Outdoor Report: Sail, canoe and explore Toronto’s waterfront
Toronto is Canada’s biggest city and its economic capital, but it may also surprise visitors by the amount and variety of outdoor activities it offers.
For landlubbers there are the many green spaces for which Toronto is famous – big parks like High Park and networks of bike and walking trails through its many ravines including the Humber and Don Rivers. The city seems very far away when you’re in one of these leafy retreats. Locals and visitors alike enjoy the Harbourfront area, with themed weekly festivals offering free entertainment as well as permanent attractions and fabulous waterfront views.
There are also a number of ways to get out on the water and enjoy the city’s spectacular waterfront location, some of which may fall into the category of “best-kept secrets.” Take the Westwood Sailing Club for example. Near Cherry Beach and easily accessed from downtown, the Westwood is a recreational sailing club geared to people who don’t own boats and want a more laid-back (and affordable) experience compared to a traditional yacht club.
Thanks to club member Bill Shore for the opening shot in the video clip featured above. He’s sailing a Laser towards the south west near the Eastern Gap, that’s a spot where the wind funnels between land and typically picks up speed. Bill has this hint for beginners, “One of the keys when learning to sail is knowing where the wind is coming from. It seems obvious on land but is challenging when you’re on the water and moving through the wind.” Wind speed that day was between 15 and 25 knots so sailing can be a pretty good workout, Bill says, but what he loves most is being outdoors and the sheer “thrill of riding on the wind.” Sounds like a great adventure to try, right in the city of Toronto.
Did you know you can also canoe and kayak in Toronto? You don’t have to head to the nearest wilderness area, just talk to the Harbourfront Canoe & Kayak Centre about rentals or lessons. Safety is key for all water sports so stay within your limits and know the local conditions and rules. This is Lake Ontario after all, and both smaller pleasure craft and large commercial vessels share the use of the Toronto Harbour. That means all boaters need to be on high alert in these waters - this may be especially true when negotiating the Eastern or East Gap, a narrow and busy passage which lies between the Toronto Islands and Cherry Beach and provides access to the city’s Inner Harbour.
Don’t overlook a visit to the Toronto Islands themselves, a chain of small islands just south of the downtown core with beautiful views back towards the city as well as looking south across Lake Ontario. The Islands are home to secluded beaches, many parks and picnic areas, walking and biking trails, a children’s amusement park, and also a small neighbourhood of permanent residents. It’s just a short ferry ride away from the hustle of the city, find out more here. You can also explore outdoor activities in the east end of the city, an area known as “The Beach” or “The Beaches.” The vibe is relaxed in these quiet neighbourhoods stretching down to the landmark boardwalk, a popular place to stroll or sit on a bench and watch the world go by. It’s a busy spot in summer with literally dozens of beach volleyball games going on as well as windsurfing and stand up paddleboarding just off shore.
So whether you prefer the water or the land, whether you’re a Toronto area resident or a visitor, there are lots of outdoor adventure opportunities to enjoy this summer.
Whatever your choice be sure to check the weather before you head out and the bug report too. Speaking of bugs, did you know that there are both ‘good’ (beneficial) and ‘bad’ (damaging) bugs in your garden? Find out what to look for and how best to deal with pests in this edition of Adventures in Gardening.
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
From ‘Silent Spring’ by Rachel Carlson