Toronto Island Ferry

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Toronto Island Ferry
OSM-Toronto Islands with labels.png
Labelled map of the Toronto Islands
Locale Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Waterway Toronto Inner Harbour
(Lake Ontario)
Transit type Ferry
Operator Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division
PortsToronto (Toronto Port Authority)
Began operation 1883
System length City Docks to Centre - 2km
City Docks to Hanlan's - 2km
City Docks to Ward's - 1.7 km
Western Gap - 190m
No. of lines 4
No. of vessels 8
No. of terminals 6
Daily ridership 75,000

The Toronto Island Ferry connects the Toronto Islands in Lake Ontario to the mainland of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The ferry provides access to the islands for recreational visitors and access to the mainland for island residents from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, and access to the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport from the airport dock, which is located at the western end of the island chain.


The privately owned Hiawatha (1900) and Kwasind (1912) take members to the Royal Canadian Yacht Club.

There are four public ferry services to the islands. Three of these ferry services are operated by the Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division of the City of Toronto, and provide links for passengers and service vehicles from a dock at the foot of Bay Street on the central Toronto waterfront to docks at Hanlan's Point, Centre Island Park and Ward's Island on the Toronto Islands. Service frequencies vary by time of year, with a two round trips an hour on each route in summer, but fewer sailings on fewer routes in winter.[1]

The fourth public ferry service is operated by the PortsToronto and provides a vehicle and passenger connection from a dock at the foot of Bathurst Street to the island airport. The ferry makes the round trip across the 121 metres (397 ft) channel every 15 minutes during airport operating hours. There is no public access between the airport and the rest of the island chain.[2]

Beside the public ferry services, several yacht clubs and marinas located on the islands provide private ferry services for their members and guests.[3][4][5]


The first ferry to cross Toronto Harbour to what are now the Toronto Islands was in 1833, using a boat called Sir John of the Peninsular and operated by Michael O'Connor. At the time, the "islands" were still a peninsula, connected to the mainland at their eastern end. Other ferries soon followed, including both the Toronto, a steamboat, and the Peninsular Packet, which was propelled by paddle wheels driven by a horse. A storm in 1858 split the islands from the mainland, and increased the need for ferries.[6]

Throughout the rest of the 19th century ferries proliferated, with most being paddle steamers operated by individual owners. Eventually two competing ferry companies came into being: the Turner Ferry Company and A.J. Tymon's Island Ferry Company. The assets of the Turner Ferry Company were bought by the John Doty Engine & Ferry Company, which in turn merged with A.J. Tymon's Island Ferry Company in 1892 to form the Toronto Ferry Company.[6][7]

In 1906 and 1910, the Toronto Ferry Company built two double-decked, double-ended paddle steamers, with a capacity of 1450 passengers. They were named Bluebell and Trillium. They were retired in 1955 and 1957 respectively, but Trillium survived and re-entered service in 1976. It is operated by the Great Lakes Schooner Company for corporate and private functions, and for ferry runs throughout the summer. It is now 100 years old.[8][9][10]

The Toronto Ferry Company continued to operate the ferry services until 1926, when its services and fleet was purchased by the City of Toronto and transferred to the Toronto Transportation Commission (TTC, later renamed the Toronto Transit Commission), the body that operates the city's transit system. The three double-ended, diesel-engined and screw-driven ferries that form the backbone of today's service to the islands were built for the TTC. The William Inglis was built in 1935, the Sam McBride in 1939, and the Thomas Rennie in 1951.[11]

In 1938 the Toronto Harbour Commission began operating a ferry service to the new Toronto Island Airport, then under construction. A scow was adapted for use as a cable ferry, with the intention that this ferry would operate for a five-year period. However the scow remained in service for 25 years before being replaced by the ferry Maple City. The backup ferry Windmill Point was acquired in 1985 and a new replacement ferry, TCCA1, in 2006.[12]

In 1961 the ferry services operated by the TTC were transferred to Metro Toronto Parks and Culture, a department of the then Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. In 1997 the metropolitan municipality was merged with its member municipalities, becoming the enlarged City of Toronto, and the park ferry services became the responsibility of city's Department of Parks and Recreation. In 2005 responsibility for these services was transferred to the city's Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division, where it remains. The airport ferry remains the responsibility of the PortsToronto.


