Welcome to The Beaches (The Beach):
A collection of four sandy beaches anchor this tight-knit community east of downtown, known for its outdoorsy spirit, varied architecture and a summer jazz festival that draws some of the best artists from all over the world. Locals bicker about whether to call it “The Beach” or “The Beaches,” but either way they all love the neighbourhood for its small-town feel and proximity to the shores of Lake Ontario.
This is a community of active folks. On any given day you’ll find locals jogging on the boardwalk, jumping in the lake or cycling into the downtown core for work. There are no less than four yoga studios along Queen Street, and SUPGirlz surfing offers stand up paddleboard classes all summer. The Balmy Beach Club, open since 1906, offers everything from beach volleyball to lawn bowling, plus an old timers’ hockey club. Locals are active in public service groups, too, with Rotary, Lions and four area residents’ associations working in the area. There’s also a strong Business Improvement Area association in The Beach, which hosts regular events like the Family Day Festival and the Beach-a-licious Winter Carnival. The BIA also advocates for more than 350 local businesses, which range from eclectic boutiques and independent art galleries to posh pet stores and chic clothing retailers. The shopping is great. No review of life on the beach would be complete without mention of the spectacular Beaches International Jazz Festival. It started in 1988 and has since become one of the biggest free jazz festivals in Canada, drawing nearly 1 million people to the area every summer. Streets close, the venues fill with people from all walks of life, and for 10 days in July the whole of The Beach sways to the soulful sounds of great jazz.
The Beach runs from Kingston Road in the north to the lakeshore in the south, and from Coxwell Avenue in the west to Victoria Park Avenue in the east. There are lots of baby boomers here, but plenty of affluent 30-somethings, too. The Beaches is a family-friendly community, made up mainly of couples both with and without kids. Many come to the area looking for elegant century homes on tree-lined streets, and some say these are among the prettiest homes in the city. But there are lots of other housing options in The Beach, too, from colourful townhouses along the waterfront to dozens of new condominium developments. The varied architecture in the community is one of its charms.
What you'll fall in love with:
A quiet stroll down the three-kilometre boardwalk that runs along the shoreline will be all it takes to make you fall in love with this historic neighbourhood. You’ll instantly feel like you’re a million miles away from the bustle and grind of city life. Add in five lovely public green spaces – Balmy Beach Park, Kew Garden, Glen Stewart Park, Pantry Park and Ashbridges Bay Park – and you’ve got a nature-lover’s paradise. Locals who like to get out on the water join the Ashbridges Bay Yacht Club; you can dock your boat there if you have one, join the Sailing Co-Op to access a fleet of club sailboats, or just bring your paddle board and dive in.
A little bit of history:
Torontonians have been flocking to the beaches since the late 1800s, when development started in earnest. Over time, developers and governments built a boardwalk, several amusement parks and clubs like the Balmy Beach Club, which sent many athletes to the Olympics and was home to a football team that won Canada’s Grey Cup twice in 1927 and 1930. Many famous Canadians have called the Beaches home, including the renowned pianist Glenn Gould, writer Robert Fulford, director Norman Jewison, Jeopardy host Alex Trebec, actor Keanu Reeves and singer Miley Cyrus.
There are more than 15 schools serving The Beaches, including the high-ranking Kew Beach Junior Public School, which received an 8.4/10 in the Fraser Institute’s 2015-16 review. The local high school is Malvern Collegiate Institute, with also ranked well at 8.1/10. There are several Montessori Schools in the area and some locals send their children to the private Montcrest School in neighbouring Riverdale.
From the intersection of Queen Street and Woodbine Avenue, it will take you about 15 minutes to drive to Union Station, and about double that to take the TTC. Biking is a good option, too, and the trip will take you about 30 minutes. Tack on an extra five minutes if you’re heading up to Yonge and Bloor.
The Beaches (The Beach) on a map
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