Canoeing in Toronto? Despite what many might think, Toronto is a paddling paradise. Some might say it's an urban canoeists wet dream. In a good day of paddling, the sights you'll likely see over the gunwale of your boat range from gritty urban decay and graffiti murals to hidden beach hideaways and curious wildlife. Toronto has river systems, lakefront beaches, and islands in the stream. Escaping the dull grind of city life is as easy as renting a canoe. Of course, the most frustrating aspect of renting a canoe is getting it from the rental shop to the water.
Still, here are my top six picks of local equipment shops that rent canoes.
This place might be the most expensive but I guess there's a convenience fee for being able to rent a canoe from somewhere right on the water and just a short paddle from a day of exploring the Toronto Islands. Canoe rentals are $30 by the hour or $60 for the full day. I recommend going with the full day. I would only rent for an hour if my hat blew off on the ferry and I wanted to paddle out and rescue it before it sunk.
MEC rents general purpose canoes on a price curve dependent on how long you'd like to rent them for. It's $30 for a single day, with each additional day added on at $20 per day, or you can rent for a full week for $140.
Located about a five minute walk from Old Mill station, Toronto Adventures offers rental canoes, and guides tours down the Humber and Rouge River and around Cherry Beach/ Leslie Spit. Canoes are $40 for the first hour, and $25 for each additional hour. Their location makes them a perfect destination for a spontaneous trip down the Humber to the lake. They also deliver boats anywhere in the GTA if you can give them two days notice.
Found near Islington and Evans Avenue at 919 Oxford Street, The Complete Paddler is a highly specialized shop with a full range of water gear. They offer Kevlar Tripping Canoes to rent for $40 per day, or $37.50 per day for multiple days. Like there other two options, canoe rentals from The Complete Paddler include PFDs, paddles, and other safety equipment.
Exclusive Sport Rentals
Currently based in Vaughn, but with plans to expand to Toronto this year, Exclusive is more of a Dial-A-Boat service for Torontonians who want to paddle around their own city (1-855-91-SPORT). With more than 8 canoe models on offer with varying price points and purposes - ABS canoes for white water, or fiberglass canoes for quiet lake paddles - Exclusive delivers rental equipment all over the GTA. Prices vary by boat, so you'll need to know what type of craft you're after, or let them suggest something for the trip you're planning.
On Centre Island, during the summer months, you can rent a canoe from the Boat Rental near the Shrubbery Maze. There is a limited supply, so be sure to get there early.
Now that you have a canoe, where to paddle? Here are my favourite launch options.
The Scarborough Bluffs are one of the most geologically distinct landmarks on the coast of Lake Ontario. The water is often choppy, and the beach here is littered with neatly sanded beach glass. Conditions can get quite rough. Local freshwater surfers come out on windy days to ride the rollers drifting in from open water. Pick a calmer day to paddle out from here.
The Secret Beach runs immediately west of Bluffer's Park. It's called the secret beach colloquially because of the secret entrance through a hole in the fence alongside the R. C. Harris water filtration plant. Secret Beach is a remote series of manmade breakwaters that soften the threat of erosion from oncoming waves. It's a quiet, rarely-trodden, sandy beach where you'll often spy tents set up as temporary homes behind the wild-looking tree line. Old flotsam and jetsam wash up here constantly, and there's a beautiful piece of graffiti worth seeing on an old cement drainage outlet. If you're approaching from the west in the faltering evening light, you'll likely find local kids around a roaring driftwood fire. Join them if you like, but keep an eye out for the bylaw police.