The Beaches Neighbourhood

The Beaches

Location

The neighbourhood is bound by Coxwell Avenue to the west, Victoria Park Avenue to the east, Kingston Road to the north, and Queen Street East or Lake Shore Boulevard —as well as Lake Ontario — to the south.

A boardwalk runs most of the length of the southern boundary along the four beaches that make up the shoreline. This makes part of the Martin Goodman Trail that runs west-to-east through the city.

Four separate beaches make up the shoreline: Balmy Beach, Scarboro Beach, Kew Beach, and Woodbine Beach, with Woodbine and Kew beaches “Blue Flag” certified for cleanliness and good for swimming.

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History

The Beach neighbourhood was originally heavily forested with few private homes inhabiting the then swampy land. In the early 1900s, the shoreline and Kew Gardens private park were acquired by the Toronto Harbour Commission. The commission enlarged the beach in 1930, opening the new public boardwalk in 1932.

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With the creation of the new beachfront, the area became a destination for Torontonians, with real estate becoming a premium for the neighbourhood.

Local Trivia

  • One of the most contentious items about The Beach is the name of the neighbourhood, with long-time local residents referring to it as simply “The Beach.” However, non-residents of the neighbourhood often take to calling it “The Beaches.” The name “The Beach” has its origins in the area dating as far back as 1903, listed as the original Beach telephone exchange. However, the name “The Beaches” was also used around the same time, with the Beaches Library named in 1915. This naming debate came to a head in 1985, when the City of Toronto installed street signs designating the area “The Beaches.” Debate hit a fever pitch, when a poll by the Beaches Business Improvement Area board saw that 58% of participants opted for the moniker “The Beach.” It has been since changed.
  • In the early 20th century, the neighbourhood was home to several amusement parks — Victoria Park, Munro Park, and Scarboro Beach Park. You can find streets named for these parks in The Beach today.
  • The R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant has been featured in several television programs and films such as Half Baked, In the Mouth of Madness, Four Brothers, and Undercover Brother. It is also mentioned in the Michael Ondaatje novel In the Skin of a Lion.
  • Residents who have grown up in the neighbourhood include Academy-award winning director Norman Jewison, pianist Glenn Gould, author Robert Fulford, and the band Down with Webster. Songwriter Dan Hill currently lives in the area.
  • Celebrities that have attended area high schools include comedian John Candy as well as actors Keanu Reeves, Kiefer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland, and Jeopardy’s Alex Trebec.
 

The Good News

The neighbourhood has everything you could want. From its boutique stores, restaurants, bistros, bars, and pubs along Queen Street East to the Lake Ontario shoreline and the numerous parks providing great outdoor activity, The Beach has much to offer for everyone.

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The Bad News

With the location of the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant being so close, sometimes odours can emit from the plant that may be unpleasant to some.

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As well, because of the immense popularity of the area in the summertime, the neighbourhood can be packed with visitors from across Toronto crowding the beaches and Queen Street East. Traffic in the summer can grind Queen Street East to a standstill.

Homes, Architecture, and Real Estate

Most of the homes on the side streets branching from Queen Street East are semi-detached homes, with some larger Victorian and Edwardian homes that have been either taken by a sole owner or divided into apartments. You can also find some low-rise apartments and a few row-houses.

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Some streets have heritage designations in order to help protect the cottage-like appearance of some homes closer to the lakeshore.

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Queen Street East is a dense commercial district providing the heart of the urban character for the neighbourhood.

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Who Is Your Neighbour?

Over 20,000 residents call The Beach their home, with an average income of between $67,000 and $70,000, a value well above the average for the rest of Toronto. The area is notorious for being a wonderful place to raise a family, since there are many parks and schools and very little crime.

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Parks and Green Spaces

There are several parks available for residents' enjoyment.

  • Kew Gardens: Equipped with a ball diamond, skating rink, outdoor track, wading pool, and of course, direct access to the lakeshore.
  • Balmy Beach Park: The park was created in 1903, featuring lawn bowling, a playground and an off-leash dog area.
  • Ivan Forrest Gardens: One of the smaller parks in the area, this park features several mature trees and rock gardens with fountains.
  • Glen Stewart Park: The key feature to this park is the Glen Stewart Ravine, providing beautiful winding trails through streams and wooded slopes.
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Recreation and Culture

One of the key attractions for the neighbourhood is the annual Beaches International Jazz Festival. Band shells and venues are created for the festival, welcoming musical acts from around the globe to participate in this wonderful event.

