Vancouver, as we’ve all heard, has the upper hand when it comes to Canadian cities with stunning scenery on its doorstep. But here, we want to reclaim a little pride for Toronto.
There are some great outdoor locations to visit near Toronto, although unfortunately most require a bit of travel. But nevertheless, there are the Niagara Falls (just make sure you’re facing away from the crowds and over-touristy town); Algonquin and its quintessential Canadian icons – canoes, moose and beavers; and the Georgian Bay Area, with locations such as Bruce Peninsula and the Fathom Five National Marine Park and their beautifully blue waters.
Closer to home, there are the Toronto Islands which make for a fun, and car free, day out. Then there are the 1,500+ parks, the urban forest of 10.2 million trees and the ravine system, which flows through the city like green ribbons. Get down into the ravines, and you soon leave the hustle and bustle of North America’s fourth largest city behind.
It was down these ravines – through the beautiful parklands of ET Seton and Taylor Creek Parks – that we cycled along on our way to the Scarborugh Bluffs in autumn last year. Unfortunately, there isn’t a ravine all the way, so we had to briefly cycle along The Danforth.
This gives me a perfect opportunity to publicly air my grievance. Why, when Danforth Avenue is shortened, does it become ‘The Danforth’? No other street in Toronto is afforded this privilege! No one talks about going to ‘The Yonge’ or ‘The Spadina’.
Anyhow, back on topic. What is so special about the Scarborough Bluffs? Well, this lakeside escarpment represents a unique geological feature in North America, so these are something that Vancouver definitely doesn’t have!
In total, the Bluffs stretch for about 15km along the Lake Ontario shoreline east of Toronto. At their tallest point, the cliffs stand 90m (295 ft) above the lake. They resulted from the accumulation of sedimentary deposits over 12,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age, and their erosion by wind and water from the lake offers geologists a great record of the last ice age. The sand and clay eroded from along the length of the escarpment has gone on to form many of the beaches along Toronto’s waterfront, as well as the Toronto Islands.
We arrived on our bikes at the top of the Scarborough Bluffs Park. We stopped to eat our lunch, before then joining others in approaching the edge, taking in the spectacular views and peering down to the beach and park down far below. There are plenty of signs, and fences, keeping people away from the edge, but most people were paying no attention to these.
Having taken in the views, and nervously watched some people clamber far out over the cliffs, we decided to head down to the beach at the base of the escarpment. We cycled down the steep hill, and arrived at a very busy car park, as people rushed to enjoy one of the last warm days of 2015.
Strolling along the beach, we looked at the cliffs and up to where we’d been earlier, and were hopeful that we wouldn’t see someone on their way down who had strayed too close to the edge!
By this point, Emma’s legs were turning to jelly. The day before we’d cycled miles to Port Credit, to the west of Toronto in Mississauga, and now we’d cycled miles to the eastern reaches of Toronto. We sat in the park at the water’s edge, and Emma contemplated the pain she’d have to go through to cycle all the way back home. Watching a poser showing off in his speed boat in the waters around the park, we wondered whether he had room in the back for a couple of bikes, and whether he could give us a lift back to Toronto!
Eventually we faced up to the fact that we wouldn’t be able to ask the speedboat dude for a ride, and that it was time for us to make our own way home. That steep hill that we had cycled down, now had to be conquered in the opposite direction. Vancouver might have the infamous Grouse Grind, but as far as we’re concerned, Toronto has the Bluffs Burn!
Don’t let this put you off though, as the Scarborough Bluffs are well worth a visit. Some people probably don’t even realise that such a feature is in Toronto, and on a nice sunny day, they provide a great spot to get away from urban life. From the spectacular views to the beach & park life, there are also plenty of trails, gardens, sailing and boating opportunities or the chance to go for a swim in one of North America’s Great Lakes.
Getting to the Scarborough Bluffs
Most people drive to the Scarborough Bluffs, so expect a busy car park. TTC buses, namely the 12 from Victoria Park and Kennedy subway stations, stop along Kingston Road, but unfortunately not at the Bluffs themselves, so expect to incorporate a 15-20 minute walk into your journey. Alternatively, you could cycle like us!