Toronto Islands (Wards Island) Properties and Neighbourhood Guide

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Toronto Islands (Wards Island) Properties and Neighbourhood Guide


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Toronto Islands (Wards Island) Neighbourhood Guide

Welcome to Toronto Islands (Wards Island):

Long known as one of Toronto’s favorite summer destinations, the Toronto Islands offer a unique experience for residents. Rather than fight traffic or the crowds on the subway, you can boat to the office. Some locals use their own boats; some hire “water taxis” and some prefer to use the public ferry. If you love the water and seclusion from the urban jungle, the Toronto Islands may be perfect for you.


The Toronto Islands neighbourhood is fundamentally defined by the water. On one side of the islands, you have clear views of downtown Toronto and Lake Ontario. On other parts of the Islands, you will see nothing but the Lake for the most part. Since a substantial portion of the Islands are undeveloped, there are great opportunities to see the natural world up close and personal.


Buying a home on the Toronto Islands requires patience and a willingness to navigate a special process. As a result of the 1993 Toronto Islands Residential Community Stewardship Act, Island properties cannot be sold on the open market. Instead, properties are offered for a fixed price to specified individuals on a waiting list. If you’re desperate to buy a home, you may want to look elsewhere. Less than fifty properties have been sold over the past twenty years. If you are lucky enough to have an opportunity to buy, homes have been known to sell for $100,000 to $500,000. Observers estimate that you could wait decades for a property to become available for purchase under the current regime.


The few hundred residents on the Toronto Islands mainly live in small homes and cottages. Today, there are less than three hundred homes on the island. Due to legislation restricting real estate activities, it is unlikely that additional housing will be built on the Islands for the foreseeable future. The Islanders are known for their activism against the City of Toronto’s past efforts to manage them.

The commute:

The Toronto Islands are connected to mainland Toronto with various transportation options. The most popular and least expensive option is the public ferry which provides service to and from the Islands multiple times per day starting before 7am. Take note that the ferry schedule and service changes depending on the season of the year. If the schedule is not to your liking, a number of private companies offer a type of water taxi to the mainland. Some residents also choose to travel with their own boats, yachts and other water craft. If you use your own craft, make sure to think through where you will dock.

If you travel between the mainland and the Billy Bishop Airport, you have the option to make the trip through an underground tunnel. It’s a great option for travelers who want to avoid the unpredictability of ferries in their travel.

Local Schools:

Despite its small size, there are several schools serving the children of the Toronto Islands. The area’s best known school is the Island Public/Natural Science School (which includes a greenhouse and science labs). Additional schools on the mainland provide additional options. The Waterfront School – offering JK to Grade 8 – has won recognition several times as one of Toronto’s best elementary schools. For high schools and post-secondary education, you will need to commute to the mainland.

A little bit of history:

The Toronto Islands have been a key part of Toronto’s history for centuries. Before European settlers arrived in the area, First Nations inhabited the Toronto area including the Islands. The New Credit First Nation considers the Toronto Islands to be sacred land. European activities on the island date back to the 1790s when the British began to build military structures in the area.

In the 20th century, the Toronto Islands were gradually developed with new residents and facilities. The modern day Billy Bishop Airport was originally opened in 1939 under the name Port George VI Island Airport. From the 1950s to 1960s, the Toronto government attempted to remove the islands residents with mixed results. Years of legal disputes were ultimately resolved by the 1993 Toronto Islands Residential Community Stewardship Act. Real estate buyers need to be familiar with this Act’s provisions and restrictions because it is unique from the rest of the city. Seek advice from a legal professional familiar with the situation before buying or selling property on the Toronto Islands.

Sports fans will be delighted to know that baseball legend Babe Ruth played a game on the island in 1914. At that time, he was part of the Providence Grays team. The Islands are also known for a variety of aquatic sports including swimming and boating.

Life Style:

The Toronto Islands are defined by their small population – there are less than five hundred houses on the island. Further, the islands have no condo towers, skyscrapers or other modern structures. High prices and restrictions on buying and selling land make the Toronto Islands into a highly stable community.

The Toronto Islands are probably best known for Centreville, a recreational destination for children’s and families.
Built in the 1960s, Centreville has a playground, splash area and other outdoor activities that make Toronto’s hot summer days pass by quickly. Aside from Centreville, there are several other activities and attractions available.

Several yacht and boat clubs are based on the island though you will need to be a member to make the most of these clubs. You can also participate in annual competitions like the Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival. The Islands are also home to a public disc golf course.

Toronto Islands (Wards Island) on a map