Sugar Beach used be an abandoned parking lot on a neglected industrial strip. Now, it’s a sand covered park named for the nearby Redpath Sugar refinery that we bypassed during the last walk. This beach is not designed for swimming or wading in Lake Ontario. At the moment, that’s just as well. The sun is shining but the water looks choppy and cold. We’ll settle into the white Muskoka chairs under the umbrellas and admire the view of the Toronto Islands instead.
Sugar beach made headlines in 2014 when former mayor Rob Ford falsely claimed that $900,000 had been spent on the umbrellas and rocks there while he was in rehab, a supposed example of “the gravy train” chugging along in his absence. Sugar beach in fact opened in 2010 and Ford posed for pictures there that same year. Sigh.
In August, Sugar Beach becomes the setting of Toronto’s only sail-in cinema. The movies are projected onto a giant inflatable two-sided screen on a floating barge for landlubbers and seafarers alike to enjoy. I doubt there is any other cinema that has a Frequently Asked Questions page quite like this one:
Q: Do I need a ticket if I’m coming by boat?
A: No…just sail in and drop your anchor.
Q: What if I have a rowboat, kayak or canoe?
A: We recommend that you watch from land or use a powered vessel.
Let’s get out of the wind and step inside the nearby Corus Quay building. There’s an aquarium style art installation on the ceiling where the “fish” swim in schools and change colour. There’s also a nice restaurant, Against the Grain, with views of the waterfront. If we head back outside and continue to walk east along the waterfront trail (keeping to the sidewalk to avoid wandering in front of the cyclists), we pass part of George Brown College and the Sherbourne Common, which has an ice rink in the winter, a splash pad in the summer and is pretty deserted this time of year.
Beyond Sherbourne Common is one long construction site as condos rise up on Toronto’s old industrial waterfront with names like “Aquavista.” Let’s step away from the dump trucks and cement mixers and visit one of the best preserved historic neighbourhoods in Toronto. We’re going to leave the waterfront path at Parliament Street, walk north under a particularly crumbly looking section of the Gardiner Expressway and follow the smell of gingerbread and the sound of carolling to the Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District.
Getting there by Public Transit: Subway to Sherbourne then 75 Sherbourne bus (southbound)
Further Reading: Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto by Shawn Micallef and Marlena Zuber
Next: The Distillery District and the Toronto Christmas Market