You’ve emptied the nest, life has changed, and you wonder, is this place still best for us? There are different ways of thinking about your best place to live. Statistics and figures like real estate prices, property tax and crime rates are important, as is climate. Those figures and numbers offer a simple way to grade your options. But we all know that numbers never tell the whole story.
With that in mind, Comfort Life has compiled input from those who have retired ahead of you, and moved into communities across Canada. You want to know that people love having moved, that the benefits of their new community far outweigh the trouble of change. Below, you’ll find real stories from real people. We think human testimony is as important as numbers and figures.
When you consider this list, you may find familiar places, or you might find confirmation that where you are is where you should be. Or you may find something as far as possible from what you’ve been thinking*. Finding the best is not possible without opening your mind to the possibilities. So here they are, possibilities to dream about: our take on the best places to retire in Canada.
"Heart of the nation’s capital region"
Signature event: Canadian Tulip Festival, held annually each spring since 1952
Fun fact: The Rideau Canal is the best preserved example of a slackwater canal built in North America. It remains operational along its original line with a majority of the structures from the early nineteenth century still intact.
The nation’s capital is a destination for many retirees for some obvious reasons. It's a great place to settle, to be near family in Ottawa Region, and there’s a wonderful mix of local conveniences and attractions. Parkland and greenspace line the two rivers that flow through the city. Museums and galleries are found throughout, including the Museum of Nature, the National Gallery of Canada, and others. Ottawa was ranked as the #1 best place to live by MoneySense in 2016. Our national capital is especially noted for its healthy real estate values, its array of cultural activities, and easy access to health care.
Check out a full list of Ottawa retirement communities.
Population: 383,360 (Greater Victoria)
Signature event: Feast, Food, and Film Festival, held annually each June
Fun fact: National Geographic Magazine recognizes Vancouver Island as one of the best cold-water diving destinations in the world, and the renowned Jacques Cousteau Society rates the area as second only to the Red Sea for diversity of marine life and water clarity.
Victoria is often ranked highly as a retirement destination for its low property tax rates and the high number of doctors per capita. Money and health care are important, certainly, but the climate here is second to none in the country. Healthy sea air and moderate temperatures make life here better than many other colder, drier climes. And of course, let’s not forget the scenery! Nearby towns include Saanich, just as desirable, and further up you’ll find sparkling island gems like Duncan, Comox Valley and other retirement destinations.
Is life really that great here on the Island? Brenda, a resident of Arbutus Ridge by the Sea, says, "Cowichan Valley is Canada’s only Maritime Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and moderate summers. This was a little hard for me to believe initially, [but] we have been here for seven months now, and have settled in wonderfully."
Scotty Day, resident in a Pacific coastal retirement home, chimes in: "We're always excited to go away. But without exception, when we return, we always say, 'It's so good to be home!'" Read Scotty's story here.
Find our complete list of Victoria retirement living suites.
“The Forest City”
Weather: humid continental
Signature destination: Storybook Gardens is open year round and is a great place to visit with the kids and grandkids.
Fun fact: This is where Johnny Cash proposed, on stage at a local hockey arena, to June Carter. She said yes.
London, Ontario, is a superb mid-size city with modest real estate costs and reasonable property tax averages (below $2,000 annually). It also has worldclass health care and the beautiful campus of the Western University. Not far from the city, the beaches of Lake Huron stretch for miles, and retirement destinations along the coast are a dream come true for people who live there.
Ron Campbell raves about life in London. "This is an extremely good area to live in." Ron and his wife Darlene live in RiverBend Golf Community, situated along the Thames River in the west of London. As he says, "We have recommended this community to friends... It is by far the nicest community we have ever lived in."
There are numerous spectacular 55 plus communities in SW Ontario.
Check out retirement living in London.
Signature event: The Collingwood Elvis Festival, the world’s largest Elvis festival, held every July, since 1994.
Fun fact: Collingwood was incorporated as a town in 1858, nine years before Confederation, and was named after Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, Lord Nelson’s second in command at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Survey the population of central Ontario about their favourite summer beach destination, and Collingwood and Wasaga Beach will almost certainly win every poll. The fact is that people vote with their feet, anyway, and when they do, the beaches of Georgian Bay are crowded with Ontario sun-worshippers. The bay is also home to some of the most pleasant sailing waters in all of Canada. Don Wilson moved to Balmoral Village, an adult lifestyle community right in town. As he says, “Finding a perfect home, [with everything] we want for now and looking ahead, made the decision to move an easy one.”
The surrounding area has an abundance of natural beauty, from Lion’s Head and Tobermory to Christian Island, and many points in between. In winter, nearby Blue Mountain is a province-wide destination for skiing. It’s our easy choice for a top spot among the best places to retire in Canada.
Find the best places to retire in Collingwood.
Weather: temperate coastal
Signature attraction:Cypress Provincial Park is home to astonishing hiking and cross-country ski trails. It was also the host to many events from the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Fun fact: West Vancouver Memorial Library lends more books per capita than any other library in Canada.
For good reason, West Van tops our own list of the best places to retire in British Columbia. All of majestic BC is an international destination for retirement, and this District is perfectly situated to sample all that's best about the province. It's removed from the expensive real estate and bustle of Vancouver proper but all that you love about the city is just across the Lion's Gate Bridge. Of course, Stanley Park, Cypress Provincial Park and a wealth of other mountain scenery beckon from nearby. By law, there is no industry allowed in the city. West Vancouver ranks high on sources like MoneySense, due to statistics like low taxes and low crime, but the real test is, how do people like living here?