List of ferries[13]
Vessel BuilderA OperatorB Acquired Retired Capacity TypeC Notes
Luella WAC, JDE TuF, TFC, TTC 1880 1934 122 passengers SESD paddle steamer Accidentally scrapped 1934.
Mayflower BSW JDE, TFC, TTC 1890 1938 900–1,000 passengers DEDD paddle steamer After retirement converted into a barge. Sister ship to Primrose.
Primrose BSW JDE, TFC, TTC 1890 1938 900–1,000 passengers DEDD paddle steamer After retirement converted into a barge. Sister ship to Mayflower.
Ned Hanlan TDC TFC, TTC, MPR 1902 1966 Harbour tug Rebuilt in 1932. Used to provide winter ferry service for island residents. Named for local rowing legend Ned Hanlan, brother-in-law of Lawrence Solman, owner of the Toronto Ferry Company. Now displayed beside Stanley Barracks at the Canadian National Exhibition.
Bluebell PIW TFC, TTC 1906 1955 1,450 passengers DEDD paddle steamer Retired 1955 and stripped down and stored next to Island Water Filtration Plant in 1976, hull used as breakwall at Tommy Thompson Park near the Eastern Gap. Sister ship of Trillium.
Trillium PIW TFC, TTC, MPC, TPR 1910 (1957), active Originally 1,450; reduced to 955 DEDD paddle steamer Sister ship to the Bluebell. Retired in 1957 and used by Metro Toronto Works Department as a garbage scow (barge), but re-entered service in 1976 after being refurbished.[8] Sister ship of Bluebell.
Miss York TFC, TTC 1918 1929 Burned 1929?
Miss Simcoe TFC, TTC 1918 1929 Possibly named for Elizabeth Simcoe, the wife of John Graves Simcoe. Burned 1929.
Clark Bros. TFC, TTC 1890 1927 Named for Tom (T.J.) Clark; burned in 1930 at Sunnyside Park.[14]
John Hanlan Abbey TFC, TTC 1918 1927 Named for Toronto Island hotel keeper John Hanlan, father of Ned Hanlan and father-in-law of Lawrence Solman, owner of the Toronto Ferry Company; burned 1929.
T.J. Clark CL & PIW TFC, TTC, MPR 1911 1930 Wooden screw ferry Named for Tom "T.J." Clark, co-operator of wooden screw ferry that began service in 1890.[14] Operated as ferry from 1911 to 1927; sold to City of Toronto and operated by the TTC. Decommissioned 1959 and sold to Toronto Drydock Company Ltd.; scrapped by 1961.
Aylmer TFC, TTC 1918 1929
Buttercup TFC, TTC 1918 1929
Jasmine TFC, TTC 1918 1929 Renamed Ojiboway. Burned 1929.
William Inglis TDC & JIC TTC, MPC, TPR 1935 active 400 passengers DEDD diesel screw Named after William Inglis, head of local appliance manufacturer John Inglis and Sons.[15][16]
Sam McBride TDC & JIC TTC, MPC, TPR 1939 active 1,000 passengers - reduced to 524 and then to 736 due to upgrades to bulkhead and engines in 2011[17] DEDD diesel screw Named after former Toronto Mayor and alderman Sam McBride.[11][18]
Thomas Rennie TDC & JIC TTC, MPC, TPR 1951 active 1,000 passengers - reduced to 524 and then to 736 due to upgrades to bulkhead and engines in 2011[17] DEDD diesel screw Named after former Toronto Harbour Commissioner Thomas Rennie.[11][19]
Ongiara RB TTC, MPC, TPR 1960 active 220 passengers, 10 cars or 8 trucks DESD diesel screw Used to provide winter service and to carry service vehicles. Repowered in November 2006.[20]
Maple City TPA/PT 1964 active 40 passengers and 6 cars DESD diesel screw Operates to the island airport. Built 1951 by Muir Brothers Dock Yard [21] for Prescott-Ogdensburg ferry service.[22]
Windmill Point KS TPA/PT 1954 active 207 passengers DESD diesel Based in Amherstburg, Ontario, it operates to the island airport when Maple City is out of service.[23] Purchased by the Toronto Harbour Commission in 1985 and stored at Keating Channel when not in service.[24]
David Hornell , formerly TCCA1 HMP TPA/PT 2006 active DEDD diesel Operates to the island airport. Original name was an acronym of Toronto City Centre Airport 1.[25]
Marilyn Bell 1, formerly TCCA2 HMP TPA/PT 2009 active Operates to the island airport. Original name was an acronym of Toronto City Centre Airport 2.[26]

In popular culture[edit]

Allan Moak’s children’s book A Big City ABC prominently displays an illustration of the Toronto Island Ferry, Sam McBride on its cover.[27] It was also featured as "Flo and Merriweather" in Mighty Machines.

Return fares[28][edit]

Adult $7.00 Adult Monthly Pass $90.00
Student/Senior (under 19 with a student card and over 65) $4.50 Senior/Student Monthly Pass $67.00
Junior (under 14) $3.50 Junior Monthly Pass $46.00
Small Vehicle $100.00 Large Vehicle $125.00

Fee schedule for airport ferry service:

Vehicles (excludes emergency services) $11.00
Pedestrians free


Ferry landing at Hanlan's Point in 1908.
Ward's Island Docks
TCCA1, the current airport ferry, at the airport dock

With the exception of the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, no other docks are enclosed and consist merely of a series of metal fences and ramps.

