Great walks – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto, Ontario – Great Walks

Toronto is well known for its many green spaces, including parks, ravines with pathways that interconnect various greenbelts, islands facing downtown in Lake Ontario, and even a boardwalk. We’ll mention some of the most easily accessible by public transport and even some special interest organized walkabouts at little or minimal charge. The best part is that most are near a subway stop.

Right downtown you have the Queen’s Park area (subway stop: Queen’s Park) which includes the grounds of the provincial Parliament Buildings (Toronto is the capital of Ontario) and the grounds of the University of Toronto spread out from Bloor Street south to College Street.

View of downtown from the Islands

From the foot of Bay Street on Lake Ontario are three short ferryboat rides which in a matter of minutes take you to the Toronto Islands. Ward’s Island is the most interesting in my opinion. You can walk the length of about three miles leisurely, with nature and the city’s magnificent skyline as a backdrop. You may go to one ferry dock on the Islands and come back from another – the most frequent service is to Centre Island. Bicycles may be brought on board and can even be rented.

East of downtown (Queen Street streetcar) is a neighbourhood known as the Beach with its own boardwalk on Lake Ontario – with both funky and trendy shops. Swimming is not recommended but the breeze is wonderful and the area is not overcrowded on weekdays.

West of downtown is High Park (subway stop: High Park), designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead who designed Central Park In Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. This park contains both paved roads and trails in the woods for hiking and strolls and its own large duck pond, marches and historic Colborne Lodge at the south end above Lake Ontario. The nearby neighbourhood of Bloor West Village and Roncellesvalles Avenue make for an interesting outing.

The Don River and Humber Rivers flowed into Lake Ontario through Toronto in past centuries and now their valleys offer ravines and parklands for exploration. One may start either in the Yonge-St. Clair area, the Eglinton-Bayview area (opposite Sunnybrook Hospital) and find the steps or paths which lead to these self-guided peaceful walks which are safe in daytime. There are also two cultivated garden areas accessible by public transport to start your walks: Edwards Gardens at Lawrence East and Leslie and also James Gardens in Etobicoke.

The following organizations offer both free and minimal-charge walking tours of both natural and historical interest in Toronto. Check for schedules and times:

  • The ROM (Royal Ontario Museum): mid-May to mid-September: call (416)586-5513 or check their web site at
  • Metro Park Department walks listed by season. Check out
  • Heritage Toronto Walking Tours (free) – for history buffs, from April-October. Call (416)392-3865.
  • Canadian Opera Company: Free walking tours of theatrical interest in the downtown core. Also: Type in and search toronto walking tours on the www and you may find others!
  • Something offbeat but interesting is to explore Mount Pleasant Cemetery in mid-town where many famous Canadians and Torontonians are buried. I believe it is Toronto’s largest cemetery in the city and dates back to 1876.

    So get off the sidewalks, dust off those walking boots and enjoy at least one day of exploring some green space in this large and sometimes noisy city.