Despite being the largest city in Canada, Toronto is not all about the urban lifestyle. On top of the amazing parks and green spaces, Torontonians have the option to leave the city behind and take a breather from the traffic by crossing Lake Ontario to spend a day on “The Island,” i.e. the 15 interconnected Toronto Islands. So, on your third day in the city, do like the locals and board the ferry right out of downtown for 13 minutes to experience the most popular escape hangouts of the area. Don’t worry, you’ll be back for some city fun as soon as the sun goes down.
Prioritize getting an early start and opt for a cheap classic and grab a double-double and a donut at Tim Hortons, Canada’s favorite fast food chain. The obsession with Tim’s is so intense that you’ll find shops all over the city — there’s bound to be one near your hotel.
There are many islands around Toronto, but Centre Island is the most easily accessed. Ferries leave from the Toronto Harbourfront every 15 minutes, and the sailing lasts no more than 20 minutes. Once there, pick up a rental bike from Toronto Island Bicycle Rental for the day and explore all the island has to offer, from the Centreville Theme Park to Gibraltar Point Lighthouse. Paths around the island are well paved, and signage will keep you from losing your way.
There are a few solid options for lunch on the Islands. Island Cafe is a long trek from the ferry but has a great menu and patio. Closer lunch options are The Upper Deck, a pub that is part of the Toronto Island Marina, and Toronto Island BBQ and Beer Co, which has a large deck that offers spectacular city views. The Toronto Island BBQ and Beer Co is the perfect place to settle into a patio seat, enjoy a fresh beer, delicious sandwich, and take in the sights. With lots of seating available, this is your safest bet for a walk-in meal.
After lunch, it’s time to relax on one of the island’s many beaches. Hanlan’s Point Beach is the largest and most popular. It is a 10-minute walk from the ferry and has amenities (bathrooms, cafes, and food) close by. The trees that line the beach mean that Hanlan’s also offers some shade if it’s a particularly hot day. Chelsea Beach and Ward’s Beach are further to get to but quieter. These beaches are a favourite escape for Torontonians, so expect a busy crowd on weekends. Nevertheless, it is the perfect way to spend an afternoon soaking in the sun and taking a swim. If sand and swimming don’t do it for you, you can opt to rent a pedal boat or canoe for a self-guided tour of the island by water. You’ll rent your boat from a blue painted Boat House, which is nearby the ferry drop off point.
Grab the ferry back to the mainland around sunset to catch the beautiful city views in a pretty light. Once back in the city, walk about 20 minutes from the Harbourfront Centre and hit Momofuku Noodle Bar on University Avenue. A large bowl of David Chang’s ramen, with or without broth, will give you a second wind for a night of fancy cocktails (and dancing on the weekend) at the intimate club Parlour, just a five-minute walk away.