Cobalt cherries

Cherry Beach, in Toronto's port lands, is both notorious and celebrated in the city's popular history. One of our cleanest beaches, the wide, sandy stretch is backed by woodland and dense scrub. It's a beautiful place to watch the sun rise or the moon rise over the lake and the Leslie Street Spit or holiday fireworks on Canada Day or Victoria Day.

Lovely as it is now, the area has a dark history. Since the 1950s, there have been stories of the Toronto Police, from 51 and 52 divisions in particular, taking people they considered "undesirables" to the beach in the dead of night, beating and robbing them, and leaving them naked and bleeding to make their own way back to the city. In the 1980s, new wave band Pukka Orchestra recorded a song, "Cherry Beach Express," telling the story of one such encounter. The Toronto Police Service tried to have the song banned from the radio, but interestingly, the song's popularity combined with the police settling out of court with Thomas Kerr, a homeless man who alleged he'd been the victim of such a beating, seems to have stemmed the stories.

The Cherry Beach lifeguard station, seen in most photos of the beach, dates from the 1920s. It was built to a design by Chapman and Oxley, the architects responsible for many of Toronto's most striking Beaux Arts structures: the station at Leuty Beach in the Beach neighbourhood, the Sunnyside Pavillion, the Palais Royale, the ROM facade, and the Princes' Gate at the entrance to to the CNE grounds. There is also a new changing room/ bathroom block on the beach, and the city is erecting new lifeguard chairs all along the waterfront, but the wooden building has been lovingly preserved.

Cherry Beach is beloved by Toronto's dog owners because it's the only fenced-in, off-leash area in the city with a stretch of waterfront for doggie swimming, and plenty of convenient parking. Incidentally, although there are two parking lots, the beach is also incredibly well-served by TTC buses, with the 172 arriving about every 15 minutes.

There are two FIFA-sized soccer fields just north of the beach, and enthusiasts kite boarding beside the dog beach. There are always professionals on hand to help you fly through the air if you want to give it a try!

Cherry Beach is also home to the Water Rats Sailing Club, designed to be a low-cost, community-based facility for sailors and paddlers.

If you can't bear to wait in line for the Toronto Island ferries (even though you can while away the time taking selfies with the statue of Jack Layton, for whom the terminal is named), Cherry Beach is a wonderful alternative to Toronto's outer beaches.

A perfect evening at Cherry Beach includes some baklava from a bakery on the Danforth, perhaps a clandestine bottle of prosecco, and stars and fireworks in the summer night sky.

I took this photo on one such evening, a calm, warm summer night with few bugs. This really is the way it looked: none of my shots are manipulated in PhotoShop. I don't believe in it because natural colours shouldn't be saturated to someone else's standards. The discerning eye can tell. In this day and age of changing skies, choose your clouds! Really be there: don't try to change nature. I lit this shot the old-fashioned way: I brought my own! Three camping lights and one car....

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