Jack Layton Ferry Terminal[edit]

The Jack Layton Ferry Terminal is located at the foot of Bay Street on the mainland and consists of four piers. They are located in the enclosed main docks, and the last pier is an open area to the east for the larger Trillium ferry boat. Toronto Fire Services fireboat William Lyon Mackenzie shares the dock spaces. During winter months the ferries (other than Trillium) are stored here with upper decks covered with a tarp. Trillium is stored at nearby Yonge Street Slip. The docks were once home the fireboat William Lyon Mackenzie. The original docks were located on the east side of the THC Building at Bay and Harbour Streets. When the infilling took place after 1918 the docks moved to Queen's Quay West of Bay Street (now site of Harbour Square condos) before being moved to the east to the current location. The Toronto City Council voted unanimously to rename the terminal in honour of late New Democratic Party leader and former Toronto City Councillor Jack Layton.[29]

Hanlan's Point Docks[edit]

Hanlan's Point Dock is located to the west next to the island airport; open boarding area consists of three piers. There are washrooms and a snack bar nearby. The tugboat Ned Hanlon is located nearby. Hanlan's Point used to be called Gibraltar Point, and from 1794 to 1813 it was home to a British Army fortification or battery (storehouses and guardhouse), then a blockhouse from 1814 to 1823.[30]

Centre Island Docks[edit]

Centre Island Docks is on Island Park and consists of two piers. There are washrooms, a Shopsy's deli and a Pizza Pizza nearby. There is no winter service from this dock. Newly covered area was added to provide additional shelter space.

Ward's Island Docks[edit]

Ward's Island Docks is on Ward's Island to the east; an open boarding area consists of a single pier.

Airport Ferry[edit]

The Western Gap is at the foot of Bathurst Street and consists of a single pier. Parking is available for cars not crossing to the Island. The Island Airport Dock is at the north end of the island airport and consists of a single pier and a loading ramp. These two docks are used by the Toronto Port Authority.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Toronto Island Park". City of Toronto. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  2. ^ "Toronto City Centre Airport Facts". Toronto Port Authority. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  3. ^ "tender and schedules". Queen City Yacht Club. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  4. ^ "Launch Schedule". Royal Canadian Yacht Club. Archived from the original on 2008-02-26. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  5. ^ "Water Tender Schedule". Toronto Island Marina. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  6. ^ a b Partridge, Larry (March 1976). "Toronto Island Ferry History: the Beginning". Retrieved 2003-03-14. 
  7. ^ "Prominent Men of the Great Lakes — Capt. Andrew J. Tymon". The Globe, Toronto. 1898-01-01. Retrieved 2008-03-14. 
  8. ^ a b "Trillium". Canadian Transportation Agency. 2006-03-08. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  9. ^ "Hail to the Trillium". Scanner (Toronto Marine Historical Society). Summer 1976. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  10. ^ "The Elegant Paddle Steamer". The Great Lakes Schooner Company. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  11. ^ a b c Partridge, Larry (March 1976). "Toronto Island Ferry History: The Modern Fleet: 1935 - 1960". Retrieved 2003-03-14. 
  12. ^ "Toronto City Centre Airport: A History". Toronto Port Authority. Retrieved 2008-03-14. 
  13. ^ Partridge, Larry (March 1976). "Toronto Island Ferry History: Fleet List". Retrieved 2003-03-14. 
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ Filey, Mike (1998). Discover and Explore Toronto's Waterfront. Dundurn Press Ltd. p. 123. ISBN 1-55002-304-7. 
  16. ^ "William Inglis". Canadian Transportation Agency. 2006-03-08. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  17. ^ a b Niamh Scallan (2012-07-05). "Toronto Islands ferry passenger limits eased". Toronto: Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 2012-07-09. Retrieved 2015-04-30. Although the new passenger limits kicked in this spring, the trouble with Toronto’s aging ferry fleet began in 2008 when Transport Canada ordered the city to upgrade three boats — the William Inglis and Sam McBride, both built in the 1930s, and the Thomas Rennie, built in 1951. ... But what Transport Canada failed to tell parks staff, he said, was that the upgrades could cause the boats to lose their grandfathered status, which exempts the aging vessels from current marine safety standards. 
  18. ^ "Sam McBride". Canadian Transportation Agency. 2006-03-08. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  19. ^ "Thomas Rennie". Canadian Transportation Agency. 2006-03-08. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  20. ^ "Ongiara". Canadian Transportation Agency. 2006-03-08. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Maple City". Canadian Transportation Agency. 2006-03-08. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  23. ^ "Windmill Point". Canadian Transportation Agency. 2006-03-08. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  24. ^ "Vessel Registration Query System". 2009-12-16. Retrieved 2011-07-29. 
  25. ^ "Improved Access to the TCCA". Toronto Port Authority. 2007-01-12. Retrieved 2008-03-27. 
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Ferry Fare". Toronto Island. 
  29. ^ "Toronto ferry terminal to be renamed in honour of Jack Layton". CBC News. 2012-06-06. 
  30. ^