Southwestern Ontario is rife with small towns, Great Lakes' coast villages and some of the mildest weather in all of Canada – in addition to all the best of living that you expect from Canada. So when it's time to retire here, which is the perfect place? Comfort Life surveys sources and interviews the people living here to find where are the best places to live and retire, and why the people who retire in those places love where they live. Our sources include the annual survey by MoneySense, a variety of Ontario newspapers and the voices of the people who live here.
Here's our take on the best places to live in Southwestern Ontario:
Waterloo, Ont. The number of international awards Waterloo has won is impressive enough. In 2007, it was named the world's smartest city by the Intelligent Community Forum (IFC) and is never far out of top spot on subsequent annual lists. Waterloo boasts two top universities, a wealth of greenspace, fun downtown core and a variety of other features. The region focuses on sustainable growth. An under-construction light rail transit (LRT) right through the heart of Kitchener-Waterloo is scheduled to be completed by 2018. It's also the highest ranked Southwestern Ontario city in MoneySense's list of Best Places to Live, ranked 10th overall1 across Canada. Waterloo has low unemployment, healthy population growth and a high household net worth over $600,000. Among other notable stats, 8.5% of the region's population is employed in health care. Retiring here is as wise as living here. Attractions as varied as St. Jacob's Market, Elora Gorge and downtown Toronto are all within an hour of Waterloo. Learn more about retirement in Waterloo.
Check out spectacular 55-plus communities in Waterloo and area.
Stratford, Ont. Stratford and area is some of the most perfectly peaceful places to settle in all Ontario. The beautiful Avon River, the Stratford Festival and a manageable cost of living make this a great place to settle into retirement. The proximity to Lake Huron and the easy drive to Toronto area are just two more factors that make this the 15th best place to live in Canada1 and second overall in Southwestern Ontario. (By the way, it was 7th overall in Canada, in 2015). Far from typical, Stratford and area residents "celebrate diversity," as one resident puts it. "Our personal stories are all a little different, to be sure. But in the end, in our community, people solve differences amongst themselves and learn from each other."
Check out retirement in Stratford, Ontario, including retirement residences and several superb active lifestyle communities nearby.
London, Ont. London's a superb mid-size city with an active nightlife, modest real estate costs and reasonable property tax averages (below $2000 annually). A decreasing crime rate (dropped by 17% since 2012), exceptional access to health care (including renowned hospitals) and the beautiful campus for the University of Western Ontario are just some of the other features that make London great. It's ranked as the 30th overall best place to live in Canada1.
Ron Campbell moved into a London area adult lifestyle community, and he and his wife love the quality of life here. "This is an extremely good area to live in. We have recommended this community to friends... It is by far the nicest community we have ever lived in."
If you are 55 and older, there are a number of spectacular active lifestyle communities in London and area.
London retirement homes have a superb reputation for bringing together the very best in seniors' care and amenities.
Collingwood. If you surveyed the population of Ontario and asked people their favourite summer beach destination, Collingwood and Wasaga Beach will almost certainly win every poll. There may be no need for such a poll because the choice is obvious. Torontonians crowd Wasaga Beach every long weekend, Georgian Bay is home to some of the most pleasant sailing waters in all of Canada, and the surrounding area has an abundance of natural beauty, from Lion's Head to Christian Island and many points in between. In winter, nearby Blue Mountain is probably the province's top ski destination.
As a place to live (not just visit, not just retire in), Collingwood takes the #39 spot overall in Canada1. It's our easy choice for a top spot among best places to retire in southwestern Ontario.
Find superb active lifestyle communities in Collingwood and area.
Sarnia, Ontario (and area). We know Sarnia is further down the list, slipping yearly2, and suffering from something of an inferiority complex3; the city itself is actually ranked #144 overall on the list of Best Places to Live1. However, there is proximity to Lake Huron, spectacular nearby beaches and legendary nearby destinations that include Bright's Grove and Grand Bend. Sarnia and its general area definitely deserves recognition as one of the best places to live in Southwestern Ontario. There's also cross-border shopping and attractions, and easy proximity to the 402, making it a half hour drive to London.
Find superb active lifestyle communities near Sarnia.
Tillsonburg, Ontario. Listed #123 on Canada's overall list of best places to live, Tillsonburg is a charming, quiet, peaceful little town, with a passell of other similar peaceful towns nearby. It's close to Lake Erie and spectacular beaches like Turkey Point and Long Point. As you would expect, it has an extremely low crime rate (having decreased 26% in the last three years), low property taxes, and just enough local activity to keep life interesting. And it's stable. It is a great place to retire.
Check out excellent places to retire in Tillsonburg and area.
Brantford, Ontario. Brantford is listed as #125 on the overall best places to live in Canada. There's a lot of great parkland in Brantford. It has some easy proximity to Hamilton and the 403 into Toronto, and the cost of living in Brantford is very easy to take.
Brantford retirement homes offer the finest in senior care certainly, but for anyone 55 and older and looking to downsize, there are a number of noteworthy active lifestyle communities near Brantford.
Niagara Falls, Ontario. Well, then there's Niagara Falls, surprisingly at #152 on the overall list of best places to live in Canada. Why is this world-class destination so low down the list? As noted in an earlier local editorial4, the predominant metrics used to decide best places to retire or live are not focused on "nice place to visit" or spectacular local beauty, but are focused on population growth, unemployment rate, average household income and property tax rates. The area, though, remains a wonderful place, well-worth retiring to. There are spectacular beaches nearby on Lake Erie, cross-border shopping, and easy proximity to the QEW corridor that can take you into Toronto or out to the US.
Check out spectacular places to retire near Niagara Falls.
Many people use lists like this one as only confirmation of a decision they have already made, or as a blue-sky starting point. Your main consideration will be things like how close you live to family, or other things that are important to you. We also caution you to things like availability of home health care and other services. Finally, learn all you can about projections about real estate in the area, for the next few years, even decades. Many factors come into play beyond what anyone else says is 'best' for you.
More in our series of best places
Tools to help you choose