A summertime must-do for anyone living in or near Toronto, a trip to the Toronto Islands when you have kids can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve got your step-by-step guide on how to enjoy the island with littles.
How To Get to the Toronto Islands
First step first: getting there! There are two options to the Toronto Islands: ferry or water taxi.
The Toronto Island Ferry runs every 15 minutes in summer (mid-May–mid-September), so you don’t have to worry about timing your trip over. Ferries depart from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal at the foot of Bay Street (9 Queens Quay West), a short walk from Union Station or the 509 or 510 streetcars. Choose from three locations on the islands: Ward’s Island, Centre Island, and Hanlan’s Point (in winter, service is to Ward’s Island only). Get the full schedule online.
You will need tickets in order to set sail and we highly recommend that you buy them in advance online to avoid long lineups at the ferry terminal. You must print your tickets in order to board. Round-trip tickets are around $8/adult, $5/senior or youth ages 15–19, and $4 for ages 2–14; kids under age 2 are free.
Independent water taxis operate from the harbourfront to the Islands. There are currently three regulated/licensed companies: Toronto Harbour Water Taxi, Water Taxi Now (the “Pirate Taxi”), and Tiki Taxi. Rides are $10/adult and $5/child.
No ticket is required to get on the ferry for your return trip to the mainland, so if you want to try a water taxi, we recommend arriving by water taxi and taking a free trip home by ferry.
What To Do on the Toronto Islands with Kids
This map of the Toronto Islands will set you up for success if you’re just fancying a wander, but if you’re looking for specific activities to keep the kids entertained, the island is full of them.
The ultimate island destination for families, Centreville offers a host of rides and attractions to entertain little ones of all ages, including kiddie coasters, an antique carousel, pony rides, bumper cars, antique cars on tracks, flying bumblebee ride, the Centreville Train, log flume ride, and the Sky Ride high above the park. An all-day ride pass ($29/$38 per person, depending on height) is almost always the economical choice—kids will want to ride the Mine Coaster again and again. There is a discount if you buy passes online.
- If you have kids over 4 feet or only one parent will be accompanying kids on most rides, just buy tickets as needed for the other parent, rather than a day pass for both.
- There are plenty of picnic areas in Centreville and around the islands, so packing your own food is a great alternative if you’re not into the limited options available (mostly pizza, fries, and hot dogs).
- There are lockers at Centreville, but you’ll likely appreciate a stroller or wagon to tow stuff around.
Since 1959, this petting-zoo-type farm on Centre Island has housed animals like sheep, cows, pigs, goats, and peacocks. Entry to the farm is free.
From May to October, kids can dress and play as pirates and enjoy a unique interactive theatre experience that consists of 30 minutes of activity on shore along with a one-hour ship sailing around Centre Island. Tickets are $27 per person.
There is one main playground located on the island where little ones can climb and swing to their heart’s content. There’s also a nearby splash pad and maze located beside Franklin Children’s Garden.
Both Ward’s Island Beach and the clothing-optional Hanlan’s Point Beach are Blue Flag designated beaches, meaning they offer some of the cleanest and safest outdoor swimming in the city. Changing rooms are located near the pier on Centre Island if the kids decide to take a dip.
The Island is awesome for biking, with paved trails that wind along the shoreline. Bring your own bikes or rent bikes for $9/hour (ages 8 and up) from Toronto Island Bicycle Rentals (cash only!) on the island itself. Helmets included. You can even rent a four-wheel, four-seater quadricycle ($18/hour) for added fun.
A sweet, secluded spot for kids to get hands-on watering plants and exploring the wonders of nature. Look for bronze larger-than-life characters from the popular children’s book series. It’s open 7 days a week and offers weekly themed programming.
Give your feet a rest and visit historical sites around the island on this guided 35-minute tour. Tickets are $5–$9, with children under 2 riding for free.
Where to Eat on the Toronto Islands
There are several restaurants and concession stands on the island including Toronto Island BBQ & Beer Garden, and Carousel Café, along with the Centreville Food Court (in the amuseument park), and fast-food options Shopsy’s and Pizza Pizza by the Centre Island ferry dock. The Rectory Café is the Islands’ most upscale option, on the waterfront on Ward’s Island. A favourite casual sit-down spot with large patio is the Island Café (licensed) near the Ward’s Island ferry dock.
You can also pull up a blanket on any of the open green spaces or beaches and enjoy a lovely picnic, if that’s more your style. There are barbecue stations throughout the island if you’re up for bringing your own charcoal along.
- Once you’re on the Islands, you’re there—it’s not easy to take a jaunt back to the mainland and there are no shops, aside from a couple of Centreville gift shops, so make sure you’ve packed enough diapers, sunscreen, wipes, towels, snacks, and anything else your kids might need during the day.
- There are washrooms by the ferry waiting area on the mainland, as well as throughout the Islands—and they are equipped with changing tables. Just make sure you give any potty training littles enough time to make the trek from wherever you are when nature calls.
- There are lockers available for rent on a first-come basis if you’d rather not haul all your family’s supplies around all day.
- The island is fully accessible and stroller-friendly, and features wonderfully-maintained paths. You don’t need to do anything special to bring your stroller on the ferry or island.