(COVID Update as of May 1, 2021: Read parking info at the end of the article, after the map.)
As with Part 1 and Part 2 of my four-part series, I hope to inspire you to try the morning experience by showing you the wide variety of sunrises I saw in seven days.
Then, I suggest a 3.6 km circuit full of street art, with the added pleasure of simple coffee and a well hidden piece of public art.
March 24 to 30, 2021
To borrow a metaphor from Forrest Gump, sunrises are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. And so it was with the mornings of March 24-30.
The first rainy morning offered no sun, but ducks. But overcast doesn't necessarily mean no colours. Later in the week, a diffuse pink glow peeked through the clouds for a few minutes before disappearing.
Another morning, a stratus bar lined the horizon under a clear sky. When the sun rose above this Prussian blue barrier, a golden streak ran along the edge of the clouds. And when the days were clear, I was treated to a tropical orange sky.
I-Spy at Woodbine Beach
Only once in a month of morning visits was I lucky enough to see fog on the beach. Heavier before sunrise, it gradually diffused in the following hour. A great opportunity to take photos resembling Japanese stamps, with darker foregrounds contrasting against the greys of more distant elements.
Once again, the bathers were there. Every time I saw them, they entered the freezing water without screaming (!!!), and stayed there for at least five minutes!
I saw a flock of beautiful white swans landing in front of me. Beautiful! Eventually, an enthusiastic dog couldn't resist being a dog and they flew over the trees of Ashbridges Bay.
I also saw three crazy surfers surfing in the wind in the rain.
3.6-km circuit around Woodbine Beach
To start the art circuit, walk west on Lake Shore to the Beach Skateboard Park at the corner of Coxwell and Lake Shore. This is Toronto's largest skatepark. It offers a plaza-style design, with stairs, rails and a deep kidney bowl. A perfect backdrop to showcase street art.
In 2019, artist Pascal Paquette and his partner in crime Amos Daniels managed fifteen street artists to cover the entire skatepark. It now looks very inviting.
A little further west, last October, in the midst of the pandemic, a myriad of artists covered 500 meters of palisade under the coordination of Angel Carrillo (Wallnoize), John Ringuette (Ringfire Productions) and Adrian Hayles (Hashtag Gallery). Their mandate was to create water-themed works, in reference to the huge construction project that is currently taking place on the south side of Lake Shore.
It took me over 8 minutes to walk along the palisades to admire each piece. Street art lovers will recognize the mark of several graffiti artists whose works can be seen all over the city: Dudeman, Skam, Poser, Kizmet, Horus... It makes for a nice outdoor gallery.
You will notice the round building near the palisades. This is the "Building T", one of the two pumping stations on site. Both will be replaced by the new station being built near the waterfront. There is talk that the intriguing 70's building could be reclaimed for other functions.
At the end of the fence along Eastern Avenue, you will notice the beautiful Rorschach brewery house, to be considered when the patios reopen!
Finish the walk by heading east on Eastern, then north on Coxwell. Turn right on Queen to snag good coffee and snacks at Simple Coffee (1636 Queen East, open daily 8am-5pm). Then take the unnamed street between Harveys and the movie theatre to access Woodbine Park at the corner of Cowell and Eastern.
The big finish
I've walked for years through the first little clearing you pass in this section of the park without noticing the public art piece installed since 2000! It is even easier to miss at this time of year when the trees are bare. Look for the large rock with a plaque. The tall black tree in front is actually made of metal. It is part of sculptor Laurie McGugan's Circle of Trees.
There are several trails in Woodbine Park that will take you back to your starting point. I like to walk along the park's large pond. Even more impressive when the large central fountain is in operation.
About Ashbridges Bay’s constructions
When a major storm hits our city, the system pushes sewage to overflow into the rivers and into Lake Ontario when it reaches a certain threshold. It's either that, or pushing the sewage back into the sewer system and into people's basements!
A huge and fabulous City project will change all that. When completed, Toronto's water management mega-project will include a 22-kilometre tunnel system, 12 storage shafts, 12 tunnel connection points for stormwater and combined sewer overflows, 7 off-line storage tanks.
Sewer overflows will be pumped to the new Ashbridges Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant for ultraviolet disinfection before returning to the lake. A City initiative that shows vision and is truly to be applauded!
On April 18, I went to Ashbridges Bay at around 8 a.m. There was a police car but they allowed cars to come and go. By 9 a.m., they were installing a yellow tape to prevent people from parking around Woodbine Beach (they only let the marina people and out).
On May 1, a policeman at Woodbine confirmed to me that the parking lots won't be closed after all during the May lockdown... (but the City's website still say that we can't).
Note that the parking meters are back in the City parks from May to September. But we only need to pay from 5 pm to 9 pm on weekdays (max $5), and from 9 am to midnight on weekends or holidays (max $9).
In case the parking lots are closed you want to watch the sunrises, you need to know the following:
• The residential streets around Woodbine Beach won't allow you to park between 12 midnight and 7 a.m. Since the sun currently rises earlier than 6:30 a.m., it's a problem!
• We're allowed to park for free on the south side of Eastern Avenue (west of Coxwell), but ONLY on weekends.
• If you don't mind paying for parking, you'll find plenty of spots in the Green P parking lots south of Queen (#183 to #187, between Winners Cricle and Woodbine). It might cost you $8 if they charge the fixed rates for the time before and after 7 a.m. (max for 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. is $3, and max for 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. is $5).
• You can park for free on the south side of Queen East BEFORE 8 a.m. Monday to Saturday and before 1 p.m. on Sundays, but ONLY east of Woodbine.
1st Week of SUNRISES at Woodbine Beach (1/4): With 6-km walk around Queen East
2nd Week of SUNRISES at Woodbine Beach (2/4): With 6-km walk around Queen East
4th Week of SUNRISES at Woodbine Beach (4/4): With 4.7-km walk around Ashbridges Bay
Today's post is a complement to THE BEACH Soothing Stroll, one of 26 walks featured in my latest walking guide: Toronto BEST Urban Strolls. You can order it through your local bookstore, or online on amazon.ca, Indigo.ca or directly from the author. You can also pick up copies at 299 Booth Avenue by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org