Nowhere in Toronto can get you closer to the lake shore than this collection of neighbourhoods. Made up of the East Bayfront, the West Don Lands, the Central Waterfront, and the Port Lands, this area of Toronto offers continued rejuvenation and is fast becoming home to people who adore closeness to the water, parks, and unrivalled views. See why so many enjoy the Waterfront’s proximity to all things nautical as well as its closeness to the downtown core.
The Waterfront neighbourhood is actually four distinct neighbourhoods that are united under one umbrella.
Queens Quay Bird Perspective by Ken Mist
The East Bayfront is the newest neighbourhood developed on Toronto’s waterfront, offering a wonderful proximity to the downtown. It’s bound by the lake to the south, the Gardiner Expressway to the north, Lower Jarvis Street to the west, and Parliament Street to the east.
The West Don Lands lies west of the Don River, and it’s being developed as a sustainable and pedestrian-friendly community. Several residential units are under development, with more on the way. Bordered on the east by the Don River, the southern border is defined by the CP Railway line north of the Gardiner Expressway, King Street East, and Eastern Avenue to the north, and Parliament Street and Cherry Street to the west.
The Central Waterfront offers the largest expanse of shoreline access along Lake Ontario. It goes as far as Lower Jarvis Street to the east, Queens Quay Boulevard to the north, and Bathurst Street to the west.
The Port Lands are one of the larger neighbourhoods making up the Waterfront, stopping at Leslie Street to the east, Lake Shore Boulevard to the north, and the lake to the west and south.
As the “relatively new” Lake Ontario was formed, the area was carved out by glaciers thousands of years ago. These glaciers deposited silt along the lake shore, mostly generated through the erosion of the Scarborough Bluffs. The strong currents of the lake made the deposits form into the Toronto Islands and the fingers of land along the waterfront.
In the early 1900s, the City of Toronto helped further develop the waterfront, filling in some of the bay area and providing proper sewage and water routing.
In 1972, the government took another step towards increased liveability in the area. The Federal Liberals in power promised Toronto an improved waterfront with the creation of the Queens Quay Terminal and the Harbourfront Centre in the Central Waterfront area.
These improvements brought with them condominium developments for many residents who enjoy the spectacular views of the lake. Though many industrial facilities still dot the Waterfront, more housing options are coming to the area.
- One of the motivators for filling in the bay in the 1900s was public safety. At that time, because no formal sewage system was built in the area, local residents would go to the bay to dump household waste, sewage, and animal carcasses.
- The nearby Gooderham & Worts distillery grew to become the world’s largest distillery at the time.
- Toronto Island used to be a peninsula. A violent storm on April 13, 1858, actually caused the gap in the peninsula, creating the island and the eastern channel. This would not be the only time Mother Nature changed the layout of the Toronto waterfront. Hurricane Hazel broke Toronto Island into several smaller land masses in 1954. In 1956, the responsibilities for care and maintenance of the island were transferred to the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. The city then developed the island into park land.
- Toronto Island also had a baseball stadium, where Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run.
- Ontario Place opened its doors in 1971 on artificial islands.
The Good News
A bright outlook is bringing more attention to this area, with the city looking for ongoing plans to revitalize the neighbourhoods and preserve the lake shore and green areas. Buying early in this area could provide dividends in the future.
The Bad News
Many neighbourhoods, particularly the Port Lands, are still partially industrialized, with some being abandoned. The area also houses the Hearn Generating Station and the Portlands Energy Centre. You’ll also find larger industrial facilities, like film studios, in the area that take up considerable space.
Because the area is geographically new, it offers few traditional homes. The Waterfront boasts many condominiums, with new developments on the way. The city granted the West Don Lands area, previously abandoned, five new buildings devoted to lower-income housing. That said, more condos and lofts are underway in the Central Waterfront and Port Lands areas.
The ongoing plan for the city is to provide the area with accommodation for upwards of 80,000 residents. You can find the current best bets for housing in the West Don Lands and the Central Waterfront areas, with condos and townhomes available.
Who Is Your Neighbour?
The area has seen a bit of a boom since 2001 to 2011, with an increase in population of 133.6 per cent. The influx mostly comprises new families and young urban professionals looking to capitalize on the great outdoor experience of the neighbourhood and its proximity to downtown.
Parks and Green Spaces
Across the four neighbourhoods making up the Waterfront area, you’ll find many parks and green spaces available for your pleasure.
