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The 12 Best Small Towns in Canada

From coast to coast to coast, these delightful small towns in Canada deliver on adventure, charm, and hospitality.

small cities in canada to visit

While Vancouver , Toronto , and Montreal often steal the spotlight, Canada is dotted with its fair share of delightful and laid-back small towns. From charming fishing villages in the east to atmospheric mountain towns in the west, many of these communities are gateways to outdoor adventures. Stay awhile, though, and you'll discover artisan shops, microbreweries, farm-to-table restaurants, and friendly locals to guide the way.

With three coastlines — the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic — impressive mountain ranges, and the largest protected boreal forest on the planet, Canada has no shortage of awe-inspiring landscapes. Whether you're considering a scenic road trip or a quick city getaway, here are a few Canadian towns worth exploring.

Golden, British Columbia

Surrounded by six national parks (Banff, Glacier, Jasper, Kootenay, Mount Revelstoke, and Yoho), Golden is an ideal base for exploring the Canadian Rockies. Beyond the obvious draws, it's also home to Canada's highest suspension bridge, the Golden Skybridge , whitewater rafting spots along the Kicking Horse River, a wolf sanctuary, and a burgeoning craft beer and food scene.

Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec

Baie-Saint-Paul ranks among Canada's cultural capitals, thanks to its lively art scene. Case in point: Cirque du Soleil got its start here in the early 1980s. Today, you can still find musicians, painters, and acrobats performing in the streets — not to mention plenty of charming bistros and one of the nation's highest concentrations of art galleries. A little over an hour's drive from Quebec City, this destination is the epitome of French Canadian charm.

Churchill, Manitoba

Known as the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill draws wildlife lovers from far and wide. Located on the shores of Hudson Bay, it's also a stellar spot for beluga whale watching and chasing the northern lights , which are visible up to 300 nights of the year. There are no roads that lead to Churchill — it's only accessible by flight or train, which adds to its remote allure .

Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

Colorfully painted Victorian homes, artisan studios, and heritage gardens make Mahone Bay one of the most picturesque towns in Atlantic Canada. It's often included as a stop on the popular driving route from Peggy's Cove to Lunenburg, but you could easily spend more than an afternoon here. In addition to visiting the world-famous three churches, head to Amos Pewter to see artists turn molten pewter into handcrafted pieces, bike the Dynamite Trail (bicycles can be rented from Sweet Ride Cycling ), or grab a craft beer with the locals at Saltbox Brewing Co .

Tofino, British Columbia

The coastal town of Tofino on Vancouver Island is treasured among surfers, foodies, and outdoor enthusiasts alike — and for good reason. Situated within the traditional territory of the The coastal town of Tofino on Vancouver Island is treasured among surfers, foodies, and outdoor enthusiasts alike — and for good reason. Situated within the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and surrounded by the UNESCO-recognized Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve, it's an ideal location to immerse yourself in one of British Columbia's most culturally significant swaths of nature. Outdoor adventures here include whale watching, riding waves, hiking, kayaking, biking, and more. And with plenty of accommodations options, from the harborside Tofino Resort + Marina and the beachfront Pacific Sands Beach Resort to rustic coastal campsites, travelers are spoiled for choice in more ways than one.

Elora, Ontario

Though it's just a 90-minute drive from Toronto, Elora feels like a world away from the big city. Historical 19th-century buildings form an idyllic town that's been kept alive by a vibrant community of artists, chefs, and entrepreneurs. While it's easy to spend a day wandering through the charming shops, the star attraction here is the Elora Gorge Conservation Area, a magnet for hikers, swimmers, and anyone adventurous enough to go tubing down the rapids of the Grand River.

Victoria-by-the-Sea, Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island is filled with quaint villages, but Victoria-by-the-Sea is arguably one of the most beautiful. The best way to soak it up is by simply exploring the coast lined with relics of the past, including its famous red-and-white lighthouse. Clam digging and kayaking hybrid tours are a popular daytime draw, while evenings are best spent eating oysters and lobster or catching a play at the historical Victoria Playhouse , PEI's longest-running little theater.

Banff, Alberta

Nestled within Banff National Park , this historical town checks all the boxes for a cool mountain town: friendly locals, postcard views, and après-adventure restaurants and bars like Park Distillery . Whether you're here for a quick hike up Mount Rundle, a full day of skiing, or paddling at one of the many nearby glacial lakes, adventuring is a year-round affair.

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Famed for its sun-drenched vineyards and charming heritage homes, Niagara-on-the-Lake gives visitors to Niagara Falls a good reason to stay, sip, and savor the countryside. And if the award-winning wineries and restaurants weren't enough, events like the theater-focused Shaw Festival keep the town buzzing with life. Thanks to its well-connected shuttle system, WEGO, and numerous bike rental shops, you don't even need a car to explore all it has to offer.

St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick

A 30-minute drive from the border crossing between Calais, Maine, and St. Stephen, New Brunswick, St. Andrews by-the-Sea is a perfect stop on the way to Canada's iconic Fundy National Park. Cute restaurants like Char and Chowder and The Clam Digger serve up delicious fried clams, burgers, and seafood. For a truly unique experience, drive your car to the historic Ministers Island — only accessible via the sandbar that appears at low tide.

Dawson, Yukon

During the height of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898, Dawson's population exceeded 30,000; as of 2021, it hovers just over 1,500. Vestiges of those glamorous days remain in the frontier-style buildings, including Canada's oldest gambling hall, and the interactive exhibits at the Dawson City Museum . The midnight sun also guarantees epic nightlife — just ask the thousands who have dared to try the Sourtoe Cocktail (a shot of whiskey served with a mummified human toe floating in it) at the Downtown Hotel .

Trinity, Newfoundland

Beautifully preserved saltbox houses, calligraphed street signs, and a thriving theater tradition make Trinity one of Newfoundland's most storied towns. Watch a blacksmith at work, learn about barrel making, or spot whales while hiking the Skerwink Trail. In the summer, local actors and singers in 1700s garb transport visitors to the past through scenic walking tours during the New Founde Lande Trinity Pageant. Meanwhile, restaurants like Twine Loft at the Artisan Inn use fresh seafood to showcase the town's culinary past and future.

Julia Eskins is a Toronto-based writer and editor who covers travel, design, arts and culture, wellness, and the outdoors. Find her on Instagram and Twitter .

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Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog

29 Most Charming Small Towns To Visit In Canada (2023)

By: Author Lotte

Posted on Last updated: January 2, 2023

Categories Canada

charming-canadian-small-towns-phenomenalglobe.com

Canada is a very large country (the second biggest in the world) with only 33 million people and a population density of just 3.7 people per square kilometer!

This results in many small and close-knit Canadian towns, villages and communities, whose residents stick together and often have know each other for generations.

These Canada small towns are not your typical tourist destination, but each and every single one has its own charm and character!

The best Canada small towns

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park BC

Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). We're very grateful when you use our links to make a purchase:-).

In this post, you will find a list of the best small towns to visit in Canada. These towns all have a population below 10.000 and are generally not very well-known and off the beaten track.

This post has been created in collaboration with several other travel bloggers, who have kindly shared their expert advice about their favorite Canadian towns.

The most charming small towns in Canada: map

best-canada-small-towns-map-phenomenalglobe.com

Click here for the interactive map

The 25 prettiest Canadian small villages

1. alma, new brunswick.

Alma New Brunswick

Population: 232

Tatiana from Family Road Trip Guru : Alma is a cool small town in Canada and it should definitely be on your travel radar.

It is situated on the banks of the Bay of Fundy and a perfect base to explore the Bay of Fundy and Fundy National Park.

The Bay of Fundy has the highest and lowest tides in the world, the difference between the two can be more than 15 meters (50 feet)! The perfect place to experience these unique tides is at the Hopewell Rocks Park.

Fundy National Park is also an excellent spot for hiking and exploring woodland streams, waterfalls, and lakes. If you are lucky you may even encounter a beaver or a moose!

Alma may be small, it's a bustling fishing port. A huge portion of lobster caught in New Brunswick is brought onshore in Alma. There are many restaurants in town offering fresh lobster for the prices cheaper than dirt.

The best time to visit Alma is in summer when the average temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius and rainy days are rare.

2. Baddeck, Nova Scotia

Baddeck Nova Scotia

Population: 769

Karen from Wanderlustingk: one of the most charming small towns in Canada is Baddeck. This town close to Bras d’Or Lake is beautiful and a perfect way to see wildlife without the fuss of a big city.

Here, you’ll feel the charm and culture of Cape Breton Island which has a proud tradition of ceilidhs (pronounced kay-le).

At a few of the restaurants and institutions of Baddeck, you can enjoy live music, impressive dancing, and a glimpse into this tradition that came across the Atlantic with many with Gaelic roots.

Beyond the ceilidhs and the fantastic seafood, you can learn about Alexander Graham Bell, one of the most famous locals, at his namesake museum in Baddeck. It’s just a great opportunity to relax.

We really enjoyed taking an extra day to explore the nature surrounding this area, especially birdwatching.

For those looking to understand Canada's roots, you'll love Baddeck and I strongly recommend making a detour to Cape Breton Island from Nova Scotia if you have the chance!

3. Bayfield, Ontario

bayfield-ontario-phenomenalglobe.com

Population: 1112

Renee from Dream Plan Experience : the quaint  village of Bayfield Ontario  sits on the shores of the beautiful Lake Huron about 2.5 hours west of Toronto .

This attractive beach town may be tiny in size, but it is certainly big in appeal. Stroll the tree-lined main street chocked full of interesting and unique shops. Everything from fashion to books to art can be found in this charming downtown.

A cute bakery called the Pink Flamingo is known for its mouth-watering scones, an ice cream shop, coffee roaster, and surprisingly a great number of eateries can be found here too.

Another top attraction in Bayfield is the beach of course! Bayfield has been known for centuries as a popular spot for cottagers.

The biggest draw is the beautiful shoreline of Lake Huron, offering the most incredible sunrise and sunsets.

Each of its four beaches can be accessed by descending a wooden staircase with approximately 100 steps. But once down, you’ll never want to leave. Make Bayfield your next relaxing weekend getaway.

4. Cheticamp, Nova Scotia

cheticamp-nova-scotia-phenomenalglobe.com

Population: 4000

Erin from Pina Travels : Chéticamp, Nova Scotia is a traditional fishing village on the famous Cabot Trail in Cape Breton.

This small town known for being a worldwide leader in preserving Acadian Culture. The village has a museum called Les Trois Pignons where you can learn about Acadian history and traditions.

You can also visit the Museum of the Hooked Rug and Home Life to learn about rug hooking, an artistic practice that originates in the area and dates back to the 1930s.  

Chéticamp is small, so you can easily wander the picturesque town in one day, admiring its traditional Cape Breton homes and cottages.

The village is conveniently close to great hiking trails, beaches, and the Cabot Trail, so once you’ve had your fill of the village itself, you can explore the surrounding area.

Chéticamp is located just a few minutes from the west coast entrance into Cape Breton Highlands National Park, which makes it the perfect home base for exploring the park.

5. Dawson City, Yukon

Dawson City Yukon

Population: 1410

Rhonda from Travel Yes Please: Dawson City , a northern town in the Yukon Territory, is one of the most interesting small towns in Canada.

When gold was found in a nearby creek in 1896, it started the Klondike Gold Rush, turning the small, remote settlement into a lively booming town.

The excitement of Dawson City’s gold rush days can still be felt today, largely because the town’s appearance hasn’t changed much since then. Boardwalks still line the dirt streets and frontier-style buildings house saloons, hotels, and restaurants.

Even Canada’s oldest gambling hall, the Diamond Tooth Gerties, is still in operation, putting on nightly cancan shows in the summer.

Other fun ways to experience the thrill of the Klondike Gold Rush is by panning for gold in Bonanza Creek, visiting Dredge #4 (a National Historic Site), and floating down the Yukon River on a paddle wheeler, the main mode of transport during the gold rush.

6. Drumheller, Alberta

Drumheller Alberta

Population: 7982

Jason from Mint Habits: Drumheller is often overlooked as most travelers flock to Banff and Jasper in the Canadian Rockies, but that's a real shame as this small town in the province of Alberta packs in a whole lot of fun!

Drumheller is nicknamed ‘the dinosaur capital of the world'. Naturally, the biggest draw in this little town is dinosaurs!

Most people visit Drumheller to see the Royal Tyrrell museum which contains all kinds of dinosaur fossils and remains. You'll also be treated to a world of information and historical significances about dinosaurs and their presence on earth.

The other major thing to do in this town is to check out the Badlands. The badlands are essentially trenches of large rocks and canyons.

They have been made into hiking trails that can be toured all season long. This is where you'll likely spend most of your time when you visit Drumheller.

Drumheller is located just north of Calgary and it's often a side place to visit as you travel from Alberta's two main cities  Edmonton  and Calgary (which are about 3 hours apart).

Insider travel tip: visit Drumheller's badlands and canyons during sunset time for amazing photos!

You can spend easily spend two days here, however, even just 3-5 hours will give you a great feel of this little Albertan gem.

7. Fernie, British Columbia

Fernie British Columbia

Population: 5249

Kimberly (a former resident of Fernie) from Travelling Around Spain : Fernie is nestled just on the west side of the Alberta/British Columbia border in a valley that has the imposing Rocky Mountains towering over it on all sides. 

Stunning beauty aside, Fernie is an adventure town that always has something going on. As one would expect in a mountain town the skiing opportunities are exceptional.

Not only is there a world-class ski hill, Fernie Alpine Resort but there is also a cat skiing resort, Island Lake Lodge , both of which will keep you in fresh powder for almost 5 months of the year.

Cat skiing  means using snowcats to get to more remote backcountry areas where you can make the first marks in the snow as you ski through untouched powder.

If you are more into summer activities, Fernie has made a name for itself in mountain biking. There are many trails in and around the town, from novice to extreme levels. 

There are hiking trails too numerous to mention, white water rafting, and fly fishing along the local elk river. 

During the summer months, outdoor concerts are held every Wednesday afternoon which bring in the area’s best bands. The famous Wapiti music festival is held in August and is a must-visit if you happen to be in town.

The local restaurants aren’t your humdrum fast food affairs, but places that offer quality food from local produce. 

Altogether Fernie is a gem of a town that brings together people as amazing as the nature surrounding it! 

8. Fogo Island, Newfoundland

Fogo Island Inn BabyAndLife

Population: 2244

Yashy from Baby & Life: if you’re looking to discover a place like nowhere else in Canada (or the world), cast your gaze toward Fogo Island.

I will be upfront with you: it may take an entire day to get to Fogo Island, the largest island off Newfoundland and Labrador’s coast.

However, this peaceful place (there are only 3 policemen on the entire island) is guaranteed to become one of your favorite Canadian travel memories.

During my visit to Fogo Island, I saw the Caribou cross an icy field and chatted with local photographers and quilters, who can often be found at the few arts and crafts stores that are on the island.

This is a remote Canadian island and supplies aren’t always easy to come by. Nevertheless, the residents of Fogo Island will welcome you with smiles and share stories with you over a drink at the local shed.

I promise you, you will never come across a spot as unique as Fogo Island. The friendliest people I ever met were the people on Fogo. You will immediately feel at home and you may never want to leave…

Luxury travelers will want to stay at the  Fogo Island Inn with its impressive floor-to-ceiling views of the sea and sky.

best-canadian-small-towns-phenomenalglobe.com

9. Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan

Population: 1919

Nicole from The Passport Kids : a great hidden gem in the heart of Saskatchewan is Fort Qu’Appelle. It is nestled in the beautiful Qu’Appelle valley between Mission Lake and Echo Lake.

Fort Qu’Appelle is a little town that acts as a hub of lake life around the four lakes in the area.

This quaint little town offers so many authentic things to do in Saskatchewan , including hiking, camping, boating, and fishing.

Weekly on Saturday, you can attend the farmers market where locals from the area bring their best baking products, jams, and veggies for your own farm-to-table meal.

Fort Qu’Appelle Saskatchewan

Slowly walk down the main street and grab yourself an ice cream and let life slow down. Fort Qu’Appelle offers a variety of festivals during summer that keep the town buzzing with people.

While it is less than an hour's drive from Saskatchewan's capital city Regina, Fort Qu’Appelle feels worlds away.

Either camp at one of the local camping grounds or rent a cabin along one of the lakes to truly immerse yourself in Saskatchewan life. 

10. Haliburton, Ontario

Haliburton park Ontario

Population: 1000

Mariellen of Breathedreamgo: the first time I visited Haliburton, Ontario, I was enchanted. We drove up a winding road to Skyline Park for a panoramic view of the small but beautiful town and sparkling Head Lake.

Haliburton might be tiny, at only about 1,000 permanent residents, but it has a big impact. It’s a hub for cottagers in the summer and a hub for adventure travelers all year round.

And not only is Haliburton a charming town, but it’s really well located as a gateway to all the natural beauty and adventure that northern Ontario has to offer.

Haliburton is a great destination on its own as well, despite its tiny size, there are a lot of things to see and do. The town is situated on the banks of Head Lake, with a rolling, green park and kids' playground ideal for picnicking and swimming.

The Railsend Art Gallery, located in an abandoned railcar at the edge of the town park, is always fun to visit.

Other places to visit include Skyline Park (with the panoramic view!), the Haliburton Sculpture Forest, and the walk along Highland Street.

Haliburton is a jewel, with lots of  things to do in the Ontario Highlands region.

11. Killarney, Ontario

Killarney Mountain Lodge by Kathi Kamleitner

Population: 386

Kathi from Watch Me See : Killarney is a small unassuming village at the end of Highway 637 in Ontario.

One wonders, why they should take up the long journey to the end of this dead-end road, but believe me, the town is worth the effort!

Also known as  Shebahonaning , an Ojibwe name meaning “canoe passage”, it overlooks a narrow channel that separates George Island from the mainland. Its location in Georgian Bay in Lake Huron means that Killarney is a boater's paradise.

In the village, you can find some of the best fish & chips in Canada, dine with a view at the Killarney Mountain Lodge, or indulge in an ice cream cone by the waterfront.

The colorful painted wooden houses look like from a different era and time seems to pass slower in Killarney than anywhere else.

Outdoor lovers can enjoy a scenic walk to the Eastern Lighthouse and treat themselves to a refreshing dip in the lake. You can join boat trips out to other scenic bays of Lake Huron and marvel at the timeless mansions dotted along the picturesque shoreline.

For more adventure, head to the nearby Killarney Provincial Park which is great for  canoe camping expeditions  to O.S.A. Lake, Killarney Lake , or Norway Lake. This is Canada from the picture book!

12. Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Lunenburg Nova Scotia

Population: 2263

Dian from Girls Getaway : Lunenburg is a picture-perfect East Coast fishing village on the south shore of Nova Scotia, it is an easy day trip or weekend escape from Halifax and one of my top must-visit small towns in Canada.

This colorful seaside town is brimming with enchanting little art galleries, seafood restaurants, and indie shops.

You can buy local produce at Dot and Loops and eat local (think lobster roll) at one of Lunenburg’s favorite restaurants, the Salt Shaker Deli .

A UNESCO World Heritage site and named one of the Prettiest Painted Places in Canada Lunenburg is one of those special spots where you should just wander and discover its tiny, charming crooked streets and laneways.

You can also explore the town’s large harbor to visit a replica of the Bluenose Schooner , Canada’s beloved sailboat.

The Schooner rose to fame in the 1920s as one of the fastest racing boats in the world, it's also pictured on the Canadian 10-cent coin.

While at the harbor be sure to head over to the Fisheries Museum where you can board a couple of old fishing boats or head over to the live touch tank to pet a lobster!

If you've got more time, also pay a visit to nearby Mahone Bay, a picturesque village with spectacular views of a scenic harbor.

13. Nelson, British Columbia

Nelson British Columbia

Population: 10.664 (the largest town on the list but I visited this place during our Canada road trip and it's such a nice town I couldn't resist including it on this list)

Kyla from  Where Is The World : Nelson is a charming town that’s a must-visit on any trip to Southern British Columbia.

Nestled in a beautiful valley along the banks of Kootenay Lake, the majestic peaks of the Selkirk mountains tower over the town.

It’s home to an eclectic mix of all kinds of people resulting in a unique culture that’s distinct “Nelson”. 

For a small town, there’s an incredible variety of independent restaurants, thrift stores, coffee shops, and eco-friendly stores.

In the summer you can wander Baker street, the heart of this historic town with many beautiful heritage buildings. Or relax on the beach at Lakeside park, with some snacks and a cup of takeaway coffee from one of the many excellent cafés.

Once the weather turns colder Nelson becomes a winter wonderland and makes a great base for skiing and backcountry snowshoeing. 

If you’re looking for a funky mountain town with plenty to do, Nelson should be at the top of your list !

14. Perth, Ontario

perth-ontario-canada-phenomenalglobe.com_

Population: 6,469

Marianne from Journeying Giordanos : located just one hour south of Ottawa is Perth. a pretty little town, that makes for a very scenic stop for those looking to road trip through Ontario.

With over 70 little boutiques to shop in, incredible heritage buildings to admire, a seasonal farmer’s market, incredible restaurants, and plenty of green spaces to stretch out in, there are so many  things to do in Perth !

If you love chocolate (and who doesn’t?), head over to Code’s Mill and the Perth Chocolate Works. There you will find a large selection of hand-crafted chocolate that will tempt your willpower.

Perth is very compact and walkable. But if you are so inclined, you can also rent kayaks or paddle boards and view the town from the water.

The Tay River actually runs right down the middle of Perth and provides the perfect backdrop for a romantic stroll, or a family picnic in the

Although Perth is quite pretty in the winter, the best time to visit is in the summer. Just be aware, the town fills up pretty quickly with tourists, so be sure to book your accommodations in advance !

15. Port Renfrew, British Columbia

Botanical Beach Port Renfrew BC

Population: 144

Taryn from Happiest Outdoors: Tiny Port Renfrew, BC has a population of just 144 people, but it has so much to offer!

It’s tucked in between the Pacific Ocean and old-growth rainforests on the rugged West Coast of Vancouver Island. Historically it was a logging town. But in the last few years, it’s turned into an eco-tourism destination. 

If you love the ocean, Port Renfrew is world-famous for its salmon fishing charters. You can also rent a kayak to explore the bay or drive a few minutes south to Botanical Beach and hike to the tide pools. 

Botanical Beach Loop Trail in Port Renfrew

Port Renfrew is also the starting point for two of BC’s premier coastal hiking trails: The super famous 75km long West Coast Trail and its little brother, the 47km long Juan de Fuca Trail. 

Port Renfrew’s nickname is the “Tall Tree Capital of Canada”. Some of Canada’s oldest, tallest and largest trees grow nearby.

Be sure to head to Avatar Grove and visit Big Lonely Doug , the world’s second-tallest Douglas fir. He got his name after all the trees around him were cut down in 2012, and now he stands all alone! 

16. Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia

Radium Hot Springs British Columbia

Population: 776

Lesley from Freedom 56 Travel :  located between the equally incredible Kootenay National Park and Banff National Park, Radium Hot Springs fulfills the promise prominently advertised on the road into town: “The mountains shall bring peace to the people”. 

Famous for the odorless hot spring mineral pools, the village of Radium Hot Springs is a peaceful little mountain getaway. 

If being outdoorsy in the mountains is high on your leisure-time bucket list, there’s no better place for you!

While it might be more challenging to get to in the winter, Radium is a great winter destination for skating, skiing, sledding, or snowmobiling in the vast backcountry. 

Summer in Radium Hot Springs definitely fulfills its peaceful promise. Imagine golfing on world-class courses without waiting to play through, exploring the endless outdoor pursuits in the neighborhood national parks, or just sitting by the many lakes just taking in all the beauty around you.

Don’t forget to visit the famous hot springs! Nestled in the Sinclair Canyon, the pools are family-friendly and offer an on-site spa with licensed therapists.

Keep your eyes peeled for the bighorn sheep that frequent the canyon above the mineral pools!

17. St. Anthony, Newfoundland

St. Anthony in Newfoundland

Population: 2258

Adrienne from Bucket Half Full : St. Anthony, Newfoundland is a great place to explore on your next trip to the East coast.

The town of fewer than 2300 people is the largest municipality in the northern peninsula and a great base to discover the region.

Although you can fly into St. Anthony’s airport, this can be surprisingly costly. I recommend flying into Deer Lake and renting a car to make the five-hour journey up north.

There’s plenty to see on the way, such as the tablelands in Gros Morne National Park.

Be aware that the area is notorious for collisions involving moose, so keep your eyes on the road !

One of the best things to do in St. Anthony is to get out and explore nature. There are plenty of hikes in the area that provide stunning views. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even spot an iceberg in the harbor.

If you want to see some of the wildlife, hop on a boat tour for the chance to see whales, dolphins, and puffins.

If history is your thing, drive 40 minutes to check out L’anse aux Meadows, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Vikings created a settlement at this location in the 11 th  century, making it the site of the first-ever visit Europeans made to North America.

The best time to visit St. Anthony is between June and September because most of the amenities and attractions shut down during the off-season.

18. Tadoussac, Quebec

Tadoussac Quebec

Population: 799

Yulia from Miss Tourist: when you are driving along the Saint Lawrence River in Canada, you'll come across a couple of charming small towns that are worth visiting.

Tadoussac is located on the northern shore of the Saint Lawrence River and about a 3-hour drive from Quebec city. It's a quiet little gem that I consider a must-visit!

The biggest attraction in the town is whale watching . The city has a unique marine environment, something you'll never have seen before!

So many whales (beluga whales, can be seen during a boat trip there, that's why Tadoussac is such a must-visit destination.

Insider travel tip : make sure that you bring a couple of additional layers to ensure you don’t get too cold while out on the boat!

The other popular attraction in Tadoussac is the National Park, located right on the Saguenay River. The area is beautiful and worth visiting, at least for a short walk!

Overall, Tadoussac is such an amazing place to visit, I’m sure you will not be disappointed!

19. Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia

Tatamagouche Nova Scotia

Population: 2037

Michele from A Taste for Travel: although a bit off the beaten path and quite a mouthful to pronounce, Tatamagouche in Nova Scotia is a small town that's well worth seeking out.

Situated on a protected bay within the Northumberland Strait, a body of water facing Prince Edward Island, the shoreline is home to Atlantic Canada's largest collection of warm ocean beaches.

This makes Tatamagouche a prime hub for exploring nearby provincial park beaches such as Blue Sea Provincial Park with its boardwalk, sand dunes, change house, and interpretive information.

But much more than serving as a popular beach destination, the Northumberland shore's mild climate supports a thriving local wine industry and is home to Jost Vineyards, Nova Scotia's most well-established and largest winery.

In addition to taking tours of nearby Jost Vineyards, there are many other  things to do in Tatamagouche  of interest to culinary travelers.

Dine on fresh lobster, sample the delicious regional cheeses, sip a craft beer at the Tatamagouche Brewing Co or browse the goodies at the weekly Farmer's Market at Creamery Square, open from April to December.

Fresh oysters, home-baked goods, handmade maple chocolates, and local blueberries are must-try foods here.

You can wear off the calories by renting a bike and cycling the Butter Trail, a picturesque route that travels a path alongside the waterfront and through fields lined by wildflowers.

Be sure to stop at the Anna Swan Museum featuring the story of the Nova Scotia giantess born in Tatamagouche in 1846 and a famous star in the P.T. Barnum Circus.

Also of interest is the Sunrise Trail Museum, portraying the life of the Mi'kmaq, early pioneer days, and geological discoveries such as the rare Brule Fossils, and fossils of extinct animals from 290 million years ago.     

20. Tobermory, Ontario

Lions Head Tobermory Ontario

Population: 2700

Stephanie from The World As I See It: one of the best small towns in Ontario, especially for nature addicts, is Tobermory .

Located on the tip of Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula and a three-hour road trip from Toronto , Tobermory is full of natural beauty.

Set on a picturesque harbor looking out over Fathom Five National Marine Park, Tobermory has a wealth of things to do for those who love small-town getaways and outdoor adventure travel.

Tobermory is home to two National Parks, a marine one and the Bruce Peninsula National Park. In Tobermory’s marine park you can enjoy sunset cruises, go diving shipwrecks or visit Flowerpot Island to explore its lighthouse and trails.

In the Bruce Peninsula National Park, you’ll find a wealth of incredible hiking trails, rocky and sandy beaches, and epic clifftops views over Georgian Bay.

One of the park’s most famous sights is the Grotto, a sea cave along the coast with water that resembles the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean.

But there’s more to Tobermory than hiking, cruises, and outdoor life. One of the most endearing attributes of this small Canadian town is that all of its shops, cafes, and restaurants are locally run.

You won’t find chain restaurants or big company shops here. Visit Tobermory once and you’ll keep coming back again and again!

21. Torrington, Alberta

Torrington in Alberta

Population: 170

Diane from Diane Alkier : if you are driving between Calgary and Edmonton be sure to make a quick detour to the small town of Torrington!

Just east of the village Olds, Torrington is home to the quirky Gopher Hole Museum .

This tiny museum has 47 dioramas of dressed-up stuffed gophers acting out fun little scenes with cute little captions. 

You can’t help but chuckle at these elaborate pieces of art, often depicting some of Torrington's 170 residents. Year after year hundreds of people stop here to check out this fun little museum.

There is not much else to do in Torrington. But after checking out the museum, you can take your photo with the 12 feet high gopher sculpture named Clem T. GoFur before heading back to the highway to continue your Canadian road trip.  

22. Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories

tuktoyaktuk-northwest-territories-canada-phenomenalglobe.com

Population: 965

Agnes from The Van Escape: Tuktoyaktuk, aka Tuk, is a small hamlet in the Northwest Territories, in the Inuvik region. What makes it unique is that it is located north of the Arctic Circle on the coast of the Arctic Ocean.

In addition, Tuk is Canada's only Arctic Ocean community connected to the rest of the country by a public road. The road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk opened in 2017. It is the furthest north you can travel by car in Canada.

But getting there is a real adventure. From Dawson City (#5 of this list), it's a 926-kilometer one-way on a gravel road.

Driving the Dempster Highway  through the wilderness regions of the Yukon and Northwest Territories requires special preparation. You need at least 5 days for this fantastic trip.

The road offers endless views and the opportunity to admire wildlife and hike. Visiting the Pingo Canadian Landmark is one of the most amazing natural attractions in the Tuk area. Pingos are a unique Arctic landform and it's pretty unique to see these ice-covered hills.

As for Tuktoyaktuk itself, it's a fantastic place to spend a couple of days. Here you can dip your feet in the icy Arctic Ocean, eat sun-dried fish, admire shipwrecks, and learn about the culture and history of the indigenous Inuvialuit people.

Furthermore, there is almost no light pollution this far north, making Tuktoyaktuk one of the best places in Canada to see the magical Northern Lights.

23. Twillingate, Newfoundland

Iceberg Twillingate Newfoundland

Population: 2196

Christina from Travel 2 Next : you can visit Twillingate at any time of the year for its fishing village appeal, with fishing boats and colorful saltbox houses.

This small town in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador is well-organized to cater to tourists between May and July when the icebergs float past.

Twillingate is known as the ‘Iceberg Capital of the World’, as it’s one of the best places in “Iceberg Alley” in Newfoundland to see the giant icebergs float past.

Each year, icebergs break off from massive ice shelves in the Arctic and are swept past the coast of Newfoundland by strong ocean currents.

You can see icebergs right along the Newfoundland coastline, but Twillingate is the most popular tourist destination.

Regular boat tours leave from the dock and the local tourism board tracks the paths of the icebergs using GPS.

Other things to do in Twillingate are hiking, sea kayaking, berry picking, exploring a handful of historic buildings, or simply relaxing!

24. Ucluelet, British Columbia

Ucluelet British Columbia

Population: 1717

Sinead from Map Made Memories : the charming, small town of Ucluelet is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

Within the town, visit the pretty harbor and spot the colorful anemones clinging to the posts or take a sailing or kayaking trip around the stunning local coastline.

On a rainy day, visit the captivating Ucluelet Aquarium. The Pacific Rim National Park starts on the doorstep of the town and offers diverse hiking trails through rainforests and across deserted, windswept beaches.

Walk at least one of the trails of the developing Wild Pacific Trail. These accessible shoreline hiking trails provide fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean, sheltered rocky bays, and the Broken Islands.

Insider travel tip: bring binoculars for spotting wildlife!

We visited Ucluelet off-season; it was quiet, welcoming, and friendly. We saw eagles on the dock at the harbor and deer walking down the tiny main street.

Altogether, Ucluelet is one of our favorite small towns in Canada!

Also read my Victoria itinerary (the capital of BC and located on Vancouver Island as well).

25. Val Marie, Saskatchewan

70 Mile Butte Val Marie

Population: 137

Val Marie is a tiny town in Saskatchewan and the main gateway to the Grasslands National Park . The village was founded in 1910 by (as its name suggests) French ranchers.

Interesting fact: while the residents of Val Marie were mostly French in the 1950s, the last unilingual Francophone resident died in 1981, and English is now universally spoken.

There isn't necessarily that much to do in Val Marie itself, though you can find a movie theater, library, small community center, and grocery store.

Furthermore, there are two heritage buildings in Val Marie: the Val Marie School (which is used as a museum, cafe, gift shop, and art gallery) and the Val Marie Elevator (which is currently being restored).

Also, as the gateway to the Grasslands National Park, you can find the Grasslands Visitor Center in Val Marie, with very friendly and knowledgeable staff who love to talk about ‘their' park.

I highly recommend camping in the Grasslands National Park for at least one night, I've never seen the starry Milky Way so well…

If you prefer staying at a hotel, check out the Convent Inn , a beautifully renovated Catholic school with 10 lovely rooms.

26. Wakefield, Quebec

Wakefield Quebec

Population: 2767

Laura from Ottowa Road Trips : just 35 kilometers northwest of Ottawa , the Quebec village of Wakefield feels a world away from Canada’s capital.

One of its biggest attractions is the red-covered bridge over the Gatineau River, rebuilt after a devastating 1984 fire.

The main street of Wakefield is lined with artsy shops, don’t miss the handmade truffles at La Confiserie Wakefield and the fair-trade gifts at La Tulipe Noire! For music lovers, the Black Sheep Inn (more of a pub, really) offers a packed schedule of live shows.

Romantics head to the Wakefield Mill Inn and Spa, housed in a historic stone mill above frothing MacLaren Falls.

Downhill skiers can check out Ski Vorlage right in the village or Sommet Edelweiss, eight kilometers to the east.

Families gravitate to nearby Arbraska Laflèche, where they can explore caves, whizz down ziplines, or test their nerve on an aerial course of rope bridges and dangling obstacles.

Speaking of nerve: the Great Canadian Bungee Jump (five kilometers south of Wakefield) sends thrill seekers hurtling 61 meters (200 feet) downward toward the waters of Morrison’s Quarry!

27. Waskesiu, Saskatchewan

Lake Waskesiu in Saskatchewan

Population: 10

Mayuri from To Some Place New: Waskesiu is a town by Lake Waskesiu, situated within Prince Albert National Park in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

It's a great location for camping, picnicking, and enjoying some fun under the sun. The name, ‘Waskesiu’ literally means ‘ red deer ’ in Cree and is known for its National park Waskesiu National Park/Prince Albert National Park.

Prince Albert is the third-largest city in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan and is usually the village associated with the National Park. 

Fun fact: there is a city by the name of Red Deer in Canada too, located in Alberta.

Residents of Saskatchewan flock to Lake Waskesiu during summers for overnight camping trips, or as a quick day trip from Saskatoon for a picnic at the beach.

There are lots of things to do, eat, and see at Lake Waskesiu like bird watching, fishing, Aurora watching, biking, golfing, etc. 

Other than Lake Waskesiu, Prince Albert is also a nice haven with slow living, small-town joys of ice creams, sunsets, and beautiful prairie outdoors. 

Prince Albert has hidden heritage gems spread across town. There is a railway museum, bridges, and cool restaurants to keep you busy during your stay here. 

The drive to the Waskesiu lake is very scenic as well. The nearest airport to Waskesiu/ Prince Albert is Saskatoon, a 2.5-hour drive away.

28. Waterton, Alberta

Waterton Alberta

Population: 105

Vanessa from Wanderlust Crew: Waterton may well be one of Canada’s prettiest towns, or at least the town with the most beautiful location.

Waterton is a tiny little town within Waterton Lakes National Park in the far southwest corner of the province of Alberta. With a population of 105 in the summer and under 50 in the winter and built on only 1 square mile, it’s one of the smallest towns in Canada.

However, the town of Waterton offers a lot for being so tiny. Multiple hotels, shops, and restaurants dot the main street, including the delicious Waffleton and Wieners of Waterton, which should not be missed!

If you’re looking for a splurge with an incredible view, have tea at the Prince of Wales hotel which perches high on a hill overlooking the townsite. 

And of course, being located inside a National Park, there is plenty of sightseeing and hiking to do. You can also take a cruise on Waterton Lake where you’ll learn about the history and ecology of the park.

Keep a sharp eye out for wildlife like bald eagles, osprey, grizzly bears, and black bears can easily be spotted around town!

29. Watrous, Saskatchewan

Woman Floating in Lake Manitou photo credit Carol Perehudoff

Population: 1865

Carol from Wandering Carol is originally from Saskatoon and knows Watrous very well as she has visited the town many times:

Watrous is a small town in Saskatchewan that is one of Canada’s best-kept secrets. Located 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Saskatoon, it was established in 1906 and has two fascinating treasures no visitor should miss.

One is the All Saints Anglican Church on the Main Street. Here you’ll find 500-year-old stained glass windows that came from the Church of St John the Baptist in Wiltshire, England. Definitely, something you don’t expect to see in a prairie town!

The other treasure is  Manitou Lake , just outside town. This legendary lake is associated with many First Nations myths and stories and is considered especially healing.

What is unique about it is that its salt content is so high you can float as you would in the Dead Sea, and the water's minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and silica are considered beneficial for skin ailments and sore muscles and joints.

Winter is cold in Canada and particularly in Saskatchewan, nevertheless, the lake is a nice place to visit year-round.

In the summer you can swim (or at least float) in the lake, while a large indoor spa and bathing complex means you can still soak in the mineral waters when the lake freezes over!

Plan your Canada trip like a pro with these tools: ✈️ Find the best flight deals with Kiwi.com . ? Rent a campervan for your Canada road trip (or a car via Rentalcars.com ). ? Arrange your Canada working holiday with Global Work & Travel . ? Plan your journey with the Canada Lonely Planet . ?️ Find the best hotel deals on Booking.com . ? Join the best tours in Canada via Get Your Guide or Viator . ?️ Travel safely and get reliable travel insurance from Safety Wing .

Best Canadian small towns: in conclusion

I hope this list has inspired you to visit these hidden gems in Canada. And while these towns are definitely some of the best Canada has to offer, there are loads more charming Canadian villages to visit.

What is your favorite Canadian small town?

Also read my other posts about Canada :

  • Best day trips from Vancouver
  • Canada road trip budget
  • Sea to Sky highway road trip guide
  • Nanaimo itinerary
  • Vancouver itinerary

charming-canadian-small-towns-phenomenalglobe.com

Bev Hitchman

Friday 5th of June 2020

There are lots more small towns I love. I am sure it would be easy to make a list for every province. In these days of Covid19, the lists could be quite useful.

Monday 8th of June 2020

You are right, there are so many more beautiful small towns in Canada! And absolutely, in the light of Covid19 we should all reconsider our travel choices... Stay safe!

Sheila LeBrun

Tuesday 2nd of June 2020

Alma has THE BEST sticky buns in the east!

Thursday 4th of June 2020

Nomnom, who doesn't love a sticky bun! Any place in particular in Alma where you can buy them? Would love to add your suggestion to the post:-)

Stephanie Mayo

Sunday 21st of July 2019

I'm a sucker for small towns and this epic list of the best of Canada's has me wanting to jump in the car and check them all off my list! Thanks for the inspiration!

Friday 2nd of August 2019

Thank you for your contribution Stephanie and my Canada bucket-list has also got some new additions since learning about these villages:-)

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15 Most Charming Small Towns in Canada

By Becky Griswold · Last updated on February 5, 2024

You’re never too far from some amazing natural scenery in Canada , whether it be the tranquility of the Great Lakes or the awesome spectacle of the Canadian Rockies. It’s home to national parks, emerald islands, and long highways ripe for road-tripping into the wilderness. Of course, dotted in the drama and beauty of the Canadian landscape are its small towns.

From Francophone communities with strong connections to the first French settlers, to diverse British colonists, as well the country’s Aboriginal people, small towns in Canada are a mix of cultures and eras, where gold rush towns still look like gold rush towns, and grand railway hotels jut out of forests and also European castles. Here are some of the places that make exploring this expansive country a real joy.

15. Tobermory, Ontario

Tobermory

Named after another quite charming town in Scotland, this Tobermory is known as ‘the freshwater Scuba capital of the world’ – there are 22 shipwrecks to explore in the adjacent Fathom Five National Marine Park alone.

There are also many rock formations in Fathom Five – just off shore is Flowerpot Island, named for two flowerpot-shaped stacks on its coast, and which also features camping facilities and hiking trails. For the less adventurous there are glass-bottomed boat tours to glimpse the wrecks without getting wet.

14. Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

Yarmouth

French Acadians first founded a settlement on the southwestern tip of the Nova Scotia peninsula in the mid 17th century, called Tebouque. Settlers from New England, however, arrived during the Seven Years War and named a nearby site after the town they came from in Massachusetts: Yarmouth.

Today the town is known for its Gothic Victorian architecture, iconic for the Maritimes region Canada. It’s also famous for lobsters, with the largest lobster catch in Canada per year; you can sample this and more seafood at quirky seaside restaurant The Red Shed.

13. Nelson, British Columbia

Nelson, British Columbia

The idyllic mountain town Nelson first boomed thanks to the discovery of silver in 1886 at nearby Toad Mountain. Today many of the buildings that date from this era have been lovingly restored and make up much of what gives Nelson its old world charm.

It’s a cultural center packed with things to do in the form of restaurants, cafes, shops, art galleries, coffee houses, and more. Skiing and snowboarding are the winter activities; summer includes things like Marketfest, a lively nighttime market held on the last Friday of each month in June, July and August.

12. Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Moose Jaw

Oddly named Moose Jaw is an attractive town with a number of historic buildings and things to do. There’s the Moose Jaw Tunnels, for instance, an underground network of tunnels connecting buildings made in 1908 for a steam system that never went ahead – Chinese immigrants hid here from persecution in the early 20th century, and Al Capone is rumored to have gambled and made deals in the subterranean spaces.

There are tours of the town on historic trolley buses, too. And after all that, a soak in some hot springs sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

11. Churchill, Manitoba

Churchill, Manitoba

Polar bears, beluga whales, and northern lights: Churchill has it all . Whilst Danish explorers reached this area in 1619, only 3 of the 64 expedition members made it back to Denmark – a more permanent history of Churchill begins in 1717, when the British Hudson’s Bay Company built the first settlement here. Relics of the Anglo-French dispute over North America still survive, such as the impressive 250-year-old Prince of Wales Fort.

Elsewhere in town, check out the Eskimo Museum, and be sure to go on a Polar Bear Tour – this is the ‘Polar Bear Capital of the World’ after all.

10. Summerside, Prince Edward Island

Summerside

Incorporated as a town in 1877, Summerside seems to have the perfect name to reflect the nature of the town itself. Though relatively small, this is Prince Edward Island’s second largest ‘city’, and as such there’s a lot to do here. History lives and breathes in the tree-lined streets with their stately heritage homes, and learning about Summerside’s past is possible in the beautiful Wyatt Historic House Museum.

The harborfront boardwalk with its seaside charm is a good place to eat, drink, shop, and see plays – at the Harbourfront Theatre, that is.

9. Dawson City, Yukon

Dawson City

A real gold rush town, Dawson City was founded at a First Nations Camp in 1897 as a result of the Klondike Gold Rush, and quickly grew into a city of over 40,000 inhabitants, all eager for gold. Smaller now, historic Dawson City still brings in visitors.

The ‘Dawson Historical Complex’ refers to the quaint 19th century center of town; in fact, all new buildings have to comply with visual standards conforming to that 19th century look to keep it looking pretty. Weirdly it’s famous for the ‘Sourtoe Cocktail’ at the Downtown Hotel – complete with a real mummified human toe!

8. Neepawa, Manitoba

Neepawa

Known as ‘Manitoba’s Most Beautiful Town’, Neepawa was first settled in 1877. Like many places in Canada, the land was in use long before Europeans arrived – Neepawa meaning ‘Land of Plenty’ in the Cree language.

Today there are many historic buildings to admire: the Margaret Laurence Home, where the Canadian novelist grew up, and the iconic Roxy Theatre Neepawa, built in 1906, still in use today for events and current films. Curiously it is the self-appointed ‘Lily Capital of the World’ – 2,000 types of lily are grown in Neepawa, and sees 12,000 visitors each year to its July Lily Festival.

7. Goderich, Ontario

Goderich

Founded in 1828, and named after the British prime minister at the time, this town is proud of its aesthetics: its motto appears to be ‘Canada’s Prettiest Town’ – plus it has won awards in different categories of the Communities in Bloom competition.

It is claimed that Queen Elizabeth II called this the prettiest town in Canada (though there’s no record of any reigning monarch having visited). Historic attractions include the 1839 Huron Historic Gaol and the Huron County Museum, but outdoors-minded visitors will be more interested in the three beaches boasted by Goderich.

6. Banff, Alberta

Banff

Tiny Banff grew up around the hot springs that were discovered here by railway workers in 1883. The Cave and Basin Hot Springs – now closed – are the first hot springs created here when the town was advertised internationally as a spa resort.

Today Banff is a busy and commercial town where you can pause for a couple of days to stock up on supplies before you explore Banff National Park. But never fear: you can still soak in mineral rich waters at Banff Upper Hot Springs, among others. Perhaps a good idea after a long hike at nearby Lake Minnewanka. The luxury 19th century Banff Springs Hotel is the place to stay, one of Canada’s famous grand railway hotels – more like a chateau than a hotel, it’s truly magnificent.

5. Brigus, Newfoundland and Labrador

Brigus

This little fishing village dates back to around 1612, when first governor of Newfoundland Colony John Guy sold half the bay to the Spracklin family. Now it’s known for being particularly scenic, of course, as well as being full of interesting places. These include the 19th century Convent of Mercy, built for Irish nuns, St. George’s Anglican Church, and the Brigus Tunnel – hewn through solid rock to get to a deep-water harbor.

There’s also Hawthorne Lodge, the home of Arctic explorer Captain Robert Bartlett – one of a high proportion of Arctic explorers produced by this village.

4. St Andrews By-the-Sea, New Brunswick

St Andrews By-the-Sea

Officially Saint Andrews, this town received its ‘By-the-Sea’ nickname because, well, it’s by the sea! Founded in 1783 by United Empire Loyalists – those who fled during or after the American Revolution – the original parts of town remain well preserved. The Ross Memorial Museum, for instance, is a perfect example of a 19th century abode, filled with exquisite furniture.

There’s also the pristine All Saints Anglican Church. Many buildings feature vibrant, colorful murals. Aside from the architecture, whale watching is a big draw to this seaside town.

3. Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec

Baie-Saint-Paul

Believe it or not, one claim to fame that this Quebecois town has is that the Cirque du Soleil was founded here in 1984. Another less fun claim is the prominence Baie-Saint-Paul gained when Doctor Philippe-Louis-François Badelard named a disease he was studying after the town in the 1770s.

But apart from this, its narrow streets lined with boutiques and art galleries, plus historical landmarks like the 1714 Église de Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul, make this a particularly pretty place to be.

2. Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

Peggy’s Cove

This tiny settlement on the Atlantic Coast has a long history of being a fishery, but since the end of World War II, Peggy’s Cove has been reliant more on tourism than catching fish. Today it is known for its picturesque coastal beauty.

Founded in 1811 when 6 families of German descent were granted permission to build here, the town is awash with quaint wooden fishing sheds that are characteristic of the town. Set amidst its sparse rocky coastline with the Atlantic stretching out from it as far as the eye can see, Peggy’s Cove is a postcard-perfect fishing village.

1. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Niagara-on-the-Lake

Quaint colonial buildings; Niagara Falls – there’s a reason why Niagara-on-the-Lake is nicknamed ‘The Loveliest Town in Canada’. Known from the late 18th century as Butlersburg, then as West Niagara, it was a haven for pro-Loyalists fleeing the United States in the wake of the American Revolution.

Landmarks include the 1840s Old Court House Theater, and the oldest Catholic and Anglican churches in Ontario: St. Vincent de Paul (1826) and St. Mark’s Church (1791) respectively. From April to November the town puts on the Shaw Festival, a theatrical event featuring plays from George Bernard Shaw, among others.

Map of Small Towns in Canada

Map of Small Towns in Canada

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August 11, 2019 at 4:35 pm

Have been to 8 out of the 15. Bucket list is to get to the rest !!

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December 21, 2018 at 12:56 pm

Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia!

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The Most Charming Small Towns in Canada

By Caleigh Alleyne

The Wickaninnish Inn Tofino British Columbia

Canada , our friendly northern neighbor, boasts extraordinarily diverse geography, from tall Rocky Mountain peaks to expansive flat prairie land and seaside communities on both coasts. With a smaller national population than that of California , it's perhaps unsurprising that Canada is also full of charming small towns and welcoming rural communities worth planning a trip around. You’ll find salty little enclaves, graced by orcas and world-class surfers in British Columbia; tiny mountain towns with Gold Rush history in the Yukon’s Grizzly country; and, of course, flannel-filled hubs for outdoors lovers who want to bike and hike in the country’s dramatic national parks. What links them together, though, is that small town spirit, and undeniable charm. (Don’t be surprised if your small town trip warrants big time vacation days—please like these are never easy to leave.)

For your next adventure north, here are some of the best small towns in Canada to explore, no matter what time of year you're traveling—or what type of trip you’re chasing.

All listings featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you book something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date.

The Wickaninnish Inn Tofino British Columbia

The Wickaninnish Inn is a choice stay on this slice of coast.

Tofino Resort and Marina

Book a boat through Tofino Resort and Marina to see the town by water.

