Anyone who has driven into Toronto knows the city’s size is striking. It is a bit overwhelming at times. Modern and urban, there is no shortage of skyscrapers or other buildings towering overhead. But its location along Lake Ontario means that small beaches dot the city’s eastern edge and offer a moment of respite in the shadow of the soaring CN Tower.
Scarborough Bluffs is a particularly special Toronto beach park. Not every major city has a unique beach like this to brag about. Located roughly a half-hour from Downtown Toronto, its white cliffs form a ring around a charming beach while nearby wildlife areas and a marina create a serene spot for visitors – humans, birds, turtles, and whomever else may be in the vicinity. This is the park for anyone looking for a special escape from the urban rush.
Brief History of Scarborough Bluffs
Scarborough Bluffs is a more than nine-mile stretch of white cliffs along the Lake Ontario coast. The cliffs are a combination of sand, silt, and other sediments that were partially formed during an ice age long ago. At their highest, the bluffs reach 300 feet above the lake. The original cliffs stretched even farther than what can be seen today; urban development saw some of the cliffs leveled. And the cliffs that remain are fragile and prone to erosion.
The City of Toronto has eleven parks along the coastal bluffs. Bluffer’s Park is the only one of the parks with a beach and direct access to the lake.
Visiting Bluffer’s Park
Bluffer’s Park at Scarborough Bluffs is more than a park. It is the kind of adventure where you get hints of what is to come, bit by bit. The secret is kept quiet at first and then at the last minute, Mother Nature fully reveals herself. From the park’s parking lot, you can get glimpses, mostly of the marina. Maybe a bird, soaring overhead. But the white cliffs just peek out over the tops of the trees.
There is plenty to explore at the rather large park, but to reach the cliff beach, there are two main options.
For those who enjoy a good stroll, there is Scarborough Bluffs Park Trail, a paved path along the boulder-lined lakefront. The path feels like what it is: a carefully planned park path. On your left, as you head towards the beach, Lake Ontario shimmers and sparkles as far as the eye can see. On your right, there are benches and picnic tables under trees. The path takes a bit longer to reach the beach, as its curves match the terrain. It juts out into the lake offering stunning views at lookout points.
The more direct path to reach the beach leads through a wooded area, along sometimes muddy and definitely sandy paths. The meandering path – paths, really – offers more of an opportunity to explore. The area is rich in small songbirds as well as larger waterfowl. I spotted a turtle sunning itself on a branch before quickly diving back into the water. Roughly halfway between the parking lot and the beach, there is a pond and wetland area. There are walkways suspended across the pond that offer views that increasingly tease the cliffs up ahead.
Regardless of the path you take, it eventually opens onto a narrow beach of fine sand with the cliffs overlooking it. On quiet days, it is quite quiet. You can hear, perhaps, just the lapping of the lake on the beach and some birds calling out. It is peaceful. With the CN Tower out of sight, it and the rush of the Toronto downtown is out of mind. It all seems a world away.
The cliffs themselves are impressive but not impenetrable. After several partial collapses, fencing has been erected around the area as a protection for both them and visitors. While it ruins some of the photo opportunities, it is easy to look past the barriers to take in the scale of the bluffs.
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All photos, as well as opinions, are my own.