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Toronto urban nature and winter walks: by the lake

Updated: Jan 24, 2023

WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? A winter walk to admire waterfowl + an off-the-beaten trail towards Cherry Beach.

Not many people think to do this 5.6-km loop because it sits between two more popular destinations: Tommy Thompson Park (Leslie Spit) and Cherry Beach.

They're a parking lot west of the entrance to Leslie Spit, your starting point. Then, walk westbound on the paved trail just off the lot.

Martin-Goodman Trail

The path quickly gets sinuous, offering lovely country-side vibes, with a hint of industrial sight, thanks to tall chimneys pointing over the trees. The price to pay for living in a big city.

For the curious minds: you'll pass Portlands Energy, a power generating station, using natural gas, and Hydro One Switching Yard, receiving power from Portlands Energy.

The paved path runs along Unwin Avenue. Walk past the Unwin bridge and follow the dirt trail towards the lake. When visiting this week (late December), there were hundreds of ducks (my daughter identified six different species among them) and dozens of white swan.

Toronto's waterfront

We followed the dirt path along the waterfront, sticking to the left whenever we found a fork in the trail. I'll let the pictures talk for themselves.

Note that when strolling along that circuit last summer, I noticed some tents... With this kind of weather, it's now down to one. We can easily walk past it without disturbing the dweller.

Sticking to the left path, it led us to a small bridge over a stream and a line-up of small sailing clubs along a street I had never walked on, aptly named Regatta Road. I could not resist taking a few pictures of the signs we could read on the fences. The inclusive "Learn to sail without owning a boat", the enthusiastic "Members will be grad to discuss our affordable clubs", and the tong-in-cheek "Water Rat Sailing Club, est 1969" with perfect logo.

Regatta Rd soon turns north and you can resume your walk on Martin-Goodman Trail to your left, and then walk through the first clearing you see to access Cherry Beach.

We walked to the lifeguard station. Beyond is the off-leash park bordering the canal with a view over the cityscape. We chose to return at this point, staying on the Martin-Goodman Trail, back to our car.

Our 5.4-km walk took us around 90 minutes. Along the way, we saw ducks and swan... and woodpeckers, rabbits, chickadees, robins and one owl (but no partridge in a pear tree...). We also spied a cute fox painting. Yours to find. ;-)

Since we started our walk around 3 pm, on our way back, the sun was starting to set over Martin-Goodman Trail. Plan accordingly if you don't want to end in the dark!

While you're there

At the intersection of Lake Shore Boulevard & Leslie Street (1-km from Leslie Spit's parking lot) behind the Canadian Tire, you'll find the very popular chip wagon selling real fries and hot dogs. (It shows as "Best in town chip wagon" on Google Map, and is usually open from 10:30 am to 7:30 pm).

That commercial block on the south side of Lake Shore also includes LCBO, Mark's clothing store, Shoppers Drug Mart and Farm Boys. On the north side, you'll find a large Starbucks, Loblaws and Tim Hortons.

This post is a complement to local author Nathalie Prézeau's walking guide: Toronto BEST Urban Strolls. You already own this book? Check Nathalie's WEEKLY WALKS calendar available on her site It's free, easily printable by season, and it includes page references which should help you enjoy urban walks year-round.

Nathalie's guides are available in Toronto’s major bookstores, on and or We also deliver or contact the author directly at to arrange for a pick up with a discount at 299 Booth Avenue, in Leslieville.


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