Tofino, British Columbia

Set on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island , Tofino is a surfer's paradise and a nature-lovers retreat. This small, seaside town is located on the land of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations and is surrounded by a UNESCO reserve with over 21 miles of beach break—meaning the water's edge is never more than a short walk away. Tofino has also become a culinary destination with travelers venturing to try creative local dishes at the acclaimed Wolf and the Fog or live-fire dining at ROAR . For a more interactive dinner, you can also book time on a chartered boat through the Tofino Resort and Marina to participate in the Cook Your Catch experience.

Where to Stay: The Wickaninnish Inn

Osoyoos, British Columbia

The town of Osoyoos in the South Okanagan is known for its arid desert landscapes that creep onto pristine lakefront beaches. While this region is known for its many wineries, there are plenty of outdoor adventure activities to enjoy, too, from South Okanagan E-Bike Safaris to Wakepilot boat rentals, as well as artistic and heritage experiences at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre . Begin your wine-tasting adventures at the first Indigenous-owned winery in North America, Nk’Mip Cellars , and continue on to other locally-owned wineries like Covert Farms Family Estate Winery , Kismet Estate Winery , and vinAmité Cellars . If you're more of a pint person, don't miss North Basin Brewing Co. , the first brewery in Osoyoos.

Where to Stay: Watermark Beach Resort Hotel

Covert Farms Family Estate Winery Osoyoos British Columbia

Covert Farms Family Estate Winery is a local-owned spot in Osoyoos, British Columbia.

Canmore, Alberta

Instead of venturing into busy Banff National Park , consider exploring the laidback mountain town of Canmore . This town can serve as your home base while you explore the rolling foothills of the Canadian Rockies and rushing mountain creeks. Located only one hour west of Calgary, Canmore is the ideal spot for a day trip into the mountains or a relaxing escape at the Kananaskis Nordic Spa . For the best views, book an aerial excursion with Alpine Helicopters .

Where to Stay: The Malcolm Hotel , Canmore’s only four-star hotel, which boasts an outdoor pool with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Waterton, Alberta

The town of Waterton is just minutes away from Waterton Lakes National Park , where you can explore both the low-land prairies and steep Rocky Mountain peaks. For experienced hikers, the Crypt Lake trail begins with a 15-minute boat ride to the trailhead where switchbacks meander past four waterfalls, up a steel ladder, through a rock-face tunnel, and around a cliff face that requires the assistance of mounted steel cables. For a more leisurely (and scenic) experience, the Bear's Hump hike offers stunning views of the village. Or, explore the area off-foot on a lake excursion with Waterton Shoreline Cruise . The Thirsty Bear Kitchen + Bar is a great choice after any adventure for casual dining. At night, wind down with stargazing —Waterton is a provisional International Dark Sky Park that makes for dazzling constellations.

Where to Stay: Prince of Wales Hotel

Dawson City, Yukon

The town of Dawson City serves as a living monument to the Klondike Gold Rush era when prospectors searched for treasures in the flowing waters. It has a colorful frontier-era downtown, complete with a wooden boardwalk and preserved vintage saloons. Need a dining rec? Dig into local seasonal fare at the general-store-style cafe and restaurant Bonton & Company .

And while there is still gold in the Yukon, the territory is now more known for its wildlife and boasts an unspoiled wilderness—not to mention a vibrant culinary scene and Indigenous First Nations culture that visitors can learn about at the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre . Located on the shore of the Yukon River, it tells the story of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in people who have lived on these lands for thousands of years.

Where to Stay: The new Dawson Lodge or Midnight Sun Hotel

Maple Creek, Saskatchewan

Maple Creek is a charming prairie town centered around a heritage district where visitors can shop, eat, and cool off from the prairie sun with a drink (we recommend Rafter R Brewing Co or the Daily Grind coffee shop for the latter). For the best views of the region, hike up to Bald Butte and Lookout Point, the highest point in the Centre Block of the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park . Or explore the region's family highlights with Grotto Gardens Family Fun Farm 's alpacas, the T.rex Discovery Centre (home to the world's largest Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton), and Fort Walsh NHS , where the North-West Mounted Police began. After, unwind at Rockin’ Horse Cookout and Market with bar fare and live music.

Where to Stay: Cobble Creek Lodge

Gimli, Manitoba

The small resort town of Gimli celebrates its Icelandic heritage with Viking battle re-enactments at an Icelandic Festival every August. Set on the western shores of Lake Winnipeg, Gimli is perfect for a beachside weekend getaway—what's even sweeter is that it's only a one-hour drive from the capital city of Winnipeg.

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Where to Stay: The waterfront Lakeview Gimli Resort  (and dine at the property's Seagulls Restaurant & Lounge )

Elora, Ontario

Visit the picturesque town of Elora to catch a glimpse of its cascading waterfalls while hiking through the Elora Gorge Conservation Area . Beautiful 19th-century buildings line the village's main streets, housing cafes, restaurants, and a collection of artisan stores. The town also attracts several arts and cultural festivals and seasonal farmers' markets during the warmer months. Dine at The Evelyn for lunch or dinner for French fare and vibes.

Where to Stay: Elora Mill Hotel & Spa

Wellington, Ontario

The rolling farmlands of Prince Edward County are home to some of the best wineries in Ontario. While there are several towns in this region, make the waterfront town of Wellington your home base to explore the cafes and shops on foot. During your tasting, add the Grange of Prince Edward Vineyards and Estate Winery , Sandbanks Estate Winery , Closson Chase Vineyards , Rosehall Run Vineyards , Waupoos Estates Winery & Restaurant , and Hinterland Wine Company to your itinerary. And be sure to bring your bathing suit to enjoy a day at the beach dunes of Sandbanks Provincial Park .

Where to Stay: The Drake Devonshire

Gaspé, Quebec

Located on the edge of the peninsula at the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Gaspé is a quaint coastal town with something for everyone. The Maritime Quebec region is the ideal spot to explore the area by water on a whale-watching cruise from Croisières Baie de Gaspé or learn about the region's history at the Musée de la Gaspésie . The adventurous can book a glamping experience at Forillon National Park , or if you're looking to stay in town there are several B&Bs . The town is part of the International Greeter Association , which offers free walking tours in French, English, Spanish, and Portuguese. For waterfront dining with a stunning view of the area's rocky coastline (and maybe some seals) dine at Restaurant Paqbo .

Where to Stay: Hotel Plante downtown

Saint Andrews-by-the-sea, New Brunswick

The scenic coastal town of Saint Andrews-by-the-sea is bursting with history as one of New Brunswick's oldest settlements. Only a 30-minute drive from the US border adjacent to Maine , this town has become a popular vacation destination for both Canadian and American travelers looking for relaxation, rounds of golf, and freshly caught seafood at waterfront spots like The Gables Restaurant . Located on the Bay of Fundy, your view will change as the tides rise and recede in Passamaquoddy Bay. On land, wander through the pristine 27-acre Kingsbrae Garden , which is home to a wide range of floral gardens, Acadian forests, and sculptures.

Where to Stay: The Algonquin Resort St. Andrews by-the-Sea, Autograph Collection

Souris Historic Lighthouse Prince Edward Island

Souris Historic Lighthouse is just part of the quaintness you'll find on Prince Edward Island.

Souris, Prince Edward Island

PEI's Souris offers visitors stunning seascape views that only add to the town's charm. Cool off with an over-the-top cone from Cherry on Top Creamery and walk the Souris Beach Gateway Park . Dine on the waterfront at 21 Breakwater Restaurant , or experience Chef Michael Smith's Fireworks Feast at The Inn at Bay Fortune . A trip to Souris isn't complete without a photo of the Souris Historic Lighthouse or a day out at sea with the Fiddling Fisherman . Souris is also a stop on the island's 297-mile-wide Confederation Trail , which links the towns and seaside communities of Prince Edward Island via cycling and hiking trails.

Where to Stay: A cabin at ShantyStay Accommodations

Montague, Prince Edward Island

Tiny Montague is bursting with things to do. Beer lovers can be found on the patios and in the taproom of Bogside Brewery and Copper Bottom Brewing Company , and coffee stops at Lucky Bean Café are a must. Peruse locally made souvenirs at independent shops like Artisans on Main and Pigeons Montague . Learn about the history of Prince Edward Island at Garden of the Gulf Museum or explore the Montague River by grabbing a kayak or stand-up paddleboard from Station Street Adventure Company .

Where to Stay: Rodd Brudenell River Resort

Lunnenberg, Nova Scotia

The postcard town of Lunenburg , Nova Scotia, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site , recognized for its colorful fishing village and its history as a shipbuilding town. Lunenburg is also part of Nova Scotia’s Seafood Trail , and several restaurants recreate classic dishes like traditional Lunenburg Pudding and Lunenburg Sausage (for something more modern try Lincoln Street Food ). Learn about maritime history by visiting the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic and stepping aboard the Bluenose II , modeled after the 1921 racing champion by the same name seen on the 10-cent Canadian coin.

Where to Stay: Pelham House Bed & Breakfast

Bonavista, Newfoundland & Labrador

The coastal town of Bonavista dates back to the late 1500s, but was recently awarded the designation for its UNESCO Global Geopark . Learn about the region's geological past at natural wonders like Dungeon Provincial Park , or Brooke Point along the Lighthouse Trail. In town, you can still enjoy the rugged coastline that's been carved out into cave cliffs and sea stacks that jut out from the shore. Stop by Bonavista Bicycle Picnics for the wine bar and bike rentals, and don't miss Quintal Cafe or Ragged Rocks Gastropub for a bite to eat. Whatever you end up doing, make sure to toast your visit with a tipple from Dungeon Distillery.

Where to Stay: Russelltown Inn 's cottages and glamping options

small cities in canada to visit

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Manoir Hovey

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1. Victoria

Canada’s best small city is fine with you thinking it’s just for the “newly wed and nearly dead.” Such out-of-date ignorance will keep the hiking trails empty, the traffic jams tolerable and the walk-in clinic wait times minimal. There’s even a nostalgic re-embrace of a cheeky and unofficial local retro slogan: Keep Victoria Boring. Of course, none of these clichés are accurate—at least not any more. And yet they persist. Because Canada’s best small city is, for the most part, a cipher for the rest of the country, with more of us having a better familiarity with Florida than with this provincial capital on the edge of a continent.

But when visitors do come—when anyone comes—they tend to fall hard for Victoria. This city is seemingly engineered for the post-pandemic, seize-the-day, work-from-home lifestyle sought by those privileged enough to appreciate such ease of mobility, while it genuinely pursues equality for its residents and an overdue collaboration with the 10 First Nations who’ve always called this region home.

Yes, Victoria is named after the British monarch and will always put out high tea for paying tourists and nostalgic (or irony-seeking) locals, but Little England has grown up to focus on its more worthwhile attributes.

The city is in the top five in our diverse Place category, including #2 for Parks & Outdoors—ranging from the sublime expanse of Beacon Hill to newly pedestrianized Clover Point, which highlights the city’s mind-blowing, front-row elemental location: the towering, snowcapped Olympic mountain range of Washington State to the south, the Gulf Islands and San Juan Islands in the Salish Sea to the east and, to the northwest, the Strait of Juan de Fuca that separates Canada and the US.

Even though Victoria ranks #35 in our Weather subcategory (defined by sunny days per year), it possesses a temperate climate often described as “sub-Mediterranean,” with rainy (but not as rainy as Vancouver!) winters that average 9°C and very rarely dip below freezing. Summers—oh, those Victoria summers—hover in the low 20s with little humidity. This is the mildest part of Canada in terms of annual average temperature, a fact that has always attracted the outdoorsy and health-conscious. (And Victoria has the local Olympians to prove it.) The pandemic has only pushed more people to discover a region where you can surf, mountain bike and put in eight hours at the office all in one day. This includes cycling to work, for which Victoria tops the country—the city is criss-crossed by expanding bike infrastructure that complements its crown jewel: the Galloping Goose Trail, a reclaimed former rail line that connects downtown to the booming Westshore region and its fast-growing cities like Langford and Colwood, and further out to the ancient rainforests of Metchosin and Sooke beyond. Oh, yeah: Greater Victoria is a quilt of 13 municipalities, many with their own police and fire departments and local councils. See Saanich at #23 for more on that.

This being the colonial capital tucked amidst a landscape and climate that is often described as Alaska-meets-Hawaii, tourism has driven the economy as much as provincial government jobs have. Pre-pandemic, the tourism industry—funnelled in by BC Ferries, two Washington State boats, an armada of summer cruise ships and the #9-ranked airport among Canadian small cities—contributed annual revenues of around $2 billion to the region. All those global tourists tell Victoria’s story far and wide, which is why the city is second only to Niagara Falls in our important Promotions category, including #2 in both Google Search and TripAdvisor Reviews, as well as #3 for Facebook Check-ins, Instagram Hashtags and Google Trends.

But as the pandemic shuttered tourism, it elevated the city’s stature as a hometown (or second hometown) for Canadians and wannabe Canadians. Snowbirds unable to fly from Toronto or Montreal to Florida or Arizona tried out southern Vancouver Island for some respite from the snow—and they liked what they found. So did entrepreneurs able to work from anywhere, attracted by the thriving tech ecosystem already in place, the second-most educated residents among small cities in the country and the three universities (the ascendant, diverse University of Victoria, Royal Roads University and Camosun College) that stock the local talent pipeline.

In fact, for all the attention that tourism wins for the city and region, Victoria’s leading industry is technology, with annual revenues that should approach $3.5 billion this year. The city is the stealthy home—a reward of sorts—for influential tech leaders who’ve built some of Canada’s most successful companies. Every time they host global colleagues (some with the means to relocate entire offices or teams), Victoria’s legend grows, as was the case with last year’s episode of the popular business podcast My First Million, in which the host, describing a recent visit, declared, “I don’t understand why I don’t live there.”

But the city’s strategic location is also launching up-and-coming industries like aquaculture, with companies like Cascadia Seaweed working with local Indigenous partners to become one of the largest providers of ocean-cultivated seaweed on the planet. The recently formed Centre for Ocean Applied Sustainable Technologies works with the City of Victoria and other local partners to help the region “realize its potential as a major driver of Canada’s Blue Economy.”

Attracting talent here will be crucial. Victoria has the lowest birth rate of any Canadian city and is at the bottom of our 25 small cities in the Young Adults subcategory. Average house prices of well over a million dollars—combined with skyrocketing rents and resistance to rezoning—are kryptonite to sustainable population and talent growth.

Fortunately, Victoria’s lifestyle cred, if sustained and stewarded, has the potential to keep pulling talent in. The city ranks #1 in Canada in our vibrant Programming category, which includes top spot for Nightlife. This is where craft brewing in Canada was born, after all, with trailblazer Spinnakers still open and always a must-visit for beer aficionados. The city also has one of the highest number of breweries per capita in the country, with more than a dozen in town. Victoria’s ambitious restaurant scene also tops the country, with the most restaurants per capita in Canada, many relying on the increasingly bounteous local farms that, like new residents, have discovered just how generous southern Vancouver Island can be.

Kelowna comes by its bona fides honestly. Its inspiration as a town—at the heart of Western Canada’s bountiful, fertile agriculture industry—is still a coveted reality today. In fact, the surrounding orchards and vineyards (oh those vineyards) have never been more prosperous and vital to the city’s sublime growth.

The traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Syilx people of the Okanagan Nation, who have lived on the shores of their 135-kilometre eponymous lake for 10,000 years, Kelowna today is the third-largest urban centre in BC (behind Vancouver and Greater Victoria). And while it was growing quickly before the pandemic, powered by a carousel of cashing-out downsizers and retirees from Vancouver and Toronto, Alberta investors riding long oil spikes and outdoor lovers not afraid of commitment, its population has popped over the past two-and-a-half years. City boosters claim that the 14 per cent population growth rate makes Kelowna the fastest-growing metropolitan area in Canada. We have it ranked at a still very impressive #5.

Following a familiar pandemic migration script, new residents (and, with a #8 ranking for Relocation, the running joke locally is that everyone here was a recent arrival at some point) are coaxed by a lifestyle that seems algorithmically optimized. The city ranks #17 for Weather, but the summers get so dry and hot that the dozens of local lakes and swimming holes become public amenities as produce grows—powering a constantly evolving agriculture industry—and grapes ripen in the heat at the more than 40 local vineyards. As long as the forest fires are kept at bay, Kelowna gets all this done while deeply breathing top 10 air quality among Canada’s small cities. If the #3-ranked parks don’t do it for you (many perched on the azure shores of Lake Okanagan), then a 25-minute stroll in any direction gets you climbing in solitude. Better yet, hop on your mountain bike and roll onto the single-track north of the city in Knox Mountain Park, or Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park on the south side. And ride in confidence. The city ranks in the top three for residents who commute by bike. Even the most egregiously sized trucks (and there are plenty here) tend to respect bike lanes and the city’s growing cycling infrastructure. For those looking for a more subdued time outdoors, an incredible 19 golf courses are a short drive away: start by getting your swings in at the Kelowna Driving Range, or working with a PGA golf pro at the Harvest Golf Club, a resort-style course offering 18 holes through a picturesque working orchard.

And that’s just the summer! Winter is equally epic, with three major ski resorts (Big White, Apex Mountain and SilverStar) an hour or less away. While Kelowna’s advantage has aways been its natural attributes outside of town, the city’s core has been catching up for years now, as seen by its #2 finish for small cities nationally in our overall Programming category.

Increasingly, people are coming to a hometown knowing that they won’t just be able to buy anything they need, they’ll also have plenty of new finds to explore, in hot retail clusters like Bernard Avenue, Pandosy Village and Tutt Street, lined with indie shops and boutiques. Kelowna ranks an impressive #2 in our Shopping subcategory. An evening out is also becoming an equally kinetic experience, with Kelowna ranked in the top three for theatres, which range from the daring, experimental productions of the 10-year-old New Vintage Theatre to the Rotary Centre, home to the Mary Irwin Theatre and the city’s hub for arts, music, education and entertainment in the heart of Kelowna’s Cultural District.

Kelowna’s #6-ranked Restaurants have taken the pandemic slowdown as an opportunity to assess the city’s culinary needs and plan for the long term. The bounty of places to eat in this city almost matches its outdoor pursuits. Winery restaurant icons like Old Vines at Quail’s Gate Estate are being joined by new concepts, like the massive King Taps restaurant on Kelowna’s waterfront, right next door to corporate cousin Cactus Club in the old Rose’s Pub on Water Street.

The #4 Nightlife ranking will also improve in the coming years as locals and visitors fully experience the 10 local breweries, five cideries and five distilleries here, many of which launched with a mission to follow the wineries’ lead in highlighting the terroir of this incredible land in their locally sourced ingredients. Fortunately for patrons, torrid downtown development means they can increasingly walk to and from this action.

According to the City of Kelowna, there are nearly 4,000 residential units either under construction or in the permitting process in the downtown core alone, 650 of which will be in a three-tower development by Orchard Park Properties that broke ground earlier this year and will redefine the city’ skyline with the tallest tower in BC’s interior, at 442 feet. Proposals for high-density towers continue to pour into city planning offices as new cranes rise weekly on approved projects.

As much as tourism has built this city—prior to the pandemic, the Central Okanagan’s visitor economy generated $2.1 billion annually and created almost 13,000 jobs—today, the story, like everywhere, is about tech.

Over the past decade or so, long-time tech and digital media anchors like QHR Technologies, Vineyard Networks and Disney Canada (which arrived in 2005 after purchasing local game manufacturer Club Penguin for $350 million) seeded an ecosystem for startups that has since produced successful job engines like FreshGrade and Hyper Hippo. Local economic development initiatives like the Accelerate Okanagan incubator have further provided air cover for a workforce that today ranks #2 for Self-employment.

The launch of UBC’s Okanagan campus just over a decade ago keeps the young talent pipeline stocked—a vital factor in making sure Kelowna is not just growing but thriving all through the exciting years ahead. The latest phase of the university is happening right now downtown, at 550 Doyle Avenue, where a “vertical campus” is rising with 40,000 square metres that will include a much-needed medical clinic for Kelowna’s blooming urban population.

3. Kingston

To those who’ve attended Queen’s University, or St. Lawrence College, or the Royal Military College of Canada, the Limestone City has always felt especially… Canadian. Almost the same distance from Toronto as it is from Montréal. On Lake Ontario, surrounded by fresh water and born into this country’s legacy for engineering that water as a way to carve urbanity into a wide, cold, bountiful land. Insane about hockey to the point of claiming to have invented it. And for millennia, the traditional home of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabek First Nations, which were named the Katarokwi when English colonizers took the land and renamed it King’s Town as a tribute to King George III, shortening it to Kingston in 1788.

But the almost European walkability, the secret alleys and the grand public buildings and historic red-brick storefronts reminiscent of Cabbagetown or Gastown all have a good reason for being here. Kingston may be a small city today, but between 1841 and 1844 it was a fledgling nation’s first capital, and underwent a decade of the type of torrid government infrastructure investment that such a title demands—and that hasn’t slowed down much in more than 175 years.

That explains the “big city in a small town” feel that infuses a stroll through this landscape of labyrinths, limestone and brick nooks with urban discovery small (colourful Martello Alley and its galleries) and large (tours of Kingston Penitentiary, Canada’s oldest and most notorious maximum-security prison, which closed nine years ago and opened to the public in 2016).

Kingston ranks in the top five in the country among small cities in our Sights & Landmarks subcategory, replete with history lessons at places like Fort Henry, one of Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Sites, where you can experience 19th-century military and civilian life, musical performances and military demonstrations. There is also easy access to the fabled Thousand Islands National Park right from downtown through paddlewheel or riverboat cruises. Or, stay closer to shore and discover the history and heritage of Kingston’s spectacular waterfront aboard the Island Queen. The city’s parks rank in the top 10 nationally and are particularly stunning along the waterfront, as well as over the water by ferry to even more natural bounty at places like Wolfe, Amherst and Howe islands. Lake Ontario’s playground is there for the taking, every year—and, after the past two-and-a-half claustrophobic years, there have never been more sailboats, canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and windsurfers skimming the historic shoreline and azure fresh waters.

The soul of the city is as much in its experiences—its Programming ranks in the top three in Canada—as it is in its built environment, and Kingston has its urban offerings finely tuned.

Its top 10 finish in our Nightlife subcategory is a result of the big-city diversity that draws so many to Kingston. From a half-dozen local breweries (and counting) to clubs that launched local scions like The Tragically Hip, Sarah Harmer and Dan Akroyd to superstardom, there is an expectation here that a night out will become unforgettable. It could be sipping on one of the MacKinnon Brothers Brewing Company’s wildly ambitious, fully local and farm-to-glass beers. Or follow the throngs of Queen’s students to the Mansion for a buzzy band. Or catch a local legend playing to an eager hometown audience at the Grand Theatre. And oh those Kingston theatres! Finishing in the top three in the country among small cities, the stages here go a long way toward explaining the pipeline of creativity fostered in the area. There are the intimate indie productions by Theatre Kingston and the Domino, but also newly opened venues or planned spots like the Isabel, designed for Queen’s University by Ottawa-based architects N45 and Oslo’s Snøhetta. The Norwegian firm is well known for designing a number of significant buildings worldwide, among them the Library at Alexandria in Egypt.

The city also ranks #1 in Canada in our Shopping subcategory, with all the generic selections you’d expect in far larger cities, but also plenty of fiercely independent boutiques and retailers, ranging from daring jewellers to some of the best-stocked thrift stores you’ll find in Canada. Powering Kingston’s creativity and commerce is, of course, its proud citizenry. Local talent is very much connected to the city’s three largest post-secondary schools, ranking Kingston #2 in our Employment in Education subcategory. Despite the winters, locals are top five nationally for cycling to work. And everyone here benefits from a top five ranking for Health-care Practitioners.

A city like this will only continue to draw new residents—it already ranks #6 among small cities in Canada in our Creative Class subcategory and #1 for Google Search. The aggregate price of a home in Kingston increased 38.1 per cent year-over-year, reaching $722,100 in the fourth quarter of 2021. The median price of a single-family detached home increased 44.3 per cent to $780,600 over that same time. According to Royal LePage, Kingston’s housing prices have jumped higher than any other city in the country. Any city. Big or small.

4. Niagara Falls

It turns out that the honeymoon capital of the world is a pretty sweet place to put down roots and raise a family. Of course the city is and will always be a tourist destination, both for regional families and for Canadaphiles who need to check Clifton Hill and Lundy’s Lane off their bucket lists every few years. Not surprisingly, it ranks #1 among small cities in Canada for Family-friendly Activities, #2 for Theatres and #3 for Sights & Landmarks. After two-and-a-half years of pandemic devastation to its vital tourism industry, the city is on the comeback trail, with investments in tourism and community not seen in decades. With many on both sides of the border still tentative about flying, Niagara Falls is positioning itself to once again be the jewel in the North American road trip crown.

New attractions and hotels are opening around the city, with none larger than the Tailrace Tunnel at Niagara Parks Power Station. By day, visitors can explore the preserved interior of the historic power station, transformed with new exhibits and guest amenities, and descend 60-plus metres below the main floor via a glass-enclosed elevator to reach the tailrace tunnel that connects the plant to the Niagara River. At night, CURRENTS, an immersive sound and light experience, brings the enormous century-old tunnel to life through state-of-the-art projection mapping technology.