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Due to the historic nature of the area, several buildings have been designated heritage buildings, such as the Bank of Toronto building, which is now the “Lion on the Beach” bar built in 1950, the Beaches Branch of the Toronto Public Library built in 1916, and the Dominion Bank building built in 1911.

lion on the beach

For the active, there are several baseball diamonds in the many parks in The Beach, as well as beach volleyball courts found along the lakeshore. Walkers and cyclists will love the boardwalk along Lake Ontario for fresh air and a breathtaking view.

You can also find the Kew Gardens Rink on Lee Avenue inside the Kew Gardens park, as well as the Kew Gardens Lawn Bowling Club. Others will find activities at the Beaches Recreation Centre (6 Williamson Road, 416-392-0740).

There are also several places of worship to be found in The Beach:

  • Toronto United Mennonite Church (1774 Queen Street E, 416-699-6631)
  • Corpus Christi Church (16 Lockwood Road, 416-694-0382)
  • Waverley Road Baptist Church (129 Waverly Road, 416-694-3054)
  • Kew Beach United Church (140 Wineva Road, 416-691-8082)
  • Center of Hope International Church (65 Glen Manor Drive, 647-969-4673)
  • St. Aidan’s Church (70 Silver Birch Avenue, 416-691-2222)

Libraries

The main library servicing the neighbourhood is the historic Beaches Branch, one of the four original Carnegie Libraries, similar to the Northern Toronto library in Wychwood (2161 Queen Street E, 416-393-7703).

Schools

There are several schools that service the neighbourhood, making it a perfect area to raise a family.

Arts and Entertainment

One can find several art galleries lining Queen Street East that provide local artist collections for viewing and purchase.

Key to the neighbourhood is the Fox Theatre (2236 Queen Street E, 416-691-7330), built in 1914 and North America’s oldest continuously operated movie theatre. The venue shows movies in repertory to this day.

fox theathre

Shopping

Many boutique shops can be found along Queen Street East, most of which are locally owned and small enough to cater to residents' specific needs. There is much turnaround of business tenants, providing an ongoing variety of locally owned shops to browse.

Restaurants

Many great restaurants, bistros, bars, and pubs dot the neighbourhood. Here is a small sample.

Transportation

Several streetcars and bus lines service the neighbourhood, providing transportation to and from downtown Toronto. Key to the neighbourhood is the 501 streetcar travelling along Queen Street East and the lines along Kingston Road (the 502 and 503) and Gerrard Street East (the 506). Bus lines such as the 92 run north-to-south along Woodbine Avenue to Woodbine Station, with the 64 servicing Main Street Station.

For drivers, downtown is minutes away along Queen Street East and fast access to the Don Valley Parkway. Kingston Road provides very simple access to the 401.

Medical Centres and Doctors

Several doctors and medical centres service the neighbourhood, with the closest hospital being Toronto East General Hospital (825 Coxwell Avenue, 416-461-8272).

Other medical centres include:

Police Station

55 Division, 101 Coxwell Avenue, (416) 808-5500

Fire Station

Toronto Fire Station 227, 1904 Queen Street E

3 Responses

  1. LINA KOUNINE

    just looking for a big house for a big family in the good neigborhood: waterfront, pool, and everything else for good leaving for all my family: me, my 2 sons with families with kids and dogs and cats …

  2. Alec

    Hi Richard,

    It’s really not a good idea to put your email directly into the website. It attracts quite a bit of spam. We do encode emails included within the text of the site but not comments at this point. I guess we should do that. Even encoding isn’t enough. It’s better to use slightly cryptic formulas like “email me at rsilver at the domain sothebysrealty.ca”. Or just tell people to use your contact form along with a link. Ironically you don’t have a comment form but just an encrypted email. Glad Sotheby’s is dealing with team spam filtering and not us!

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