I almost forget that I’m in Toronto when I’m strolling along the boardwalk in The Beach (or The Beaches) neighbourhood in the city’s east end. The year-round activities for families along this 1.2 km wood-planked path following Lake Ontario are easy and endless. Here are our top ten reasons to stop along the way.
1 – Sand and stones – It is a beach after all. In fact, two beaches border the boardwalk – Woodbine (running east and west from Woodbine Ave) and Kew-Balmy (located between Silver Birch and Leuty avenues.) They offer up three-kilometers of sand, rocks and a combo of. For the best sand castle sand, dig in at Ashbridges Bay Park on the west end. You’ll find quite a few more rocks eastward. Great for stone skipping and rock collecting. We’ve often come across a series of inuksuks.
2 – Bike or blade – A paved path part of the Martin Goodman Trail runs parallel to the boardwalk. Some serious bikers use this trail, so walkers and strollers best to move south to the boardwalk and look both ways when crossing. For less traffic try the winding trail southwest of the boardwalk in Ashbridge’s Bay Park. When enough snow falls, you may even see some cross-country skiers laying down a track along the beach. The boardwalk has street lamps so try an evening stroll (or glide.)
3 – Playgrounds –If I am counting correctly, there are four spots to stop and play along the trail. Just east of Coxwell and south of the Lakeshore where the boardwalk begins, there is a playground (with some exercise equipment.) A little farther east at the foot of Woodbine Ave, you’ll find a pirate ship-like structure beside the Donald D. Summerville Outdoor Olympic Swimming Pool. Likely the busiest is Kew Beach Park at the north end of Kew Gardens and easily accessible from Queen St. E. We call it the castle park. It’s sand-free and has lots of climbing options plus a wading pool in the summer. Balmy Beach Park is behind the Balmy Beach Club. We call it the purple park. It has some excellent shade and a solid selection of park toys. (We’ve also gone sledding here in the winter.)
4 – Take in the view – There are lots of spots to stop and admire the view. The Leuty Lifesaving Station (built in 1921) is an icon of the eastern beaches. On a clear day you can see a faint skyline on the other side of Lake Ontario. More exercise, stop for a few chin ups the bars and rings.
5 – Picnic – Lots of space for snacking on the grass north of the boardwalk. Some areas closer to Woodbine Bathing Station have BBQs.
6 – Kite flying – Ashbridge’s Bay is one of the best places in the city to fly a kite. (Confirmed by an expert kite-flyer at the annual WindFest.)
7 – Dog watching – Chances are you’ll be sharing the area with lots of dog-owners out for a stroll along the boardwalk and a run in one of the designated off-leash areas. There is a gated off-leash dog area south of Kew Gardens at the foot of Lee Avenue and another at Silver Birch Park from Silverbirch Ave. to the foot of Nursewood Rd.
8 – Swim – Eww, you say? Don’t be shocked when you see people enjoying the waters along this stretch of Lake Ontario. For almost 10 years, Woodbine and Kew Balmy Beaches have been recognized under the international Blue Flag program. Each year they are reassessed to meet all the requirements. From June to August, the City’s beaches are tested for water quality (and are staffed by lifeguards) and if the E. coli levels in beach water are high, Toronto Public Health will post signs warning against swimming. There is also an app for that.
9 – Fireworks – The City of Toronto puts on a fireworks display at Ashbridge’s Bay every Canada Day and Victoria Day. (City by-laws prohibit the public from setting off fireworks in parks.)
Getting there: Driving, paid parking along Queen St. E. ($2.25/hr) and two Green P lots at Ashbridges Bay ($1.50/hr). Free residential parking if you can find it. By TTC, head into this hood via the Queen St. Streetcar or buses 22A Coxwell, 64 Main and 92 Woodbine South routes.
Potty time: Not a lot of stops but on the eastend, try the Woodbine Bathing Station or the building at the Donald D. Summerville Outdoor Olympic Pool. Farther east there is a snack bar at the Balmy Beach Club.
Events: For some community events check out the listing on Beaches Living.
If you made it this far – please leave a reply with your favourite family beach activity.