your paddlesports destination

Toronto Harbor / Toronto Islands in Ontario

Trip Overview

Visiting Toronto for a business trip? Here's a location that can rent you everything you need or let you launch your own kayak for free.

This is my favorite afternoon, evening, or day trip in Toronto is a trip around Toronto Islands, just a kilometer offshore (at the widest point). The trip around the islands can be varied from a quick crossing to weaving between islands and or circumnavigation. This is one of the reasons I like this trip. Very easy to get to, and the return on time invested is extremely high.

On the far side of the islands are a few of beaches (just a note - July & August one of them is a clothing optional beach). There are also picnic sites available along the far side of the island with charcoal grills for those wanted a real picnic trip with spectacular views of Lake Ontario and nice beaches.

My favorite part of the trip though is crossing the Toronto harbor itself. While there can be some boat traffic, most of it is limited to tourist boats. The views of the city are just as beautiful as one could imagine. Another point of interest in crossing the harbor is that you cross the flight path for small planes landing and departing the downtown city airport. This day in particular I saw a number of biplanes and other interest craft. There are buoys clearing marking the outer limits of the approach zone for the active runway and are to be avoided.

The weather can get very choppy even in the harbor depending on wind so the crossing itself can be moderately challenging to a novice. Circumnavigating the islands themselves can fall into the experts only depending on the wind direction. If the winds are from the south, the fetch is about 50km. I've paddled 3-meter waves. If the wind is from the SE the fetch is about 249 km. I've paddled 4-meter waves. Again this is on the far side of the island out in the open lake. I'd recommend circumnavigation when the winds are from due north. It's as calm as can be both in the harbor and on the far side of the islands.

The best place to launch is directly next door to a marine police station on Queens Quay along the lakefront downtown. You can drive within 50 meters of the launch platform (yes, I love launch platforms, tilted and carpeted) that is located at Harborfront Canoe and Kayak Centre, a local place where you can store or launch your kayak, or learn to become an expert from their staff. They don't charge a fee for launching and parking is less than a block away.


Parking is across Queens Quay on the SE corner of Queens Quay and Rees Street.


$10.00 parking or less if you join the Kayak Centre club (of sorts).


Launch from Harborfront Canoe and Kayak Centre, 283A Queens Quay. Directly across from the SE corner of the Rogers Dome. Driving on Queens Quay, turn south on Rees St. When you see the Marine police station and seem to have to make a left turn (about 100 meters) make a right instead into the driveway of the Harborfront Canoe and Kayak Center. Pull up and out of the way and you'll see the kayak launch just a few steps away.


No real need for maps. Can't get lost, but watch out for the active runway approach buoys if you are paddling close to the airport. Most of the inlets on the islands go through. You can check out the maps of the islands and learn much more about these Toronto City Islands at:

  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip