There is no nicer inner harbor than the one in Toronto, Canada, in my opinion. But, unless you know that there is an inner harbor area, it’s not obvious. The touristy hop-on hop-off bus does not pass close enough to the harbor to see it. Only a few hotels are have a harbor view. From the main areas of the city, you cannot see the harbor which is tucked behind the sports arena and on the other side of Toronto’s main super-highway.
Once you discover the harbor, however, you won’t want to leave. One of the highest rated pubs in all of Canada, the Amsterdam Brewhouse, dominates the harborfront. Since it can get chilly even in the summer along the waterside, the brewhouse gives out blankets to those sitting on its patio fronting the water. You’ll also find running and biking paths as well as manmade beaches where citizens sunbathe on warm days.
The Toronto harbor area is a relatively new re-development of what used to be a heavily industrial harbor. From the re-developed harbor you can see 3 smokestacks to the east that are remnants of those industrial days. Today, only a sugar factory remains alongside the water. It is permitted to continue to operate because it was designed to be non-polluting. The other smokestacks are in an area south of the Distillery District which is currently being re-developed. It contains a great supermarket for Asian groceries called T & T which is well worth a visit if you have time. It’s walking distance from the Distillery, but a long walk.
In the inner harbor, during the summer, a free outdoor concert series runs most evenings. Also, located in one of the only remaining original structures, a contemporary art museum with a rotating collection that change every 3 months. Admission is free.
From the harbor, take a boat ride in season around the islands that dot the harbor area. These islands are recreational parks during the summer months. Lake Ontario, the body of water on which the harbor sits, does not freeze in the winter, but the inner harbor area does. During this time of year, you cannot reach these islands, unless you live on the one that has a year-round population. That island, Ward Island, is serviced by a special combination ice-breaker/ferry that functions year-round.
During the warmer months the options for visiting the inner harbor islands include water taxis and ferries. You can also canoe or kayak to them, and, of course, you can take your boat there. A very high-end marina is one of the places people like to visit on one of the islands. Boat races are often conducted during the summer between 2 of the islands with crowds of spectators filling bleachers along the water’s edge.
The homes on Ward’s Island deserve special mention. There are only approximately 250 homes there, mainly run down cabins and bungalows. There is a waiting list that opens up infrequently for people interested in buying one, with the government regulating who gets on the list. The government also does not permit building or tearing down properties there. In a city where housing is expensive, the prices of homes on the island are controlled to be around $250,000, a bargain. But the catch is that those on the bottom of the wait list are predicted to get a chance to buy there in 250 years. Only 1 or 2 homes sell each year on Ward’s Island.
If you cannot buy on Ward’s Island, condominium buildings dot the inner harbor with construction a staple of summer. Developers have learned the harbor is a wonderfully attractive living environment, if only for the few months when the weather isn’t freezing.
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