Toronto Insider: Head to The Beach and take a walk on the boardwalk

Eventually everyone gets tired of the concrete city, it may even happen to you! Here’s what you do: Take the Queen streetcar. Make sure it’s going eastbound to The Beach (some people call it The Beaches, but people who live there don’t). 

It’s a really nice neighbourhood with lots of parks and schools and families and children and dogs – and it’s pretty safe with a low crime rate. Queen Street is actually at the heart of The Beach, with lots of independent small shops and stores lining the avenue, many of them changing from year to year and even from season to season. 

The side streets are mostly lined with semi-detached and large-scale Victorian, Edwardian and new-style houses. Now there are also low-rise apartment buildings and a few row houses. Controversy has risen in recent years over new development in the neighbourhood that’s changing the traditional aesthetic, with denser housing causing some residents to protect the traditional cottage-like appearance of the homes with heritage designations for some streets.

But first, head down to The Beach itself, which is an uninterrupted stretch of sandy shoreline bounded by the water treatment plant to the east and Woodbine Park (a small peninsula in Lake Ontario) to the west. Start at Kew Gardens and take a walk on the long boardwalk that runs along most of its length with a portion of the Martin Goodman trail bike path running parallel to it. 

The area itself encompasses a few beaches including Kew Beach, along with many parks and ravines. Feel free to do some yoga, tai chi or play a few games if the weather is good, which it usually is in October. 

The Beach Toronto ()

Above: The Beach, Toronto

One bit of trivia 

The Beach is diminishing as the sand is continuously pushed by lake currents from East to West. Historically, the sand was, and to a lesser degree still is, replaced by new sand generated by the erosion of the Scarborough Bluffs to the east. This source of sand has been diminished by municipal efforts to reduce erosion of the bluffs.

Then feel free to explore the neighbourhoods on the east side, including Greek Town, Riverdale, Riverside, Leslieville and of, course, The Beach.


Take your camera: as you walk along the boardwalk, you’ll see loads of opportunities to take beautiful photographs of Lake Ontario. One cool shot is the lifeguard station and tower at Kew-Balmy Beach.

It’s fun to shop: there are fantastic collectibles and retro clothing shops along with great places to stop in for souvenirs all along Queen Street, starting at Pape and moving east along Woodbine Avenue. 

Do you like to eat? I know I do…

Hang out at cool coffee shops like Bud’s Coffee Bar, and Moo Milk Bar (which has fantastic ice cream sandwiches) around Queen and Woodbine. As for restaurants, head to Leslieville for a great selection, including Goods and Provisions, Ascari Enoteca and Skin+Bones.

Historic buildings

 Check out historic buildings in The Beach, including:

  • The Bank of Toronto building, 1958 Queen Street East, now The Stone Lion pub, built in 1950.
  • The Beaches Branch of the Toronto Public Library, one of four original Carnegie libraries, and identical to two others (one in Northern Toronto at Wychwood, one in Western Toronto at High Park), 2161 Queen Street East, originally built in 1916, revamped in 1980 and 2005.
  • The William D. Young Memorial, located in Kew Gardens, erected in 1920 and partly designed by Ivor Lewis.

  • The William D. Young Memorial, located in Kew Gardens, erected in 1920 and partly designed by Ivor Lewis.

  • The Fox Theatre on Queen St. at Beech Ave, built in 1914, which is North America’s oldest continuously operated movie theatre.
  • The Kew Beach Firehall No. 17, still in use today as a working firehall, now as Toronto Fire Services Station 227), built in 1905.
  • The Kew Williams House, 30 Lee Ave., aka “The Gardener’s Cottage,” built in 1901 and 1902.
  • The Leuty Lifeguard Station at the foot of Leuty Avenue, built in 1920.
  • Whitelock’s Grocery Store, now Whitlock’s Restaurant, built between 1906 and 1908.

Do you like famous people?

They grew up in the hood: Academy-award winning director Norman Jewison, Olympic sprinter Aaron Brown, and Miley Cyrus lived here a long time ago, when her father was in town for four years filming “Doc.” 

They live here: Songwriter Dan Hill, TV producer Stephen Shohn and author Peter Robinson, who used to live here, but now divides his time between Toronto and North Yorkshire. 

They went to high school in the area: Comedian John Candy, actor Keanu Reeves, actor Kiefer Sutherland and pianist Glenn Gould.

If you haven’t yet booked your place at the FIPP World Congress, which takes place on 13-15 October 2015 in Toronto, find out how to do so here.

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