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Your Fall Guide to Toronto’s Waterfront

Nov 9, 2015

Fall colours at Toronto's Corktown Common

Corktown Common is just one of the waterfront spaces you can visit this fall.

By Mira Shenker

It’s prime fall foliage season, and there’s no better place to embrace it than the waterfront. Beyond a leafy view along Lake Ontario, there are cultural attractions and events scheduled all season, and some new public art installations to take in. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy the waterfront this fall.

Enjoy the fall colours

Close-up of leaves changing coloursFall foliage in our waterfront parks

There are more than 700 trees at Corktown Common, all bursting with fall colours. 

Waterfront Toronto is aiming to cover 30 to 35 per cent of our revitalization area with trees, and we’re well on our way. The trees we’ve planted so far are at their most beautiful right now. Here are some spots to spend a crisp fall day.

Tommy Thompson Park

One of the best nature watching areas in the Greater Toronto Area, Tommy Thompson Park is located in the Port Lands at the Leslie Spit. It’s one of the largest existing natural habitats on the Toronto waterfront, with wildflower meadows, cottonwood forests, coastal marshes, cobble beaches and sand dunes. If you’ve always meant to take a hike through this park, now is the perfect time. 

The Water’s Edge Promenade

Follow the tree-lined promenade south from Queens Quay and Jarvis past Sugar Beach and you’ll reach the water’s edge. The 200 trees planted along the water’s edge promenade and boardwalk in East Bayfront five years ago have matured and formed a full canopy. At this moment, it's a canopy of reds, yellows and oranges.

Walking further west? Follow the promenade south from Queens Quay and Dan Leckie Way and you’ll reach Ireland Park. Tucked into the southeast corner of the Portland Slip, the park commemorates the 38,000 Irish immigrants who fled to Toronto during the Famine of 1847. You’ll find several bronze sculptures by renowned Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie, created to memorialize the link between Ireland and Canada.

Martin Goodman Trail

One of the best ways to experience fall on the waterfront is by bike. The 17-kilometre Martin Goodman Trail can take you from the Mimico Waterfront Park to Sunnyside Park, past Marilyn Bell Park and Coronation Park, through the newly revitalized Central Waterfront, and on to Sugar Beach and Sherbourne Common, Cherry Beach, Tommy Thompson Park and the Beaches Park. Don’t feel like riding a full 17 kilometres? Head south to any of these parks to get your fix of fall foliage.

Toronto Island

While many people see the Toronto Islands as a summer destination, it’s well worth a fall excursion. You can get on the Toronto Island ferry from the mainland dock near the base of Bay Street, south of Queens Quay. The ferry to Centre Island doesn’t run between October 15 and April 21, but you catch a ride to Wards Island. From there, it’s a 30-minute walk through the cottages near the dock, then west towards Centre Island. The boardwalk on the south side of the island is your best view of Lake Ontario. And if you’re looking to visit a few adorable farm animals on your way to take in more fall foliage, Far Enough Farm is open year-round.

Corktown Common

If you've never visited Corktown Common for a walk through the park’s extensive trails and lush marsh, now is an ideal time. The 7.3-hectare park located next to the rail corridor and accessible from Lower River Street or the Don Trail has fast become a neighbourhood favourite. If the leafy wonderland isn’t as exciting for your children as for you, head to the playground next to the pavilion. The park is connected to the river’s edge and the city’s trail system through an entrance from the Don River Trail through the Bala Underpass.


Tall ship bridge lit up for the Waterfront BIA's Spectacle of Lights

The Tall Ship on the Amsterdam Bridge at Harbourfront Centre will be lit up as part of the Waterfront BIA’s Spectacle of Lights.

Follow the new promenade along Queens Quay to any one of the exhibitions or events at the Harbourfront Centre, the Power Plant, the Museum of Inuit Art and Pawsway. Of note: Carlos Amorales’ installation, Black Cloud, is on at the Power Plant until January, and Ryerson University’s School of Fashion has teamed up with Pawsway to put on a people and pets fashion show which, if the website is any indication, will include cats in bow ties.

Also along Queens Quay, you’ll see the BIA’s outdoor photo exhibit – winning photos from the My Waterfront Photo Exhibit competition are displayed on banners attached to Queens Quay’s new signature light posts. If you head to Queens Quay on November 28, you can take advantage of the Waterfront BIA’s Shop the Neighbourhood event.

Spectacle of Lights

While you’re on Queens Quay, be sure to take in the Waterfront BIA’s Spectacle of Lights. From November 28 to January 1, spaces along the waterfront will be lit up with thousands of LED lights. New this year, the light installation at the Toronto Music Garden will be animated.

Public Art

New mural at the Bala UnderpassNo Shoes sculpture in Corktown Common

Left: The Bala Underpass transforms this important connection between the West Don Lands and the Don River ravine trail system. Right: No Shoes is part of Phase 1 of the West Don Lands Public Art Strategy.

For all those who appreciate art and architecture in the city, the waterfront has plenty of public sculptures and public-spaces-turned-art. Among our favourites: Toronto’s Music Garden, the Sundial Folly at Harbour Square Park, and Mirage at Underpass Park. Recent additions to the landscape of waterfront art include Rolande Souliere’s mural for the Bala Underpass and Mark di Suvero’s No Shoes in Corktown Common.


Did we miss something? Tell us your favourite fall waterfront activity or event. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter – and join the conversation using the #TOtheWaterfront hashtag 



post contributor

  • Mira Shenker

    Mira Shenker is a senior communications manager at Waterfront Toronto. She has previously worked as a journalist and executive editor at industry and business publications.