Home to the largest urban population in Canada, a thriving diversity of cultures, NBA, MLB and NHL teams, as well as an array of lifestyle activities and greenspaces, Toronto’s reputation as a hub of Canadian life and culture is well-earned.

The heart of downtown Toronto might not immediately bring to mind exploring nature, but venture toward the shores of Lake Ontario and you’ll be surprised at the opportunities to dip your paddle into one of the Great Lakes. Curious where else you can paddle when based out of Toronto? Read on and discover some of our top finds!

Front of a kayak pointing at the CN Tower
Despite being an urban centre, there is lots of great access to kayaking opportunities in Toronto. | Photo by: Flickr//John Vetterli

Where to go kayaking in Toronto

Humber River

The Humber River runs through the heart of the city and empties into the majestic Lake Ontario. You can paddle the section from Old Mill Station to the lake in an easy day trip where you’ll feel tucked away in the wilderness as you paddle past gentle banks, deciduous trees, small creatures like minks, and all manner of native birds.

There are a couple of places you can put-in near Old Mill Station.

Etienne Brulé Park

Etienne Brulé Park is located at 10 Catherine Street, Toronto, on the east side of the Humber River. Parking here is free. It’s a short walk down to the water, although there is no official ramp or boat launch located here.

Humber Boat Put-In

The Humber Boat Put-In is located off Humber Valley Road, just north of the intersection with Riverwood Parkway, on the west side of the Humber River. There is free parking here and a boat ramp, making it simple to access the water.

It’s an easy paddle to Lake Ontario from both these launch points. If you have two vehicles, you can park a second at the Humber Bay Park Boat Ramp (225 Humber Bay Park Road W., Etobicoke), near the Humber Arch Bridge. Otherwise, you can paddle back upstream to the starting point.

Don’t have a kayak? Toronto Adventures offers two-hour canoe, kayak and SUP rentals on the Humber River. You can also check out their guided tours and lessons.

Keep in mind that water levels on the Humber vary throughout the year, running high in the spring and low in late summer. Track water levels here if you’re curious about the ebbs and flows of the Humber.

Lake Ontario

Paddle your way from Woodbine Beach to the towering Scarborough Bluffs for some spectacular photo ops and beautiful kayaking in Toronto. Rent kayaks from Toronto Beach Kayak and float your way along the shore. This spot is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the area, and won’t disappoint regardless of the weather. In the right sunlight, the water lights up turquoise and the beaches contrast in lighter colors, evoking thoughts of Caribbean seascapes. On gloomier days, your thoughts will drift to the legendary cliffside beaches of Scotland.

If you want to stick to inland waters, make your way to Sunnyside Park. The park itself is on Lake Ontario, off Lake Shore Blvd, but there are breakwaters to keep the potentially choppy waters of the lake a bit calmer. This is a great option for a day of kayaking in central Toronto.

Credit River

Just west of Toronto in Mississauga, Ontario, you’ll find the Credit River, where you can meet local paddlers taking advantage of urban whitewater. While the section from Streetsville to Erindale Park runs class I and II rapids year-round, things get more exciting here in the spring with higher water levels. Continuing down to Port Credit is also an option.

Those looking for a shorter, flatwater paddle may choose to start at Port Credit and paddle upstream to the QEW and back. There is a boat ramp located just after the Port Credit Lighthouse. It can be accessed at a public parking lot located at 16 Front Street S., Mississauga.

Toronto Island

Toronto Island can be a bit of a misnomer to visitors, because it’s actually an interconnected group of 15 islands, the largest of which is called Centre Island. The other 14 islands have different names, but are all part of the Toronto Island group and are connected by pathways and bridges.

You can kayak to Toronto Island from Harbourfront Centre in downtown Toronto. Head to Centre Island, which is easy to see because it’s also the location of Toronto’s downtown airport, Billy Bishop. From there you can traverse the islands along their shores, or on foot if you’d like to explore the interior. The Boat House is a kayak rental service that’s on Toronto Island; take a 13-minute ferry ride from downtown Toronto to take advantage of Centre Island kayak rentals if you don’t want to paddle across. Grab a bite to eat and relax for a while—this is a great spot to spend a day kayaking in Toronto!

Harbourfront Canoe & Kayak Centre

  • Single kayak: $45 for two hours; $60 for three hours; $75 for four hours
  • Tandem kayak: $60 for two hours; $80 for three hours; $95 for four hours
  • Guided tandem kayak tour: $135

The Boat House

  • Single kayak: $29 per hour
  • Tandem kayak: $37 per hour

Best kayaking near Toronto

One of the great advantages of being in Toronto is that you’re within a few hours’ drive, at most, of a plethora of paddling options for all skill levels.

Take a drive out of the city, and in an hour and 45 minutes you’ll be at the north end of Lake Simcoe, in McRae Point Provincial Park. Tour around in a kayak acquired from a Toronto rental company, or stop at Happy Paddling rental company on your way through Barrie, Ontario. One-hour kayak rentals here will run you $30.97 for a single sit-on-top kayak and $44.25 for a tandem. If your timing allows, get out for a sunrise paddle on the lake—the colors are spectacular.

If you’re feeling adventurous and have a bit more time to travel outside of Toronto, consider heading to Palmer Rapids, Ontario, where you’ll find some challenging and exciting paddling on the Lower Madawaska River. If you’re looking for a guided trip on the Madawaska, check out Paddler Co-op or Madawaska Kanu Centre. For rentals, nearby Barry’s Bay Outfitters is your best bet. Rent a kayak here for $26 to $33 per day, with options for multi-day rentals as well.

When to go

When it comes to entry-level kayaking in Toronto, summer is the best time of year to visit. Summer in the city is hot and humid, making being out on the water all the more inviting. Keep in mind, of course, the risks of sun and heat exposure and take the necessary precautions to ward against heat stroke, dehydration and sunburn.

It’s also a good idea to check weather reports before you head out, especially when planning to paddle on Lake Ontario. Many rental companies will cancel bookings if wind and waves are creating dangerous conditions on the water. If you’re paddling independently, keep an eye on forecasted wind speeds, and be mentally prepared to change your plans on arriving at the launch point if it’s choppier and windier than you’re comfortable with, or head back to shore once you’re out there if conditions worsen.

While many rental shops open during May or June and close for the season in September or October, paddling doesn’t stop altogether in the winter months. Lake Ontario rarely freezes over, so many paddlers still choose to get out on the water. Doing so requires experience and the appropriate gear, however. Learn what cold water paddling essentials you need and connect with local groups (such as Credit River Paddlers) to find out more about winter water conditions in the GTA.

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