The Toronto waterfront has always been popular with both visitors and locals, but with over 45km of shoreline within the GTA, you don’t have to settle for the occasional visit. You can live right by the water and retain the many advantages of city living. Here are the best neighbourhoods by the water:
Mimico may not be at the top of everyone’s minds when it comes to waterfront Toronto living, but it’s rapidly becoming the up-and-coming district for those looking to have it all. Located right on the lakefront in the western suburb of Etobicoke, it’s only minutes from downtown via excellent transport links, yet retains a small town feel, and boasts cheaper real estate than you’ll find in the downtown core. Many families are finding the prospect of detached homes costing less than $1 million, within walking distance to the water, too attractive to pass up.
There are many smaller homes from the turn of the 20th century, as well as a growing number of condos and the occasional wallet-busting mansion right on Lake Shore Boulevard. The area also has outstanding local facilities, and many of its own independent and boutique businesses, so you don’t need to head downtown unless you really want to.
The Harbourfront is Toronto’s quintessential lakeside neighbourhood, within walking distance of the downtown core and Union station, and on the doorstep of many of Toronto’s popular attractions - including everything in the Entertainment district. It’s an area dominated by condos - many of which offer both spectacular views of the water and unbeatable convenience. As such it’s a popular investment area, and many are used as rental units. You can however find older condo buildings among the density of the new builds, and these offer the savvy buyer both more space and a better price - as long as you’re not afraid of a little renovation work.
For more info on understanding the true cost of renovations, before you take the plunge, read our article on Toronto Home Renovation Costs.
The Distillery District
Right next to the Harbourfront is the Distillery District, a pedestrian-only area set among the heritage buildings of the former distillery. Just east of downtown, it boasts all the same convenience and proximity as the Harbourfront, and is home to one of the largest continuous areas of Victorian architecture in North America - giving the area a feel totally unlike anywhere else in the city. The neighbourhood has bars, cafes and restaurants galore, as well as trendy shops and artisanal markets. There are condos, townhouses and detached homes to choose from, but the area’s small size and desirability mean that competition for property can be fierce.
The Beaches neighbourhood is aptly named, and is the best place to live if you just have to be on Toronto’s sands every day. Found on the eastern border of Toronto, it’s never quiet, but especially busy during the summer as thousands of tourists and locals flock to one of the four beaches within its boundary: Woodbine Beach, Kew Beach, Balmy Beach, and Silver Birch Beach. Commuters can get to downtown within 30 minutes, but with a classic wooden boardwalk, independent shops and eateries, and an eclectic mix of homes, you don’t need to venture out of the Beaches to keep yourself amused. Homes in this area are predominantly detached and semi-detached houses, although there are some low-rise apartment buildings too.
The Waterfront area of Toronto is rapidly changing, and projected to alter even more over the next few years. It encompasses four distinct neighbourhoods - directly next to but separate from the Harbourfront - that all offer lakeside amenities and close proximity to downtown. Each neighbourhood within the Waterfront is slightly different, so let’s look at them in turn:
East Bayfront is the newest part of the Waterfront and home to a mix of residential, commercial and industrial property, all of which are part of the planned development of the area. You won’t find old properties here, but there is no shortage of new condos, all of which are just 10 minutes from Union station and Sugar Beach - a true mix of city-life and waterfront living. The area is also renowned for its sustainability credentials. As development is ongoing, you can expect a lot more change in the coming years, all of which promises to make East Bayfront one of the best thought-out parts of the GTA, and a joy for residents to live in.
Port Lands is directly south of the downtown core and historically was an industrial area situated on infilled wetlands. But the neighbourhood has been reclaimed from both its natural and industrial roots and is in the process of being developed as a sustainable community with affordable housing. This work will take some time to complete, but the result will be brand new amenities, infrastructure and homes that simply cannot be closer to the water. Pre-construction condos are already available, as well as land, for property hunters with an eye to the future.
The Central Waterfront offers the largest area of shoreline access to Lake Ontario and is the most heavily used area along the entire lakeside. Home to significant recent development, the eventual goal is to make this key part of downtown Toronto a dramatic, revitalized and aesthetically unified waterfront community. This does mean that heavy construction will be ongoing for a while, but those with patience can expect homes in the area (almost exclusively condos) to benefit long-term from the investment.
If you’re interested in buying a waterside property for purely investment purposes, check out our guide to Property Investment in Toronto.
West Don Lands
If you’re seeking a pedestrian lifestyle, then West Don Lands within the Waterfront is your best bet. This formally industrial area’s transformation is already well underway, and will eventually house 6,000 new homes. Again, these will mainly be condos, but at least 20% will be designated affordable homes, all benefitting from the proximity to downtown.
Is Lakeside Worth the Premium?
It’s no secret that those wanting to be by the water in Toronto will have to pay for the privilege, and current estimates put the “waterfront view” premium at about 8%. But given the popularity of being by the water, and the limited amount of property in the GTA that can ever be truly lakeside, this premium will always be reflected in resale prices. So why wait? If you’re sick of living in Toronto and never seeing the water, contact a realtor today to find out what’s available in your price bracket.