Island Life in a Big City

Our winter was non eventful after our epic haul out, the days and months just ticked by with the rhythm of life. In January sometime I began a countdown to the day we could return to the Island, as I do every season. And now, the months have rolled by and well, today is the first of August. We are quite obviously back to living what I call our #torontoislandlifestyle.

We are so very fortunate to call the Toronto Islands our Home, and to live a life afloat aboard Monster such as we do at the Toronto Island Marina. The Toronto Islands are a mere 15 minute boat ride across the Toronto Harbour, and while there is a designated residential area on the Eastern end, the Islands in fact are comprised of a large City Park. Did you know that the Islands are the ‘largest car free urban area in North America?’ as according to Wikipedia.

Essentially, we abide by ‘Island time’ for six months of the year due to the constraints of simply being Island bound. The pace of life is a wee bit slower here, the hustle and bustle is left behind in the City, with it’s beautiful skyline across the Harbour. How do we sustain an Island lifestyle in a city as large as Toronto?

During the week, the Marina operates an hourly Tender service that can transport us to and from the city as we require. We purchase a family pass at the start of the season, to cover our fares. The Tender operates more frequently with a half hour service at peak rush hour times, and on weekends. The last tender is generally 11:00 pm,… hello curfew. There is always the option of a water taxi, but if you are the lone rider it can be an expensive ride at $30 to cross the Harbour.

When our tender arrives City side there is suddenly have a wealth of amenities at our fingertips. You are smack dab downtown with the TTC, our public transit system, only a minutes walk away. There are no grocery stores on the Toronto Islands and so we lug our provisions over from the city. You can purchase a variety of snacks and odds and ends from the Marina office as well as visit the restaurant within the Marina, called the Upper Deck. The patio features the best view of the city! There are several other restaurants across the Island including the Island Cafe and The Rectory Cafe, and both are worth the visit. I will attest that our lives generally revolve around the ‘next tender’ and ‘ah, one more boat’. Ones day can seriously go aray if you miss that intended tender. There’s certainly some planning that goes into going ashore even if only for milk or beer. There’s nothing worse than seeing the Tender depart, and disappear into the Harbour traffic as you arrive dockside or even worse, you discover that the tender is full and you can’t transit across that trip. 

As I’ve mentioned all the amenities we generally require are mostly found on Queens Quay itself, the main street along the waterfront. Groceries, Post Office, Doctor’s & Dentists, and essentially anything your heart desires is within distance. Most will be astonished when I say we only venture north of Queen’s Quay, perhaps once a week!? During my work week on the Islands I may not even visit the city for 5 days or more. We tend to stay pretty local within our neighborhood of the Waterfront, which serves as both office and playground for Gordon and I.

The Marina offers the common basic facilities, as marinas tend to do. One of the most important to us is laundry; on a regular basis we haul our loads of laundry to the main hub. ‘Up front’ as we call it. As you near the laundry room, everyone silently hopes there is a machine or two free. If not, the bar is adjacent for a cold one while you wait for either, your wash cycle or for a free machine. I find if I get a load into the wash it’s pointless to venture back to the boat, as it’ll only be time to turn around and head back again. We also take advantage of the showers ashore, while we do have the option to shower aboard, we prefer to use the shower facilites of the Marina for a proper steamy experience. Yet another instance where you have to ‘lug’ your things / your towels and soaps to the washrooms. On a busy weekend, you may find you have to wait for a shower. That’s the way it goes, and it isn’t uncommon to find your neighbors, or myself for the matter, trekking around in our pajamas and or showering in the stall beside you. It’s a great way to keep up on the talk around the marina. This brings me to our community, whom I can’t say enough good things about. Whether you need a drop of milk, the right tool for a job, the dog walked or child minded, there’s always someone to help you out. After the Toronto Island Floods last year we especially rallied together, and the cast of characters that comprise our community are bonded through our common link of the Island.

When we pass through the main gates of the marina into the Park itself there are a multitude of things to do and places to explore. One of the big highlights for our Son is Centerville, a children’s amusement park. There are also bike and boat rentals. There is a Childrens’s Garden, and a hedge maze. A boardwalk, frisbee golf course, playgrounds and a splash pad. A designated bird sanctuary. And beaches. Several of them including a clothing optional one! The Island also plays host to a multitude of festivals and events throughout the season. From marathons, to musical festivals to one of our favourites, the Hare Krishna Festival, such happenings are as eclectic as the people that visit.

One of the most magical aspects of our Island is the crowd it draws. The city of Toronto is renown for being a multicultural epicentre. On any given summer day the Island is inundated with people of every race, colour and background imaginable. Whether they be picnicking, playing sports, at the beach, touring the Island or just hanging out its a very welcoming sight to see so many people mingle together happily.

The only downside to our idyllic life on the Island is that the season is much to short. Before we even know it the summer passes by and we are preparing and thinking ahead to fall and winter. With every year it’s becoming tougher and tougher to endure the winter… I look forward to the day where and when we can live such an Island lifestyle year round!

~~This post ‘Island Life In A Big City’ first appeared on ~~

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