Ward’s Island is one of my favourite places to go on the Toronto Islands. There is a lovely beach, two amazing restaurants, and an interesting residential community. If you are taking our shuttle over to Centre Island be sure to wander over to Wards Island afterward to explore a bit before heading home.
Wards Island did not always look the way it does today. Back in the 1830’s it was a fishing community. Fast forward to the 1880’s and you would have found a settlement of tents. It was here that you would find working class families escaping life in the city and the heat of summer. It offered an affordable escape. I think they were onto something! You could rent a campsite for the entire season for just $10. In 1899, there were just 8 such tents set up on the island. By 1913, there were so many people renting spots that the city standardized the tents and laid out grid streets. It was quite the happening spot, and a very tight knit community. People returning summer after summer. Slowly people began bringing wood burning stoves, dressers, beds, tables, and all sorts of furniture. A wooden structure for cooking built behind the tent became common. Wooden floors and walls went up beneath the tent canvas. Porches were erected. Rigid roofs replaced the canvas ones. Gradually the tent community began to resemble a cottage community instead. This was furthered, when in 1931, the city gave the legal go-ahead, formally allowing the tents to be turned into cottages. With the housing crisis hitting Toronto following World War II, island tenants were encouraged to winterize their homes and live in them year round. Hence the island community of today. If you go for a walk on Wards today, many of the small houses that you see are the original houses constructed during this time.
If you are interested in experiencing life on the Toronto Islands try staying for a night or two at one of the island bed and breakfasts. I have stayed at two of them and loved them both!
Check out the b&b options below…