7.21.2006

island report

For those who don't know, "the islands" - officially Toronto Island Park - are a group of islands in Lake Ontario, a very short ferry ride from downtown Toronto.

Toronto's other airport is there, a children's amusement park, some beautiful piers and parkland, Hanlan's Point (a baseball landmark), and a nude beach. There are lots of picnic tables, bike paths (and bike rentals) and even day lockers, a nice touch.

Allan knew about Hanlan's Point from his own work, but had always imagined it to be in Toronto proper, not a boat ride away. It's the site of Babe Ruth's first professional home run.

We walked around Centre Island, which is a beautifully landscaped park - huge shade trees, thick lawns, gorgeous flowers. I can see it as a quick country getaway, a breath of fresh air and space, a perfect spot for a picnic and a relaxing day out, if you live in a dense, urban area.

After wandering around Centre Island, we walked towards Ward's Island, because I wanted to see the residential area. Entering Ward's Island, we found the Rectory Cafe, which Genet had mentioned, and plunked ourselves down for lunch and drinks. We sat in their backyard patio, surrounded by lush green - very nice. (Genet, you're two for two!) It reminded me very much of the restaurant we used to frequent in Ft. Tryon Park, near where we lived in New York. That was the scene of all my goodbye dinners, and the Rectory Cafe made me a little nostalgic.

We would have explored more, but it began to rain, and we were on foot, so we hopped on the ferry and headed back. If you want to go directly to the restaurant, take the ferry to Ward's Island, and it's a short walk from there. Once you're out there, you can take the ferry back from any of the docks.

The houses on the island look like lovely, simple country homes. Someone in the cafe was explaining (to someone else - I was eavesdropping) that because the island is city-owned land (and possibly because it's a park? I'm not sure), there can't be speculation and development. People's homes are worth a set amount assessed by the City, and no more. So people who live there don't tend to sell their homes, and the area stays stable and quiet. If not for that, I'm sure there would be huge, ostentatious homes there, since it's such an attractive and out-of-the way location.

Living in Mississauga where there are so many great Lake-side parks - and our own backyard practically a park in itself - I doubt I'd go to the islands often. But I was impressed by their beauty and accessibility, and at how nicely they are maintained. Good work, Toronto.

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Search string of the day: why do people want to move from one country to another for greener pastures

12 comments:

James said...

Too bad about the rain -- the Islands are worth walking the whole way.

IIRC, the residents of the islands hold their properties through 99-year leases with the city. There's been the occasional flare-up of resentment over the whole business, though I don't really understand the complaints, myself.

A couple of the owners of the Urbane Cyclist co-op live out there. IIRC, one has a pedal-powered kayak that he toodles around the lagoons in.

L-girl said...

Too bad about the rain -- the Islands are worth walking the whole way.

It was ok. I'm not sure how much more we would have walked anyway. We'll get back there one day to see the rest - if only to see the Ruth plaque.

Alex Elliott said...

Allan knew about Hanlan's Point from his own work, but had always imagined it to be in Toronto proper, not a boat ride away. It's the site of Babe Ruth's first professional home run.

In Babe Ruth's time, the Toronto Islands were actually a peninsula. They were cut off from the mainland by a storm in 1958.

There are some much bigger, fancier homes on the Islands, but they're mostly on Algonquin Island, which is across a bridge just northwest of the Rectory Cafe.

L-girl said...

In Babe Ruth's time, the Toronto Islands were actually a peninsula. They were cut off from the mainland by a storm in 1958.

Ah-ha! I saw that about the storm on Wikipedia, but I didn't make the connection to the old ballpark.

There are some much bigger, fancier homes on the Islands, but they're mostly on Algonquin Island, which is across a bridge just northwest of the Rectory Cafe.

Ah, we saw that bridge. Next time we're out there we'll take it and explore further.

Thanks!

Genet said...

The islands are really a gem, especially since I live and work in the Big Smoke. It can refresh an urbanite quickly.

I'm glad you enjoyed the Rectory. I'm on a roll!

Scott M. said...

If you want the classic cityscape photograph, it's taken from the itty-bitty beach on Snake Island, just over a little footbridge half-way between the Centre Island and Ward's Island Ferries.

James said...

This beach has a clear line-of-sight to Port Credit.

James said...

If you want the classic cityscape photograph, it's taken from the itty-bitty beach on Snake Island

Here's my "classic cityscape" shot. Though this was actually taken from Olympic Island, rather than Snake.

There's a good PDF map of the Islands at the City of Toronto website.

L-girl said...

That's a beautiful shot, James.

I'm afraid I still find the Toronto skyline kind of dull. Maybe I'm a skyline snob.

James said...

I'm afraid I still find the Toronto skyline kind of dull. Maybe I'm a skyline snob.

Admittedly, it's no Manhattan.

When I was giving a paper in Portugal, I got into a discussion of Toronto with one of the other attendants at the conference, who was remembering the last time he was there.

At that time, the only buildings of any size at all in the skyline were the Royal York Hotel and the Bank of Commerce tower (which was the tallest building in the Commonwealth at the time).

The photo at the top of this page was taken a little later than that. The two tallest buildings are the Royal York and Bank of Commerce tower.

Lone Primate said...

You know, it's remarkable, and weird, but looking at that photo of the skyline fron 1963 fills me with this odd sense of yearning. I don't know why that is; obviously, it's not the Toronto I remember because I didn't live in Ontario until the 1980s and I wasn't even born yet in 1963. It's kind of like watching on-the-street CBC interviews from the period, or NFB shorts made in the 60s. There's something sweet and different about the Canada of back then, and in particular the Toronto of the 1960s. It was the end of what Toronto was before, and the onset of what it's become. The end of "Blue Ontario" and the Orange Order running Toronto, with a handful of Italian and Polish communities the only note of contast from the WASPishness of fading empire -- a million-and-a-half people surrounded by farmland and still knowable as a whole -- and the opening of the multiethnic, multilingual sprawl it's become since the Centennial, with different boundaries and philosophies and area codes and even a new flag. Something's lost and something's gained. It's a strange feeling to look at that picture and want to celebrate both.

L-girl said...

I sometimes feel the same way when I see photos of old New York - a place I didn't live in, didn't know, and probably wouldn't miss if I did. But I have that same sense of longing - something lost, something gained. Funny.