But the investment isn’t all tourist-obsessed. Opening later this summer, the new Niagara Falls Cultural Hub & Market (also known as Niagara Falls Exchange, or NFX) will become a vibrant cultural and social centre of activity by providing shared spaces where artists, musicians, food vendors, patrons and local businesses can come together and create. Located in the historic Main and Ferry district, it includes a large culture and market hall, café, artist studios and creative workshops surrounded by two multifunctional civic plazas that interconnect the flanking streets. This much-needed public space will feature a farmers’ market, public concerts and lectures, and will finally give the city a piazza folk can gravitate to without a wristband or paid ticket.

Talk to most locals, and they’re just as likely to rave about the area’s urban and natural bounties as they are about the visitor economy. Rivers flow everywhere, and the proximity to a very prominent and prosperous wine region blends a satisfying reward at the end of a long hike—sweet validation of the city’s #4 ranking in our Parks & Outdoors subcategory. The Niagara Falls story is being told loud and proud, with the most Instagram hashtags and TripAdvisor reviews of any small Canadian city, ranking #1 in our overall Promotion category. Rest assured that future residents are taking note.

5. Waterloo

Every country claims to have its own Silicon Valley, but when it comes to Canada, Waterloo walks the talk. The region—and more specifically the innovation rocket-launcher that is the University of Waterloo—has produced dozens of globally dominant companies, including BlackBerry and OpenText. More recently, the city has nurtured future high-fliers like ApplyBoard, Vidyard and Auvik Networks, with recent unicorns including Faire and Arctic Wolf, both with major offices in Waterloo and the United States. An astonishing 1,000-plus companies have been founded by UWaterloo grads, and, according to industry trackers, 18 per cent of all founders in Canada come from that school. Is it any wonder then that the city’s residents are the smartest in Canada (ranking #1 for Educational Attainment), as well as the tops in our Employment in Educational Pursuits subcategory? Waterloo isn’t the only driver of all those education jobs. Nearby Wilfred Laurier University and Conestoga College (consistently rated as one of the best technical colleges in Ontario) keep the city’s household income ranked #23 among Canada’s small cities, which is an impressive finish in a town full of students, as is the #50 Employment Rate ranking. Waterloo, in fact, leads Canada’s small cities in our Young Adults subcategory. This is music to the ears of HR managers at large local employers like Sun Life Financial, Manulife Financial, Sandvine and the universities and colleges, as well as at the city’s three well-known think tanks: the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, the Institute for Quantum Computing and the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

The organization known as Canada’s Technology Triangle, a joint economic development initiative that markets the region internationally, has joined other city leaders in spotlighting the livability of the area that transcends tech employment. The region has always had plentiful green spaces (it ranks #16 for Parks & Outdoors) and an ongoing light rail and transit investment that Waterloo (which ranks #7 among small cities nationally for people who bike to work) continues to embrace and push for. Less reliance on a car means better access to the university town nightlife (ranked #13), which is fuelled by nearby Kitchener’s annual Oktoberfest—the largest celebration of its kind outside of Germany and a draw for over 700,000 people (pre-COVID, anyway). Given its penchant for all things Bavarian, it’s no wonder that Ontario’s craft beer craze got its start here: Brick Brewing (now Waterloo Brewing) was the province’s first craft brewer, opening in 1984.

WRLDCTY

6. North Vancouver

The city with the smallest population in our top 25 has some of the biggest natural attributes of any city—large or small—in Canada. And, increasingly, urban ones, too.

Start at the urban gateway to the city, in Lower Lonsdale, North Van’s downtown—today a magnetic gathering place that has absolutely blossomed over the past decade, with some of Metro Vancouver’s most open, accessible and walkable public spaces forged from and woven into a historic and authentic working waterfront. The five-year-old Polygon Gallery—a new incarnation of a 40-year-old mainstay—is the largest non-profit photography gallery in Western Canada, and the recently opened Museum of North Vancouver (or MONOVA) finally gives a home to the region’s rich but underreported history, with a much-needed focus on the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations peoples, stories and knowledge—as well as on the future ahead.

The scenery is immersive and enveloping as you stand on the public pier jutting out into Burrard Inlet. To the south is one of the best big-city views in Canada, with Vancouver’s glassy spires flanked by Stanley Park to the west and the orange cranes of the Port of Vancouver to the east. Wheel around and, past the new residential towers and two hotels, you’ll see verdant mountains—snow-capped more often than not—looming to the north.

The proximity of this edge-of-the-wilderness location to the vast built environment cannot be overstated: downtown Vancouver is a mere 15 minutes by one of the most spectacular modes of public transit on the planet—the Seabus. Actually, there are three Seabuses, which sail from first light to midnight and allow commuters who depend on the big city for the #6-ranked Household Income in the country among small cities to avoid the two vehicle bridges that, should there be an accident, turn a 25-minute jaunt into a half-day affair. No wonder North Van commuters rank #4 for cycling to work.

But biking here transcends traffic jams. This is the birthplace of North Shore mountain biking, after all, forged in the 1980s when a group of conservation-minded trail builders were given tools and lumber and left alone in the mountains to build boardwalks, bridges and other rideable terrain. Their work has spawned the global North Shore riding movement, replicated from Dubai to Denver but all rooted here, in a place tied for the best air quality among Canada’s top small cities. And also a place where, even if two-wheeled daredevilry isn’t your thing, skiing and snowboarding at Grouse Mountain, Seymour or Cypress are also never more than 30 minutes away. No wonder locals rank #1 in our Self-employed subcategory. Who could stick to a 9-to-5 with the great outdoors calling daily?

7. Burlington

Tucked between the cities of Oakville and Hamilton—and also between the cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment and the shores of Lake Ontario—Burlington carries the elegance and authenticity of each of its neighbours. The city’s distinct livability is no secret, considering the recent accolades that have been heaped upon its municipal borders: from “Best Community in Canada” by Maclean’s in 2019 to topping MoneySense’s annual rankings of the best mid-sized cities in Canada. The leading metric in our own most recent favourable ranking of the city is Safety: few spots in Canada can top the serenity of Burlington, which is a bonus, given the many opportunities to be out and about in a place that has some of the most sprawling green spaces of any city in the province (1,436 acres of parkland, to be exact). From Spencer Smith Park’s pristine waterfront minutes from downtown to the striking, undulating hiking and biking trails of the Niagara Escarpment, Burlington ranks #19 for Parks & Outdoors. What makes all these public green spaces even more magnetic is the clear and sunny days that so often seem to grace one of Canada’s southernmost cities, with the lake effect softening the edges of the sometimes harsh Ontario winters. Burlington ranks #15 in our Weather subcategory. The city’s Royal Botanical Gardens are a manifestation of the area’s distinct climate and of the local appreciation for stopping to smell the flowers—in this case, more than 180,000 plants representing 2,300 plant species that are an ode to Canada’s vast and varied flora. These are the country’s largest botanical gardens—designated as a national historic site—and the 27 kilometres of walking trails on the grounds let locals and visitors explore independently.

It’s hard to imagine that this bucolic serenity and safety is still technically part of the Greater Toronto Area, with the big city just an hour away by car or via three GO Transit stations. The wineries and tourist attractions—perfect outings for when friends and family come to visit—are an hour the other direction, in Niagara. But the city is far from a bedroom community. Industry and infrastructure have long been supported and built here, with the recent remodelling of Joseph Brant Hospital, the first in Canada to create a pandemic response unit in 2020, being just the latest example.

If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, there’s one place you’ve probably heard described with quiet reverence the likes of which few Southern Ontario towns receive. Those who know speak of the love of the land, its agriculture and the nutritious bounty of its produce, to say nothing about its employment prospects—especially if you’re a teacher or academic professional. They speak of Guelph. An hour southwest of Toronto, the city is home to one of the most specialized universities in Canada, where seven colleges conduct leading-edge teaching and research in the physical and life sciences, business, arts, social sciences, and agricultural and veterinary sciences. Guelph has always attracted young, brilliant talent, and today it ranks #13 among Canada’s small cities for Young Adults. The citizenry is also well-educated, ranking #12 in Educational Attainment—no surprise, given the scholarly fabric of the community and the ubiquity of the university in its programming, from concerts to placemaking.

But where a decade ago students would finish their degree and leave, today more and more are staying. Or, moving back to settle down in the bucolic, smart and special place they remember from school. The city is among the fastest-growing in Ontario (which means in Canada, too), with a five-year growth rate approaching 10 per cent—and so ranking in the top 20 in the country. Not surprisingly, over that same period house prices have nearly doubled, and even a humble detached house these days exceeds $800,000.

New and long-time residents come for the region, in the middle of some of the best farming country in Ontario and near the stunning Rockwood Conservation Area along the Eramosa River, surrounded by towering limestone cliffs, caves and glacial potholes, one of which is the largest in the world.

But it’s the city’s distinct urban identity that attracts and keeps people here. A sense of indie and DIY pervades everything from the booming craft beer scene to the United Nations of independent eateries and local festivals, which, finally, mercifully, are coming back after two-and-a-half years of the pandemic silenced the Royal City’s gregarious spirit.

Guelph ranks #6 among Canadian small cities in our Sights & Landmarks subcategory, anchored by its regal Victorian-era limestone buildings and the more than 20 churches in or around downtown, none more spectacular than the Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate, opened in 1883 in a Gothic Revival style and one of the finest works of famed architect Joseph Connolly. Framing the built environment is the confluence of the Speed and Eramosa rivers, whose aesthetic magic explains the city’s #4 ranking for Instagram Hashtags. That, together with top five Google Search and Google Trends finishes, elevates its overall Promotion category ranking to #5 in the country among small cities.

9. Fredericton

Be honest: when you think of the term “Startup Capital of Canada,” you probably don’t think of the tidy capital of New Brunswick, an hour’s drive from the Maine border.

But take a closer look, past the 19th-century streetscape, galleries and glassy Saint John River and you’ll find an economic ambition poised to welcome the urban exodus with talent that ranks #6 in our Educational Attainment subcategory (as well as tops among Canadian small cities in our Creative Class subcategory). Given the high talent level in Fredericton companies, it’s heartening to see the city also tie for tops in our Income Equality subcategory—a key metric for new residents who can rest assured that fair opportunities and compensation exist for employees.

The city’s tireless economic development organization, Ignite Fredericton, is keen to point out that this is a place that values new talent and residents from everywhere, citing that “over 6.8 per cent of the City’s population are immigrants who have moved to Fredericton from more than 50 countries from around the world.” Newcomers are supported by a network of community organizations that arrange language training, settlement services, employment services, business support and family-oriented programs. With that kind of welcome mat, is it any wonder that Fredericton ranks #4 in the country in our Relocation subcategory?

But there’s infrastructure for eager entrepreneurs as well. Local leadership likes to point out that the city was the first in Canada to offer free public Wi-Fi, but this is also a place with low lease costs, corporate tax rates and utility prices. This special blend has authoritative sources like KPMG’s Competitive Alternatives report declaring the city the most cost-competitive for business in Canada and one of the best value jurisdictions in North America. UK-based fDI Intelligence magazine is the source of the “start-up capital of Canada” title, declaring that the advantage “makes it a choice destination for talented immigrants, and the #1 micro-city in North America for business.” That’s some high praise for its economic clout. Fortunately, Fredericton also delivers in livability and as a great place to grow up for the kids of all those ambitious parents.

Let’s start with house prices. According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the benchmark for single-family homes was $294,400 as of April 2022, up 30.6 per cent year-over-year, and the benchmark apartment price was $244,400, up by virtually the same percentage.

What you get is a walkable, colonial gem, rich in culture (it’s ranked #8 for Museums and #9 for Theatres among Canadian small cities). The street grid radiates out from the banks of the beautiful Saint John, which flows through the centre of the city. A network of over 90 kilometres of wooded paths traces that flow, perfect for cycling, walking, running or cross-country skiing.

Urban investment over the pandemic has been extensive, led by a multi-million-dollar makeover to the Historic Garrison District that will open early next year, complete with a Great Lawn, performance stage and new children’s play area.

10. Lethbridge

Of all Alberta’s second cities—the oil and gas engines of industry like Red Deer or Fort Mac, or the pockets of urbanity among natural wonders like Banff, Canmore or Drumheller—none are Wild Rose Country distilled as much as Lethbridge.

Your first peek of the city—two hours south of Calgary through postcard prairie towns and with arid foothills rising into jagged peaks on the west horizon—is from the top of the Oldman River valley and one you’ll never forget. The High Level Bridge, iconic in the town and province, rises tall and stark against the valley walls (called coulees) as the river flows slowly below. Sure, there are no towering Rocky Mountains (more on that in a bit) but the distinct, enigmatic and approachable topography fits with Lethbridge like a hand in (ski) glove.

Descend and you’ll find a walkable core with plenty of independent boutiques and (at last count) three breweries: 10-year-old, obsessively perfectionist Theoretically Brewing Co., Coulee Brew Co. (home to one of the city’s best patios) and newcomer Spectrum Ale Works. Century-old buildings are everywhere downtown, preserving—and in many ways confronting—little-known Canadian and Albertan history. The town’s first public library today houses the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG), and two prominent buildings (the Oliver Block and the old Catholic Charities building) have either been renoed or are in the process of being so.

The Nikka Yuko Garden is a beautiful example of a traditional Japanese green space nestled beside the equally beautiful Henderson Lake, but it’s also a reminder of the local internment camps that held Japanese Canadians and German POWs during the Second World War. After the war, many stayed and helped build the city, along with the Ukrainian and Dutch immigrants already here, and the more recent Mormon and Hutterite settlers. The fact that the city is located on Treaty 7 territory and the traditional lands of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot), Nakoda (Stoney) and Tsuut’ina First Nations is also more evident here than elsewhere in Alberta. Year-round Indigenous festivals educate and celebrate this millennia-long legacy. The SAAG also goes by its Blackfoot name, Maansiksikaitsitapiitsinikssin, meaning “the new making of images, related to the telling of our Blackfoot peoples’ stories.”

The city ranks #3 among small cities in our deep Place category, including second for number of sunny days. The chinook winds here are known to occasionally spike a January day up to +15°C. Lethbridge’s short commute times (ranked #12 in that subcategory) also give residents a chance to breathe the fourth-best air quality among small Canadian cities. The city also boasts an impressive #6 ranking in our Health- Care Practitioners subcategory, with two hospitals within a 30-minute drive. In a province with a chronic medical services problem, this matters.

But as much as Lethbridge has going for it within city limits, it’s what’s just a 90-minute drive away that is staggering: Castle Mountain Resort, Waterton Lakes National Park, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park—global tourism destinations and UNESCO heritage sites…all within a quick day trip. No wonder the Lethbridge Airport was just renovated in anticipation of a post-pandemic tourism boom. And with house prices averaging $370,000, likely a new resident boom, too.

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For decades, Milton was a familiar day trip for Toronto-area families seeking elevation gain on the Niagara Escarpment, scenic picnics in the Kelso Conservation Area or a dip in its eponymous lake. The nearby Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area’s trail network continues to be one of the Greater Toronto Area’s favourite mountain bike and climbing hubs. Winter beckons with gentle ski lessons at Glen Eden or snowshoe solitude among some of Southern Ontario’s last remaining old-growth forests. But it’s what’s in town that ranks Milton #2 in our Population Growth subcategory (the city projects a doubling of the population—to almost 235,000—by 2031). Residents are the fourth-most educated in Canada, and score #4 for both Creative Class and Employment Rate. The impressive performance helped bring Milton to a #2 ranking in our People category, bested only by Waterloo. Milton is also the safest small city in Canada, with locals preferring to apply their excess energy to world-class infrastructure, like the globally recognized Mattamy National Cycling Centre or the other four recreation centres in this 200-year-old small town gem.

Like Brooklyn with its view of Manhattan, the location of Lévis, Quebec, on the far side of the St. Lawrence River, serves up breathtaking panoramas of Canada’s most historic city. Of course, that proximity means this quaint (and historic in its own right) suburb also benefits from capital city benefits without the hassles of urban life. Access to Quebec City is less than 25 minutes by road along the Pierre Laporte Bridge, or, more scenically, a 10-minute crossing via hourly ferries. The economic benefits to Lévis are plentiful. The city ranks #11 for Employment Rate among Canada’s small cities and #5 for Income Equality. But not all economic activity is reliant on big-city jobs. Lévis is the main urban, business and manufacturing centre of the Chaudière-Appalaches region, and the city has always invested in ensuring its resident (and talent) pool is healthy and happy—starting with the fact that this is the fourth-safest small city in Canada, surrounded by more than 250 parks and green spaces and hundreds of kilometres of bike lanes. The dozen outdoor and indoor pools were further enhanced with the unveiling of a multifunctional aquatic complex in 2019.

13. St. John’s

Few Canadian cities of any size hold a fiddle to this distilled shot of urbanity on the far-flung eastern edge of the country. Newfoundland & Labrador’s capital features a storied street grid that weaves up its hillsides, providing spectacular views of one of the world’s most coveted natural harbours, in use today as it has been since the early 1500s when the oldest European city in North America became a strategic maritime port. The sense of place hits you instantly. The air is clean (ranked #5), with the country’s #6-ranked park spaces surrounding the historic city, from the four-kilometre Quidi Vidi Lake Trail—which sends you out right from downtown and back in time for lunch—to Middle Cove, 15 minutes from town and an ideal perch for bonfire-heated picnics as 10,000-year-old icebergs float by. Back in town, cultural icons like The Rooms power the city to a #5 Museums ranking. Equally culturally vital is the nightlife of St. John’s, ranked #2 in the country among small cities, where the highest density of bars per capita of anywhere in North America anchors on George Street. With such magnetism, the region is experiencing the biggest inward migration in half a century, inspired by remote work and rare, affordable urban real estate.

14. St. Albert

For years now, St. Albert has provided a secret key to living in the Alberta Capital Region—aka Edmonton and its surrounding areas. Its location just minutes away from northwest Edmonton (and its Costco) means big-city incomes (St. Albert ranks #3 among small cities for Household Income), relative ease of home ownership (#10) and few of the urban trade-offs (which explains the town’s impressive #3 ranking in our Prevalence of Income Equality subcategory). All told, St. Albert’s #4 Prosperity ranking is the highest in our top 20. But the reliance on Edmonton isn’t absolute and St. Albert is very much its own place—it’s one of the only bedroom communities surrounding Edmonton that has its own hospital, for one. The Sturgeon Community Hospital offers emergency, women’s health, cardiac care, surgery, medicine, pediatrics and rehabilitation care in modern, clean facilities. In a province with a crippling doctor exodus, St. Albert claims more than 2.5 doctors per 1,000 residents—good for #18 among Canada’s small cities. But health and wealth are just a part of the good life here. It has its own provincial park—Lois Hole Centennial (which includes Big Lake, an ecologically significant bird habitat)—and boasts Western Canada’s largest outdoor farmers’ market.

15. Moncton

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Moncton citizens voting to become Canada’s first officially bilingual city. That distinction is a good starting point to understand this thriving, industrious city in the heart of a province packed with wilderness and beaches. Moncton performs well in our lifestyle metrics, tied for #2 in the country for its nightlife, fuelled by the youthful energy of Université de Moncton. No fewer than 30 restaurants are within a five-minute saunter of Moncton’s highly walkable downtown, with new arrivals like Euston Park Social, a shipping container craft beer garden, keeping things fresh and buzzing. The city is also packed with family activities to keep locals and visitors busy, from its #8 ranking in Museums (led by the 130-year-old Musée acadien) to its #9 in Family-friendly Activities (the Magnetic Hill Zoo!). But it’s more than a great lifestyle that’s attracting new residents to Moncton: local boosters like to point out that home ownership here costs just 37 per cent of the national average. Moncton also leads the country in our Income Equality subcategory, and the Conference Board of Canada projects that the city’s GDP will grow at 1.9 per cent through 2024, helping improve its #42-ranked Employment Rate.

16. Sherbrooke

The city’s idyllic Eastern Townships location makes it an outdoor playground, with skiing and snowboarding in Mont Bellevue minutes away (complete with epic views of the streets below) and four (four!) larger ski resorts within an hour’s drive. The historic streets here are equally exciting. Between September and May, almost 25 per cent of the city’s inhabitants are students attending the seven post-secondary schools in the region, including the University of Sherbrooke and Bishop’s University. The seventh-ranked city in our Nightlife subcategory is lubricated by icons of revelry that ply their trade with obsessive devotion. Student favourite Le King Hall, for example, has reigned for three decades as the city’s English pub of choice, with dozens of cask beers, 280 cellared beers and 350 spirits. The Boquébière microbrewery keeps it real by pouring right from the cask, as per tradition. The academic infrastructure ranks Sherbrooke #5 in our Educational Attainment subcategory. The city also boasts an impressive #4 ranking for Health-care Practitioners (calculated per capita), meaning that, unlike in many other small cities, professionals are staying put.

Being an hour (traffic willing) from the fourth-largest (and fastest-growing) urban mega-region in North America has its benefits. Especially since 2020, when cashing-out Torontonians seeking more room to breathe amidst pandemic anxiety started looking north. What they found, and continue to find, are ample parks (Barrie ranks #12 in our Parks & Outdoors subcategory), Lake Simcoe beaches and, in the case of urban green spaces like Centennial Park, both. Award-winning public squares provide a link between the waterfront and the historic downtown core and, like you’ll find at Meridian Place, bring locals and visitors together for yoga classes and movie nights or to big-name festivals and live entertainment. Of course bigger and wilder country is just an hour away, from the warm waters of Georgian Bay and the Blue Mountain ski resort in Collingwood to the regal wilderness of Muskoka. But it’s what’s in town that has people talking: with the #2-ranked restaurants in the country among small cities, Barrie is a culinary treasure trove, with award-winning breweries like Flying Monkeys and Dunlop Street’s restaurant row anchored by North Country and all manner of Italian joints.

18. Kamloops

What used to be a secret outdoor playground for locals and enlightened tourists is today a thriving hometown of wineries, luxury guest ranches, fly-fishing retreats (more than 100 lakes stocked with rainbow trout lakes are within an hour’s drive) and the most golf courses per capita in Canada. To say nothing of world-class skiing at Sun Peaks Resort. The vast, surreal topography—bulbous mountains, rolling grasslands, hoodoos and the mighty confluence of the South and North Thompson Rivers—has not only driven the #24-ranked Population Growth, but attracted film productions ranging from The X-Files to Lost in Space. Kamloops also ranks #12 in our Relocation subcategory, meaning those who have arrived recently have stayed. But it’s not just for the free-flowing adrenaline. Thompson Rivers University provides a steady flow of new talent to a city that’s firmly established itself as the transportation hub of BC’s central and southern interior regions, serviced by highways, national railways and the #21-ranked Kamloops Airport. The city also performs well in our Health-care Practitioners subcategory, ranking #7 courtesy of the Royal Inland Hospital.

19. Trois-Rivières

With a gorgeous St. Lawrence perch equidistant—90 minutes—from Montréal and Québec City, Trois-Rivières is a stealth cauldron of history and modern francophone culture. North America’s second-oldest French-speaking city is a walkable feast, its historic district revealing parks and green space that reward a bit of stair climbing with epic vistas over both the St. Lawrence and the trois Saint-Maurice rivers. With green gems like Harbourfront Park and Le Platon, you’ll be asking yourself how Trois-Rivières is only ranked #32 for Parks & Outdoors. But it’s the three centuries of city building that really captivates visitors and proud locals—along with its modern activation. Places like the Galerie d’art du Parc art exhibition centre are housed in stately colonial architecture, while the Musée des Ursulines calls an old monastery home. Small wonder that the city ranks #13 in the country for Museums and #16 for Sights & Landmarks, made all the more accessible with the new $45 museums pass. But it’s the city’s #11 finish in our Programming category—from its #19 Restaurants ranking to #6 for Theatres—where the local joie de vivre is evident. Living in a place with top five Income Equality (with single-family homes under $175,000) would cheer anyone up.

20. Nanaimo

Vancouver Island’s second city (behind Greater Victoria) has always put in the work—zoning convenient giant retail outlets, allowing ferries to dock right in town and providing affordable house prices—while leaving the spotlight to BC’s capital in the south. But a funny thing happened on the way to under-the-radar livability: Nanaimo became a coveted hometown. It’s long had fresh air and wilderness, with the best air quality among Canada’s small cities (tied with North Vancouver), and top five for Parks & Outdoors, with massive city green spaces like the 90-acre Bowen Park right downtown and mystical mountain lakes a short drive, bike or transit ride away. As such, it tops Canada’s small cities in our vital Place category. The city’s population has grown by 35 per cent from 2001, resulting in the #1 spot for Relocation and #13 in Population Growth. New residents can’t help bragging how they can surf and ski in the same weekend just by getting in their car. (Tofino, Canada’s surf capital, is three hours away, while Mount Washington is half that.) The rise of work from home, combined with relatively affordable coastal real estate (compared with Victoria and Vancouver), bodes well. As does the proximity to Vancouver: just a ferry ride away.

