During my recent trip to Canada I was lucky enough to visit two of Ontario’s most impressive and diverse attractions in the same day: the Toronto Islands and Niagara Falls.
We set out early for the Toronto Islands, getting one of the regular ferries from the city. The Islands, the only ones in the western part of Lake Ontario, are a very short distance from the city itself and offer great views of it.
But perhaps the best thing about the Islands is that once you get there you feel like you’re a world away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Adding to the sense of calm is the fact are no cars allowed over, which means that bicycles and the odd service vehicle are the most obtrusive form of transport – though the Islands are also home to Toronto City airport, on its north west tip, it doesn’t interfere with the peace and quiet.
We arrived on Centre Island on a sunny September morning and spent a really nice few hours ambling about, taking in the beautiful surroundings. It is impeccably well-maintained without losing it sense of natural beauty.
It is the kind of place that’s good for your soul as well as your lungs.
As you stand on one the many beaches looking out on the vast Lake Ontario you feel like you could be on a remote Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, not right on the doorstep of a city of well over 2.5 million people.
As well as being a peaceful haven, it seems it also something of a playground for the people in Toronto, particularly in the summertime, with its amusement park, an array of attractive beaches and no end of opportunities for boating, canoeing and other water sports.
My favourite Toronto Islands fact is as follows: in 1914, Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run into the waters of Lake Ontario from the then Toronto Maple Leafs stadium (which was moved to the mainland in the ’20s).
I wish we could have brought a blanket, a picnic basket and spent the day there, but thankfully we still had enough time to really appreciate it and there was another significant item on our schedule…
The Niagara Falls are one of the most photographed and written about attractions in the world and I’m not going to add too much more to that massive file of information here.
What I will say is that because they are so well-known, so well documented and – no matter when you go – the area so full of visitors, that it perhaps lacks the charm, the sense of the unknown and discovery that we love to find elsewhere.
The fact that town built around it is full of some of the tackiest attractions in existence probably doesn’t help either!
But all that is simply blown away when you’re standing there on the edge and looking down at one of the most amazing natural phenomenons on this planet. It’s breathtaking. No photographs you have seen or articles you have read can prepare you for the sheer scale and beauty of it.
The peace of the Toronto Islands was in stark contrast to the power of the Niagara Falls.
The green colour of the water, seen flowing over the Horseshoe Falls in the photograph above, is a by-product of the estimated 60 tonnes per minute of dissolved salts and “rock flour” generated by the erosive force of the Niagara River.
The force of the water is certainly something to witness and looking back up the landscape as the river thunders down towards the falls it was almost like an apocalyptic movie scene coming to life – if only it weren’t so beautiful.
The geography, history and stories that come with it are also fascinating. Plus, tacky attractions can be a lot of fun too if you let your silly side out to play! If you are anywhere near it you simply have to experience it.
It was a busy day and it was a long day, but it was a great day.