Sponsored Content

7 of the Best Outdoor Experiences in Toronto

Gardens, parks, islands, and cliffs mean you can enjoy nature when you visit this Canadian City.

Riverdale Park East

Riverdale Park East

Courtesy of Destination Toronto

Known for its urban green spaces, Toronto offers everything from beaches and cliffs to forest-filled hikes and blooming gardens within its more than 1,500 parks and natural places. It’s as easy to get outdoors and active with nature-filled adventures here as it is to enjoy the urban delights of a place teeming with history and culture. You can savor a hand-crafted cocktail at any number of vibrant patios after a day cycling through the city or relax in the parks and green spaces with picnic items from the many artisan food markets. Below are seven ways to make the most of your outdoor time among Toronto’s diverse scenery and wonders.

Cycling on Toronto Islands

A 10-minute ferry ride—that rewards visitors with stunning views of the city skyline from Queens Quay—is the quiet oasis of Toronto Islands, North America’s largest car-free island. The sandy shores of Centre Island Beach, the Ward’s Island boardwalk, the lesser-known Gibraltar Point Beach, and the clothing-optional Hanlan’s Point Beach all make for a leisurely experience in nature. Add to that postcard-worthy spots like the (potentially haunted) Gibraltar Point Lighthouse, the Far Enough Farm petting zoo, and the Centreville Amusement Park, plus miles of trails, and a day of adventure awaits.

The paths and trails connecting all 15 of the Toronto Islands make it easy to explore by bicycle. Toronto Island Bicycle Rentals on Centre Island has traditional and tandem bicycles and four-seater quadricycles for rent. After exploring the paved asphalt trails, crushed-stone paths, and wooden boardwalks, stop off at The Riviera for a cold pint and a burger on Ward’s Island.

Feel the music at the Toronto Music Garden

Courtesy of Destination Toronto

The Toronto Music Garden

Courtesy of Destination Toronto

The Toronto Music Garden, tucked along Toronto’s inner harbor, is a landscape of undulating sights and sounds designed by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy. Inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach’s First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, each section of the garden correlates with a different dance movement of the musical piece.

Easily navigated paved paths weave through the garden to a grassy amphitheater and stage nestled beneath a weeping willow tree in the park’s Gigue area, named after a type of jig danced by couples in a formal ballet style. You can enjoy free classical music concerts each summer and the excellent views of the CN Tower.

See art at the Toronto Sculpture Garden

For more than 40 years, visitors and locals alike have flocked to the intimate Toronto Sculpture Garden for public art. The urban park has featured rotating works from more than 100 artists over the years in its 8,000 square feet. Created onsite, these temporary exhibits challenge artists to come up with work for the public location, resulting in inventive sculptures and concepts.

Once you’ve explored the sculptures, stroll down the block for a refreshing break on the patio at Score on King. Canada’s national drink, The Caesar (like a Bloody Mary with clam juice) gets creative here and comes topped with the likes of hot wings, corn dogs, and tempura shrimp.

Birding at High Park

High Park, the city’s largest park, has something for everyone to enjoy, from a zoo to hiking trails, playgrounds, and lakes. It’s also a favorite for birding and wildlife spotting. In the spring, High Park’s many pink and white cherry trees bloom and the songs of more than 150 species of birds fill the air. More than 50 bird species breed in the park itself and in the spring and fall, the urban green space serves as a vital stopover for migrating birds. In addition to birds, visitors can see llamas, bison, peacocks, and highland cattle at the park’s High Park Zoo.

Explore Canada’s first large-scale community environmental center

The Evergreen Brick Works, an expansive nature- and community-centric center with outdoor and indoor spaces, proves just how sustainable a big city can be. Named one of the top eco-tourism destinations in the world, this public space was once a collection of vacant historic buildings. Today, Brick Works brings outdoor enjoyment and the public together through interactive workshops, festivals, and programs designed to foster community.

On weekends, locals flock to Brick Works for the Saturday Farmers Market and free outdoor play programming in the Children’s Garden. Browse the outdoor Ontario Artisan Market and Ontario Vintage Market before refueling with a coffee and vegetarian Harvest Bowl under the patio umbrellas of the Picnic Cafe and Wine Shop.

Smell the flowers at Toronto’s public gardens

Starting in spring, thousands of blooms burst forth at the Toronto Botanical Gardens and the adjacent Edwards Gardens. The many themed gardens include a small, but mighty Pollinator Garden, a Teaching Garden, a Woodland Walk and Bird Habitat, and the Beryl Ivey Knot Garden, which celebrates the traditional and formal art of pruning and shaping plants in a defined garden space. To get a 360-degree view, wander up the spiral pathway to the Spiral Mound’s viewing platform.

Next door, you can also check out what was a former private estate, Edwards Gardens. Bright perennials, wildflowers, and roses fill the upper level of the park with rock gardens and waterfalls in the Don Valley ravine below.

Hike the Scarborough Bluffs Park and Trail

Courtesy of Destination Toronto

Bluffers Beach at Scarborough Bluffs Park

Courtesy of Destination Toronto

Just outside the city limits of Toronto, the stunning white cliffs of the Scarborough Bluffs Park and Trail (often called “the Bluffs”) rise nearly 300 feet above along the Lake Ontario shoreline. Formed more than 12,000 years ago, the Scarborough Bluffs are among Toronto’s signature geological features stretching more than nine miles through 11 different parks. Hiking and biking are the main activities along the bluffs or simply enjoy the scenic lookouts and sandy beach areas. Look out for surprises like Guild Park and Gardens, the site of a former artists’ colony that’s now filled with artist sculptures, a Greek stage, and a 19th-century log cabin.

Walk along the Humber River Recreational Trail

Walk or bike to explore Etobicoke along Humber River Recreational Trail, a 6.3-mile out-and-back trail that takes an average of two hours by foot. Popular with birdwatchers, road bikers, and walkers, this multiuse paved trail is open all year and is a low-key way to escape to an urban wilderness with views of the city and access to the charming neighborhoods along the Humber River. The path is especially great for kids thanks to the playground at Magwood Park and the chance to see the river and waterfalls. Keep your eyes peeled because local wildlife is always abundant in this area.

From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR