Going / Great Lake swimming

Swimming Into Fall

Surprising as it may seem, right now is some of the best swimming of the year in Toronto. Lake Ontario is a large body of water – it cools slowly long into the fall, just as we know it takes forever to warm up in the early summer. It’s a kind of seasonal temperature lag. Swimming on sunny warm October days is bonus summer. beach-wide

rubber-ducky-crAnd you definitely avoid the crowds. For example, here we are at Woodbine beach around 1 pm on Oct 5. It was sunny and warm – according to the Weather Network temp 19C°, feeling like 22C°. There were a few white caps just to make it interesting, but not rough. We buoyantly bobbed along parallel to shore. There are no more buoys marking the beach – just sparkling blue water to the blue horizon. The water temp felt warmer than the air when we got out. And it was – according to rubber ducky it was 22C°.

If you go…

Best swimming time is mid-afternoon, the height of warmth of the day; evenings get cool and dark early.

swim-buoyAs the water cools, beaches enclosed by a barrier stay warmer – later in the season try Cherry Beach or Sunnyside.

Swim with a partner or a swim buoy. Lifeguards are no longer on duty.

The city stops monitoring water quality after Labour Day, therefore Swim Guide has no info. So you are on your own – be sure you wait 48 hours after rain. I always swim with my head out of the water.

Late season swimming can lead to euphoria – prepare to be happy.


Nov 1 at Sunnyside

The sun was intermittent, the air temp was 18°, and rubber ducky said the water temp was 14° though we are becoming skeptical – we have come to believe the ducky is a cock-eyed optimist. Getting in, the water felt much colder than last week. Guest swimmer Martha Baillie brought the key to warmth while swimming in November – a little sip of Glenlivet!

Nov 6 at Cherry Beach459

Lake temperatures.Intense blue sky on a brilliant day, the clarity of the water was spectacular as we swam along in the sparkling path of the sun. And rubber ducky is vindicated! More accurate than we thought, his reading was 14°, consistent with the Weather Network map. Obviously we are learning what these temperatures feel like. Cold! But only the first minute, then exhilarating.

– Schuster Gindin
Photos and video by Suzanne Long

Here’s our guide to all eleven of Toronto’s beaches.

There are many online sources for swim buoys. Here’s where I ordered mine.

This article can be found in THE BIG ISSUES in the section Great Lake Swimming and in  GOING OUT in the section Where We’re Going.

We are @livingtoronto2 on social media. Follow us on Facebook. instagram 1371778321_twitter-128-black


Although it might be nice it’s probably not as nice as Lake Huron (brrrr).
Cheryl Kryzaniwsky, Port Elgin ON

The water looks lovely! I never knew Canadian lakes could be so warm.
Jerome, Vancouver, B.C.

How interesting – would never have occurred to me that swimming in Lake Ontario in October could be an option! Then again hiking in short sleeves is a surprise too – temporary benefit of global warming😟
Carol Phillips, Barrie, ON

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