21. Thunder Bay

It may be the largest city in northwestern Ontario, but the fact that Thunder Bay is tucked on the shores of the world’s largest freshwater lake and nestled within boreal forest and the Canadian Shield is all you need to know about this place like no other. Ranked #6 for Parks & Outdoors among small cities in Canada and surrounded by more wilderness than you’d find in some whole countries, it’s easy to see why so many professional hockey players and Olympic athletes are from here. These days, new residents come for the mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking, angling and sailing within minutes of downtown. But also for the improving infrastructure and social services. For museums that rank #8 in the country. For an airport with connectivity that ranks #18. And, most importantly, for the second-most health-care practitioners per capita among small cities in Canada. There are over 20 primary care clinics, two hospitals and Lakehead University’s Northern Ontario School of Medicine—Canada’s newest medical school. Health care remains the city’s leading employment sector, and that growing talent pool, buoyed by remote work, continues to feast on (still) affordable housing, with single-family homes averaging $350,000.

22. Airdrie

In a province known for wild swings in fortune tied to the price of fossil fuels, one small city has been trucking steadily for decades. Just 30 minutes north of Calgary and a few minutes away from its well-connected airport, things are looking sunny in Airdrie (and not just because it ranks in the top five for the most days of sunshine). The city has enjoyed a population increase of 20 per cent since 2016, at a time of supposed Albertan exodus by skilled workers. In fact, Airdrie ranks #3 in the country among small cities in our Population Growth subcategory, and #6 for Relocation (which tracks resident in-migration). Local leadership, well aware that many residents commute to Cowtown for work, are lowering property taxes and eliminating the city’s business tax to coax homegrown innovation. It’s working. Airdrie scores in the top three nationally in our overall Prosperity category, including #2 for Employment Rate and #4 for Household Income. Over the next few years, as more Canadians and immigrants seek housing affordability and job prospects—and with the energy industry ascendant once more—Airdrie’s sub-$500,000 single-family homes will get attention. As will planned amenities like the new 85,000-square-foot, $63-million library and community space, expected to open in 2025.

23. Saanich

For such a small metropolitan area (less than 500,000 people), Greater Victoria is comprised of 13 municipalities. Wait, there’s more: three of these have the word “Saanich” in them. For our purposes, let’s focus on the District of Saanich (the most populous of the 13 municipalities) and one of the most coveted hometowns in Canada. Incredibly economically diverse, Saanich is home to luxe shopping (ranked #21 among Canada’s small cities, anchored by Uptown Mall). Self-employed residents rank #5 in Canada. The area just north of downtown Victoria is quickly being built out as a secondary urban core for locals—accessed more easily and without the tourist traffic. It is just part of Saanich’s record capital construction for active transportation projects in 2022. The #2 national ranking among small cities (behind only Victoria) for number of residents who bike to work here is only one sign that sustainability is paramount, stewarded by the academic leadership of both the University of Victoria and both campuses of Camosun College. Both schools drive Saanich’s #11 ranking for Employment in Educational Pursuits, as well as its #8 spot in our Educational Attainment subcategory.

Established in the 1880s as a sawmill and manufacturing centre and later finding its place as an agricultural town, Aurora has always been an understated contributor of materials, food and talent to Toronto. The 170-year-old rail connection to the heart of the big smoke (today serviced by GO every three hours) means Aurora residents are never more than an hour from big-city action (it’s also just an hour by car). But that’s not to say that Aurora (named for the Roman goddess of the dawn), is a staid bedroom community. Sure, it’s safe (ranked #13 nationally) and family-friendly (ranked #4 for residents aged 15 to 29), but the economic aspirations of the city’s founders are stronger than ever. There are more than 2,200 businesses here and Aurora continues to attract major companies, including Magna International, Desjardins and Bulk Barn. The city ranks #12 nationally in our Self-employment subcategory, with 84 per cent of local small businesses employing less than 20 people, according to local economic development numbers.

25. St. Catharines

For a small city, there’s something about St. Catharines that just feels more sophisticated, more ambitious. It is the largest city in Ontario’s booming Niagara region, and the sixth-largest urban area in Canada’s most populous province, just 90 minutes from Toronto and 30 to Niagara Falls and the US border. The historic downtown (it’s held a farmers’ market since the 1860s) and impressive housing stock can take a lot of the credit. Recent investment have created a nerve centre for events, music and the #4-ranked restaurants among Canada’s small cities, powered by the dozens of award-winning vineyards around town. Anchored by the eight-year-old Meridian Centre (a $50-million performance venue with 5,000 seats), the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre and the new Warehouse Concert Hall, this stealth creative hub ranks #8 in Canada in our overall Programming category. All this creativity, foodie culture and some of the province’s most impressive breweries has people who missed out on affordability in Hamilton looking further west. House prices have been climbing rapidly as a result, and more is being built, including a 28-storey condo development that will be the city’s tallest residential building.

small cities in canada to visit

small cities in canada to visit

Best Small Towns in Canada

When people think of Canada , they often picture the cities. The soaring spire of the CN Tower in Toronto, or the glassy seaside skyline backdropped by snow-capped mountains in Vancouver. But this country’s greatest charm — and in many ways, its truest nature — can be found in small towns.

So from coast to coast to coast — Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic — discover the true north , strong and free, by going small. Along the way, you’ll encounter gold, and whales , and polar bears, and hot springs, and so much more. Plus lovely local meals and snug and character-filled places to stay. Here a collection of Canada’s best, most beautiful, and interesting small towns.

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small cities in canada to visit

Clinging to the Wild West coast of Vancouver Island, this tiny cold-water surf town is surrounded by the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (part of the bigger UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere). You can fly, but driving is the best way to arrive. Roll through lush, green, temperate rainforest, climbing over a ridge of mountains on the spine of the island, then dropping down to those rugged, driftwood-strewn beaches, right to the very finish of the Trans-Canada Highway. You haven’t arrived at the end of the world but it feels a little like it. 

Where to stay: The Wickaninnish Inn stretches out along Chesterman Beach. Rooms take in the beauty outside through massive windows, many with fireplaces and deep-soaker tubs big enough for two people. Recognized multiple times as one the best hotels in North America, there’s no bad time to visit — in the rainy winter, they provide slickers and galoshes, so you can do some storm-watching from the beach. 

Where to eat: The culinary culture is strong here. Tofino is home to a number of award-winning restaurants, including perennial favorite Wolf in the Fog, which focuses on fish, forage, and feast. But if you’re looking for something really simple and delicious, an albacore tuna burrito from Tacofino is just perfect — now a small chain of restaurants, it all started at this small original food truck. 

Sights you can’t miss: Several boat tours showcase the best things to see in the area, from bears and whales to hot springs. At the latter, wear your swimsuit, and ride a small cabin cruiser out to an island located in a marine park — keep your eyes peeled for aquatic life along the way. They’ll drop you at a wooden boardwalk, which leads to a natural rock pool where the waters reach over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. And you can’t leave town without taking a surf lesson. While the water is cold, the waves are amazing, roaring in from Japan all the way across the Pacific.

polar bear migrating to the small town of churchill in manitoba canada

This small town is the Polar Bear Capital of the World. And while that title is self-proclaimed, it’s well-deserved — every autumn, the area around Churchill is just filled with these huge, white marine mammals. Migrating to Hudson Bay, sometimes these bears walk right down the main street, and there’s even a “polar bear jail” where animals removed from town serve a sentence before being helicoptered to a safer, more remote place. 

Where to stay: In town, the log-cabin-style Lazy Bear Lodge is a cozy and comfortable option. But if you have the time (and the resources) add a visit to nearby Seal River Heritage Lodge . A short flight away on a Twin Otter aircraft, Seal River (run by a company called Churchill Wild) sits right on the migration route. So you can watch bears saunter by while you eat your morning eggs, then take a walking safari outside the wire with well-trained guides to get a closer view of these massive animals.

Where to eat: Ptarmigan offers everything from solid comfort food to elevated fare. The best dishes take advantage of local ingredients, including the Manitoba pickerel, a lovely fish dish, and the hearty bison burger. Opening times are a little limited so be sure to check first before heading over. 

Sights you can’t miss: No big surprise — most of the activities here revolve around polar bears. You can enjoy scenic flights on a float plane or take a tundra-buggy out on the land to spot them. And in later summer, belugas come to spawn in the mouth of the Churchill River. Snorkeling with these adorable, surprisingly big mammals is an unforgettable experience. You don a heavy wetsuit and float through the murky water until they’re (in some cases) close enough to touch.

Dawson City, Yukon

Sitting just a notch below the Arctic Circle, the gold rush never really ended in Dawson. This Northern town boomed in the late 19th century when “Sourdoughs” (someone who can survive the Yukon winter) discovered a fortune, drawing prospectors from all over the world. Today, the entire town, with its wooden false-fronted buildings and millions of good stories, is preserved as a Parks Canada Historic Site. 

Where to stay: Once upon a time, Bombay Peggy’s was a brothel. Now a martini bar, they continue to play off that original sexiness. Have a few drinks downstairs — the Bloomer Remover is a favorite. Then retire upstairs. Each room is named and lightly themed, including the Lipstick Room, which features a claw foot tub, black velvet bedding, rich red walls and leopard-print accents. 

Where to eat: The restaurant at the Aurora Inn is small and family-run, with a menu that adds a gourmet touch to its rough-and-ready surroundings. Sit inside or on the patio and order up Far North delicacies like Arctic char or Alaska salmon. 

Sights you can’t miss: Start with a step back in time, on a tour led by a costumed Parks Canada interpreter, who will walk you through the Palace Grand Theatre, the Red Feather Saloon, and other historic buildings. Take a trip to the confluence of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers on the SS Keno, a classic sternwheeler. And there’s still gold in the hills — and in Bonanza Creek, where the first nuggets were discovered more than a century ago. Rent a pan for a few bucks and try your hand at Free Claim #6. Then try your luck at Diamond Tooth Gertie’s, Canada’s oldest gambling hall, followed by a visit to the Downtown Hotel, to drink the toe. (Google the latter for more details.)

Tadoussac, Quebec  

the famous hotel tadoussac in québec canada

Here, where the Saguenay empties into a very wide St. Lawrence River, marine mammals thrive. This is one of the world’s great whale-watching destinations, where you can go out in a boat and spot 13 different species, from harbor porpoises and belugas to humpbacks and blue whales. And the village itself is filled with French Canadian charm, a lovely place to return after your cetacean encounters. 

Where to stay: The Tadoussac Hotel is an institution, right in the heart of town. A beautiful, classic building with dormer windows and a red roof spreading out above the water, they’ve been welcoming guests since 1865. Walk to the marina, then return to this waterfront hotel for a swim in the heated pool and a nice dinner in the pub or restaurant. 

Where to eat: Small, simple, and lovely, Bistro Le Bar Raye specializes in seafood. Grab a table outside, overlooking sailboats tied up at the docks. And enjoy everything from salmon tartare to scallop ceviche to a lobster roll. Fish, seafood, meat, and vegetables are all sourced locally. 

Sights you can’t miss: Before your whale-watching trip, learn more about all you’ll be seeing at the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre. Under the 40-foot skeleton of a sperm whale, exhibits offer loads of useful information through sound recordings, videos, and hands-on games. And the interpreters posted around the place are super-passionate, and more than happy to answer all your questions. 

Trinity, Newfoundland 

Just a perfect Newfoundland seaside town on the Bonavista Peninsula, Trinity has a year-round population of only 76. Settled in the 18th century and filled with bright, historical buildings, it bustles in the summer. If you’re a film buff, you might recognize its bright Saltbox houses from The Shipping News , The Grand Seduction , or last year’s Disney movie, Peter Pan and Wendy .

Where to stay: The Artisan Inn couldn’t be any closer to the water — in fact, the patio here juts right out into Trinity Bay. Accommodations range from simple, comfortable rooms to big suites to two-story vacation homes with their own barbecues and fire pits. 

Where to eat:  The Twine Loft (part of the Artisan Inn) offers two seatings nightly for their candle-lit, three-course meals. Local farmers and fishermen supply the ingredients, and the fresh cod is definitely a highlight on the menu. For something a little simpler, the Dock Marina serves up really good fish and chips.

Sights you can’t miss: Just walking around town is a lot of fun. A number of historic sites welcome visitors, including the Green Family Forge, a working shop where the blacksmiths are happy to chat while they work away over the fire. And out there on the Bay, there’s so much to do, from puffin-viewing trips to iceberg cruises.

Banff, Alberta 

moraine lake in banff canada with glaciers and mountains and canoes

Ok, yes, Banff is touristy, and remains one of the most-visited towns in the Rocky Mountains. But it really is an amazing place. Set inside Canada’s oldest national park, you can appreciate roaring waterfalls right in town, then hike up into the ridge lines all around. And along the main streets, you’ll find galleries and distilleries and restaurants and plenty to keep you busy, and well-fed. 

Where to stay: The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is an absolute icon, Canada’s castle in the Rockies. Originally opened in 1888 as one of Canadian Pacific’s original railway hotels, it has grown over the years into the impressive Chateauesque, French Renaissance hotel that stands today. Some rooms look out to Mount Rundle, and you can relax in the pools downstairs, which are fed with hot springs water.

Where to eat: The Juniper Bistro combines small sharing plates with excellent mountain views, and the brunch here is legendary — think, salmon Benny with a bloody Caesar. Right downtown, Maple Leaf Steak and Seafood elevates Canadian cuisine, from Alberta beef to fresh fish to Indigenous cuisine. And Park Distillery makes small-batch spirits with local glacier water and aromatics, as well as a menu of (delicious) mesquite-grilled meats. 

Sights you can’t miss: There’s a lot to do here. Hike right from town to the top of Tunnel Mountain. Snap photos of the crashing cascades of Bow Falls. Tour through museums and galleries. Take the Banff Gondola to the 7,500-foot peak of Sulphur Mountain, and look out over six different ranges. Or just relax on a boat tour out on the crystal waters of Lake Minnewanka. 

Waskesiu, Saskatchewan 

Arriving in this tiny town is a bit of a revelation. After driving north through the country, winding along pastoral hills, you enter the Canadian Shield, with its lakes and islands and rugged-rock outcrops. Waskesiu sits within Prince Albert National Park, and it is a popular summer playground. The beach on its namesake lake is busy with sunbathers and swimmers. People stroll with ice cream, or ride their bikes to the cinema. And the charms of the park — and its big herd of bison — await, just nearby.

Where to stay: All stylish stone and wood, Elk Ridge , a little outside of town, offers elevated resort pleasures. There’s a lovely spa, swimming pool, an upscale restaurant, and an 27-hole golf course carved right out of the boreal forest. 

Where to eat: For something simple and delicious, head to Hecho en Waskesiu, a cool taco truck in an Airstream-style trailer that blends Saskatchewan ingredients with Mexican techniques. (Think: fish tacos made with Northern Pike.) And for upscale dining, you can’t beat the pasta, seafood, and steak at Restaurant Pietro. 

Sights you can’t miss: Right in town, learn more about the wildlife nearby at the Prince Albert National Park Nature Centre. Golfers can tee off at the 18-hole Waskesiu Golf Course, designed by renowned architect Stanley Thomson (who also designed courses in a number of other Canadian national parks). Then, the wonders of the wilderness await, including trails to hike, lakes to kayak and canoe, birds to watch, plus a big herd of free-roaming wild plains bison.

St Andrew’s by the Sea, New Brunswick

A visit to this Bay of Fundy town feels like a step back in time. United Empire Loyalists settled here in 1783 and laid out the grid work of streets that stands to this day. Walk the docks and piers along the waterfront, pop into some charming boutiques, then visit an old-time tavern for a frosty pint and fish and chips. 

Where to stay: Tourists have been coming to this bayside village since the 19th century, and The Algonquin Resort (Autograph Collection) opened its doors in 1889 to welcome them. Sitting on a hill above the village, it’s now a destination in itself. New developments have added a spa, an indoor and outdoor pool, and even a water slide. Their golf course, first opened in 1894, has been ranked amongst the best in the country.

Where to eat: While both the restaurant and pub at the Algonquin are good, you’ll probably want to walk down the hill, into town, for a meal. Seasons by the Sea Bistro has super-fresh seafood, while Lumberjacks Cafe has hearty portions equal to its name. And you won’t soon forget your meal at the Red Herring Pub, whether you order the fish and chips or the lobster roll, paired with poutine and a locally made pale ale.

Sights you can’t miss: While just browsing the shops along Water Street and strolling the Market Wharf are fun enough, it’s worth exploring a little out of town. On the water, to watch whales in a jet boat or tall ship; and on land, too, to stroll through beautiful Kingsbrae Garden, or learn more about what lies beneath at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre. Just a half-hour up the road in St Stephen, take a delicious little trip (with free samples) at the family-owned Ganong Chocolate Museum. 

Featured image courtesy of Alex Guillaume via Unsplash

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The 12 Best Small Towns in Canada

Canada, the second-largest country in the world by area, is a vibrant and diverse nation in North America. Stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean, Canada boasts the world’s longest coastline.

With its capital in Ottawa and the largest city being Toronto, Canada is known for its bilingual nature, recognizing both English and French as official languages. 

Canada’s economy, one of the largest in the world, is fueled by its abundant natural resources and well-developed international trade networks. It’s highly ranked in various global measures such as government transparency, quality of life, and economic freedom.

With a landscape that ranges from vast forests and lakes to bustling urban centers, Canada is a blend of natural beauty and urban sophistication.

Besides the well-known cities, Canada’s small towns also offer unique and charming vacation destinations, perfect for those looking to explore the country’s diverse and picturesque landscapes.

Best Small Towns in Canada

Banff, alberta.

Banff, Alberta

Banff, a picturesque town in Alberta’s Rockies, is a destination of unmatched beauty and adventure. Nestled within Canada’s first national park, Banff National Park, it sits at an elevation of 1,400 to 1,630 meters above sea level.

Known for its breathtaking mountainous surroundings and natural hot springs, Banff offers a wide array of outdoor activities. Visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, scrambling, and skiing at nearby resorts like Sunshine Village, Ski Norquay, and Lake Louise Ski Resort.

The town, which was the first municipality to incorporate within a Canadian national park, has a rich history that began with the discovery of natural hot springs in the 1880s. Banff has evolved from a service centre for tourists to a bustling resort town and remains one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations.

Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

Mahone Bay, a picturesque town on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, is a gem that radiates old-world charm and modern vibrancy. This coastal town, known for its iconic view of three churches by the harbor, offers a tranquil yet lively atmosphere.

Mahone Bay’s rich history is rooted in shipbuilding, dating back to the Mi’kmaq’s birch bark canoes and evolving through the ages with the construction of schooners and eventually modern pleasure boats.

Today, the town’s shipbuilding legacy is celebrated at the Mahone Bay Museum and through the once-popular Mahone Bay Wooden Boat Festival. The town’s streets are lined with upscale shops and restaurants that cater to both locals and tourists, offering a range of culinary and shopping experiences.

Mahone Bay’s stunning natural environment, including its bay dotted with numerous islands, provides a perfect setting for sailing and exploring the unique wildlife and habitats in the area. The town’s population has been growing, reflecting its appeal as a charming destination that blends history, culture, and natural beauty.

Churchill, Manitoba

Churchill, Manitoba

Churchill, Manitoba, often referred to as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World,” is a unique small town located on the shores of Hudson Bay. Known for its majestic polar bears, which can be seen wandering the outskirts of town, Churchill offers a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experience.

It’s not just about polar bears; this town is also a prime spot for viewing the breathtaking Northern Lights, making it a magnet for photographers and nature enthusiasts.

Churchill’s rich history is evident in the Prince of Wales Fort, a reminder of the town’s past as a fur trading post. The town’s unique geographical location makes it only accessible by plane or train, adding to its remote and adventurous allure.

In addition to its natural wonders, Churchill is deeply connected to the indigenous cultures, with the local art and traditions reflecting the rich heritage of the Inuit and Dene peoples. 

Victoria-by-the-Sea, Prince Edward Island

Victoria-by-the-Sea, Prince Edward Island

Victoria-by-the-Sea, a charming seacoast village in Prince Edward Island, is a delightful mix of history and contemporary allure. Founded in 1819, this village was once a bustling port and hub for shipbuilding and fishing.

Today, it’s a quaint town with a population of under two hundred, known for its serene beauty and artistic vibe. Visitors are drawn to its peaceful ambience, perfect for creative pursuits. The town is adorned with historic buildings like the Orient Hotel, famous for its inviting front verandah.

The Victoria Playhouse, located in the old community hall, is a popular summer playhouse, hosting plays and concerts. The village’s streets are lined with quaint shops housed in traditional homes, offering local crafts and antiques.

Dining options include the oldest restaurant, the Landmark Café, and the delightful Lobster Barn for a classic PEI lobster roll. For those with a sweet tooth, Island Chocolates is a must-visit, where chocolates are made on-site.

The village is also a great spot for beach lovers, offering access to picturesque beaches ideal for relaxing or beachcombing. Victoria-by-the-Sea encapsulates the tranquil, picturesque essence of Prince Edward Island​.

Dawson, Yukon

Dawson, Yukon

Dawson, Yukon, is a town steeped in the history of the Klondike Gold Rush. Known for its well-preserved Gold Rush-era buildings, Dawson invites visitors to step back in time.

The town offers a range of cultural and outdoor activities, including visits to historical sites like the Dredge No. 4 and the SS Keno National Historic Site. The Dawson City Museum provides insights into the region’s gold mining history.

Dawson’s vibrant arts scene includes the annual Dawson City Music Festival and the Yukon School of Visual Arts. The town is also a gateway to the surrounding wilderness, offering opportunities for hiking, gold panning, and viewing the Northern Lights.

Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec

Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec

Baie-Saint-Paul, nestled in the Charlevoix region of Quebec, is a haven for artists and foodies alike. This quaint town, with its rolling landscapes and inspiring views of the St. Lawrence River, has long been a muse for painters, sculptors, and writers.

Baie-Saint-Paul’s vibrant arts scene is visible in its numerous galleries, studios, and the famous Rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste, lined with boutiques and art shops. The town is not just about art; it’s also known for its culinary delights, boasting farm-to-table restaurants that serve local and fresh produce.

The charm of Baie-Saint-Paul extends to its architecture, with beautifully preserved buildings that speak volumes of its rich cultural heritage. The town also serves as a gateway to the great outdoors, offering access to activities like hiking, kayaking, and skiing in nearby Le Massif.

Baie-Saint-Paul’s blend of natural beauty, artistic richness, and gastronomic excellence makes it a must-visit destination for those seeking a taste of Quebec’s joie de vivre.

Golden, British Columbia

Golden, British Columbia

Golden, nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, is a gateway to adventure and natural beauty. This town, located in southeastern British Columbia, is surrounded by the Columbia and Kicking Horse rivers and three mountain ranges, including the Purcell and Rocky Mountains.

Golden is not only the home of the highest suspension bridge in Canada, the Golden Skybridge, but also a place where you can experience the thrill of meeting a buffalo herd at the Rocky Mountain Buffalo Ranch.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find a paradise in Golden with activities like trail running in Moonraker, horseback riding along the Blaeberry River, and hiking to Wapta Falls in Yoho National Park.

For those seeking a more relaxed experience, the town offers the scenic Kicking Horse Pedestrian Bridge and Spirit Square, perfect for leisurely strolls and enjoying local festivals.

The history of Golden can be explored at the Golden Museum, showcasing the origins of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the town itself. Golden’s unique position among five national parks makes it an ideal spot for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.

Tofino, British Columbia

Tofino, British Columbia

Tofino, a small town on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, is a haven for nature lovers and adventure seekers. With a population of around 2,516, this coastal gem is renowned for its stunning landscapes and rich biodiversity within the UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Region.

Tofino is a popular spot for storm watching in winter, where waves can reach heights of up to 20 feet. The town is also home to the Eagle Aerie Gallery, showcasing the vibrant works of artist Roy Henry Vickers.

Accessible by car, plane, or bus, Tofino is known for its mild temperatures and varied seasonal activities. From surfing and whale watching to exploring the local art scene and indulging in a diverse array of dining options, Tofino offers a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural richness​​​​​​.

St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick

St. Andrews by-the-Sea, New Brunswick

St. Andrews by-the-Sea, in New Brunswick, is a picturesque coastal town known for its historic charm and natural beauty. The town’s architecture, dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, adds to its allure.

Visitors can explore the Kingsbrae Garden, a 27-acre horticultural masterpiece, or visit the Huntsman Marine Science Centre’s aquarium. St. Andrews is also an ideal spot for whale watching, with several species frequenting the nearby Bay of Fundy.

The town’s vibrant arts community is evident in its galleries and artisan shops. For golf enthusiasts, the Algonquin Golf Course offers a world-class golfing experience with stunning views of Passamaquoddy Bay.

Elora, Ontario

Elora, Ontario

Elora is a charming and picturesque town in Ontario, known for its 19th-century limestone architecture and the scenic Elora Gorge.

This small town, with a rich history and a vibrant arts community, offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and artistic flair. Elora is a hub for outdoor enthusiasts, with activities like tubing and hiking in Elora Gorge, as well as a thriving arts and culture scene.

The town’s unique character and welcoming atmosphere make it an ideal destination for those seeking a blend of adventure, history, and culture.

Trinity, Newfoundland

Trinity, Newfoundland

Trinity, Newfoundland, is a small town rich in history and culture. Incorporated as a town in 1969, it has a population of 76 as of the 2021 Census. This scenic town is known for its connection to the arts, notably hosting the Rising Tide Theatre Festival.

