The Beaches are a popular Toronto district on the Eastern side of Toronto.
As I’m sure you can tell by the name, the area is famous for their beaches.
During the summer, I was feeling pretty stuck. I wasn’t able to take the myriad of trips I’d planned around Europe. I had to cancel my two week trip to Beijing that I’d been dreaming of. Most days I was stuck inside due to heat and work.
It started to get to me.
Thankfully, I found the perfect day trip opportunity from Toronto: the Beaches neighbourhood.
Usually I wouldn’t call it a day trip, since it’s still in the city of Toronto. But during COVID, literally anything more than 2 kilometres from my Airbnb felt like an excursion. (Probably because I don’t have a car.)
While I was there, I realized how underrated the beaches are. They never show up on lists of things to do in Toronto. Their name means they often get lumped in with individual beaches on Google searches. Poor tourists never get a chance to discover this incredible neighbourhood.
Well, it’s time to change that.
Follow this guide to have the best day trip to the Toronto Beaches neighbourhood, complete with where to eat!
- 1 Ultimate 1 Day Guide to the Beaches Neighbourhood, Toronto
- 2 When Is the Best Time to Visit the Toronto Beaches Neighbourhood?
Ultimate 1 Day Guide to the Beaches Neighbourhood, Toronto
This guide will help you find out where to go in the Beaches, the best restaurants, and local tips!
Bookmark this guide to have the best day trip from Downtown Toronto. You’ll feel like you’re in a small beach community, not close to the bustling business district.
Solo travellers will love the freedom of the Beaches, Toronto. You’ll find amazing coffee houses, unique bakeries, and lots of places to explore. It’s 100% safe and 100% fun to adventure alone in the neighbourhood.
9AM – Coffee at the Beach
Start your day in the best way, with a warm bevvie and an empty beach.
Grab a coffee (or decaf tea if you’re like me) and a pastry from the Remarkable Bean and head to Balmy Beach to start your day.
I cycled to the Beaches from High Park, so I had my coffee at home. I got to Balmy Beach by accident after overshooting my ride to Woodbine Beach.
At 9am, the beach is mostly empty. A few people were tossing sticks for their dogs. One jogger was doing laps of the shore. Some couples were enjoying pastries of their own.
It’s lovely and quiet, with the sound of the crashing waves the perfect backdrop for a morning photoshoot.
Take some incredible shots of Lake Ontario from the pier or the rock wall. I brought my new tripod (that thankfully survived the dog crash at the Scarborough Bluffs) so I could capture the moments more easily.
(Side note: if you’ve never used a tripod, you’re missing out. Propping your phone up against your backpack or stairs is unnecessarily complicated. My new tripod and bluetooth remote have made taking photos on my solo travels so much easier! If you’re looking to get one, I highly recommend this tripod and bluetooth remote combo from Ubeesize for under $30 USD. It’s the one I have!)
Be prepared for your hair to get a bit windblown!
If you’re not into photography, enjoy a quiet stroll along the white sand shores. You may have to dodge a dog or jogger as the morning goes on.
10AM – Hike the Glen Stewart Ravine
I’m always looking for a new hike, especially in Toronto. So I was thrilled to find one in the Beaches neighbourhood that looked promising.
Unfortunately, it’s quite uphill from Balmy Beach, so the hike begins earlier than you’d anticipate.
It’s an easy hike for beginners in a city park.
The route to the ravine take you through an adorable suburb with cute homes that will have you snapping tons of photos. I went slowly to marvel at some of the larger places along the edges of the park.
The Glen Stewart Ravine hike is great for beginners. The trail is made up of a boardwalk through the ravine. Follow the paths through towering trees and over the ravine itself. You’ll avoid wet feet and get incredible views of the lush greenery.
The stairs in the ravine are the busiest area. Joggers tend to use them for training.
Be aware of this during the pandemic to safely navigate your way up the narrow steps. You don’t want to crash or get too close to anyone.
I do recommend taking the stairs though. They lead to some awesome lookouts and make it feel like a real hike, rather than a green walk.
Depending on how many turns you take on the trail, it doesn’t take very long. I got lost and stopped to do two photoshoots with some graffiti and at a lookout point, and I was still done in an hour and a half.
Bring water for the hike, especially if you plan to take your time. Although the path is mostly covered by trees and shields you from the sun, the stairs will definitely leave you sweating!
12:30PM – Lunch
After all that exertion you’ll probably be pretty hungry.
On my day trip to the Beaches, Toronto, I skipped the restaurants and got an array of snacks to eat at the beach. That’s partially because I was trying to avoid sitting in a restaurant during the pandemic (the government of Ontario has updated their rules to allow dining in and on patios now).
