TOP-10 PICNIC SPOTS
Sometimes, when exploring Toronto for my guides and blog, I come across a place that would be a unique picnic spot!
I've been known to take friends to some of those wonderful hidden gems and surprise them with cheese and wine to enjoy... on the spot. There are many more out there, but here are 10 great places to enjoy a bite (and a sip) in great company, that made the list, for different reasons. If you have a chance, let me know about your own favourite spot!
Here we go... saving my favourite for last!
PICNIC SPOT #10
HIDDEN BENCH: Rosetta McClain Gardens
5 Glen Everest Rd, Scarborough
In the northeast corner of the site is an elegant vine-covered trellis, next to a huge rose garden. West of the roses, beyond the gazebo, awaits a bench by the romantic ruins of the old McClain home. Not many people walk by this welcoming oasis. I love the European feel of this nook. Rosetta McClain Gardens also offers plenty of spots for a classic picnic on the luscious grass amidst the mature trees.
PICNIC SPOT #9
GAZEBO: Humber Bay Promenade Park
2413 Lake Shore Blvd West, Etobicoke (Birds & Beans Café)
Most walkers reach the heart of Humber Park by entering the Humber Bay Parkway West, which is why few people know about the Humber Bay Promenade, west of the pedestrian bridge. In my opinion, the best vantage point for discovering this promenade is by walking from Amos Waites Park, accessible off the backyard of Birds & Beans Café. A 10-minute walk from the café, going eastbound along pretty elevated boardwalks, you'll find the lovely gazebo with its breathtaking view of the lake.
PICNIC SPOT #8
HIDDEN SHACK: Colonel Danforth Park
73 Colonel Danforth Trail, Scarborough
Following the paved path southbound from the large parking lot of Colonel Danforth Park for less than 15 minutes, look for a tree marked with the number 44 in orange, on the east side of the path. Opposite, on the west side, you should see another tree marked with the number 51. It is located at the entrance to the forest trail. Take it to discover this surprising shack built by Gordon (whom I met by chance!), a nature lover who, for the sheer pleasure of it, has painstakingly arranged interlocking branches into a masterpiece that you can step into. A real gem! Probably a good picnic spot to do a Dungeons and Dragons game...
PICNIC SPOT #7
CITYSCAPE: Riverdale Park East
550 Broadview Ave, Toronto
Thanks to the pandemic, Riverdale Park East has become extremely popular to watch the sun set over the city. But the park is so vast that everybody finds a decent spot. The hill is quite steep so plan finger food you can grab directly from the picnic basket. Don't forget the blanket! Across the street is the great Rooster Coffee House, usually open from 7am to 7pm. Note that the sun sets at 8:40pm early August and 7:55pm early September.
PICNIC SPOT #6
RIVERVIEW: East Don Trail, Phase 2
106 Widmore Drive, North York (Wigmore Park)
Everywhere the Don River flows, I expect to find a dirt trail running along the river, well travelled by the locals, which is why I stepped out of the paved East Don Trail, Phase 2. And I was not disappointed! Look for street parking around Wigmore Park and walk over the hill to find the park's access to the path into the forest. Following the paved trail for 10 minutes, you will reach the first beautiful pedestrian bridge, a recent addition to the trail. Taking the dirt path to its left, you will eventually find this lovely spot with fine pebbles. Spread a blanket and enjoy your picnic while listening to the joyful murmur of the stream.
PICNIC SPOT #5
BEACH: Woodbine Beach
1675 Lake Shore Blvd East, Toronto
Woodbine Beach, Toronto's widest beach, covers over 800 metres of waterfront water. Because of the No Swimming section, closest to Ashbridges Bay Park, there are fewer people in the western part of this otherwise very popular beach. I've done a few evening picnics there, by the large boulders. Don't forget the lanterns! Good to know: not too far from that end of the boardwalk awaits iPaddle Adventures, renting kayaks and paddle boards. The Boardwalk Café and Booster Juice are located a short walk away.
PICNIC SPOT #4
HIDDEN PICNIC TABLE: Colonel Danforth Park
73 Colonel Danforth Trail, Scarborough
Exploring the dirt trails off the paved path running through Colonel Danforth Park, I found an exciting spot featuring this picnic table!
From the parking lot, we walked northbound on the paved path to reach the high Kingston Rd Viaduct. We did not go underneath, walking instead towards the river to our left to meet the dirt trail. Keeping our left, we soon came across tall, majestic trees... and were surprised to find a fallen tree, burnt from the inside out by lightning! Following the more open path closer to the river, we found a sunny pebble beach and its inviting picnic table, judiciously placed. Continuing on that trail, you'll eventually join the paved path where you will turn right to get back to the parking lot. The river flows down to the lake, a 45-min walk further south.
PICNIC SPOT #3
TOP OF THE WORLD: Sunrise Hill
15 Beechgrove Drive, Scarborough
There's a large parking lot at East Point Park Bird Sanctuary, which entrance is just south of the parking lot, and which is a lovely cliff walk in itself. But for a picnic, I suggest you climb up the hill east of the gravel road by the parking lot. It's called the Sunrise Hill. When we reached its top for the first time, overlooking the lake, it felt like we were in The Sound of Music movie! Then, a man manoeuvring his paraglider landed before us. This is a unique spot in Toronto. On some days, the sky fades into the lake. In other times, Lake Ontario is sparkling like a crown and takes on turquoise hues. On my bucket list: bringing a breakfast picnic to watch the sun rise, in good company.
PICNIC SPOT #2
SECLUDED BEACH: Guildwood Beach
201 Guildwood Pkwy, Scarborough (Guild Inn Estate)
It is quite a treat to stroll on the grounds of the Guild Inn Estate to admire the stately pieces of façades salvaged from Toronto banks of the past. Parking is free. You then want to find the gravel road (off a steep path in the eastern part of the park). It leads to the lake. You can explore the secluded beach, left and right. It is not maintained like the official Toronto beaches, which explained all the driftwood and adds to the charm.
PICNIC SPOT #1
HIDDEN NOOKS: Charles Sauriol Conservation Reserve
1191 Lawrence Ave East, North York
When I was looking for ways to get to the Rainbow Tunnel, which we can see when we drive on the Don Valley Pkwy, I noticed that there was an entrance to Charles Sauriol Conservation Reserve from Lawrence Ave East, just east of the parkway (closed to cars in the winter time). It takes us down a country-like road to a parking lot. Off the south section of the lot, you can access the paved East Don Trail leading to the Rainbow Tunnel. But most people ignore that there's a hidden dirt trail off the northern part of the parking lot.
Find it, and you will soon notice that there is something poetic about this forest. It turns out that an original artist has quietly worked his magic, over the years, to weave the branches, creating a natural corridor. Follow it to your left to discover the landing platforms he has built to allow us to enjoy the Don River. If the first one is occupied, move on to the next, following the dirt path by the river. And there's a third one past the viaduct. A genuine labour of love!
Incidentally, upon my recommendation, my son Laurent Bergeron used this location for one of his music videos. Cat's Cradle was filmed around the dirt trails surrounding the hidden nooks.