Mary is one retiree who exclaims about life in West Vancouver: "you can always keep active here… and you can always see the fun in life."
Check out a full list of places to retire in West Vancouver, including places in the similarly highly rated North Vancouver.
Population: 92,013 (2016)
Weather: humid continental
Lifestyle: fast or slow, depending on your mood
Signature attraction: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (formerly Mosport Park), home to some legendary summer concerts.
Fun fact: Parkwood Estate was used in the movies Billy Madison, Chicago and X-Men. It was home of Samuel McLaughlin, founder of General Motors of Canada.
On the pristine shores of Lake Ontario, just outside the busy GTA, lies Clarington. Its proximity to Toronto makes it desirable for a multitude of reasons. Real estate prices are still reasonable but appreciating steadily here, so even in retirement you'll acquire equity on your investment. This suburban area has low crime and the strong presence of commuting families. Nestled within that suburban population, though, you'll find a number of active living gems ideal for those 55 and older looking to downsize from their family home.
Retirement living in this area is ideal, as people who've settled here will tell you. Judith and her husband moved to the area from Peterborough, where, for many years, they ran a successful business. She praises the adult lifestyle community they bought into, where they have "the opportunity to continue to live our lives together [in] the country atmosphere we love." Cherry, a member of the same community praises the "laid back lifestyle here. It's easy to make friends when everyone is so friendly."
Find adult lifestyle communities in Clarington and area, and learn about senior condos in Oshawa.
Lifestyle: easy-going, small-town living
Signature attraction: Elora Gorge is two kilometres long, with cliffs as high as 72 feet, popular for tubing and kayaking as well as hiking.
Fun fact: There is a buried gorge from a previous ice age, following a slightly different path, filled in where it differs from the current river's flow. This was traced by a Waterloo University geologist in the 1970's after its discovery by well-diggers.
You've done the hard work of raising a family, and won your own edition of the rat race. Why not move to one of the best small towns in Ontario, not that far from Toronto, and full of some of the most epically beautiful scenery in southern Ontario. Beauty in various forms makes Elora a destination for many, including the scenic downtown, and the village's many old stone homes that front the river. The Grand River and the smaller tributary Irvine Creek, twist and turn through the spectacular gorge that stretches the length of the town. There are scenic vistas everywhere you look, daily walks or hikes are an everyday adventure, and the real estate is affordable.
Nearby, you can also find excellent places to retire in Guelph.
Lifestyle: easy-going, small-town living
Signature attraction:The Ancaster-Dundas area is home to a number of picturesque waterfalls including Webster's Falls and Tew's Falls.
Fun fact: In the early 19th century, with its location at the juncture of trade routes and its proximity to easy water power, Ancaster was the largest industrial and commercial centre in Upper Canada.
Ancaster, Ontario is a rapidly growing community, well-situated on the cusp of the Golden Horseshoe but still retaining its small-town roots. It's home to lots of greenspace, and nearby you'll find world-class health care, along with notable higher learning environments like McMaster University and Mohawk College. Real estate prices in the area are much lower than those in the GTA, while downtown Toronto is still an easy drive along the 403.
Several neighbourhoods in the Ancaster area are especially welcoming to those 55 and older who want to move into a smaller home. Adult lifestyle communities throughout the Hamilton area take away much of the traditional work of home ownership; here, grass-cutting, snow-shoveling and other household tasks are all taken care of, so you can just live.
Population: 2,463,400 (Greater Vancouver)
Signature event: Vancouver Fringe Festival is "theatre for everyone," with over 700 performances of theatre productions, independent plays and works of unconventional performance art. It's held every September.
Fun fact: The first ever McDonald's restaurant outside the United States was started in Richmond, on the west side of Vancouver, in 1967.
Vancouver is storied as one of the most eminently livable cities in the world, but it falls down our list here, due to its equally storied real estate prices. If you can afford a place in Vancouver, it makes a great investment, a factor you should consider even in retirement. With house prices still increasing as much as 5% year-over-year in recent times, Vancouver real estate remains a healthy way of investing your nest egg.
No list of great places to retire in Canada is complete without Vancouver, the central gem in the province that once duly labeled itself the best place on earth. And according to some, its spectacular scenery, temperate climate, and fresh sea air is just a bonus to living here! What's really important? The Economist has ranked Vancouver in the top three places to live in the world for years on end, based on key factors like stability, health care, culture, environment, education and infrastructure.
Find great retirement destinations in Vancouver.
"Canada's sunniest city"
Signature event: Calgary Stampede, the world’s largest outdoor event, held annually each July since 1884
Fun fact: The warm wind of Calgary—the chinook—can raise the temperatures from a low of 5 degrees centigrade to highs of 15 degrees centigrade in a matter of hours.
Calgary is listed by The Economist as one of the top 5 most livable cities on earth. It's the jewel of Wild Rose Country, with the highest GDP per Capita in Canada and is ranked among the top cities in quality of life.
Seniors who live here love life in the community. Take, for example, Leo and Maxine Nugent. Says Leo, "We walk a mile or so every day. We can see the mountains, and we breathe that clean mountain air. Only yesterday we were saying how right we were to come here."
Sources and further resources
*Since we are looking at spectacular national destinations, this list does not necessarily match up with our regional and provincial lists. These places are most suitable to and welcoming for people moving from out of the province or out of the country. This list also contains a variety of cities, in terms of size, appeal, ethos, etc.