A who’s who of Toronto water taxis

A who’s who of Toronto water taxis

Summer is almost over, and if you haven’t had a day on the Toronto Islands yet, you’re running out of time. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of your fellow Torontonians have the same idea. In a city that hasn’t added a new public ferry service since the 1960s, that’s a problem.

Thankfully, we have a harbour full of water taxis that will take you back and forth to your day of nude volleyball at Hanlan’s and goat petting at Far Away Farm. But not all water taxis are the same. We spent some time down by the docks to find out who’s who on the water.


Tiki Taxi

The pickup: Lower Spadina, at Queens Quay
Cost: $10 per adult. $5 per child. Dogs, bicycles and children under two free.
Owner: Luc Cote

The sales pitch: “I’m a tool and die maker by trade, but in 2009 we had the city workers’ strike, and at the same time we had the downturn in manufacturing here in Ontario. I’d been living onboard my boat for a number of years, and I realized there was room for more water taxis in the harbour. We want people to feel like they’re on the Island before they get to the Island. We have the Tiki theme, with bamboo and palm fronds, some reggae playing, a relaxed mood onboard. We want you to be like, ‘Ah, we’re here,’ from the minute you get onboard.”

Toronto Harbour Water Taxi

The pickup: York and Queen’s Quay
Cost: $10 per person, minimum of three people
Operator: Ralph McQuinn

The sales pitch: “We’re the original water taxi in Toronto. I started 21 years ago, with my brother. It was his idea to bring the water taxi back to this harbour. Back in the early 1900s, there were hundreds of water taxis. That’s when Centre Island was full of houses, and a ball park where Babe Ruth hit a bunch of home runs. My boats are branded differently. They’re more like a New York checker cab. My product is just better than all the other water taxis.”


Water Taxi Toronto

The pickup: Queen’s Quay, just east of the ferry terminal
Cost: $10 per person
Operator: Terry Turl

The sales pitch: “I’ve been operating the Miss Toronto boat charter business for 12 years, but I’ve only been running water taxis since July. We have courteous professional captains, and we’re right next to the ferry dock. So when there’s a big lineup at the Ferry dock, you just need to walk 50 yards east.”

The Otter Guys

The pickup: Queen’s Quay, just east of the ferry terminal
Cost: $10 per person
Operator: Alex Nosal

The sales pitch: “I grew up on the island, so I’ve always been around boats and the water. Each boat is named after an Otter. We have Otter Nonsense, Otter Space, Otter Limits, Otter Motive. We’re the only water taxi company that’s unionized. All our boats have deckhands. They can help people on and off the boat, and it’s an extra set of eyes. We want to establish a ferry service to Humber Bay, so that people can avoid driving or TTC.”


Canoe Taxi

The pickup: 283 Queen’s Quay West
Cost: $15 per person
Operator: Alex Zlotnikov

The sales pitch: “It’s a canoe. You help paddle yourself. It’s much better for the environment and the water.”