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Best small towns in BC

Great weekend getaways, great places to settle



British Columbia is brimming with picturesque, peaceful escapes from the noise, traffic, pollution and other vexing aspects of city life. Whether you're looking for a weekend respite from the commotion of Vancouver or Victoria, or you're dreaming of a fresh place to settle, here’s a look at BC's best small towns (population under 45,000). We look at what makes each place special, outline some interesting facts about each spot, and provide some personal thoughts and impressions that people have shared with us.

Take a closer look at the variety of options... seclusion, peace, and some spectacular scenery await!

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  1. Cobble Hill

    Population: 1,775 (2016)
    Average property tax: $2,1141
    Average value of primary real estate: 430,4971
    Signature attraction: Perfect climate and pleasant vistas of Cowichan Bay

    If there is a paradise on earth, or at least in Canada, it might be Cowichan Bay. There's a reason why the area is becoming increasingly famous for its vineyards; this is home to Canada's only Marine Mediterranean climate, with moderate summers and mild winters. Or in other words, a paradisiacal destination no matter what time of year you choose to visit – or stay.

    The entire area here is appealing on many different levels. Walk through town and enjoy the perfect mountain air, that's both healing and invigorating. It's a place that brings out the best in everyone. It's also known for its value. The Financial Post highlighted this as a small town with big savings. There are no Vancouver real estate prices to contend with. It's a destination that proudly flies below the radar, although people (including us) do want to share their knowledge.

    Beatrice is one resident who writes, "There's so much beauty here … amazing ocean life in the Strait … you'll regularly see whales." The thing that really keeps her going is the copious local activities: "there's golf, there are sports activities on the water…" For all that, though, nothing matters more than community. Beatrice says the thing she most loves about life in Cowichan Valley is the people, "they are all so wonderful. They really are the best people, here, in our community."

    You can read another personal testimonial from Caron Nightingale about this paradise on earth.

    Check out welcoming places in or near Cobble Hill.

  2. West Kelowna

    Population: 32,655 (2016)
    Average property tax: $2,0871
    Average value of primary real estate: 577,3351
    Signature attraction: The West Kelowna wine trail takes you through a dozen world-renowned wineries

    Deep in the interior of the province, West Kelowna is home to all the rugged beauty you might expect... but it's also chock full of cool. We're talking Hollywood cool... it's often a location for movie shoots thanks to its combination of spectacular scenery with urban convenience (thanks in part to its proximity to Kelowna). You might walk into a local café and run into one of your favourite actors. That kind of cool.

    But if that's not your thing, know that West Kelowna is an idealized small town. It offers 1400 local businesses, including several shopping malls, local wineries, and a yacht club, fronted on Lake Okanagan. Of course you'll also find lovely hiking trails, with sightings of local wildlife, in a safe milieu. Within the bounds of this population 32,000 town, there are also more than 125 parks and trails. There's good reason why this town is ranked 65th on Moneysense's list of best places to live in Canada1. Local businesses participate happily in charity ventures, and it fosters a lifestyle where people look out for each other in good times and bad. As one resident puts it, "this is a community where you know you can rely on other people. You can't count on that attitude everywhere, nowadays."

    Local senior, Mary Lou, tells us that in her home here, "I know I am safe." What's more, "my family knows I am safe and happy here." Beauty, vitality, safety and happiness… not much more you can ask for in life, we think.

    Learn more about great places to live near West Kelowna.

  3. Duncan

    Population: 4,944 (2016)
    Average property tax: $2,1201
    Average value of primary real estate: 490,000 (2018) 2
    Signature attraction: "The City of Totems" is home to 80 totem poles.

    Vancouver Island is Canada's retirement destination – perhaps even the world's. We could populate this list entirely with small towns here. Duncan is one of many hidden gems on the island, notable as the smallest city by area in the nation. Just a few things that make this place appealing are the low real estate costs (much lower than that of Vancouver and the mainland), spectacular scenery, peace, wildlife sightings, proximity to the ocean, and a wealth of activities targeted at people who love life and have slowed down just a very little.

    That's all great, for sure, but if you are thinking of moving forward with your next place to live, you want to know what people think of living here in Duncan. Thelma is one person who has settled here and she puts it simply: "I love it here... I have no regrets at all for moving here. Everyone is really nice and treats you really good. I certainly say you should move in here."

    Read more testimonials from people who have retired in Duncan.

  4. Penticton

    Population: 43,000 (2016)
    Average property tax: $1,3101
    Average value of primary real estate: 535,587 1
    Signature event: Penticton Peach Festival
    Fun fact: Penticton comes from the Salish word snpintktn, meaning "place to stay forever."

    Penticton offers appealing small town attractions, from local wineries to scores of wonderful churches, to the small-town friendliness that especially blossoms during the summer months. But then there are the many other things that make Penticton (the hub of Okanagan tourism) great. The Lakeshore is rife with beautiful buildings that light up the waterfront at night. The marina faces onto Okanagan Lake and expectedly majestic BC scenery, comprised of water and mountains. Natural attractions not far from the city include Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park and Okanagan Mountain Park.

    Sure, Penticton is well-ranked on statistics-driven ranking lists like Moneysense's list of best places to live in BC, but stats don't tell the whole story. What makes any place great, in the end, is people. Patricia's mom retired in Penticton and she says, "Everyone is so helpful and friendly here. There is so much [for mom] to do here … We could not be happier for mom."

    Find great places to live in the town of Penticton.

  5. Parksville

    Population: 12,514 (2016)
    Average property tax: $1,7061
    Average value of primary real estate: 393,456 1
    Signature event: Parksville BeachFest

    Sometimes referred to as "Canada's retirement destination," Parksville's low cost real estate and ideal climate has resulted in an influx of retirees to the area over the past several years. You can bet that all those people are on to something. Parksville Beach is an ideal place to spend serious amounts of time, due to its near-perfection. The beach faces onto the Strait of Georgia, with a perfectly semi-circular cove protected from just about any form of bad weather. At low tide, the beach stretches for miles. Parksville Beachfest takes full advantage of this vast expanse of sheltered sand, with a sand castle building contest that's an official qualification event for the Sand Sculpting World Championship.

    We'd be remiss if we implied that's all there is to Parksville. You'll also find a regional campus of Vancouver Island University here. Paradise Fun Park is also an ideally fun destination for young families. Check out this idyllic town out for yourself, sometime soon.

Sources and further resources

1moneysense.ca/canadas-best-places-to-live[BC]
2Market Information (July 2018). Kenneal.com

More great places to live throughout BC

Hawthorn Park Retirement Community

Hawthorn Park Retirement Community

867 KLO Road, Kelowna, British Columbia, V1Y 9G5
Living at Hawthorn Park Retirement Residence means you have choices & can customize the services you need, as you need them. We offer three lifestyle opportunities; supportive living, assisted living & complex care.
Sherwood House

Sherwood House

280 Government Street, Duncan, British Columbia, V9L 0B5
At Sherwood House we offer active adult and independent retirement living, pet friendly, featuring delicious homemade meals, daily activities, weekly housekeeping in a secure environment in Duncan, BC on Vancouver Island
The Heritage

The Heritage

3630 Brown rd, west kelowna, British Columbia, V4T7Y9
The Heritage Retirement Residence encompasses an active living & entertaining lifestyle with supportive & assisted living measures, Our highly skilled registered health care team will provide assistance when you need it.
Oceana PARC

Oceana PARC

1575 George St, White Rock, British Columbia, V4B 0B6
At Oceana PARC, our residents thrive with access to physical and mental fitness programming, social activities, chef-prepared meals, transportation and more. Come discover why life is better at our new residence.
Arbutus Ridge by the Sea

Arbutus Ridge by the Sea

600 Fairways Place, Cobble Hill, British Columbia, V0R1L1
Arbutus Ridge is a 50 + seaside community located minutes from Victoria via a beautiful drive over the Malahat. There are 646 homes distributed over a park like 150 acres interlinked with the Arbutus Ridge Golf Course.
The Village Langley

The Village Langley

3920 198th Street, Langley, British Columbia, V3A 1C8
We believe that the desire to achieve well-being, purpose and fulfillment does not diminish with a dementia diagnosis. We focus on the possibilities of each Villager with support to live life with laughter, love and joy.
Chartwell Chatsworth Retirement Residence

Chartwell Chatsworth Retirement Residence

1831 Parkview Crescent, Kelowna, British Columbia, V1X 7G7
Chartwell Langley Gardens Retirement Community

Chartwell Langley Gardens Retirement Community

8888-202 Street, Langley, British Columbia, V1M 4A7
Chartwell Renaissance Retirement Residence

Chartwell Renaissance Retirement Residence

6676 203rd Street, Langley, British Columbia, V2Y 2Z1



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