Do you enjoy the idea of small-town living? Perhaps you just want to escape the hustle and bustle of traffic and city life for a while.
If so, then you’re in the right place!
In 2022, Canada was voted the third-most beautiful country in the world by readers of Rough Guides Magazine.
Although the cities of Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, and others are great places to live and work, Canada’s smaller towns and cities offer the opportunity to escape the rat race and enjoy a slower pace of life that’s closer to nature.
Are you ready to see some of the best small towns to live in Canada?
Small-Town Living: Best Small Towns & Cities In Canada
Big city living isn’t for everybody. As somebody who grew up in the city and loves city life, I also value the peace, tranquillity, and quiet of staying in a charming town and enjoying its natural surroundings.
When I have free time, I really enjoy snowboarding and hiking, among other outdoor activities. Thankfully, Canada is full of small towns and cities that allow residents (and visitors) to take full advantage of the country’s lush natural resources. Here are some of the top small towns to live in Canada.
1. Parksville, Vancouver Island, B.C.
- Population: 13,642
- Best Known For: Parksville Beach
Located on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island, Parksville is a quaint beachside town you don’t want to miss. It’s a popular tourist destination for whale watching, boating, and fishing, or for those who just want to enjoy a quiet afternoon sitting by the beach.
An hour’s drive inland, you can find Cathedral Grove – one of Canada’s only temperate rain forests, which is home to some of Canada’s oldest trees (some over 800 years old!). Every year, the town holds an annual sandcastle-building competition, which can also be fun.
2. Niagara On The Lake, Ontario
- Population: 19,088
- Best Known For: Historic buildings, proximity to Niagara Falls
If you’re looking for a small town with a big personality, you can’t go wrong with Niagara On The Lake. Its charming homes and heritage buildings make for a scenic town centre that’s home to some good restaurants, quaint gift shops, cafes, local art galleries, and more.
Niagara On The Lake is located at the mouth of the Niagara River and is a 20-minute drive north of Niagara Falls. This has made it a popular tourist destination for international travellers coming to the country.
In recent years, it’s also become one of Ontario’s most popular retirement destinations.
3. Churchill, Manitoba
- Population: 19,088
- Best Known For: Wildlife and nature
Churchill draws wildlife lovers from around the world. Located in the northern region of Manitoba, its proximity to the arctic circle makes it one of the best places in Canada to view the northern lights.
Churchill is also known as the “polar bear capital of the world” due to its high concentration of endangered bears. Wildlife experts often offer tours to visitors who want to see polar bears up close and personal.
4. Trinity, Newfoundland and Labrador
- Population: 76
- Best Known For: Beautifully preserved saltbox houses
Trinity is one of the most storied towns in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Once, the town was a bustling fishing port, first settled by the British in the 16th Century. Today, it’s a quaint historical village with a population of fewer than 100 people.
Although there aren’t many residents, travellers will find a few small independent eateries and cafes located in the town centre. It’s a popular home base for road trippers and hikers to stay on their way to the Bonavista Peninsula (which is one of the best hiking destinations on the east coast).
5. Dawson City, Yukon
- Population: 1,577
- Best Known For: Historic town during the Klondike gold rush
During the peak of the Klondike gold rush, Dawson City was a major town centre. Today, it’s a popular tourist destination that’s known for its rugged frontier-style buildings and for being home to Canada’s oldest gambling hall.
Nestled in the heart of the Yukon wilderness, Dawson City is a great place for those looking for a quiet pace of life or hiking enthusiasts looking for a home base to stay during their adventures.
6. Victoria By The Sea, Prince Edward Island
- Population: 139
- Best Known For: Quiet countryside living
Much like Trinity, the town of Victoria, PEI, is a sparsely inhabited rural town. Historically, Victoria was a seaside town known for its farms and agriculture. Today, it’s a scenic stop with a few old farmhouses nestled in the rolling hills.
There’s not much to do in terms of hiking trails or adventures in Victoria. However, it’s a beautiful place to drive through and great for those looking for a quiet weekend getaway.
Interestingly enough, its population has almost doubled from 74 residents in 2016 to 139 residents in 2021.
7. Baie Saint Paul, Quebec
- Population: 7,371
- Best Known For: Birthplace of Cirque du Soleil
Baie Saint Paul rests on the banks of the St. Lawrence River and is one of the oldest towns in Quebec. It’s a quiet town with less than 7,500 inhabitants, most of whom are retired or work in one of the small shops, hotels, or service-based industries in the town.
Interestingly enough, Baie Saint Paul was where the famous Cirque du Soleil was formed. The city was known for its street performers and artisans, who eventually banded together to form the original Cirque. Today, the town is still well known for being a hub for art and music.
8. Killarney, Ontario
- Population: 397
- Best Known For: Hiking trails, mountain biking
Located close to Sudbury, Killarney is a nature-lovers paradise. The town is very small but is a popular destination for hikers adventuring through the expansive Killarney provincial park.
Killarney is home to several small hotels, restaurants, bars, and general stores, where hikers and travellers can gear up or recover from a long day of hiking.
