My Favourite Outdoor Spots in Toronto this Summer

Aug 9, 2020 | Explore, Explore Toronto

Toronto has so many great outdoor spaces to spend an afternoon or evening. This summer, I’ve spent more time exploring parks and beaches than I think I have in the last 5 years combined. Below are some of my favourites.

I encourage you to pack a picnic, put on your walking shoes and head out to one of these spots, or find a favourite of your own. There are still many sunny days ahead!

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Tommy Thompson Park

Tommy Thompson Park
Why Go

Why Go?

  • Bike or walk a long (paved) path through nature
  • There is a spot halfway there where you can catch a view of the CN Tower, or if you make it to the end, you’ll be rewarded with a pebbled swimming beach and a stunning view of the Toronto skyline and boats dotting the horizon.

Tommy Thompson Park
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Worth Knowing

  • In order to protect the natural environment, dogs aren’t allowed.
  • If you don’t have your own bike, there are Toronto bike share rentals at the beginning of the trail.
  • If you prefer to walk, it’s about 37 minutes to get to the floating bridge (first viewpoint) and 1 hour to get to the end of the trail. The route back is the same.
  • There are a couple of porta-potties at the beginning and along the trail in case you really need to go!
Location

Notable Nearby

  • Hungry? Grab some Cherry St. Bar-B-Que on your way to the park (note: I suggest you drive, as it isn’t exactly walking distance from the mouth of the trail – walking and biking between Tommy Thompson and Cherry St. BBQ takes 45 and 30 minutes respectively. Driving is 6 minutes.).
  • Looking for an activity before / after? Swim or lounge at Cherry Beach or head to the driving range at The Docks.

Toronto Island Beaches

Toronto Island
Why Go

Why Go?

  • For a beach day that feels like a nice escape, just far enough “out” of the city.
  • Spend a day exploring the Islands.

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Worth Knowing

  • You can take the ferry to the islands (accessible via the Ferry Terminal at Queens Quay and Bay St.) or consider using a water taxi if you are willing to pay a bit more for a quicker ride (you can find them along Queens Quay, near Yonge St., York St. or Spadina).
  • The beaches can get quite crowded and are much narrower than some of Toronto’s other beaches (eg. Woodbine), so get there early to secure a spot.
  • Hanlan’s Point, one of the Island’s more popular beaches, has a clothing optional section.
Location

Notable Nearby

  • Wander or bike around the islands; there is plenty to do and it’s worth spending a day to explore beyond the beach.
  • I recommend brining a picnic rather than opting to eat at any of the spots on the islands. Alternatively, eat along the harbourfront before or after you go – Amsterdam Brewery, Pie Bar, and Joe Bird are all good spots with great waterfront patios (note: book in advance if you can, as they get pretty packed).
  • I was lucky enough to spend a day on a friend’s boat; if you want to get out on the water but don’t have access to a boat, consider renting a kayak or power boat at the Harbourfront.  Looking for something fancier? You can rent someone’s boat directly on GetMyBoat (think of it like AirBnB for boats). Note that you need a boating license for anything with power.

The Beltline & Mount Pleasant Cemetery

Mt Pleasant Cemetery
Why Go

Why Go?

  • Great biking route through the cemetery & along an old railway line that is off the busy city streets. You can also opt to walk.
  • Trail guide can be found here.
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Worth Knowing

  • The cemetery closes at 8PM, 6PM or 5:30PM depending on the time of year. Check closing times at the bottom of this post.
  • The route isn’t overly long (approximately 9km), so if you are looking to extend your ride, do a few loops in the cemetery.
Location
Notable Nearby

  • If you’re looking for food:
    • Pop out of the cemetery at Yonge and Merton and head north for plenty of options – some favourites for a sit-down meal are Little Sister, TabluèIsaan Der or Mia’s for brunch on a great back patio. If you’re looking for a sweet treat, Punto Gelato is some of the best in the city.
    • Alternatively, leave the cemetery at Bayview and head north into Leaside. There are tons of restaurants, with some favourites being Sophie’s (for brunch), Duff’s Wings, Cumbraes for a to-go sandwich or Bomou Bakery for a delicious cookie or croissant.

Sunnybrook Park

Sunnybrook Park
Why Go

Why Go?

  • Huge park (approximately 150 acres) with plenty of areas to bike, walk, play or relax outside.
  • The park is so massive that you’re bound to find your own area to hang out safely away from others.
  • Park information can be found here.
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Worth Knowing

  • You’ll typically see lots of people barbequing along the roadway near the entrance of the park – if you continue past, you’ll find more parking lots and plenty of greenspace. Don’t be fooled into parking too early!
  • Be sure to bring some sporting equipment, games and a picnic with you! Some ideas: Spike Ball, Kubb, Kan Jam, Bocce Ball,Portable Badminton Set, or Cornhole.
Location

Notable Nearby

  • The Toronto Botanical Gardens are worth a visit if you have time.
  • Visit the outdoor shopping complex at Shops at Don Mills if you need a little retail therapy (if you want to sit down for food, I recommend The Good Son – if you’re there on a Wednesday, enjoy their pizza special for $12 a pie!).

Woodbine Beach

Woodbine Beach
Why Go

Why Go?

