Best small towns in Ontario

Great places to visit, even better places to live!


Interest in small town living has increased in recent years, driven by an increase in the number of people who work-from-home as well as home prices. The towns and cities listed below offer a reprieve from traffic, with quieter, safer, peaceful neighbourhoods. And small town living does not have to be small-minded! Many of the places below offer vitality and renewal, combining progressive-mindedness with a simpler lifestyle.

Unlike other lists, we focus less on statistics like real estate prices, average monthly income, and crime rate, etc. Those factors are important, of course, but we think you might want to hear from people who live there. Below, find testimony from those who have moved there ahead of you. We also suggest specific neighbourhoods accepting of, and ideally suited to new people in town.

Whether you are looking for a charming weekend day trip or scouting for a place to settle, here are our picks for 12 superior small towns (population under 40,000) from around the province, and why you should investigate them more closely.

  1. Goderich

    Population:  7,628 (2016)
    Average property tax: $34001
    Median house price in Goderich: $394,0006
    Average population change over 5 year period: 0.6%3

    Goderich is nicknamed "the prettiest town in Canada" for some very good reasons. The town is built on a unique hub model, with all streets rolling outward from the downtown core. The town's centre is landscaped beautifully during summer months. From downtown, you can walk to the shore of Lake Huron, one of the world's largest and most beautiful bodies of fresh water. Further along the coast, you'll find spectacular beaches renowned throughout the province. The town is also home to a significant number of historically designated buildings, including the Historic CPR Station. None of that accounts for the charm of Goderich, and the peacefulness of life in this pleasant, rural-minded community.

    Living and retiring in Goderich
    There are a number of excellent retirement homes in Goderich. Nearby, you'll also find a number of adult lifestyle communities close to Lake Huron. The town itself has a high occupancy rate, showing again that people love living here – and they don't want to move.

  2. Picton (Prince Edward County)

    Population: 25,258 (2011)
    Median house price in Picton: $324,4502
    Average property tax: $2,7181
    Average population Average population change over 5 year period: 2.4%3

    Picton is called 'the gastronomic Capital of Ontario' and it's one of the province's most exciting wine regions4. The town and the county around are rife with colourful, unique shops, artisans' boutiques, and markets. Sandbanks Provincial Park is found along the shores of the Lake, and it's really just the beginning of great beaches in this area.

    Picton is part of Prince Edward County, listed by MoneySense as a top place to live1 based largely on financial statistics and other data. Notable features of Prince Edward County that make it great are access to health care and a strong arts and sports community. The ease of life here, though, the pleasant countryside, and the freshness of Lake Ontario breezes don't fit into a spreadsheet! Take a drive out here and experience it for yourself!

    Living and retiring in Picton
    Picton is home to one of the best adult lifestyle communities in central Ontario. There are also several excellent retirement communities in Trenton and area.

  3. Paris

    Population: 12,000
    Average property tax: $34001
    Average value of primary real estate: $690,000 6
    Days per year above 0° Celsius.: 2023

    Paris is a beautiful, peaceful town, nestled in the heart of southwestern Ontario. It's (also) been called "the prettiest town in Canada" for good reason. Paris is located partially on a steep hill that makes for some great vistas of the Grand River greenspace, which winds through the center of town. Historic buildings, small shops, charming restaurants, cobblestone walkways and copious trails make this charming for both residents and visitors.

    Paris is an excellent place to settle. Mary is one senior who moved here from out of town; she loves the way the town puts on its best for the summer. As she says, "the landscaping here is really quite beautiful."

    Retiring and living Paris
    Paris is full of century homes suitably close to the river, and there are new subdivisions under development constantly, along the edge of town. For those looking for something nearby and a little different, there are excellent adult lifestyle communities not far outside of Paris. Paris's retirement homes offer world-class care and living, in a small town setting, where fees are more affordable than in some larger cities in the province.

