I love beach names. From Chicken Ranch Beach Ditch in California to Chocolate Beach in Nova Scotia, every beach name has a story behind it. Learn about the name, and the unique history of the place seems to come alive.
Maybe it’s because I’m from Toronto, but I feel like the city’s beaches have some of the most fascinating backstories. And since Toronto is still Swim Guide’s biggest market, I have a hunch I am not the only one who loves this city’s beaches.
From east to west, Toronto has eleven “official” beaches. These represent a small fraction of our 45-plus kilometres of shoreline, but they are the best places to swim if you care about reliable water quality data, lifeguards, easy access, waste management, and other amenities.
Rouge Beach is right on the eastern border of the city. You can see Pickering and Durham Region right on the other side of the river. Bet you didn’t know it’s current name (“Rouge”) comes from the same French explorer who was the first European to navigate the Mississippi River. He disappeared off the coast of Quebec in 1700.
Woodbine-Ashbridges Bay is named for Sarah Ashbridge, one of only a handful of public parks on the Great Lakes named after women. Another is Marie Curtis Park in the city’s west end. It’s named for the Reeve who helped to create a parkland system in the GTA to protect against flooding and the impacts of severe weather.
Ward’s Island Beach is one of my favourite because there is no such place as “Ward’s Island.” (It is actually just an extension of Centre Island.) Cherry Beach is a close second, because it was renamed when stubborn Torontonians simply refused to call the beach by its proper name (“Clarke”) until the city gave up.
Hanlan’s Point is named for a champion rower, and possibly the last person who rowed across the harbour to school every morning or to deliver fish to the Toronto fish market.
And what of names that we don’t hear as often?
In the west end, Sir Casimir Gzowski and Budapest Park beaches are now lumped in with “Sunnyside.” Gzowski was a Polish-born engineer who helped to build the Welland Canal. Budapest Park commemorates the Hungarian Revolution. They sit on the Martin Goodman Trail, named for one-time president and editor of the Toronto Star.
No beach bears a name flowing from traditional Aboriginal place-names, though the rivers (“Etobicoke”), the lake (“Ontario”), and even the city itself (“Toronto”) still remind us of the unique culture here on “Niigaani-gichigami” – Lake Ontario.
What’s your favourite beach name? Which beach would you re-name and why? If you could add a beach to Toronto's shoreline, where would it be? Tell us in the comments below.