Hannah Star Hanlan's Point: Your Gayest Summer Destination

For years, the beach on Toronto’s Ward’s Island had been my summertime, ‘I-should-really-try-to-get-my-skin-a-darker-shade-than-translucent’ destination. It was a fun place, you know, as long as you didn’t mind the shrieks of young children as their parents sloshed cold sunscreen onto their backs, or the awkwardness of having to maneuver yourself around teenage couples engaging in sloppy, sandy PDA. 

But when a friend found out that I was a frequenter of Ward’s, he just shook his head in disappointment. “Why,” he implored, “would you not go to Hanlan’s Point instead?” So this summer, I’ve been ditching Ward’s in favour of Hanlan’s, and so far, it’s proving to have been a great decision. 

To start, here’s a little background on the beach at Hanlan’s Point. It’s about a kilometer long and located on the southwest edge of Toronto Island, sort of close to the Billy Bishop Airport. Rarely patrolled by police, the beach at Hanlan’s Point had traditionally been a destination for nude sunbathers (no tanlines, yo!). Then, in 2002, probably realizing that the police were never gonna patrol that shit anyway, Toronto’s city council declared the beach officially “clothing optional.” Score! Now it’s frequented by bajillions of people every weekend, both clothed and not clothed, and everybody is happy. 

But although the beach at Hanlan’s Point is, by definition, a clothing optional beach, anyone who’s been there will tell you that its real defining characteristic is its resemblance to an outdoor gay club. I came to this realization the first time I lined up for the Hanlan’s Point ferry, and I noticed that a) there was only one vagina in the line, and it belonged to me, and b) there was probably not a single man in the line who was remotely interested in said vagina. I glanced over at my old friend, the line for the Ward’s Island ferry. It was populated by sweating, miserable-looking parents with screaming babies, obnoxious high schoolers, and tourists with large cameras hanging from their sunburnt necks. On the other hand, my line was populated by remarkably toned and well-dressed gay men sporting interesting asymmetrical haircuts. Success!

The scene on the beach itself is, like I said, an enormous clothing-optional outdoor gay club. It’s like Pride, except minus all the annoying straight girls who boast about their gay best friends, and who like, totally love gay people, you know?  It’s really a big, gay party. Music is always blaring, and people are dancing in the sand or splashing around in the water (which is, surprisingly, wonderfully clean, since the beach faces away from Toronto Harbour). Plus, if you’re a girl like me (namely, a straight girl who’s in a relationship), you will love the fact that you can freely look at gorgeously fit men who have absolutely no interest in fucking you, ever. On the other hand, if you’re a gay guy, bring condoms; you, my friend, will love the fact that you can take your new, hot beach-going friend into the bushes for a little seaside romp. Beware of sandy butt cracks, of course. 

At Hanlan’s Point, clothing is optional, and so, it seems, is sobriety; bottles and cans are passed freely around in the open amongst groups of friends, and everybody on the beach seems to be bonding through the mutual suffering that comes with drinking cheap vodka and wine that’s been warmed by the hot summer sun. 

Most people aren’t totally naked, but some are. And as I’m sure you can guess, they’re not generally the people that you want to see naked. A lot of the naked folk look like they’ve been partaking in nude sunbathing on a daily basis for millennia before the beach’s legal nudity days; they’re leathery and wiry with Jesus-y hair and beards, and traipse about with their sunburnt penises flopping about. On the other hand, these people’s propensity toward nudity will allow you and your friends to pass the time with entertaining games such as “find the biggest penis on the beach” and “what the fuck did that guy have tattooed on his balls?” 

So if you’ve got a spare day on the weekend, make the trek (and $7.00 ferry ride) out to the beach at Hanlan’s Point.  Sunday seems to be the liveliest day of all. Don’t forget to bring some sunscreen, some drinks, and wear the tightest Speedo you can find…or nothing at all. 

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