  4. Niagara-on-the-Lake

    Population: 17,500 (2016)
    Average property tax: $3,7761
    Median house price in Niagara-on-the-Lake: $561,0006
    Average population change over 5 year period: 5.4%3

    Another impressively charming small Ontario town, Niagara-on-the-Lake is well-known as a destination for wine tourists. Area real estate prices are rising rapidly. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a little more bustling and growing than other small Ontario towns listed here, but that makes it a good investment (even in retirement). The town is ranked #54 on MoneySense's list for 20171, due to its good weather and strong arts and sports community.

    Niagara-on-the-Lake is ideally situated at pretty much the southernmost point of Ontario (where you'll find the province's balmiest weather). There's plenty to do here, ranging from local wineries, to beaches along Lake Ontario, to the international destination of Niagara Falls. For all that, you can also hop on the QEW to Toronto, or head cross-border for shopping in Buffalo. People love Niagara-on-the-Lake and area because you can find just about anything you are looking for, including the touchstone of successful retirement: tranquility. As Dorothy Murphy, one local senior tells us, "It's the peace I like the best here."

    Find retirement homes in Niagara Region or adult lifestyle communities near here.

  5. Alexandria

    Population: 4,486
    Median home price: 199,0007

    Alexandria, Ontario is unique for its near-exact mix of French and English speaking populations, one of very few examples of this in the province. In fact, French is the official language of the town, one of few Ontario towns designated as such. For bilingual people or couples where each partner speaks one of these, it’s a charming place to visit or an ideal place to settle. Real estate in this part of the province is notably affordable, too.

    Alexandria is a hidden charmer, with everything you need. There’s a golf and country club. On Mill Pond, there’s a waterfront park, a respite for any nature-lover. Noteworthy local architecture includes the cathedral of Saint-Finnan, the Precious Blood monastery, and historic Alexandria Station. Its situation almost exactly halfway between Ottawa and Montreal also makes it a great homebase from which to day trip to either of these destinations.

    Find an excellent place to retire in Alexandria, or learn about 55 plus communities in Eastern Ontario.

  6. Dorchester

    Population: 9,300 (2016)
    Median house price in Dorchester, ON: $356,000 (as of Jul 2017)2
    Average population change over 5 year period: 5.4%3

    Dorchester is another select town that combines peaceful village living with proximity to a major centre with all the conveniences, attractions and health care you'll ever require. It's an exemplar of affordable living and low crime, and considered a strong potential real estate investment neighbourhood, according to Canadian Real Estate Magazine.2

    Find great places to retire in London and area or learn more about retirement communities in Dorchester.

  7. Simcoe

    Population: 13,922
    Median house price in Simcoe: $631,0006

    Simcoe might be the epitome of a quiet small town. The nearest big city, Hamilton, is roughly an hour away. Looking for tranquility? You’ll find it here. Simcoe is also an ideal place to retire, for people who enjoy time on the water. Lake Erie is the warmest of all the Great Lakes, and some beaches near here are spectacular. While Turkey Point is a popular destination, Long Point, just a little further down the road, remains one of the best kept secrets in the province. Marinas dot the shoreline around here, and on any balmy summer day, it’s harder to imagine a more beautiful place to be than fishing or boating on Lake Erie or Long Point Bay.

    Living and retiring in or near Simcoe
    Anyone 55 and older should discover the world of active adult living in Ontario.

  8. Napanee

    Population: 15,892 (2020)
    Median house price in Napanee: $356,3152
    Avg. property tax: $2,3191

    Napanee is one of those up-and-coming retirement destinations that still flies below a lot of people’s radar. While it’s notable for its closeness to Lake Ontario and the 401, the true draw in this area is Charleston Lake, a strong investment for cottage lovers for whom prices in Muskoka are out of range. Napanee is also just on the cusp of Prince Edward County (see above). In 2018, the last year of rankings, Greater Napanee ranked in the top 300 among Moneysense’s best places to live in all of Canada1. And it’s on the rise.