Trinity has also served as a backdrop for films like “The Shipping News” and the television miniseries “Random Passage”. Visitors to Trinity can enjoy panoramic views from the Gun Hill Trail and explore diverse wildlife along coastal trails.

The town offers whale watching opportunities and is a paradise for bird watchers. Trinity’s culinary scene is influenced by fresh local produce, seafood, and a growing number of dining establishments offering a variety of cuisines.

The New Founde Lande Trinity Pageant is a unique theatrical experience, immersing visitors in the town’s history through a scenic walking tour led by local actors​​​​.

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Niagara-on-the-Lake, situated in Ontario, is a quaint and historic town renowned for its well-preserved 19th-century buildings and its position as a hub for the Niagara wine region.

The town’s charming streets are lined with old-world architecture, unique boutiques, and fine dining establishments. Niagara-on-the-Lake is not only famous for its world-class wineries and vineyards but also for its vibrant arts scene, including the renowned Shaw Festival Theatre.

This picturesque town, with its lush landscapes and rich cultural heritage, offers a delightful escape for those interested in history, theatre, and wine.

Final Thoughts

Canada’s small towns are truly the hidden jewels of the nation. Each one, with its unique charm and character, offers a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

From the rugged coastlines and rich cultural heritage of the east to the majestic mountains and lush forests of the west, these towns are a testament to Canada’s diverse landscape and history.

They are perfect destinations for those seeking adventure, tranquility, or a taste of local flavor. These small towns, though varied in their offerings, all share one common trait: they warmly welcome visitors to discover and enjoy their distinct Canadian beauty.

Tiny Footsteps Travel

Ontario small towns

36 Most Charming Small Towns in Ontario (2024)

small cities in canada to visit

Looking for Ontario small towns to visit or to live? You’re in the right place.

I love to travel abroad, but there is so much to do just here in Ontario. Small towns in Ontario are full of heritage, culture, and really unique things to see. Whether you’re looking for good places to live in Ontario or simply good Ontario weekend getaways, then there are a number of hidden gems in Ontario that I can’t wait to tell you about.

There are so many worthwhile small towns to visit in Ontario, and I wish I could mention them all. I have tried to narrow it down to the top 36 which I think offer unique, out of the ordinary attractions for tourists.

small town in Ontario

Growing up outside of the GTA, I’ve lived in proximity to Ontario small towns my whole life. I grew up in a small town, and I now live in a (different) small town, and also visited a number of small towns in between.

To define, “small town”, I’m going to be showing you the best places to visit in Ontario with a population of around 20,000 or less – because anything much more than that, from my experience, has more of a city atmosphere than a ‘small town’ vibe.

As a lifelong Ontario small town resident, and a travel blogger, I want to share with you the best small Ontario small towns to visit, and what makes them worth a visit during an Ontario road trip , or an Ontario weekend getaway .

So, let’s jump in – best small towns to visit in Ontario!

35 Best Ontario Small Towns to Visit

Pack your bags for your Ontario road trip. Here are the best small towns in Ontario, and why they’re worth a visit

1. Arnprior

Arnprior is a town of just over 10,000 people located 65 km (40 miles) west of downtown Ottawa. It’s known for its architecture, festivals, boutique stores and bakeries.

If you’re in the Ottawa area, Arnprior makes for a charming stop for an eastern Ontario road trip.

Arnprior Ontario

Things to do in Arnprior, Ontario:

  • Go shopping at boutique stores on the main street
  • Grab fresh baked goods at Mighty Fine Bakehouse, or Sweet and Sassy Co.
  • Explore Arnprior’s heritage past at the beautiful 1800s heritage building, the Arnprior and District Museum
  • Take a walk on the scenic Macnamara Nature Trail
  • Take part in the Priorpalooza ( music festival held in June) or the Dragon Boat Festival (July)
  • Take a drive to nearby villages White Lake and Burnstown

Where to stay in Arnprior:

  • Arnprior Motor Inn is located just in the outskirts of downtown, just a few minutes’ walk from the river

2. Bancroft

Bancroft is a small town 2.5 hours in between both Ottawa and Toronto , with a population of just over 4,000. It’s location nestled in a hilly forested terrain with the York River running through it make it a picturesque place to live and visit.

Bancroft is a a great location for outdoor activities, hole in the wall cafés, art and heritage.

Bancroft Ontario

Things to do in Bancroft, Ontario

  • Try specialty drinks at one of the cozy family-owned cafés on Bridge street
  • Admire local art the Art Gallery of Bancroft
  • Learn about the pioneering past in the area in the beautiful log home, the Bancroft North Hastings Heritage Museum
  • Discover the area’s mining history at the Bancroft Mineral Museum
  • Try local craft beers at the Bancroft Brewing Company
  • Go for a hike at Eagle Chutes Provincial Park

Check availability at Somerset Lakeside Resort for an overnight stay in Bancroft

Bath is known for being one of Ontario’s oldest communities, settled in 1784 . Located just 28 km (17 miles) east of Kingston, Bath is a tiny village of less than 2,000 people.

Despite the small population, there are a number of scenic things to do in the area, as well as buildings that are hundreds of years old.

Things to Do in Bath, Ontario

  • Take a walk along the marina and the Heritage Park on the shoreline of Lake Ontario
  • Take the ferry to Amherst Island from the  Millhaven Ferry Dock (5 minutes from downtown)
  • Grab some delicious eats at the Beachside BBQ
  • Learn about early Upper Canada at the historic “Ham House”
  • Check out the Farfield Gudzeit House, a museum that dates back to 1796  

Places to stay near Bath, Ontario

  • It makes most sense to stay in the town of Napanee (20 minutes away) as there are limited accommodations in Bath. The Fox Motor Inn in Napanee has great amenities, including an outdoor pool

5. Burks Falls

Burks Falls is a small village in an area known as the Almaguin Highlands. Surrounded by lakes, Burks Falls near ‘cottage country.’

Burk’s Falls is best known for the private art property, known Screaming Heads which was featured in Atlas Obscura, but there are a few other gems nearby to check out too.

Screaming Heads Ontario

My family’s cottage is near Burks Falls, so I’ve been here quite a few times. There isn’t a lot to do, but there are a few hidden gems worth checking out. At the very least, Burks Falls is worth a stop on a road trip in Ontario.

  • Visit the Tourism Centre which has a scenic heritage walk with a river that goes over the waterfall
  • Visit Mithothian Castle and Screaming Heads
  • Check out the Wiseman’s Corner Schoolhouse Heritage Centre to see what an old schoolhouse in the area once looked like
  • Drive to the village of Magnetawan (20 minutes away) on Saturday mornings from May to October for the farmer’s market

6. Bracebridge

Bracebridge is a larger size town in Ontario’s “cottage country,” just a 40 minute drive north of Orillia . Bracebridge is famous for its Fire and Ice Festival which happens every winter, and for the Bracebridge Waterfalls in the heart of the downtown.

Being in the Muskoka area, there are a number of outdoor things to do, as well as shopping and eating in the downtown core.

Bracebride Ontario

I’ve driven through Bracebridge and visited a number of times, as I have family here. It has a great downtown, and is worth a visit in itself, or a stop on a road trip from Toronto to Algonquin Park.

Things to do in Bracebridge, Ontario

  • Marvel at the Bracebridge Waterfalls in the centre of town
  • Explore the scenic beauty on a Muskoka River Cruise
  • Visit Santa’s Village (open year round) if you’re in Bracebridge with kids
  • Sample craft beers at the Muskoka Brewery
  • Take part in the annual Fire and Ice Festival in late January
  • Take a scenic walk at the local community garden , the Rotary Centennial Gardens

Places to Stay near Bracebridge, Ontario

  • Inn at the Falls – Located right downtown, with a view of the falls and close to shops and restaurants . Breakfast included!

7. Cochrane

Cochrane is the polar bear capital of Ontario, and located about an hour north of Timmins . About 1/3 of Cochrane speaks French as a first language.

Cochrane is very small, (the population is just over 5,000 as of 2022) and I’ll admit there isn’t a ton to do right in town aside from the Polar Bear Habitat – which is the biggest draw to the area. However, Cochrane is also within driving distance of some incredibly scenic sights , and makes for a worthwhile stop on a Northern Ontario road trip.

small cities in canada to visit

Things to do in Cochrane, Ontario:

  • Visit the Polar Bear Habitat and see the three polar bears that live on site
  • Grab breakfast at the cozy Railway Café
  • Take a walk along the Zeverly Rapids Bridge (45 minutes south of Cochrane)
  • Take a scenic drive to see the incredible New Post Falls (2 hours north of Cochrane)

Places to stay near Cochrane:

  • Travelodge by Wyndham Cochrane is less than 5 minute drive to the Polar Bear Habitat

8. Creemore

Creemore is home of the smallest jail in North America , and the famous Creemore Brewery, and makes a worthwhile stop on a road trip if you’re driving from Toronto to the Collingwood or Wasaga Beach area.

Creemore, with its quant downtown feels like a smaller version of Niagara on the Lake, with its high end shopping and a few cozy places to eat.

small cities in canada to visit

I grew up visiting Creemore, as my grandparents had a farm just outside of town. It has morphed into a touristy little spot, where I often like to meet friends for lunch and take a stroll on the main street.

Things to do in Creemore, Ontario

  • Do a tasting tour at the Creemore Brewery
  • Check out the smallest jail in North America !
  • Visit the nearby lavender Farm, Purple Hill Lavender Farm (summer only)

Places to stay in Creemore

  • I recommend staying at Gables Bed and Breakfast , just 10 minutes away in Stayner. It puts you close to Creemore, Collingwood and the Blue Mountains, as well as Wasaga Beach

Dorest is a small town very popular in the summer and fall, for people wanting to enjoy cottage country in Ontario.

Dorset ontario

The first time I visited Dorset, it immediately reminded me of a small Swiss village in the Alps – it kind of has that feel. I recommend making a stop here to enjoy the beautiful Muskoka scenery.

Things to do in Dorset, Ontario

  • Get incredible, 360 views of the surrounding terrain from the Dorset Lookout Tower
  • Take a cruise on the SS Bigwin that leaves from the Dorset dock
  • Explore Dorset’s pioneering past at the Dorset Heritage Museum
  • Go hiking in Algonquin Provincial Park (30 minutes away)

Book your overnight  accommodation in Dorset  here

Dwight is a small Muskoka town located right on the shore of the Lake of Bays. Dwight is extremely popular as a place to stay near Algonquin Provincial Park, as its only 20 minutes from the park entrance.

Aside from Algonquin, there are a number of other outdoorsy things to do in the area. And you absolutely must stop at Henrietta’s Bakery, and be there early enough if you want to try their signature pastry, the “Muskoka Cloud.”

small cities in canada to visit

We drive through Dwight every time we visit Algonquin, and I think the area is very under rated. It’s well worth a stop on an Ontario road trip from Toronto to Algonquin.

Things to Do in Dwight, Ontario

  • Marvel at the Oxtongue River Rapids
  • Shop at the Dwight Trading Post for unique Muskoka souvenirs
  • Get a mouthwatering poutine at Din’s Fresh Cut Fries
  • Stop in Henrietta’s Bakery for a sweet treat
  • Take a drive to Dorset (15 minutes away) to climb the Lookout Tower, or take a Bigwin Cruise
  • Go hiking in Algonquin Provincial Park (15 minutes away) and plan in advance if you want to see the fall colours

Elora is a small town famous for the Elora Gorge which is a tourist hotspot in the summertime, and for the ice climbing wall in the winter.

Elora is one of the best small towns to visit near Toronto, being only 90 minutes from downtown.

Elora

Things to do in Elora, Ontario

  • Go swimming at the breathtaking Elora Quarry i n the summer
  • Shop for gifts and souvenirs at the Mermaid gift shop
  • Enjoy the variety of culinary options
  • Climb at 60-foot ice-climbing wall (winter only, weather permitting)
  • Explore the town of Fergus while you’re there (10 minutes away)

Fergus is one of the most picturesque small towns near Toronto. Its riverfront limestone buildings , culinary scene, scenic trails, and small town atmosphere make it really nice either to stop through, or for an Ontario weekend getaway.

Fergus is in Wellington Country, only 10 minutes away from Elora, so the two can be visited in conjunction with each other.

Fergus Ontario

I used to pass through Fergus often on my way to my school in Waterloo, and its such a nice town with a charming atmosphere. There’s also a lot worth doing in the area.

  • Check out all the the 1800s buildings, the post office, the museum, theatre and other
  • See the waterfall in Confederation Park
  • Visit the Wellington County Museum and Archives, which was once a “poorhouse” (government assisted housing in the 19th century.) Its the oldest of its kind in Canada
  • Walk through Templin Gardens in the heart of town, and admire the flowerbeds and limestone
  • Take part in the largest Scottish Festival in Canada . The Fergus Scottish Festival & Highland Games have been running for over 70 years.

Check accommodation options to spend a weekend in Fergus and Elora

13. Goderich

Goderich is a small town on Lake Superior, about 2.5 hours west of Toronto. Queen Elizabeth II called Goderich “the prettiest town in Canada,” and I believe she was definitely on to something.

I was lucky to be invited to a friend’s cottage in Goderich, and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the water – it was so turquoise, that it reminded me of the Caribbean.

Goderich Ontario

Things to do in Goderich, Ontario

  • Have a beach day. The Goderich Main Beach is a good place to enjoy the views
  • Explore the old jail, the Huron Historic Gaol
  • Hike on the Tiger Dunlop Nature Trail
  • Get views from the Menesetung Bridge, and the Goderich Lighthouse
  • Take a drive to explore other cute small towns Lake Huron that are nearby: Port Elgin, Kincardine and Bayfield

14. Grand Bend

Grand Bend is located right on Lake Huron and is known as one of the best beach towns in Canada .

With a small population of just over 3,000 people, Grand Bend has a small town atmosphere, as well as lots of beach

small cities in canada to visit

Things to do in Grand Bend, Ontario

  • Swim and tan at Grand Band Beach
  • Do a wine tour at Dark Horse Estate Winery
  • Visit the Oil Museum of Canada , known as Lambton Heritage Museum
  • Shop at the Pinery Antique Market on Sundays from May through to October, and the Grand Bend Farmer’s Market
  • Take a drive along the Lake Huron coastline to explore other small towns: Goderich, Kincardine, and Bayfield

Check overnight accommodation options in Grand Bend here

15. Hockley Valley

Hockley Valley is a small community nestled in the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere Reserve, just over an hour from Toronto .

Hockley Valley is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking, skiing, or golfing in the summertime. It also has a popular spa which makes it great for a relaxing weekend getaway

Hockley Valley Ontario

I’m lucky to live close to Hockley Valley, so I’ve driven through the area many times. I enjoy hiking at Island Lake, and the General Store downtown is a great place to pop into.

Things to do in Hockey Valley, Ontario:

  • Go skiing (winter) or golfing (summer) at the Hockley Valley Resort
  • Enjoy the spa at the Hockley Valley Resort
  • Visit the Rosebud Motel which was used on the popular TV show Schitt’s Creek
  • Go hiking at Island Lake Conservation Area in town, or Mono Cliffs Provincial Park (reservation required – just 10 minutes away)

16. Huntsville

Huntsville is a picturesque Muskoka town with the Muskoka River running through it. Its a great place to stay if you’re visiting Algonquin Park.

Huntsville, Ontario

Things to do in Hunstivlle, Ontario

  • Go hiking at Algonquin Provincial Park , or at Arrowhead
  • Trek to the top of the Lion’s Lookout for incredible 360 views
  • Go treetop trekking just outside town
  • Grab a Beaver Tail, or bring a picnic and sit down and eat along the river
  • Go shopping on the main street, where you can find artisan Canadian souvenirs and gifts, and specialty items

17. Kincardine

Kincardine, like Grand Bend and Goderich, is another town on the Lake Huron shoreline in southwest Ontario.

Kincardine has it all in terms of an Ontario weekend getaway. There’s a decent food scene, a boardwalk, art galleries, museums, bookshops, surf shops, beaches and even chartered boat cruises to explore Lake Huron.

Kincardine Ontario small town

What I like best Kincardine is that its downtown is not a highway (like with Goderich), so it has a quainter, quieter, slow-paced atmosphere.

Things to do in Kincardine, Ontario

  • Check out the Kincardine Lighthouse & Museum
  • Get out onto the water with Kincardine Boat Cruises
  • Walk along the boardwalk, and have a beach day at Station Beach
  • See the Walker House Museum, the oldest standing wooden building in the area
  • Take a stroll on the Penetangore River walking trails

Book your stay at the Inn at the Harbour lakeside hotel in Kincardine here

18. Lincoln

Lincoln is a charming hamlet in the Niagara region, and highly worth a stop if you’re driving from Toronto to Niagara Falls.

The Niagara area is renowned for its wineries, and Lincoln is no different. Part of what sets Lincoln apart is being known as one of the largest fruit-producing areas .

Balls Falls in Lincoln Ontario

Things to Do in Lincoln, Ontario:

  • Visit Ball’s Falls Conservation area to see the heritage buildings, and the waterfall
  • Do a wine tour in town: Atlantis Niagara Winery is right in town
  • Drive out to Niagara on the Lake (30 minutes) for some boutique shopping

Where to Stay in Lincoln

  • The Inn on the Twenty nearby is perfect for a relaxing getaway

19. Little Current

Little Current is the largest town on Manitoulin Island, which is the largest freshwater island in the world.

Aside from scenic beauty, Manitoulin Island is known for its arts scene, and its indigenous cultural festivals and events.

Manitoulin Island

Things to Do in Little Current, Ontario

  • Visit Bridal Veil Falls (about 30 mins by car from Little Current)
  • Go hiking on the famous Cup and Saucer Trail (20 minute drive)
  • Learn about indigenous culture by attending a Pow Wow

Places to Stay in Little Current:

  • Manitoulin Motel – air conditioning, free parking, flat screen TV, and tea/coffee maker

Pro Tip: Manitoulin Island is very popular for camping, and there are many camp resorts near the shoreline of Lake Superior. Read my post on Campsites on Manitoulin Island .

20. Lion’s Head

Lion’s Head is a popular stop on a road trip from Toronto to Tobermory, and truly one of the cutest small towns in Ontario. It’s a great place to do stargazing, and admire unique rock formations and views of Lake Huron.

small cities in canada to visit

Things to do in Lion’s Head, Ontario

  • Check out the Lion’s Head Harbour lighthouse
  • Swimming and sunbathing at Lion’s Head beach
  • Participate in the Bayside Astronomy program , which runs at the marina in Lions Head at sunset
  • Get incredible views from the Lion’s Head lookout trail (pictured above)
  • Check out Greig’s limestone caves

21. Midland

In just over a 40 minute drive north of Barrie , you’ll find the town of Midland, which is nestled right on the shore of Georgian Bay.

It offers a colourful art scene with dozens of murals in the downtown core, several beaches, boat cruises, heritage discovery and outdoor beauty.

small cities in canada to visit

  • Take a boat tour of Georgian Bay with Georgian Spirit Cruises
  • Admire over 30 different murals in downtown Midland
  • Take a walk in Little Lake Park trail along the Georgian Bay shoreline
  • Step into the history at the Saint Marie Among the Hurons.
  • See the 1800s replica warship , schooner & cargo vessel  at Discovery Bay
  • Visit the Penetanguishene Centennial Museum.

Where to stay in Midland

  • I recommend the Captain’s House Heritage B&B for a couples getaway, or the Hampton Inn for a family vacation in Midland

A tiny town just over an hour from Toronto, Mono is one of the most scenic towns to visit in Ontario.

Rather a town centre, Mono is composed of several small hamlets, farmland, and nature reserves. Mono is very popular for residents and tourists in Toronto who want to escape the city atmosphere, and get out into nature.

small cities in canada to visit

My husband and I are big fans of Mono and we come here often. We eat at the Mono Cliffs Inn for special occasions, and the Mono Cliffs Provincial Park is my husband’s favourite hiking spot. (It has gotten much busier in recent years and now requires a reservation.)

Things to do in Mono, Ontario

  • Eat at the Mono Cliff’s Inn
  • Go hiking at the Mono Cliff’s Provincial Park (reservation required)
  • Do a tour of Ketchum House . (The owners are very nice people, and the view from the property of the surrounding land are stunning)

cabin

Places to stay near Mono, Ontario

  • For an eco-friendly/sustainable living adventure : Ketchum House (the owners are very nice people)
  • For a rustic experience : Cabin on the 9 (my husband and I celebrated Valentines Day here once, and it was wonderful)

23. Moonbeam

Moonbeam is a Northern Ontario town that is known for a large flying saucer at the side of the road. Early settlers to Moonbeam claimed to have seen UFOs or moonbeams in the sky that were never explained, which is how the town got its name

Moonbeam was also mentioned in the song “Fly” by the Tragically Hip. Moonbeam has just over 1,000 people and 70% of them are French-speaking.

With such a small population, there isn’t a ton to do in Moonbeam. However, it makes a worthwhile stop if you’re doing a Northern Ontario road trip, because its directly in between other Northern Ontario small towns Hearst and Cochrane.

Things to do in Moonbeam, Ontario

  • Get photos in front of the Flying Saucer
  • René Brunelle Provincial Park
  • Marvel at Rémi Lake
  • Take part in the Summer Art Fair during the 2nd weekend of July

Where to stay in Moonbeam

  • Rent a cottage from Moonbeam Lakeside Resort which has incredible views of Rémi Lake

24. Niagara on the Lake

Niagara on the Lake is one of the touristy small towns in Ontario, and for a good reason. The area is rich with wineries, great places to eat, festivals and scenic drives. It’s very popular as a couple’s getaway, and there are a ton of bed and breakfasts.

small cities in canada to visit

Niagara on the Lake is one of my favourite places for a ‘girl’s weekend’ or a getaway with my husband. The wineries, hiking, boutique shopping, great food all make it very much worth a visit.

  • Do a wine tour. My favourite wineries in the area are Peller Estates and Two Sisters, but there are many others
  • Do the Chocolate Factory Experience at CFX, just 15 minutes away
  • Visit Neob Niagara, the lavendar farm
  • Eat at one of the many high end restaurants. I recommend The Old Winery Restaurant or Niagara’s Finest Thai. (However, be sure to make reservations well in advance, especially for a weekend.)
  • Stroll down the main street for window shopping and finding artisan Canadian souvenirs . Pop into the Christmas store, and grab a sweet treat from Rocky Mountain
  • Take part in the Ice Wine Festival, held in January. While you’re there, drive out to see Niagara Falls in winter (20 minutes away)

Book your overnight accommodation in Niagara on the Lake here

25. Owen Sound

Owen Sound known as “the scenic city”, Owen Sound is known for its art scene, and its proximity to several waterfalls.

With a population just over 20,000, Owen Sound is on the cusp of what I’d consider a small town. It is still relatively small, with a small town feel.

Owen Sound

My husband and I went on a mini anniversary trip in Owen Sound, and it didn’t disappoint. We enjoyed the local cuisine, waterfalls, and the art galleries. I’d recommend a trip to Owen Sound for anyone looking for a nice place to visit in Ontario

  • Visit Inglis Waterfall (pictured above) and Jones Waterfall
  • Visit the art galleries, especially the Tom Thompson Art Gallery (he was a member of the Group of Seven, a famous group of Canadian artists.)

Mais oui, there is a Paris in Ontario too. While maybe not nearly as old as the one overseas, Paris Ontario is a quaint town with water activities, trails, and historic buildings.

small cities in canada to visit

Things to do in Paris, Ontario

  • Have a hearty meal at the Paris Beer Company
  • Grab an incecream cone at Paris Twisted Treats
  • Rent a raft from the Grand River Rafting Company (20 minutes away)

27. Pembroke

Pembroke is an artsy town, known for having more murals than any other town or city in Ontario.

You may have to go a little out of your way to find it though – Pembroke is just east of Algonquin Provincial Park, a 4.5 hour drive from Toronto. It’s right on the Ottawa River, and you can see the province of Quebec on the other side.

small cities in canada to visit

Things to do in Pembroke, Ontario

  • Enjoy views of the Ottawa river from the waterfront park and marina
  • Learn about the history of electricity at the Murray L. Moore Hydro Museum
  • Museum the history of Ottawa Valley
  • Champlain Trail Pioneer Village.
  • Visit the drive-i n in the summertime

Perth, a small town 1 hour from Ottawa, is has the best craft breweries  in eastern Ontario, a beautiful park with a river running through it and lots of outdoor activities.

Perth Ontario small town

Things to do in Perth, Ontario

  • Visit the craft breweries: The Perth Brewery and the Bridge Master’s Brewing Company.)
  • Go see the Mammoth Cheese monument which was made from milk of 10,000 cows
  • Visit the P erth Chocolate Works for some incredible artisan chocolate
  • Stop into BlackFly Grub Hub for fresh, homemade donuts

Check availability at the Perth at the Perth Parkside Inn & Spa for an overnight stay

29. St. Mary’s

St. Mary’s is a heritage town in southwestern Ontario, in between London and Stratford. It was settled in the 19th century and is known as “the stone town,” because of all of its l imestone buildings.