- Underpass Park: A small park equipped with a playground for children
- Corktown Common: Newly available to the public, this park provides a dogs off-leash area, two playgrounds, and a splashpad for the summer
- Sherbourne Common: The perfect destination for both summer and winter, with a great walking park for the warmer months and an outdoor ice rink for winter hockey and skating
- Toronto Music Garden: One of Toronto’s most enchanting parks, inspired by Bach’s “First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello” (note that each movement in the suite corresponds to a different area of the park)
- HTO Park: Found in Toronto’s inner harbour, this park offers grassy hills and a long beach along the water’s edge — enjoy the shade umbrellas and Muskoka chairs
- HTO Park West: One of the best places to unwind after a busy day, with white sand and shade, it’s also a perfect picnic area.
- McCleary Park: Great for the outdoor sports enthusiast, McCleary Park has two night-lit baseball diamonds, a clubhouse, and a cricket pitch
Recreation and Culture
Along Queen’s Quay by Gary J. Wood
Residents can quickly get downtown and hit the bars, clubs, and restaurants if they wish, but most Waterfront traffic heads to the area to enjoy the water, sand, and parks.
Many boaters and yacht owners will find the area’s proximity to slips very convenient and a great way to spend the day on the water. Golfers of any experience level will enjoy a visit to the Toronto Waterfront Golf Academy, while people enjoying “proper” football can do so at the Cherry Beach soccer fields.
In the winter, you can enjoy the Natrel Ice Rink right down by the water, just below Queens Quay West at Simcoe Street.
The Redpath Sugar Refinery has been making sugar since 1854, and you can indulge your sense of history and your sweet tooth with a tour of its museum.
Most places of worship are found to the north of Queens Quay and Lake Shore boulevards. Look to the downtown area and Leslieville for churches. Here are some examples to look into.
- St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 73 Simcoe Street, (416) 593-5600
- Metropolitan United Church, 56 Queen Street E, (416) 363-0331
- Little Trinity Anglican Church, 425 King Street E, (416) 367-0272
- Church in the City, 158 The Esplanade, (416) 203-7117
- Riverside Church, 456 King Street E, (416) 368-5040
- Toronto Christian Worship Centre, 705 King Street W, (416) 863-1313
- St Mary’s Parish, 130 Bathurst Street, (416) 703-2326
- St Andrew-by-the-Lake Anglican Church, Toronto Island, (416) 203-0873
The main library servicing the neighbourhood is the Toronto Public Library at 162 Queen’s Quay East, which you can reach at (416) 367-0223.
Schools, Colleges, and Universities
There are a couple schools in the area.
- City School, 35 Queens Quay W, (416) 393-1470
- George Brown College – Waterfront Campus, 51 Dockside Drive, (416) 393-4636
You can also find many sailing schools here.
Arts and Entertainment
The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery offers many exhibits over the course of the year. Also nearby is the Queens Quay Terminal. The Waterfront also houses a full performance theatre, showcasing regular dance, comedy, theatre, and music performances.
For the more rigorous, challenge your friends to a game at The 50 Paintball Complex in the West Don Lands.
Not just a theatre space, the Queens Quay Terminal is home to several cafés and shops available for your perusal.
There are a few restaurants in the area, with more and more coming on the scene every month.
- Cafe Supreme, 25 Dockside Drive, (416) 690-1984
- Against the Grain Urban Tavern, 25 Dockside Drive, (647) 344-1562
- Pier 4 Storehouse Restaurant, 245 Queens Quay W, (416) 203-1440
- Shoeless Joe’s, 249 Queens Quay W, (416) 915-7478
- The Watermark Irish Pub, 207 Queens Quay W, (416) 214-2772
- Pearl, 207 Queens Quay W, (416) 203-1233
- Cocoberry Cafe, 49 Harbour Square, (416) 504-4456
- Toula Ristorante, 1 Harbour Square, (416) 777-2002
- Alexandros, 5 Queen’s Quay W, (416) 367-0633
Several busses service the neighbourhood along Queen’s Quay. Union Station is also walking distance to provide residents with access to subways, Go Trains, and the rest of the city transit system.
For drivers, the Gardiner Expressway is seconds away, as are Lake Shore Boulevard and the Don Valley Parkway, providing access to the 401.
Medical Centres and Doctors
The nearest hospital for the neighbourhood is St. Michael’s at 30 Bond Street, (416) 360-4000.
Other medical centres include:
- George Brown College WAVE Dental Clinic, 51 Dockside Drive, (416) 415-4547
- Waterfront Medical Centre, 266 Queen’s Quay W, (416) 595-9699
51 Division, 51 Parliament Street, (416) 808-5100
Toronto Fire Station 334, 339 Queens Quay W
Toronto Fire Station 333, 207 Front Street E
Toronto Fire Station 326, 30 Knox Avenue