9. Fogo Island, Newfoundland and Labrador
- Population: 2,117
- Best Known For: “Edge-of-the-world” feeling
Fogo Island can only be accessed via the government-operated ferry, which runs to and from the island throughout the day. Despite its remote location, the island is home to a couple of thousand inhabitants, many of whom operate or work in businesses that cater to tourists and visitors.
The island is notably home to the Fogo Island Inn – a unique hotel built on stilts on the coast’s edge. Several notable celebrities have stayed at the inn, and rooms go for $1,000 or more per night. This hotel has become one of the most popular “edge-of-the-world” destinations in the country.
10. St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
- Population: 110,525
- Best Known For: Classic homes by the harbour
If you’re looking for a small city with great character and rich history, St. John’s is a great place to consider living in. The town has a vibrant local arts and restaurant scene and has become one of the most popular retirement destinations in Canada.
Fishing and boating are very popular activities here, and you’ll find plenty of quaint walking and bike-riding trails along the coastline. If you ever want to get out of the city, St. John’s is surrounded by lush natural forests that are full of quiet roads and trails.
11. Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
- Population: 2,396
- Best Known For: UNESCO World Heritage Site
The picturesque fishing village of Lunenburg is one of the oldest British colonies in Nova Scotia and is known for its unique architecture that features colourful wooden cottages with steeple-top roofs.
The town centre features several historic museums, art galleries, and some of the best seafood restaurants that I’ve ever eaten at. Each year, the town hosts the Bluenose II festival (commemorating an old Nova Scotian schooner), which features a parade, music, and street food and brings in a decent crowd of visitors.
12. Thunder Bay, Ontario
- Population: 108,843
- Best Known For: Mining and natural parks
Thunder Bay is one of Ontario’s most affordable small cities and has remained one of the province’s busiest mining communities. Forestry is also another popular industry here. Despite the city’s blue-collar industries, Thunder Bay has a thriving local arts scene and is home to several small theatres and galleries.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat, there are several great pubs and small restaurants downtown. The city is surrounded by parks, trails, and fishing spots, so there are plenty of activities to keep you occupied.
13. Banff, Alberta
- Population: 8,305
- Best Known For: Banff National Park
Located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff is a mecca for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. It’s also a national historic site. Banff National Park is one of the most beautiful parks in Canada and is close to many nearby glacial lakes and ski resorts.
Banff also boasts several natural hot springs, which are great places to rest and recover after a long day of skiing and snowboarding in the mountains.
14. Saint Andrews By The Sea, New Brunswick
- Population: 2,048
- Best Known For: Fundy National Park
Located on the coast of the Bay of Fundy, Saint Andrews By The Sea is a quaint seaside town that dates back to the 18th Century. Many of the original Victorian-style homes are still standing.
Saint Andrews is also known for its natural beauty, with its scenic harbour, beaches, and parks. It’s surrounded by stunning landscapes that are great for hiking, biking, and wildlife viewing (it’s great for whale watching).
The nearby Fundy Isles are home to various marine life, including whales, seals, and sea birds, making St. Andrews a popular destination for eco-tourism.
15. Alma, New Brunswick
- Population: 282
- Best Known For: Gateway to Fundy National Park
Just outside of Saint Andrews By The Sea lies the small town of Alma, New Brunswick. This quaint town has few inhabitants but offers some of the most striking views of the Bay of Fundy’s dramatic coastline and cliffs.
16. Golden, B.C.
- Population: 3,986
- Best Known For: Home to Canada’s highest suspension bridge
Golden, British Columbia, is close to six national parks and is home to the highest suspension bridge in the country – the Golden Skybridge.
The town is surrounded by some of the top hiking and skiing destinations in British Columbia. It’s located just 2.5 hours west of Calgary, AB, which makes it convenient for anybody trying to escape the city for a few days.
17. Quebec City, Quebec
- Population: 531,900
- Best Known For:
Located on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, Quebec City is the capital of Quebec and is known for its French-Canadian charm and heritage. It’s one of North America’s oldest cities, meaning there’s no shortage of historical museums, architecture, and historical sites.
Although it’s not exactly a small town, the city is relatively small compared to its sister city of Montreal and the larger cities of Toronto and Vancouver. Despite its small size, Quebec City hosts several notable music and arts festivals throughout the year that receive global attention.
18. North Vancouver, B.C.
- Population: 58,120
- Best Known For: Grouse Mountain
Located 22 minutes north of downtown Vancouver, North Vancouver is your gateway to outdoor adventure.
The city is far quieter than Vancouver and is a better place to live. The cost of living is a bit cheaper, and it’s close to awesome hiking spots, including Grouse Mountain, Lynn Canyon Park, Mount Seymour Provincial Park, and the famous Capilano Suspension Bridge.
Unlike some of the more remote cities and towns I’ve mentioned on this list, North Vancouver is close to an airport and close to one of Canada’s largest and most beautiful cities.
In my opinion, it offers the perfect living environment, with the perks of big-city living and close proximity to some of British Columbia’s best hiking.
Conclusion – Traveling To Canada’s Best Small Towns
Canada is full of picturesque small towns and historic cities. Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or you want to pick up and move to a more remote location, the country’s diverse geography and rich history have a lot to offer.
Planning your cross-country move? Keep reading to see the four cheapest ways to move across the country!