Toronto is home to a wide variety of beautiful beaches, each with their own distinct qualities. During the summer months, the city’s stretches of sand can get packed with beach-goers, but one of the quieter, more laid-back options is Hanlan’s Point Beach. Reachable by ferry from downtown Toronto, this beach is known for its clothing optional area that sets it apart from other city beaches. But don’t let the clothing optional part put you off – if you prefer not to disrobe, there’s a large section where clothing is mandatory and the two areas are well separated and clearly marked. This is one of the city's most scenic beaches and if you’re curious about visiting, read on for everything you need to know about Hanlan’s Point Beach.
Hanlan's Point is the most westerly of the three main islands that make up the Toronto Island Park. In 2002, one kilometer of the beach was officially recognized as clothing optional, making it just one of a small number of clothing optional beaches in the country; the largest is Wreck Beach in Vancouver. Hanlan's Point was originally a popular resort community for summer cottagers in the the late 1800s when the Hanlan Family turned their home into a hotel by the water. The hotel was destroyed by a fire in 1909. Although no longer a resort community, Hanlan’s Point Beach is a great place to hang out on a hot summer day.
What to Expect
A visit to Hanlan’s Point Beach is a great way to spend a day in the sun and by the water in Toronto. And it’s a bonus that there is often less activity at this beach than at Centre Island Beach, so finding a spot to stretch out can be a little easier. The ferry boats to Hanlan's Point are also usually less crowded, so if you want to get away from the crowds, this is a good spot to do it. The water here is calm and shallow for a ways out and the beach features fine, soft sand.
In addition, because the beach is west-facing, Hanlan’s is the best place on the Island to catch some epic sunset views. On Labour Day, the beach makes an ideal spot to see the Canadian International Airshow.
At Hanlan’s Point Beach you not only have access to sand and water but also to the park's numerous amenities — including a baseball diamond, bike trail, changing room, drinking fountain, fire pits, the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, outdoor tennis courts, outdoor volleyball, 12 picnic sites, a fast food outlet and washrooms. There are sit-down restaurants on Ward’s Island and on Centre Island, so you can always hit the beach and then walk to another area for a meal. Many visitors pack picnics.
Location & How to Visit
Because Hanlan’s Point Beach is part of the Toronto Islands, you’ll need to take a short ferry ride to access the beach. Take the Hanlan’s Point ferry from the Toronto Ferry Docks at the foot of Bay Street; exit at Hanlan's Point, and the beach is about a 10-minute walk from the ferry docks, located across the public tennis courts on the west shore of Hanlan’s Point.
What to Do Nearby
A visit to Hanlan’s Point Beach means you have access to the entire Toronto Island Park, which includes Centre Island and Ward’s Island. Take some time either before or after hanging out at the beach to explore the quaint, cottage-like homes and laid-back vibe of Ward’s Island. This is the residential area of the Toronto Islands, which is also home to a nice beach and the Rectory Café and the Island Café. Or, if you’ve got kids in tow, head to Centre Island to play some games and go on some rides at Centreville Amusement Park. Centreville is also home to its own beach, landscaped gardens, fountains and a pier that extends into Lake Ontario. Back in the city, the ferry docks also put you right near Harbourfront, where you can soak up the sun at one of the area’s waterfront restaurants and bars, stroll through the scenic Music Garden, or visit Harbourfront Centre.