St. Mary’s is particularly a good destination for baseball lovers, and outdoor lovers.

small cities in canada to visit

Things to do in St. Mary’s, Ontario

  • Check out the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
  • Visit the St. Mary’s Opera house, built in 1880
  • Swim in the St. Mary’s Quarry
  • Walk the Grand Trunk Trail  (3.5 km or 2.1 miles) and get views of the river from the Sarnia Bridge
  • Take a guided art tour at the Art of Ideas Gallery 
  • Try local craft beer at the Broken Rail Brewing
  • Take part in the Stratford festival (20 minutes away)

Check accommodation options in St. Mary’s here

30. St. Jacobs

St. Jacob’s, located just outside Waterloo, is a cute small town known for its Mennonite heritage, historic buildings, steam train, food scene, boutique shops and an outlet mall.

If you love to shop, then St. Jacob’s is the perfect small town to visit in Ontario. Whether you’re looking for antiques, handcraft items, or big brands, there are so many great things to buy here. Don’t forget your wallet!

small cities in canada to visit

I used to work at the St. Jacob’s Outlet Mall as a university student, and its as much a tourist attraction as it is a great place for locals to score deals on big brands.

Things to do in St. Jacob’s, Ontario

  • Take an old fashioned train ride on the Waterloo Central Railway
  • Find gifts at Angel Treasures and Artefacts Salvage & Design
  • Shop at the St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market
  • Learn about St. Jacob’s Mennonite culture at The Mennonite Story
  • Buy premium teas at Tea, Earth & Sky

31. Schomberg

Schomberg is one of the best small towns to visit near Toronto, being only an hour away. The main street is one of the cutest in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). There are boutique stores, great food, thrift shops.

small cities in canada to visit

I grew up near Schomberg, and still have family that lives here, so I visit pretty frequently. There are some great restaurants on the main strip, and very cute boutique stores.

Things to do in Schomberg

  • Eat at the Schomberg Pub (great patio in the summertime)
  • Grab coffee or brunch at the hole in the wall Grackle Cafe.

32. Tobermory

Tobermory is known as the scuba diving and shipwreck capital of Ontario. It’s a quaint small town in Ontario, at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula on Georgian Bay.

Tobermory has a small harbour, some incredible scenic outdoor activities, and is known for its crystal clear turquoise water which makes it so popular for snorkeling and diving.

Little Tub Harbour in Tobermory

As a scuba diver, I head to Tobermory almost every summer – with kids, and on my own. It’s one of my favourite small towns to visit in Ontario.

Things to Do in Tobermory:

  • Do snorkeling or diving with Diver’s Den in the crystal clear water to see shipwrecks
  • Take a glass bottom boat tour to Flowerpot Island
  • Hike to the Grotto and Indian Head Cove
  • A number of restaurants in the harbour
  • Visit Singing Sands beach

tobermory flowerpot island

Hoping to visit Tobermory with kids? Read my post on family-friendly places to stay in Tobermory.

Book your day tour to Tobermory and Flowerpot Island from Toronto here

33. Tottenham

Tottenham is a small town close to Toronto. The South simcoe railway is one of the best things to do in the area , among others.

small cities in canada to visit

I grew up in Tottenham, and visit here often. I enjoy getting getting outside at the conservation area, having dinner at The Taste of Freedom, and bringing my children on the steam train. (I’ve been riding it since I was a kid.)

Things to do in Tottenham:

  • Grab dinner at the Taste of Freedom , a high-end restaurant set in an old Victorian home.
  • Hiking, swimming or fishing at the Tottenham Conservation Area
  • Attend the Annual Bluegrass Festival, held in June every year
  • Take part in seasonal events during the fall and the holiday season
  • Head to Alliston (20 minutes away)

Pro Tip: If you stay nearby overnight, I recommend having breakfast at the Cedar Kitchen on main street.

34. Uxbridge

Uxbrige is a gem of a community known for its old fashioned train, and for being the “trail capital of Canada.”

Uxbridge is particularly a nice place to visit for those who enjoy small towns in addition to farms. The area is bursting with family-owned farms that welcome visits to buy fresh, locally sourced and artisan food products.

small cities in canada to visit

Things to do in Uxbridge, Ontario

  • Visit Goodwood, which is a filming location on the popular TV show  Schitt’s Creek
  • Discover halotherapy at the  Holistic Salt Therapy & Cave
  • Visit the Thomas Foster Memorial, known as the  “Jewel on the Hill”
  • Have a picnic in  Uxbridge’s Elgin Park  (Canada’s first prime minister John A. MacDonald picniced here)
  • Go hiking in Glen Major Forest
  • Visit a farm -there are a number of them in the area where you can pick your own fresh produce, or meet animals (if you’re in the area with kids.)

The Wawa Goose Monument is a 28-feet tall metal statue and is most photographed monument in North America.

You also need to stop at the Magpie Waterfalls just outside town. Besides the goose statue and the falls, there isn’t a lot to do in Wawa, but its a very worthwhile stop on a road trip from Toronto to Thunder Bay.

Magpie waterfall near Wawa Ontario

Things to Do in Wawa:

  • Magpie Waterfalls just 10 minute drive outside town.
  • Take photos of the Wawa Goose Monument
  • Grab food at the Viking Restaurant, or the Wawa Goose Bar & Grill
  • Michipicoten Post Provincial Park

Where to Stay in Wawa:

  • Mystic Isle Motel

36. Wiarton

Right on the shore of Lake Huron, Wiarton is home of the “Wiarton Willy.” worthwhile stop on a road trip from Toronto to Tobermory.

Just 25 minutes south of Lion’s Head and an hour from Tobermory, Wiarton has a lot of hidden gems that are well worth a stop.

Things to do in Wiarton, Ontario

  • See caves and rock formations at Spirit Rock and the Bruce Caves Conservation Area
  • Stroll down the marina, and take photos with the Wiarton Willy statue
  • Grab fresh, seasonal comfort food at the Green Door Café
  • Have a beach day at Oliphant Beach (25 minutes way)
  • Take a drive to the Owen Sound area (35 minutes) to see waterfalls and for more restaurant options

Where to stay in Wiarton

Waterview on the Bay has scenic views, and an outdoor swimming pool

small cities in canada to visit

Best Small Towns in Ontario Near Toronto

Here’s a stunning fact: half of Ontario’s population lives in the Greater Toronto Area. Both residents and tourists in the area enjoy escaping the hecticness and business of the city to explore the small town lifestyle and cute villages in Ontario.

Here are the best small towns near Toronto

  • Schomberg (1 hour)
  • Port Perry (1 hour)
  • Uxbridge (1 hour)
  • Paris (1 hour)
  • Mono and Hockley Valley (1 hour, 10 minutes)
  • Elora and Fergus (90 minutes)
  • Lincoln (1 hour, 20 minutes)
  • Niagara on the Lake (1 hour, 45 minutes)

How to Get Around Ontario

Unfortunately, Ontario doesn’t have the best rail or public transit system. The best way to get around (especially if youre planning to visit small towns) is by car. If you don’t own one in Ontario, then you can rent one here.

There are a few exceptions of course. There are private tours to Tobermory from Toronto, and to Algonquin, where there are a few small tourist towns, like Huntsville, Dorset and Dwight.

Book your rental car for Ontario here

small cities in canada to visit

Ontario Small Towns: FAQs

Here are the most commonly asked questions about small towns in Ontario, and choosing which ones to visit or live in

What is the prettiest small town in Ontario?

There are too many pretty small towns in Ontario to choose just one. But in my opinion, some o the most quaint and pretty small towns in Ontario are Kincardine, St. Mary’s, Creemore, Niagara on the Lake, Elora,

What small towns are up north in Ontario?

There are many small towns in Northern Ontario that are worth visiting. Some of them are Moonbeam, Cochrane, Hearst, Kapuskasking, Wawa, and countless more. There are lots of towns, waterfalls and scenic sights to stop at on a Northern Ontario road trip.

Where is the best small town to live in Ontario?

If you want to be close to Toronto, then some of the best small towns to live in Ontario are Schomberg, Fergus, Erin, Elora, Port Perry, and several others. Keep in mind that most small towns within 2 hours of the Greater Toronto Area are still expensive; if you’re looking for affordable housing, then you might need to be willing to move further east or north.

Downtown Alliston

Conclusion: Small towns in Ontario

While visiting the touristy cities like Toronto and Ottawa is exciting, there are a lot of hidden gems and off the beaten track attractions in Ontario small towns. Visiting them allows you to really tap into the local culture, and way of life of many Canadians.

Visiting landmarks and attractions in the small towns of Ontario is often rewarding, because of far fewer crowds than some of the city tourist attractions, and being able to connect with local culture and way of life. Many opportunities to get out into nature, explore indigenous and settlement heritage, try some mouthwatering food in hole in the wall restaurants,

42 Ever-So-Charming Canadian Towns You'll Wish You Had Known About Sooner

It's no wonder Hallmark movies are filmed here.

a street with buildings on the side

Where do we begin? There's Banff, the mountainous region in Alberta famous for its winter sports, hot springs, five-star dining, and proximity to the absolutely stunning Lake Louise (once a Hollywood hotspot). Then we have Churchill, a town in Manitoba so remote, it can only be accessed by plane or train. (Spoiler alert: It boasts one of the best views of the northern lights!) For a seaside vacation, there's the colorful Saint Andrews By the Sea in New Brunswick. And we can't forget Almonte in Ontario: only one of a few beauteous Canadian backdrops for Hallmark movies .

Believe it or not, we're just getting started. Scroll through for several more of the best small towns, villages, and smaller cities in Canada that are filled to the brim with charm.

Banff, Alberta

a road with buildings and trees on the side

Surrounded by the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Banff's winter sports, hot springs, five-star restaurants, and close proximity to the majestic Lake Louise keep travelers coming back every season. (Fun fact: Marilyn Monroe stayed at Lake Louise's luxe hotel, the Fairmont Banff Springs, while filming the 1954 Western River of No Return .)

Summerside, Prince Edward Island

spinnakers landing, summerside,

During the warmer months, Summerside attracts beachgoers to its lively boardwalk and world-class Harbourfront Theatre. But a trip to PEI wouldn’t be complete without the can't-miss PEI Island Walk—a 435-mile walking route that opened in 2022. The trail conveniently passes through Summerside, as well as many other charming small communities.

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

beautiful house covered snow located in the queen street, niagara on the lake, ontario, canada

Often described as the prettiest town in Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a well-preserved, 19th-century village and the heart of Ontario Wine Country. It's home to lush boulevard gardens, English-inspired B&Bs, and the Shaw Festival: an ode to the Irish playwright Bernard Shaw consisting of at least 10 productions per year. (It's also where Hallmark's 2018 film, The Holiday Calendar, was filmed!)

Saint Andrews By the Sea, New Brunswick

a street with buildings on the side

Known also as just Saint Andrews, this seaside town has become a vacation hotspot for travelers in search of a relaxation, golf, and tranquil cottage accommodations. Spend your day strolling down quaint Water Street or whale watching in the Bay of Fundy.

Shediac, New Brunswick

giant lobster, shediac, new brunswick

Known as the "Lobster Capital of the World," Shediac hosts an annual festival every July. The bay has some of the warmest waters north of Virginia, while the town is a hub for local makers at the annual summer event, Artists Village, and the weekly farmers market.

Quebec City, Quebec

chateau frontenac old quebec

Though not strictly a small town, Quebec's capital—and specifically, its cobblestoned, UNESCO Heritage Site, Old Quebec—is undeniably cozy, with one of the quaintest downtown areas imaginable, so we had to include it. To this day, the city is completely fortified—a sight to behold and reason enough to visit. As for where to stay, our vote goes to Le Château Frontenac, perched atop Cape Diamond. It looks like a veritable castle, includes a luxury spa—and you simply can't beat the views.

Almonte, Ontario

historic post office building in downtown almonte, ontario

If you love a good Hallmark Christmas movie, you need to visit Almonte—a.k.a. the "Mini Hollywood of the North." It's served as the backdrop for multiple made-for-TV holiday films, including Christmas Around The Corner , The Rooftop Christmas Tree , Unlocking Christmas , and Christmas Festival of Ice. A nd no wonder! Just about every corner is picture-perfect, including this one, on Mill Street, where you'll find a historic post office designed by Thomas Fuller, the same architect who designed Canada's original Parliament Buildings.

Cavendish, Prince Edward Island

avonlea village

Bosom friends, this one's for you! Cavendish remains one of PEI's most popular summertime destinations, as visitors continue to flock to the town—and the house—that inspired L.M. Montgomery's beloved Anne of Green Gables . Pictured here is Avonlea Village, named after the novel's fictional setting, with fairytale-like eateries and shops open to visit during the summer.

Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

cape forchu lighthouse

A vibrant town characterized by 19th-century merchants, towering churches, and quaint commercial areas, Yarmouth is a hub for hiking, fishing, and seafaring adventures—as well as artisan and gallery spaces.

Caraquet, New Brunswick

a building with a sign on it

Set on the Acadian Peninsula in northeastern New Brunswick, Caraquet is an active fishing town with a cozy and welcoming seaside atmosphere. Each August, the town pays tribute to its French Acadian culture during its annual Festival Acadian .

Mont-Tremblant Pedestrian Village, Quebec

pedestrian street in mount tremblant village

Mont-Tremblant itself is a ski lover's paradise with its year-round ski resort, but for travelers more interested in après ski, idyllic Pedestrian Village at the bottom of the mountain (also known as Old Village) awaits, with boutiques and restaurants galore.

Revelstoke, British Columbia

downtown revelstoke, british columbia, canada

Home to the Revelstoke Mountain Resort and a charming downtown (both featured in Hallmark's Frozen in Love ), Revelstoke is perhaps best known for its enchanted forest —complete with storybook-like figurines and buildings, including a three-story treehouse.

Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec

view of baie saint paul, quebec, canada

Tucked between two mountains in an area that was shaped by the fall of a meteorite 350 million years ago, Baie-Saint-Paul offers exceptional views of the Charlevoix region. (Fun fact: It's also known as the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil.) Stroll along postcard-worthy Saint-Jean-Baptiste Street or wander the fields to taste the local products.

Cochrane, Alberta

cochrane ice cream store in alberta

Only 12 miles outside Calgary, Cochrane is known for its Western Canadian cowboy culture. While the town is continually expanding, the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park and Big Hill Springs Provincial Park attracts visitors all year round—and so does MacKay's Ice Cream, pictured here.

Twillingate, Newfoundland

the harbour and fishing boats in the morning, twillingate, canada

Surrounded by the coastline and countryside, Twillingate reflects the rugged beauty and tranquility of Newfoundland in a town filled with colorful hand-painted houses. Its location next to Iceberg Alley allows guests to view 10,000-year-old icebergs.

Prince Rupert, British Columbia

watercraft, table, dock, boat, harbor, marina, outdoor table, houseplant, evening, port,

In between Vancouver and Juneau, Alaska, lies the port town of Prince Rupert on Kaien Island. It's a destination for ocean fishing, whale watching, and fresh seafood. It also sits on the land of the Ts'msyen people, allowing the opportunity to explore their heritage. Oh, and if you're feeling adventurous, grizzly bear-viewing tours are available.

Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

mahone bay, lunenburg county, nova scotia, canada

Set along Nova Scotia's craggy Lighthouse Route, Mahone Bay is filled with unique shopping and artisan and culinary experiences. Its calm waters, perfect for sailing and paddling, are home to hundreds of islands and numerous birds and marine life.

Victoria-by-the-Sea, Prince Edward Island

victoria by the sea, harbor lighthouse

Victoria-by-the-Sea is a picturesque fishing village that has been revitalized over the years by its artistic residents. The tree-lined town features galleries, restaurants, and the picture-perfect Lighthouse Museum you see here.

Trinity, Newfoundland

a group of buildings next to a body of water

This North Atlantic seaport is filled with beautifully restored fishing rooms and saltbox houses. It also happens to be one of the most walkable towns in Newfoundland, meaning you can walk its circumference in just 25 minutes. Visitors can also take an iceberg or whale-watching tour around the Bonavista Peninsula.

Bonavista, Newfoundland

bonavista lighthouse in bonavista newfoundland canada

Bonavista stretches across a scenic and rugged coastline that juts out through caves, cliffs, and sea stacks into the North Atlantic. Whales and other marine life are visible from its shores, and the cape serves as a sanctuary to a number of seabirds.

Headshot of Caleigh Alleyne

Rose Marie Walano is a freelance editor and children's author. (And a Cosmo alum!) Among the many things she loves are high tea, period dramas, Central Park, K-pop, and her adorable mini-doodle, Colette. You can follow her on Instagram at @rosiewalano.

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TravelAwaits

Our mission is to serve the 50+ traveler who's ready to cross a few items off their bucket list.

13 Of Canada’s Most Adorable Small Towns And Villages

small cities in canada to visit

  • Destinations

Canada is famous for its beautiful cities. Who hasn’t heard of Vancouver, Quebec City, or Halifax? But there’s a strong case to be made for Canada’s small towns and villages, some of which are downright adorable. If you love small, cozy communities, you’ll fall in love with these 13 delightful destinations, which stretch from coast to coast to coast.

1. Twillingate, Newfoundland And Labrador

Pretty Twillingate may just be the only place in the world where locals can joke about how their “icebergs are just the tip of the iceberg” without sounding too silly. Twillingate is one of the best-positioned communities along Newfoundland’s famed “iceberg alley” — but there is much more going on here. This gorgeous fishing village has beautiful natural scenery and a good selection of museums, cultural centers, and historic buildings.

The village of Mahone Bay in Nova Scotia, Canada.

gary yim / Shutterstock

2. Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

If Mahone Bay offered nothing more than its colorful houses, it would already be one of Canada’s most adorable towns. But this small community in southeast Nova Scotia has so much more. It’s famous for its trio of waterfront churches, a scene beloved by photographers. Sticking along the waterfront, you’ll also see fishing boats, small shops featuring goods from local artisans, cute cafes, and opportunities for stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking.

The town of Summerside in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Vadim.Petrov / Shutterstock

3. Summerside, Prince Edward Island

Sleepy Summerside , Prince Edward Island, is as relaxed as they come. The harbor-front boardwalk, Spinnaker’s Landing , is designed to look like an old fashioned fishing village, with buildings painted turquoise, pink, aqua, yellow, and orange. There, visitors will find restaurants, shops, ice cream stands, and even a theater.

A lighthouse at St. Andrews By-The-Sea in New Brunswick, Canada.

gvictoria / Shutterstock

4. St. Andrews By-The-Sea, New Brunswick

As Canada’s oldest seaside resort town, St. Andrews by-the-Sea , New Brunswick, is the perfect blend of historic charm, nautical adventure, and relaxed living. The town has long attracted a who’s who of American and Canadian high society, who love the luxurious inns. Thankfully, modern-day rank-and-file visitors find St. Andrew’s just as welcoming, and Water Street is especially popular for its seaside restaurants, shops, and galleries.

5. Goderich, Ontario

Just about every legend about Goderich, Ontario , is true. Its motto is indeed “Canada’s Prettiest Town,” and it has won multiple awards in the Communities In Bloom competitions for its civic pride and beautiful gardens. However, there’s one bit of local lore that can’t be substantiated: The oft-repeated claim that Queen Elizabeth II called Goderich the prettiest town in Canada is likely just a bit of folklore, as there’s no evidence that any monarch has ever visited!

The town of Baie-Saint-Paul in Quebec, Canada.

milosk50 / Shutterstock

6. Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec

If you had to sum up what a visit to Baie-Saint-Paul , Quebec, is like, you might say that it tastes as good as it looks. This area is known for cheese, meat, berries, mushrooms, and even homemade chocolate. It’s also known as an artists’ paradise. The town is filled with art galleries (one of the highest concentrations in Canada), shops, studios, and, of course, plenty of restaurants.

Also read up on 6 Quebec Destinations That Feel Like You’re In A Hallmark Movie .

7. Neepawa, Manitoba

Known locally as Manitoba’s Most Beautiful Town, Neepawa has the distinction of being the recognized Lily Capital of the World, with 1,500 to 2,000 varieties of lilies grown in the area. In addition to the annual Lily Festival each July, visitors flock to Neepawa to see the Margaret Laurence Home , the historic property where the famous Canadian novelist grew up, as well as the art deco-style Roxy Theatre , which dates to 1906.

Aerial view of Waterton in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta.

Jason Patrick Ross / Shutterstock

8. Waterton, Alberta

If good things come in small packages, tiny Waterton, Alberta , is bursting with greatness. This tiny town (home to just 50 or so people in winter) is built on just one square mile. But this tiny space packs a powerful punch. Located within Waterton Lakes National Park , the town boasts a spectacular natural backdrop of mountains and lakes while it’s wee town center is filled with shops and restaurants. The landscape is dominated by the Prince of Wales Hotel , which offers old fashioned luxury, incredible views, and even a full afternoon tea service.

9. Watrous, Saskatchewan

Watrous, Saskatchewan , is a sweet small town with a unique spiritual side. At the All Saints Anglican Church, visitors can take in the splendor of 500-year-old stained glass. These precious windows came from Wiltshire, England, and represent some of the oldest stained glass in North America. For a different kind of soulful experience, the nearby Manitou Lake has a salt content rivaling the Dead Sea, and, yes, you can float in it the same way.

While in Saskatchewan, explore the Valley of 1,000 Devils on Canada’s new scenic drive .

The harbor of Ucluelet in British Columbia, Canada.

JeniFoto / Shutterstock

10. Ucluelet, British Columbia

Known as “Ukee” to locals, Ucluelet, British Columbia, boasts world-class restaurants (filled with lots of local wine,) resorts, and galleries — but it’s the scenery that steals the show. Locals love Ukee’s surfing, hiking, and gorgeous beaches. This town is as down to earth as it gets, and it feels like everyone knows one another in the pretty downtown shops and cafes. Pacific Rim National Park is nearby and adds to the area’s appeal.

11. Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories

A true nature lover’s destination, Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories , is situated at the confluence of the two rivers, the Mackenzie and the Liard, and there’s hardly a bad view no matter where you go. It’s a fantastic gateway destination to explore Nahanni National Park , where you can hike among alpine wildflowers or paddle some of Canada’s most challenging waters.

Buildings in Dawson City, Canada.

Pierre Jean Durieu / Shutterstock

12. Dawson City, Yukon

A fabled gold rush town that found fame in the late 1800s, Dawson City, Yukon , is still a golden destination, though modern visitors are seeking a different kind of reward. You can still pan for gold here, but most visitors prefer to take in the fun via tours, museums, and staged photo ops around the historic downtown, where local ordinances require all new buildings to comply with visual standards inspired by the 19th century.

13. Naujaat, Nunavut

Its name means seagulls’ nesting place in the Inuktitut language, so it comes as no surprise that Naujaat, Nunavut , is an incredible place for bird watching. There are approximately 100 species in the area. Wildlife figures prominently in local art, and Naujaat is renowned for its Inuit artists, who create sculpture in ivory, soapstone, marble, bone, and antlers.

Want even more breathtaking nature? Experience the northern lights from a private teepee in Canada’s Aurora Village near Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

Image of Vanessa Chiasson

Vanessa Chiasson is an award-winning freelance writer, editor, and blogger from Canada bringing warmth and depth to travel and human interest narratives. In the industry since 2012, Vanessa coaches writers from all backgrounds, areas of focus, and experience levels on developing business strategies that support their artistic endeavors. She chronicles her cozy travel adventures at TurnipseedTravel .

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25 Best Small Towns In BC To Visit

Stewart - small town to visit in BC

How many times have you driven through small towns in BC on your way to ‘somewhere’, only to find out later that you missed something interesting or special? That sure can be disappointing, especially if you’re unlikely to visit that area again. Hopefully, my collection of small towns in BC will get you to stop next time you drive through one of the towns.

small cities in canada to visit

I’m on the road a lot in my home province of British Columbia and I have visited many more small towns in BC than the ones mentioned here. This made it a real challenge to choose the most unique small towns in British Columbia to add to my list.

Here you have it, my selection of 25 unique small towns in BC to visit with a short overview and reasons why you should visit them.

Many other small towns in British Columbia are worth a visit. Some are located close to the ones I mentioned. Don’t miss out, stop at all places along the way and you will be surprised by what you will find.

In this selection, I included mostly small towns in British Columbia that are not on the official tourist routes. Some of the places will be out of the way. Please do your research and be prepared before heading out. Read more: Road Trip Planner for the Wilderness

Unique Small Towns In BC

Facts About Small Towns In British Columbia

Table of Contents

British Columbia is the third largest and most westerly province in Canada. It is larger than France and Germany combined, or almost four times the size of Great Britain. The length of BC’s coastline is over 27,000 km. 

That of course means that the 25 small towns to visit in BC can’t be achieved during a two-week vacation. Start with getting to know one region at a time and you will discover many unique towns you never knew existed.

25 Unique Small Towns In BC To Visit

1. lumby bc.

Lumby, one of my favourite small towns   in BC to visit

Lumby was my hometown for twenty-plus years and deserves to be the first one on my list. This unique small country town was a Canadian adventure destination for many, while I operated Silver Spur Trails Wilderness Guest Ranch in the Mabel Lake Valley.

Lumby is the getaway to the Monashee and the region is a hiker’s paradise with over 100 nearby trails. The many lakes invite you to fish, swim and enjoy watersports. It is easy to spot wildlife in the surrounding backcountry.

