Toronto Islands, Canada

Just a stately 10-minute ferry ride from the mainland to another world of quiet tree-filled picnic spots, marinas, quaint old cottages and beachfront attractions. Toronto Islands are a chain of small islands in the city of Toronto. Comprising the only group of islands in the western part of Lake Ontario, the Toronto Islands are located just offshore from the city center, and provide shelter for Toronto Harbor. The absence of cars creates a peaceful escape from the bustling city.

The islands are home to several sand beaches - Centre Island Beach, Gibraltar Point Beach, Hanlan's Point Beach and Ward's Island Beach - paths, bridges and boardwalks that connect the islands. Ward and Algonquin Islands feature summer cottages from the 1920s mixed in with breathtaking modern cottages and charming English-style gardens. Hanlan's Point provides a quiet escape, with an excellent clothing-optional beach and Toronto's famous haunted lighthouse. The most popular is Centre Island, which features huge picnic areas, bike paths, a maze, a beach, a chapel and award-winning gardens.

Paddleboats, bicycles and in-line skates are available to rent on the island. The central area hosts Centreville, an amusement park geared towards younger children with some 30 rides, a petting zoo with pony rides, and picturesque swan boats circling a small lagoon. Access to the Islands is by ferry, three regular ferries depart from the foot of Bay Street and Queen's Quay. The view of Toronto's skyline across the bay is worth the trip alone.