    Living and retiring in Napanee
    Find a great place to retire in Napanee, or read reviews of active lifestyle communities in Eastern Ontario.

  9. Newcastle

    Population: 9,167
    Median house price in Clarington: $499,000 (as of Jul 2017)2
    Avg. property tax: $34591

    Newcastle is another underappreciated gem on the shores of Lake Ontario, just at the edge of the GTA but brimming with the small town appeal that makes it worth checking out. Its proximity to Toronto makes it an excellent real estate investment even in retirement. Clarington municipality is rated highly by sources like MoneySense, noted for its high average family income, healthy growth, and low crime.

    Living and retiring in Newcastle
    Local residents love life in Newcastle. Judith* says, this community gives us "the opportunity to continue to live our lives together [in] the country atmosphere that we love." Her neighbour Cherry adds, it's a "laid back lifestyle here. It's easy to make friends when everyone is so friendly." Find superb new developments in Newcastle or find nearby retirement homes in Trenton.

  10. Home care
    Consider how home care companies can help you age in place.

  11. Manotick

    Population: 4,486
    Median home price: 745,595 (as of 2020)7

    Manotick is another gem of eastern Ontario. We might have picked any of a number of towns that are part of the Ottawa Region but this one’s special. For one thing, Manotick is right on the Rideau River, where there’s still lots of open waterfront. Watson’s Mill and Watson’s Mill dam are beautiful local attractions that, were it closer, would make this town a well-known weekend destination for GTA road-trippers. It’s home to a number of beautiful new developments and buildings, but Manotick is different from other area locations that have been overdeveloped, in that it's made a commitment to maintain its heritage by carefully managing growth and working closely with developers.

    Edith Allard is one resident who moved here from out of town and she calls it “Eden on earth.”

  12. Collingwood

    Population: 21,793 (2016)
    Average property tax: $2,5221
    Average value of primary real estate: $696,0006
    Days per year above 0° Celsius: 216

    Anyone who's ever been to Collingwood knows that it's one of the best places to be, in the province. Wasaga Beach in the summer and Blue Mountain in winter make this Ontario's playground, year round. For those looking for an idyllic community, lively in summer, and just quiet enough during the slower seasons, Collingwood is an ideal destination. It's listed among the 100 best places to live in Canada, according to MoneySense.

    Penny Preston is one Collingwood resident who loves winter. "At 75+ years of age, snowshoeing seems safer than skiing, so that's what I love to do here," she says.

    Don Wilson has lived in the area for over ten years, since retiring there. He and his wife bought a bungalow in an adult lifestyle community near town. They found themselves "a perfect home, plus all of the many amenities we could want for now, and looking ahead. [That] made the decision to move an easy one [for us]."

    Retiring and living in Collingwood

    Collingwood is home to one of the province's most progressive minded adult lifestyle communities. You should also look at our list of exceptional Collingwood retirement communities.

  13. Carp

    Population: 1,965
    Median home price: 516,915 (as of 2020)7

    Here’s yet another charming eastern Ontario town with a riverfront and comfortable proximity to Ottawa. Carp also benefits from a combination of affordable real estate and a plethora of local charm. There’s several reasons this is a fun destination, starting with Diefenbunker. Anyone with the slightest survivalist bent could do worse than settle in Carp, Ontario! Other nearby gems like Dunrobin Shores are also worthwhile destinations for real estate bargain-hunters. As a bonus, and though this is fading from memory, Carp is also storied in UFO lore, where a purported crash here is still called “a landmark case in ufology.”

    There's at least one excellent retirement home in Carp. For those 55 to 75, you owe it to yourself to learn about adult lifestyle communities near here.

  14. Sources
    *some names changed or withheld to protect privacy.

    Great retirement locations in Ontario's small towns

    Wildpine Retirement Residence  

    10 Wildpine Court, Stittsville, Ontario, K2S 1C6

    At Wildpine, we strive to provide the very best in accommodations and services, including a continuum of care options, which allow our residents to age in place. We make your decision of where to retire - easy!

    Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

    Aspira Bolton Mills Retirement Living   

    100 Morra Avenue, Bolton, Ontario, L7E4K5

    A short drive from the Nashville Conservation Reserve and surrounded by golf courses, Aspira Bolton Mills is perfect for anyone who loves the outdoors.

    Lifestyle Options: Independent Living

    Sifton - Dorchester Terrace  

    143 Byron Ave, Dorchester, Ontario, N0L 1G5

    Dorchester Terrace offers area seniors a variety of suite choices, wellness support services, medication administration, housekeeping services, physiotherapy and daily dining in an open restaurant-style dining room.

    Lifestyle Options: Independent Living

    Waterside - A VIVA Retirement Community  

    105 McNeely Avenue, Carleton Place, Ontario, K7C 0A1

    Waterside, A V!VA Retirement Community, offers Community Members a wide selection of amenities including fine dining, saltwater pool, fitness studios, big-screen movie theatre, pub and so much more!

    Lifestyle Options: Independent Living

    Willoughby Manor Retirement Residence  

    3584 Bridgewater Street, Niagara Falls, Ontario, L2G 6H1

    Our homelike atmosphere sets the tone for our tight-knit high-spirited community. Our dedicated team provides 24 hr care & services including: health, wellness, meals, laundry, housekeeping, safety, security & more.

    Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

    Queenston Place Residence  

    6440 Valley Way, Niagara Falls, Ontario, L2E 7E3

    This Niagara Falls retirement home features local activities and scenery in a luxury environment offering a comfortable lifestyle, care and peace of mind.

    Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

    White Cliffe Terrace - Verve Senior Living  

    1460 Highway #2, Courtice, Ontario, L1E 3C4

    This award winning Oshawa retirement home is near parks and shopping, offering spacious seniors' suites and the option of assisted living care. Readers Choice Award Winner for Retirement living from 2016 2019.

    Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

    The Riverine  

    328 Dundas Street West, Napanee, Ontario, K7R 4B5

    The Riverine is a beautiful waterfront property offering seniors two levels of retirement living, with the comfort of knowing your needs will be looked after. We're proud to be 100% family owned and operated.

    Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

    Carleton Place Terrace by Symphony  

    6 Arthur Street, Carleton Place, Ontario, K7C 4S4

    We offer a truly all inclusive plan. We welcome pets: offer residents accommodation options .Our array of activities & chef-prepared meals keep our residents healthy & active. Offering beautiful outdoor spaces to enjoy.

    Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care

    Carp Commons Retirement Village - Verve Senior Living  

    458 Donald B. Munro Drive, Carp, Ontario, K0A 1L0

    One visit to Carp Commons Retirement Village and you’ll see the difference in terms of amenities, food, services, programs, and the little touches that make it feel like home.

    Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care

    The Elden of Bradford  

    3131 8th Line, Bradford, Ontario, L3Z 4H2

    Voted Bradford's Favourite Retirement Residence 4 years in a row, we are the perfect place for young-at-heart seniors who are seeking an exciting lifestyle. Call it UN-Retirement Living! Independent and Assisted Living.

    Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

    Holland Gardens - Verve Senior Living  

    552 Holland St W, Bradford, Ontario, L3Z 4H3

    Located in the heart of a vibrant community, Holland Gardens is the perfect place to live, laugh and enjoy life. An exciting community offering a luxurious resort lifestyle, an ideal place for inspired senior living.

    Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care

    Chateau Glengarry Retirement   

    105 St. Paul Street, Alexandria, Ontario, K0C 1A0

    Located between Ottawa & Montreal, our bilingual staff cater to seniors who are independent, need assistance or have early memory loss. Enjoy home-cooked food, fitness & daily activities. Respite stays are welcome.

    Lifestyle Options: Independent Living, Assisted Living

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