Although I skipped restaurants on my day trip, the Beaches are known for their delicious eats.
If you’re really hungry, head to Breakwall BBQ & Smokehouse for a meal that may require stretchy pants.
For a nice patio meal, go to Murphy’s Law Pub and Kitchen.
To copy my plan of eating at the beach, head to Tori’s Bakeshop for a selection of amazing foods. Tori’s is the main reason I decided to visit the Beaches for my day trip. The cute bakeshop is famous for their gluten free and dairy free fare.
I went in hoping to grab a muffin and a tea, but left with a lot more.
Grab a wrap or salad for your main. Then check out their fresh juices to wash it down. Don’t forget about dessert! I got their pumpkin muffin and can attest that it is TO DIE FOR.
Take a few different items to snack on throughout the afternoon.
1PM Onwards – Relax at Woodbine Beach
Woodbine Beach is the biggest in the Beaches district, Toronto. It can get crowded throughout the day, but it’s worth a visit.
If you’re planning to get a large spot on the beach, you may want to flip the day and visit earlier. By 1, the beach is often full of pop up tents and families on lounge chairs.
I prefer to read on the grass under the shade of the trees. Those areas are always available.
Bring a blanket to lay out on and some snacks for the afternoon, then relax into a boneless heap in the warm afternoon sun.
I found a comfy spot beneath a tree. It required a few adjustments as the sun went down and the shade moved over, but otherwise was really nice. It’s quite calm off the sandy beaches, which makes it a lot easier to get into a good read.
5PM – Stroll Along the Beaches Boardwalk
I’m a sucker for a good boardwalk.
Getting to go for a nice walk amongst dogs with the sounds of water around you is a dream.
Toronto has excellent boardwalks and the Beaches neighbourhood is no exception. In fact, they’re some of my favourite in the city.
I prefer to go for a wander later in the day, when most people are packing up to head home for dinner. With Toronto heat, it’s usually more pleasant after 4:30, making 5 an excellent time to head out.
Head to Balmy Beach from Woodbine Beach. That way, whenever you get hungry you can head North to the main street for food.
Remember to wear shoes on the boardwalk. It may seem beachy and safe, but it’s better to protect your feet – especially from some of the less careful cyclists.
6:30PM – Dinner
Many people actually leave the Beaches, Toronto before dinner.
It seems easy enough to return home and eat there.
I did that but ended up so tired that I fell asleep halfway through the yoghurt with bananas I was eating.
While you still have energy, check out some of the delicious places to eat in the Beaches neighbourhood.
If you didn’t head to Breakwall BBQ for lunch, go for dinner.
If you’re looking for some pub fare with a twist, check out The Stone Lion pub (I’m a sucker for a good mac and cheese menu).
My favourite choice is Xola, a small taqueria. The intimate atmosphere really fits the beaches and is the perfect compliment to this day trip.
8PM – Hit the Pubs
The Beaches, Toronto have an incredible selection of bars that you should check out.
Mom’s Basement is my personal choice – not just because the name is brilliant. They have this adorable couch section that makes me feel like I’m living in some mix of How I Met Your Mother and Friends.
Beer lovers need to visit Castro’s Lounge for their incredible selection.
Want more than alcohol? Head to Shamrock Bowl and Restobar to bowl the night away (with a few cheeky drinks).
End the night by returning safely to your accommodations. Take a taxi or the TTC, both of which run to the Beaches district from Downtown Toronto.
Like the Beaches too much to leave? Book yourself an Airbnb and keep the party going!
When Is the Best Time to Visit the Toronto Beaches Neighbourhood?
This 1 day guide is definitely best for Spring to Fall weather. You wouldn’t want to be laying out on Woodbine Beach in the -25°C cold.
I recommend visiting the Beaches in June or August to get amazing weather and less people.
July is when the Beaches, Toronto hosts the famous Toronto Jazz Festival, which attracts thousands. (If you’ve ever heard of the Beaches before, this is probably why.)
Read more about the Best Time to Visit Toronto.
Day Trips are Essential!
We’ve all been working too hard lately and need to remember to take breaks.
Find yourself an amazing day trip that feels like you’re somewhere new.
Use my guide to the Beaches neighbourhood in Toronto to visit this incredible area or to find one like it near you.
Although international travel is paused for safety, you can still find ways to satisfy your wanderlust and to slow your brain down. Give yourself that time to recharge and the excitement of leaving your neighbourhood.
What fun day trips have you discovered since lockdown?