Jordan then took us underneath the elevated Gardiner Expressway to Harbourfront, a popular entertainment district right on Lake Ontario. Harbourfront Centre features a variety of shopping and dining facilities; there are art galleries, visual arts and exhibition spaces, theatres, concert facilities and an International Marketplace that entices with food and merchandise from all over the world. The nearby Toronto Music Garden is a delightful green space designed by internationally renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma and landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy. In the winter Canada’s largest artificially cooled outdoor ice rink entertains the crowds.
Harbourfront Centre with the CN Tower
Jordan had already taken us on a very action-packed tour through the city, but the real gem was still waiting for us: a visit to the Toronto Islands. The price of the ferry ride at the foot of Bay Street was already included in the tour price. Although I have been over on the islands numerous times, the ferry ride with its beautiful panoramic vistas of Toronto’s skyline and the arrival on the serene islands are always a real treat. For Susan, the tour participant from Florida, the experience must have been even more special. All of a sudden Toronto’s concrete roads and skyscrapers receded and we landed in the quiet, peaceful and car-free paradise of the islands that offer the perfect view of this hyper-active bustling metropolis. Definitely worth the price of admission…
A look back from the ferry
Having landed at Hanlan’s point, Jordan, our expert tour guide from Sights on Bikes, first took us to a statue of Ned Hanlan (1855 to 1908), a fisherman, hotelkeeper and later championship rower, five time consecutive world champion between 1880 and 1884 in single-scull rowing, who only lost six of his 300 races during his rowing career. Just steps away Jordan pointed out to us the location of Babe Ruth’s first professional home run in 1914. Although the stadium was demolished in 1937, a plaque still remembers this historic event.
Ned Hanlan, championship oarsman
We cycled past the nearby “clothing optional” beaches to stop at the Gibraltar Point Light House, a historic building dating back to 1808 that is the setting for a well-known ghost story. Jordan explained that one of the lightkeepers who disappeared and whose murdered body was later found is still said to haunt this area. Further east we stopped at the reflecting pools and the pier that projects southwards from the islands. A snack bar provides welcome refreshments and a bicycle rental booth is located here which also features two-seater quadricycles.
The haunted Gibraltar Point Light House
At some point the Toronto Islands were densely populated and featured a variety of grand hotels, retail stores, residential areas, various amusement parks and restaurants. Today only the Centreville Amusement Park remains as well as 62 homes which are mostly located in the eastern section of the islands in Ward’s Island and Algonquin Island.
One of the quaint cottages on Ward’s Island
Resident lease them in 99 year lease agreements, and strict rules apply to the buying and selling of island homes. Many of the houses are still quaint cottages although some have been expanded while others display some signs of neglect. We stopped at a special spot from where we had a perfect view of downtown Toronto’s skyline.
Toronto skyline, viewed from the island
Our deluxe city tour had almost come to an end. Jordan took us past the Centreville Amusement Park with its Swan Pond back to the Centre Island ferry and 20 minutes later we reached the mainland. Our biking adventure ended in front of the Captain John floating seafood restaurant where we said goodbye to Jordan and thanked him for guiding us so expertly through some of Toronto’s most interesting areas. Although I know the city quite well, I found this tour really worthwhile since I learned so many new things about my chosen home town.
Jordan in front of Captain John’s: a job well done…