What to expect on a Toronto Harbour Tour


The Toronto Harbour Tour was a truly magical experience. Immersing myself into open water felt liberating and the bright blue sky made for a beautiful day. On the tour, I was able to see Toronto from a new perspective and I discovered many of the city’s hidden gems. From the Toronto Islands and historical landmarks to the natural ecosystems and wildlife, every view was different.

As the Oriole was docking, lines of people eagerly awaited to board. The Oriole is a fascinating vessel, and the Victorian era steamship style provided a lens on what boating in Toronto would have been like in the past. However, this feeling quickly disappeared as we sailed away from Toronto’s futuristic skyline that manifested itself in our view.



A Brief History

Toronto Waterfront 1916

Toronto Waterfront 1916

Onboard the Oriole, photographs were projected depicting the evolution of Toronto’s Waterfront. The black and white images showed the waterfronts development from a major industrial port in the 1800’s, to a lively recreational and tourism attraction, complimented by the CN tower, Sugar Beach and Rogers Centre. Although much has changed, the Redpath Sugar silo, which has been headquartered here since 1950 can still be seen from the shore receiving deliveries from Great Lake and ocean-going vessels.
During the voyage, many different historical landmarks were visible. Each one helped shape my understanding of the Toronto Harbour and all its dynamic parts.

Hanlan’s Point is one of the Toronto Islands, accessible by ferry. It’s named after John Hanlan, one of the Toronto Islands’ first year-round residents. Here visitors can play at the Centre Island amusement park, swim on sandy beaches or the nude beach (1 of only 2 in Canada!) and sail along the canals. The beach at Hanlans’ point along with Gibraltar Point beach have Blue Flag designation – an international mark of recognition for safe, environmentally friendly beaches with clean water. Through the trees, you could see a red and black tugboat. It dates back to 1932, when the shipping industry still ruled the waterfront in Toronto. This little tugboat guided big ships in and out of port.


Gibraltar Point Lighthouse is the first permanent lighthouse on the Great Lakes. It’s also Toronto’s oldest stone building, originally constructed in 1808. It was used as a lookout tower against American invaders during the war of 1812. According to a local legend, it’s also haunted. On moonless nights, rumor has it that you can hear the ghost of John Paul Radelmüllter, the first lighthouse keeper screaming inside the lighthouse. During the war of 1812, American soldiers chased Radelmüllter up the lighthouse where a gust of wind blew him over the rail to his death.

Toronto Islands

Toronto paddle boarders

Paddle boarding around the Toronto Islands

From the boat, the Toronto islands looked like a little community in the middle of the forest. There are actually 262 residential homes! Lush green trees surrounded picnickers and cyclists biked on trails that extended along most of the waterfront. Many other boaters passed by us and even some paddle borders. It was interesting to go from a fast-paced city life to such a calm and relaxing atmosphere in a matter of minutes. The outskirts of Toronto’s island are a sight to see in itself, but there’s even more to explore on the island!

Natural Ecosystems and Wildlife

Toronto Islands

Toronto Islands Tour

The islands surrounding the harbour are mostly parkland surrounded by beautiful old trees. The ecosystems are untouched habitats that naturally maintain themselves. I could hear songbirds in the treetops and I even saw a swan! In a given year, you can see more than 200 species including blue herons, red fox, beavers and so much more. I definitely recommend bringing your binoculars.

Returning to the Shore

On our way back to shore, we emerged towards a picture perfect view of Toronto’s Iconic skyline. The CN tower, high rise buildings, skyscrapers and architectural masterpieces, framed by island greenery, all work together to create an innovative frontier that is a symbol of Canada as a whole.

Written by Kathleen Rodger, a Fourth year Communications Student at Ryerson University.

Meet the Crew: Leisure Program Coordinator Janelle Hazelton

Where it all started, Janelle pictured in front of the Mariposa Cruises kiosk.

Meet Janelle Hazelton, Leisure Program Coordinator for Mariposa Cruises and Toronto Ambassador extraordinaire!

It all started in Harbour Tours

Now in her fourth season with Mariposa Cruises, Janelle started out in Harbour Tours, leading live narrations. An endless resource of Toronto trivia, Janelle can point out virtually every landmark along the waterfront and harbour and give its history. Her favorite site along the tour is the Gibraltor Point Lighthouse, whose legendary spooky story she enjoys telling.  Did you know that the Rogers Centre set the world record in 1992 for the greatest number of inflated hot air balloons in an enclosed area—46 in total to be precise? (Janelle knows that.)  (more…)

Rediscovering Toronto’s Waterfront

From industrial port to metropolis, Toronto’s harbour has come a long way.

If you haven’t visited Toronto’s Harbourfront in over a year, you’re in for a surprise.  An extensive three year revitalization project (completed in June 2015) has  transformed Toronto’s waterfront.  Queen’s Quay West is now completely accessible by car, public transit, on foot or by bicycle, with lots of great public places to frequent and enjoy. Tourism is also up this year:  Big events, a low Canadian dollar and really great weather have all contributed to an increase in visitors.


If you spend a day on Toronto’s waterfront, you’ll notice a multitude of activity on the lake. (more…)

Gibraltar Point Lighthouse – A ghostly and murderous tale

Approaching-the-Gibraltar-Point-Lighthouse-by-boatIf you were to cruise through the island waterways of Toronto’s island this Halloween night, you might feel a chill creep down your spine as you approached the silhouette of a vacant stone light-house with a vibrant red roof shrouded behind the foliage that stretches down to the shore’s edge.

As you first approach the lonesome structure sitting on the western tip of the Toronto Islands from the waterways, you might notice that the 82 foot lighthouse uncharacteristically sits just barely above the treeline with the odd tree stretching well above it. The overgrowth of vegetation giving the lighthouse an obstructed view is a clear indication that the structure has gone unused for several decades. In fact, it has been over half a century since the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1958.

Completed in 1808, this is the oldest existing lighthouse on the Great Lakes and the oldest standing structure in Toronto. Before it was retired, it was Toronto’s oldest landmark that was used for its original purpose. The Gibraltar Point Lighthouse is full of history…mystery… and the first unsolved murder in Toronto.  (more…)

Toronto Harbour Tour App Review

We asked Graziella Fadel to come aboard our Scenic Harbour Tour to review our new and exclusive Harbour Tour app. Here’s what she had to say…


I was recently invited aboard Mariposa Cruises’ the Oriole to test out their new Toronto Harbour Tour app during a Scenic Harbour Tour. The free interactive app is the first of it’s kind in Toronto and provides an easy to follow narration as you tour all the wonderful sites the Toronto harbour has to offer.

I love this app for many reasons!



Meet the Crew – Harbour Tour team member Anna Karpathyova

Meet-the-CrewAt Mariposa Cruises we strive to exceed expectations and provide our guests with the highest levels of quality and service. It’s what sets us apart from our competition and why we are recognized as Toronto’s best recreational cruise by Consumer Choice Award and voted one of the top attractions in Toronto by Trip Advisor.

It would be impossible to achieve this without the dedication and hard work that each of our team members exemplifies. For this reason, we want to celebrate our team members and let you get to know them a little bit better.

This month we would like to introduce you to one of our Harbour Tour team members, Anna Karpathyova.