green space, benches, Muskoka chairs, and giant yellow umbrellas. There's nothing quite like sitting here soaking up the sun and gazing out at the sailboats making their way back and forth through Toronto Harbour.
Map of Beaches in Toronto
Best Time to Go to the Beach in Toronto
The best time to get your fix of sun and sand in Toronto is in July and August. At this time, the summer sun is at its hottest and the sweltering humidity that southern Ontario is famous for will have fully arrived. The 12 beaches above provide a welcome respite, although the hot weather brings out the crowds. If summer arrives early, June is also a good option.
In order to secure a parking spot, you'll need to plan to be at the beach early. Any later, and the roads are sometimes closed as the parking lots reach capacity.
One thing to bear in mind: Although the crystal-clear water looks especially inviting, the highest summer water temperature in Lake Ontario is a bracing 24.5 degrees Celsius (76.1 degrees Fahrenheit), and that's in August. June and July are substantially cooler. For reference, a typical backyard pool temperature is 28 Celsius (82 F).