  • In my humble opinion, Woodbine is one of Toronto’s best beaches – it’s super wide and there is tons of space to play beach games (see the Sunnybrook Park section for some ideas!).
  • The water has received an annual blue flag certification since 2005, which means it is safe for swimming.
  • There are tons of beach volleyball courts – available on a first-come-first-serve basis (note: be sure to bring your own net and ball).
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Worth Knowing

  • If the beach is too busy, try the neighbouring Kew or Balmy beaches. Alternatively, head to Woodbine Park or Kew Gardens – you won’t be next to the water, but they’re still great places to spend time outdoors.
  • There are several places to rent Kayaks and Paddleboards – Paddle Pirates, WSUP, and Toronto Beach Kayak all have great reviews.
Location

Notable Nearby

Bluffers Park & Beach

Bluffer's Park
Why Go

Why Go?

  • Stunning views of the Scarborough Bluffs.
  • Walking trails next to the water (although if you want a long walk, I recommend going to Tommy Thompson Park). 
  • Space for barbequing.
  • Large beach safe for swimming (received a blue flag in 2020 – be sure to check each year).
  • More information can be found here.
Bluffer's Park
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Worth Knowing

  • Head there early to secure parking (access via Brimley Road) – if you arrive too late, police often blocks access and only lets local traffic through.
  • A lot of people think that you can walk from the beach up to the Bluffs – you can no longer do this. The trails are unsafe and there are plenty of signs telling you it is prohibited. Instead, walk the trails by the water or drive up to the top of the Bluffs for a view.
  • There are two areas where you can swim – a smaller beach and a much larger one – both are sandy and have easy access to the water. They are a decent walk apart, so be sure to park your car appropriately.
  • If you have a boat, there is a boat launch in one of the parking lots.
Location

Notable Nearby

  • Wander through the stormwater treatment area for a short, serene walk (see photo below).
  • There are a couple restaurants in the park, but I don’t think they’re worth going to. I’d recommend bringing a picnic or eating before/after.
Bluffer's Park

Riverdale Park East

Riverdale Park East
Why Go

Why Go?

  • A fantastic view of the CN Tower
  • Perfect for sunset
Riverdale Park East
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Worth Knowing

  • If you want to settle on the hill for the view or sunset, be sure to get there early.
  • There isn’t a lot of shade in the park (aside from the hill – which gets crowded).
  • The park also has a track, outdoor workout equipment and plenty of space for park hangs (if you aren’t set on being on the hill).
  • There are public washrooms – just be sure to bring santizier!
Location

Notable Nearby

  • Explore Riverdale Farm – a working farm in the heart of the city (note: there are summer and winter activities available here).
  • There are plenty of restaurants nearby if you’re willing to walk a bit. Recommendations – Rooster Coffee House for coffee & sweet treats (this is the closest spot to the park), Completo for Latin fast fresh food, Wong’s Ice Cream & Store for uniquely flavoured ice creams, Off The Hook Fishbar for fish and chips or Lady Marmalade, one of Toronto’s best brunch spots.
  • Make a day of it and walk south down Broadview to Riverside. Explore Riverside and Leslieville to the east.

Martin Goodman Trail & Marilyn Bell Park

Martin Goodman Trail
Why Go

Why Go?

  • A beautiful waterfront trail that stretches all the way from downtown to Mimico (and over to Woodbine Beach, in the other direction)
  • Great views of the CN Tower along the way; safe biking trails off of the main roads
  • Perfect for walking or biking
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Worth Knowing

  • The trail has different names for each section, but if you stay between Lakeshore and the waterfront, you can’t get lost.
  • There are some food stands along the route, but no notable restaurants except at the Harbourfront (see the Toronto Island Beaches section of this post for recommendations) or in Mimico.
  • If you make it all the way to Sheldon Lookout (at the Humber Bay Bridge), it has one of the best views back towards the city (see photo).
Location

Notable Nearby

  • Ontario Place – Cinesphere for catching a movie or the Bud Stage for when concerts return.
  • Be sure to meander through all of the little parks and gardens along the way.
  • There are lots of Toronto Bike Share rental stands along the trail, as well as a couple of bike rental shops near the Harbourfront – I’ve rented from Dream Cyclery before and they were great. Another option is Wheel Excitement.
  • Hotel X’s Falcon SkyBar is a 3-level bar with incredible views of the city. Check out their happy hour from 4-6PM.

Trinity Bellwoods

Trinity Bellwoods Park
Why Go

Why Go?

  • Everyone probably remembers the time when Trinity Bellwoods was plastered all over the news, as way too many people gathered there at the start of quarantine.
  • Since then, the city has painted circles throughout the park to encourage social distancing; this has seemed to successfully quell the crowds.
  • I’m honestly not a huge fan of Trinity Bellwoods – I prefer a park that is a bit more serene, quiet and less crowded – but it’s a great option if you’re downtown or want more of a social scene.
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Worth Knowing

  • There are public washrooms, but don’t expect anything nice and be sure to bring your sanitizer.
  • It can get really crowded – if you can’t find an empty circle (see the “Why Go?” section), then I suggest you find another park to hang out in (Stanley Park or Alexandra Park would be your closest options, though they are quite a bit smaller).
Location

Notable Nearby

  • There are plenty of great eats nearby – without even venturing off of Queen St, you have: Le Swan French diner, Oyster Boy for seafood, Jules Bistro for classic steak frites or the original Terroni and their affiliated bakery – Sud Forno for delicious pasta and pizza.
  • Wander north on Ossington if you are looking for more options.
  • For shopping, head east down Queen St W.
  • Check out graffiti alley, accessible down several alleyways south off Queen St W.

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