Whether to call this area “Beaches” or “The Beach” is a matter of some friendly disagreement, though many residents are adamant that this is The Beach, to be differentiated from all those other Toronto neighbourhoods that border on lakeshore.
Some dispute also arises over how far north The Beach community is. You might see references — especially in real estate ads — to sites as far north as Danforth Avenue as being in the Beaches.
For Streeter, we are adopting the majority local view that The Beach proper runs between the lake in the south and Kingston Road in the north. Beyond that lies the community best called Upper Beaches, nested between Kingston Road and Gerrard Street East.
For convenience we are also including in our coverage of The Beach a smaller neighbourhood to the west called the Beach Triangle.
Now, with all those mapping issues out of the way, let’s look at the the actual Beach more closely.
Without exaggeration, this is one of the most distinctive and best known communities in Toronto.
What makes it most famous of course, is the sandy shore, the swimming and boating areas, the miles-long boardwalk, and plentiful parkland. Together they draw thousands of people every year.
The queen of streets
These attractions are ably supported by the lively shopping area of Queen Street East, serving both visitors and locals residents with the unique, independently owned specialty shops, services, restaurants, cafés and bistros.
One of the highlights of the Beach’s calendar is the Beaches International Jazz Festival. The music fest closes Queen to traffic and lets the masses roam the street and enjoy music from dozens of great bands and performers.
The R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant, at the eastern end of Queen Street, is another unique attraction. It’s a fascinating structure that looks more like a castle than a public works building. And the inside is even more otherworldly. Dog walkers, photographers and sunbathers frequent the grounds here and tours are often available.
You can also spot the plant — inside and outside — providing intriguing backdrops in movies and television.
Single-family detached homes of Victorian and Georgian vintage line The Beach’s side streets, as do low-rise apartment buildings, row houses and townhouses. Families and working professionals — with a heavy contribution from media and the arts — call the neighbourhood home.
Several notable celebrities have lived or gone to school in or near The Beach. They include actor Donald Sutherland and his son Kiefer, late Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, director Norman Jewison and pianist Glen Gould.