Day Trips

Kayaking to Billy Bishop Airport near the Toronto Islands

April 23, 2012

Usually paddlers are looking for a little bit of peace and quiet when they set out in a canoe or kayak. But when you live in the heart of a high-density urban area, that’s not always an option. Sometimes, rather than trying to squeeze the best nature experience you can get out of a city, you just have to fully embrace it for what it is and paddle directly into the heart of the mayhem.

Toronto’s Lake Ontario waterfront presents exactly that opportunity. There’s plenty of room in the harbour for serene paddling in between the islands too, but I’ll get to that in a later blog post. One unique experience is made possible by Billy Bishop Airport, Toronto’s downtown airport that is actually based on an island just a short distance from the main land. Travellers flying in and out of the airport ride a large ferry to travel over the water. This distance can also easily be covered with a paddle.

You can easily paddle over to do some plane watching from the Toronto Harbourfront Centre, which serves as a convenient access point and a place to rent a boat should you need one. From there, you’ll see the airport to your southwest – it is the closest island to you. Simply paddle over and park yourself next to the buoys that set up a perimeter around the end of the runway. Grab your camera and settle in, and wait for the planes to come.


View Billy Bishop Airport plane watching in a larger map


While I was floating during a weekend day in October, there seemed to be a flight coming in or taking off once every several minutes. Many of them were small sport planes, but some of them were the larger jets that Porter Airlines uses for short-haul flights to the U.S. and Canada. The noise isn’t as loud as you’d think, but the show is great. There’s one flight path that takes planes across the entire city skyline after it shoots off the runway.

Take note of the safety buoys and mind that you don’t get too close. Not only is it dangerous, but you’ll likely get in trouble with the law (a nearby police station is likely not a coincidence). So follow the rules!

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