Don’t just rush through this unique BC town. A drive out to Mabel Lake Provincial Park and Echo Lake is a must to get a taste of what this special place is all about. What about wilderness camping at one of the forestry campgrounds for a night?

Read more: Lumby BC, North Okanagan

Lumby Bucket List:

  • Follow the Salmon Trail for a leisurely, scenic stroll through Lumby.
  • Venture to Monashee Provincial Park for serious hiking trails with awe-inspiring views and pristine lakes.
  • Chasing Waterfalls at Shuswap Falls, Brenda Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Cascade Falls.
  • Visit Mabel Lake Provincial Park for sandy beaches, watersports, hiking, and camping.
  • Head to Echo Lake Provincial Park, an idyllic small lake perfect for a canoe or kayak.

2. Silverton

Silverton, Kootenay small town in BC to visit

Silverton, a tiny gem on the east shore of Slocan Lake, 5 km south of New Denver is a great small town in BC for a relaxing break. The area was first settled in 1892 by the arrival of lead and silver miners working the south face of Idaho Mountain.

With a population of nearly 195 people, Silverton is British Columbia’s second smallest municipality. As you can guess it’s hard to get lost in this little town! Silverton has a lakeshore campground with a boat launch if you decide to spend a night.

Read more: Backcountry Camping

Bucket List Silverton:

  • Have a stroll around town and enjoy the beautiful heritage buildings.
  • Stop at Silverton Day Park overlooking the lake.
  • Camp for the night at the Lakeshore Campground.

3. New Denver

Denver West-Kootenay cool town to visit in BC

The small BC town of Denver, and other surrounding communities, are where hundreds of Canadians of Japanese heritage were brought during the Second World War. The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre in New Denver is the only interpretive centre in Canada dedicated to the history of this tragic story.

New Denver had a number of abandoned houses from the boom times, but many more small dwellings were built to house the 2,000 men, women, and children of Japanese origins. Some of these tiny houses still exist today.

Read more: West-Kootenay Route

Bucket List New Denver:

  • Visit the Silvery Slogan Museum.
  • Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, tells the sad story of over 22,000 Japanese Canadians.
  • Kohan Reflection Garden is a Japanese-type garden with a beautiful tea house.
  • Take a walk or cycle the 8 km Galena Trail, an old railway bed that extends from Rosebery to Three Forks.
  • Wilson Creek Falls, a short easy hike leading to a beautiful 100+ foot waterfall.

Ghost Town of Sandon unique small town in British Columbia

Don’t miss out on a detour to Sandon, one of the best small towns to visit in BC.

If you’re a history buff, interested in abandoned buildings and old artifacts, old the ghost town of Sandon in British Columbia has to be on your bucket list. There was a time when Sandon was a thriving mining community. But when the silver ran out, it quickly lost its fame. After a fire in the early 1900s and later followed by two major floods, much of the town was burned down and washed away.

Today, less than a handful of people live permanently in Sandon. It’s free to walk around and visit the fire hall, the old abandoned busses, and abandoned buildings and tour the operational hydroelectric station.

Meet Vida and Hal and get inspired by their story and how they fight and work hard to keep the town alive. Sanden is located a short drive from New Denver.

small cities in canada to visit

Bucket List Sandon:

  • Rent a campsite right on the river and stay for the night.
  • Experience the ghost town at night when the reflections of ghosts dance along the walls of the old City Hall.
  • In the morning have breakfast at 14th Mountain Bistro.
  • Drop in at Prospector’s Pick Gift Shop.
  • Take a tour of Silversmith Power Hydroelectric Power Station.
  • Check out the Canadian Brill Trolley National Collection.
  • Visit the museum, operated by the Sandon History Society.
  • Take a drive to Cody, another ghost town just up the road.

Salmo BC special place to visit in British Columbia

Salmo, another beautiful small town in BC to visit was originally just a whistle-stop on the historic Nelson/Fort Shepherd Railway. At the turn of the last century, it became a centre for supplies and entertainment for prospectors, miners, and loggers.

Today Salmo is a quaint town at the junction of two highways. Fishing and swimming holes are there to be discovered along the picturesque Salmo River. It’s a playground for outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, and BMXing at the ski hill. There is also the 48 km stretch of the old railway line that connects Nelson, Ymir, and Salmo.

Bucket List Salmo:

  • Visit the Salmo Museum for mining artifacts and historic information on the Dewdney Trail.
  • Take a stroll around town and look out for the rock murals.
  • Use the pedestrian bridge across Salmon River and head to Springboard Park.
  • Go on a strenuous 3 km hike to the Delaurentis Bluffs Lookout.
  • Take Sheep Creek Road 8 km south of town which takes you to the Sheep Creek Mines, an abandoned gold mining town.

6. Greenwood

Greenwood, romantic Canadian small town in BC to visit

If you dwell on the image of a romantic Canadian town, you should definitely visit Greenwood BC. Greenwood is a historic small town with approximately 675 residents and is located in the Boundary region of British Columbia. It is Canada’s official smallest city (and yes, there is Keno City in the Yukon, but that one is unofficial). Greenwood’s history goes back to 1891 with the discovery of gold, silver, and copper.

Today, Greenwood is a great destination for history buffs. Greenwood is the gateway to the Great Trail and has a large trail network to offer for any skill level. A visit to the museum is a must. Pick up pamphlets and maps of the area.

Read more: Boundary Travel Guide

Bucket List Greenwood:

  • Stop in at the Greenwood Museum.
  • Take a self-guided Heritage Walking Tour through the downtown core.
  • A guided tour of the Courthouse located at city hall is a must.
  • Visit the old Phoenix Cemetery on the road to Phoenix, about 7 km from Greenwood.

Oliver, wine capital of Canada unique small town in BC

Oliver is another one of British Columbia’s hidden gems. The town is known as Canada’s Wine Capital and therefore is the place to go for wine tasting. On top of that, the town is rich in culture and has excellent cuisine. You can trust my word, as it was my home for a couple of years.

Oliver is close to Osoyoos BC and less touristy. Here you are close to lakes and many hiking and biking trails.

Read more: Oliver BC – Outdoor Travel Guide

small cities in canada to visit

Bucket List Oliver:

  • Check out Oliver’s Movie Theatre on Main Street, the best little Theatre far and wide.
  • Visit the Museum and look into local history.
  • Walk or bike along the Okanagan River Canal.
  • Camp at one of the nearby Lakes.
  • Stop at the local wineries.
  • Stock up on fresh produce at the many fruit stands.
  • Visit Fairview Historic Site.

Hedley, Most unique small town in British Columbia to visit

Famous for gold since its first discovery in 1897, Headley was once a thriving mining boomtown during the 1900s.

Numerous Historic Sites and buildings let you peek into the past. You can reach them by car or foot, including a 1904 miner’s cottage, a Historic Log Barn, the Blacksmith Shop, as well as the Mascot Mine buildings. Take a stroll through small town Hedley’s Historic Cemetery to get an idea of who lived in these buildings. Maps are available at the museum.

Bucket List Headly:

  • Learn about the mining history at the Headley Museum.
  • Pan for gold at the Hedley Heritage Museum.
  • Check out Hedley’s Historic Sites.
  • Tour the historic Mascot Mine high above Hedley.

9. Coalmont

Coalmont BC, mining history and bucket list town to visit in BC

Coalmont was a coal mining town established in 1910 and the Historic Colemont Hotel still stands today. Driving into town is like stepping back in time. Old buildings from historic times are lining the main street. Nearby you will find the gold-mining ghost town of Granite City and the ghost town of Blakeburn. The Forestry Campground at Granite City is a great place to use as a base to explore this interesting place.

Bucket List Coalmont and Granite Creek:

  • Stop at the entrance of the town and check out the unique welcome signs and town information.
  • Walk along the main street and admire the old buildings.
  • Drive to Granite Creek, known as Granite City by locals.
  • Camp at Granite Creek Recreation Site.
  • At Granite Creek, visit the old ghost town and follow the interpretive signs.
  • Walk up to the old cemetery on the hill.
  • Cool off in the Tulameen River.

10. Tulameen

Tulameen unique town in British Columbia

Tulameen is a beautiful hidden gem to visit in British Columbia. Located on the southern end of Otter Lake on Coalmont Road past the village of Coalmont it is heaven for outdoor enthusiasts.

You can access the Trans Canada Trail from here as well as several other trails with various levels of difficulty and terrain. There are more than forty good trout fishing lakes in the area, as well as the Similkameen and Tulameen rivers.

Tulameen has an excellent public beachfront and boat launch.

Otter Lake Provincial Park is 5 km north of Tulameen and is a great place to camp. The Cascade Mountain Range surrounds the park and includes awesome canyons and clear mountain streams.

Bucket List Tulameen:

  • Cycle along the Great Trai (Trans Canada Trail.
  • Hike the many scenic trails in the area.
  • Camp at Otter Lake and enjoy the beach.
  • Try gold panning at the Tulameen River.
  • Hike the Rice Historic Trail, a 4 km return trip.
  • Visit Tulameen Falls, 30 km on the Tulameen FSR.

11. Merritt

Merritt BC, country music

Before Merritt was known as the Country Music Capital of Canada, locals used to rave about the beautiful Nicola Valley with their slogan “a lake a day, as long as you stay”. Once you spend a day at one of the many lakes in Nicola Valley, you will know why the old slogan is still true.

Merritt is rich with Country Music Legend Murals and Walk of Star handprints throughout town. Country music inspires the country lifestyle, and with the huge surrounding ranch land, you know that you’re in Cowboy Country.

Once you start exploring the area around Merritt, you don’t want to leave.

Read more: BC Road trip Merritt to Kamloops Highway 5A

Bucket List Merritt:

  • Visit the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
  • Walk the walk of Merritt Walk of Stars and the Country Legends Murals.
  • Spend time at Nicola Valley Museum and Archives.
  • Spend a day at Monck Provincial Park.
  • Camp at Lundbom Lake.
  • Kentucky Alleyne Provincial Park is another great place for overnight camping.

12. Lillooet

Lillooet British Columbia -  small towns in BC

Lillooet was founded as Mile 0 on the wagon road leading to the Cariboo and Barkerville gold fields and was the centre of the gold rush during the mid-1800s.

Today, a cairn sits on Main Street marking “Mile 0” of the historic trail. Formerly known as Cayoosh Canyon, Lillooet is one of the oldest communities in British Columbia.

This small BC town is surrounded by rugged mountain peaks with lakes, desert country, and the mighty Fraser River making this a unique place.

Bridge of the Twenty-Three Camels is the official name of the highway bridge crossing the Fraser River. Camels were introduced to the area in 1862 as fright animals. Unfortunately, the camel era didn’t last long and today the bridge honours their memory.

There is so much to see and do in this historic old town in BC. With all the camp and accommodation options you might as well stay for at least a couple of night.

Read more: Guaranteed Rugged Rail Journey

Lillooet Bucket List:

  • Visit the Lillooet Museum and Visitor Centre, situated in a former Anglican church.
  • Pick up a self-guided walking tour map for the Golden Miles History walking tour.
  • Walk the “Jade Walk” downtown showcasing an impressive variety of jade boulders.
  • Visit the Miyazaki Heritage House, known as the most beautiful house in Lillooet.
  • Book a tour to visit historical fishing grounds and learn how salmon was dried.
  • Stop in at the Fort Berens Estate Winery.
  • Hop on the Kaoham Shuttle , the train that runs between Lillooet and Seton Portage.

13. Clinton

Scene of Clinton BC

Clinton is a charming small town on the Cariboo Highway with western-type heritage buildings, a beautiful little church, and antique shops to wander around in. Explore nearby provincial parks or stay at one of the guest ranches for a horseback riding adventure.

Clinton and its surrounding area have a rich history full of stories and changes. Settlement occurred in the mid-1800s with the discovery of gold and the development of the Cariboo wagon road.

Bucket List Clinton:

  • Visit the Clinton Museum.
  • Stroll around town and hunt for some treasures at one of the antique stores.
  • Detour to the famous Gang Ranch, 45 km north of Clinton, one of the largest ranches in North America for many years.
  • Stay at one of the nearby guest ranches and ride the range.
  • Visit Painted Chasm, 15 km north of Clinton.

Read the books to learn about the Gang Ranch:

  • The incredible Gang Ranch by Dale Alsager
  • Gang Ranch The Real Story by Judy Alsager

Small towns BC to visit - Likely and Likely Hotel, BC

Likely is a small rural community in the Cariboo Region, nestled in the foothills of the Cariboo Mountains. This area played an important role during the Cariboo Gold Rush of 1859. The region used to be so rich in gold that it was known as the Nugget Patch.

Today Likely is a friendly small rural town with a population of around 350 people.

In the surrounding areas of this small town in BC, you will find many crystal-clear lakes and rivers. It’s heaven for recreational activities and backcountry camping.

Likely is the gateway to the Cariboo Mountains and a unique small town in BC you don’t want to miss. The “ Backroad through Barkerville ” is a wilderness scenic trip that allows you to travel through sub-alpine meadows and view thundering waterfalls.

The small town of Likely is not on any tourist route and is a bit out of the way. Of course, this makes it even more appealing to visit and explore.

Read more: Camping at the Ghost Town of Quesnel Forks

small cities in canada to visit

Bucket List Likely:

  • Stop at the scenic Cedar Point Park. 
  • Check out the largest man-made bullion pit in North America
  • Take a side trip to Quesnel Forks .
  • Visit Horsefly Provincial Park and camp.
  • Drive the wilderness road through the Cariboo Mountains.

15. Barkerville

Barkerville the must visit of the small towns in British Columbia

Billy Barker’s legendary gold strike on Williams Creek in 1862 brought fortune seekers from around the world into the remote wilderness.

Today Barkerville Historic Town is a Canadian National Historic Site and British Columbia’s best-known heritage destination. 125 restored buildings are on display with knowledgeable historic interpreters guiding you through Barkerville’s rich history. The town is full of activities, interactive lessons, storytelling, theatrical performances, gold panning, stagecoach rides, and more!

  • Historic Barkerville
  • Barkerville Highway 26 Travel Guide
  • Wilderness Road Trip through the Cariboo Mountains

Bucket List Barkerville:

  • Enjoy a show at Theatre Royal.
  • Take a horse-drawn stagecoach tour of the town.
  • Live a true Gold Rush experience, at the Eldorado Gold Panning.
  • Go for a walk on the historic Williams Creek Nature Trail.

Wells BC historic buildings - small towns British Columbia

The mountain town of Wells in British Columbia was built when the promise of more gold attracted new gold seekers in 1927 with the population reaching over 4000 people in the 1940s.

With fewer than 300 year-round residents in Wells today, the small community of Wells has become the home for artists and outdoor enthusiasts. Many of the heritage buildings have been restored, including the Wells Hotel and the Sunset Theatre, where you can enjoy live music, live theatre, and concerts all through the summer.

  • Wells BC on the Gold Rush Trail

Bucket List Wells:

  • Visit the Wells Museum to take a step back to the glory days.
  • Explore the remains of the ghost town of Stanley 13 km west of Wells.
  • Jack O’ Clubs Lake is a great place to canoe, swim, sail, or fish.

16. Fort St. James

small cities in canada to visit

Fort St. James is located on the shores of Stuart Lake, and it is the gateway to recreation in the great northern backcountry. Here you will find a welcoming community where you can relax on the beach, and enjoy some of the most beautiful sunsets around.

Only at Fort St. James, British Columbia – a chicken race you can bet on. What a blast! And what a crowd! You heard right, Fort St. James has WORLD CLASS Chicken Racing – Place your bets and win Chicken Bucks! 

Bucket List Fort St. James:

  • Enjoy Fort St. James National Historic Site.
  • Make a bet in a Chicken race.
  • This is the place to be if you’re a rock hound! Stoll the beach for semi-precious stones.
  • Check out Cottonwood Park.
  • Visit Our Lady of Good Hope Church.

18. Bella Coola

Welcome to Bella Coola

Chilcotin Highway 20 from Williams Lake runs 465 km to Bella Coola, a small wilderness town in a fantastic setting. You will be in for a surprise when you leave the Chilcotin plateau and get to the bottom of the notorious Hill, a windy and steep stretch of gravel road.

There is plenty to see and do in the Bella Coola. Bella Coola’s wildlife sights are some of the best in British Columbia. From Bear Viewing to Bird Watching, Bella Coola’s Wildlife will amaze you. It’s like a vast, wilderness viewing stage.

The lush meadows, dense forests, and high mountain ranges are home to grizzly and black bears, blacktail deer, wolves, cougars, and mountain goats.

Learn about Bella Coola Valley’s rich history while you’re in town and get a real feel for this spiritual place.

Read more: The Road to Bella Coola

small cities in canada to visit

Bucket List Bella Coola:

  • Learn about the varied history of the valley at the Bella Coola Museum.
  • Visit Clayton Falls.
  • Hire a guide to see the Petroglyphs.
  • Book a wildlife viewing tour.
  • Check out the Art House Gallery.
  • Visit the Norwegian Heritage House in Hagenborg.

Small Towns To Visit in Northern British Columbia

19. hazelton.

Historic Hazelton BC- unique small towns in BC

The frontier spirit lives on in Hazelton. The restored heritage buildings of the “Old Town” serve as a reminder of the days when Hazelton was the commercial centre of the Northwest wilderness.

From 1886 to 1913, Hazelton was the upriver terminus for a fleet of sternwheelers when the Skeena River was the transportation route for people and goods.

Today, Old Hazelton is a reconstructed pioneer town complete with a Trading Post, Barber Shop, Cafe, and City Hall buildings plus a sternwheeler on display on the Skeena River. The region is a great destination for remote wilderness activities and camping and First Nation Culture.

Read more: Hazelton BC – a journey through time

Bucket List Hazelton:

  • Park your car and walk across Hagwilget Canyon Bridge
  • Spend time at Ksan Historical Village and Museum, walk through longhouses and learn the history.
  • Visit Ross Lake Provincial Park and take the trail around the lake.
  • Kitwanga, a side trip from Hazelton to see outstanding carved cedar poles and St. Paul’s Anglican Church, was built in 1893. It is also the site of Gitwangak Battle Hill National Historic Site of Canada.

20. Prince Rupert

small cities in canada to visit

Another end-of-the-road small town you don’t want to miss, is Prince Rupert, a colourful coastal town on British Columbia’s wild and beautiful Northwest Coast. Here is where you can board a ship to Alaska, Vancouver Island, or Haida Gwaii if you have a reservation or stick around for a few days.

To stick around was my plan, but after two days of pouring rain, I gave up and left. On a sunny day, this harbour town would be a jewel to explore. Check the weather forecast before driving all this way.

Plan your trip with The Milepost Road Planner

Bucket List Prince Ruppert:

  • Take a stroll along the waterfront District of Cow Bay.
  • Watch out for the totem poles around town and murals.
  • Visit Sunken Gardens Park, a local treasure.
  • For an easy hike, head down Rushbrook Trail.
  • Butze Rapids Trail is a 4.5 km loop starting 3 km south of town.
  • Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary is home to more than 50 of the giants.
  • Spend some time in the Northern Museum of BC
  • Visit Historic North Pacific Cannery, located in Port Edward, just a short drive from Prince Rupert.

21. Gitwinksihlkw

Gitwinksihlkw  Suspension Bridge

Gitwinksihlkw is one of the four villages on the Nisga’a Highway 113. From Terrace, BC Nisga’a Highway takes you through the Nass Valley on an amazing 170 km drive. This off-the-beaten-track highway is not mentioned in any of my travel books. You will pass First Nations settlements along rivers and mountains and through a volcanic landscape. I can’t even imagine!

For years, the community of Gitwinksihlkw was accessible only by suspension footbridge. Today, a modern vehicle bridge provides direct access. Watch out for the four totem poles flanking the bridge.

Bucket List Gitwinksihlkw:

  • Walk across Ukws-Ts’agat, the suspension footbridge.
  • Stop at the village entrance bridge to take a picture.
  • Inquire at the village office about hiking trails and viewpoints.
  • Visit the other three villages on Nisga’a Highway 13.

22. Stewart

Stewart Northern BC

Stewart, this unique small BC town located at the head of the historic 90-mile-long Portland Canal is surrounded by rich forests and Cambria ice fields. On the way to Stewart, you will see glacier formations overlooking the highway and most probably encounter bears crossing the road.

From Stewart, continue the short drive to Hyder Alaska, Stewart’s border town to see Salmon Glacier, the world’s largest road-accessible glacier.

You can get there driving the Salmon Glacier Road from Hyder, Alaska. Navigating around the potholes will get you to the Summit Viewpoint and you will be rewarded with spectacular views.

Read more: Stewart BC Hyder Alaska Travel Guide

Bucket List Stewart:

  • Walk through the Estuary along the boardwalk to enjoy great views out to the bay.
  • Visit the local museum.
  • Take a short trip to Clements Lake for a dip or a picnic.
  • Visit the neighbouring border town of Hyder, Alaska.
  • Venture on the epic drive to Bear Glacier Provincial Park.
  • Spend some time at the Fish Creek Wildlife viewing platform (Hyder Alaska).

23. Telegraph Creek

Telegraph Creek BC

Telegraph Creek is a small town in BC with roughly 250 permanent residents offering only basic services.

To get to the small town of Telegraph Creek in British Columbia you need to conquer 150 km of gravel driving, steep gradients (up to 20 percent), narrow passages along canyon walls, and sharply angled switchbacks. I was glad I had a 4WD and no motorhome or trailer to pull.

The Stikine Valley is home to the Tahlthan First Nation. In summer families gather at traditional fish camps along the Stikine River to catch and put up salmon.

The Stikine route was used to haul men and equipment to build the airport at Watson Lake during World War II with riverboats and trucks running to and from Dease Lake. The last riverboat made her final voyage in 1969.

small cities in canada to visit

Read more: Stewart-Cassiar Hwy 37 Highway Travel Guide

Bucket List Telegraph Creek:

  • Enjoy the epic drive to Telegraph Creek.
  • Stroll the streets of Telegraph Creek and imagine the sights of the paddle wheelers on the Stikine River during the gold rush era.
  • Take in the sight of deserted buildings as well as restored ones dating back a century or more. The original Hudson’s Bay Company Store has been turned into a cafe, general store, and lodge.
  • Go river boating on the Stikine River with an experienced river tour operator.

24. Jade City/Cassiar

Jade City on Stewart Cassiar Highway, uniqye small town to visit in BC

Jade City is named for the extensive jade deposits found nearby and offers a glimpse into jade mining. Not so much of a city, but a special “spot on the road” in the Cassiar Highlands of northwestern British Columbia, on Highway 37 near Yukon .

With a population of approximately 20 people, the family-run jade mining operation is a stop of particular interest on the Stewart Cassiar Highway. The owners of the Cassiar Mountain Jade Store are experts in everything from prospecting to carving this beautiful stone.

Enjoy free coffee, free camping, and free Internet.

Bucket List Jade City

  • Spend time at the Cassiar Mountain Jade Store and learn about the area and jade mining. This is a great place to buy beautiful souvenirs.
  • Visit the ghost town of Cassiar, an old asbestos mining town 10 km west of the highway.
  • There are old mining trails into the mountains for the adventure seeker. Ask at the store.
  • Look out for Thinhorn mountain sheep, mountain goats, caribou, and moose in the area.

Atlin BC Million Dollar View and a special small towns in BC to visit

No wonder the remote community of Atlin on the eastern shore of Atlin Lake in the far northwestern tip of British Columbia is known as “Little Switzerland”. Atlin is a pretty unique small town in BC and worth a visit. By road, you only can get to this beautiful small British Columbia town from Yukon .

While there, make sure to hike up to the top of Monarch Mountain, a spectacular 4-hour hike with a million-dollar view.

Read more: Atlin BC Travel Guide

Bucket List Atlin:

  • Try Gold panning on Pine Creek.
  • Enjoy bird watching at the lagoon at the end of First Street in Atlin.
  • Mountain biking at its best on old forestry roads and mining roads.
  • Motorboating, canoeing, and kayaking on the lakes around Atlin.
  • Try white water kayaking.
  • Check out glacier flights, boat charters, guided tours, and heliskiing.
  • Monarch Mountain is a 4-hour hike with spectacular views.

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small cities in canada to visit

Yrene lives in the Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places. I write about things I love. Mostely.

Wow, you’ve been a busy girl !!!

No wonder we haven’t heard much from you. Excellent job ! Looking forward to reading it in detail while under the covers one night.

Thanks, Camper Ken! Yes, I have to take advantage of these cold, dark winter days to produce new useful content. So much to do and so little time. I just don’t get much done when I’m on the road. Merry Christmas to you!

Glen Shadlock

Wow…there’s like 14 I have never been to…I do plan on exploring our Beautiful Province and Alberta more this summer. Cool blog..👍🇨🇦

Thanks for the feedback, Glen. I’m sure glad you got inspired by my blog. Now, thinking of it… Armstrong BC and Enderby would have been two more special places for my collection. But I had to stop somewhere. Merry Christmas to you!

Nastassia ljungh

Bear glacier is actually in Canada 🙂 when you drive through hyder, after the bear sanctuary (where the gravel road starts) you actually enter back into Canada!

Thanks for that correction Nastassia. How cool is that! Such an amazing place.

Looks like you travel and have been very busy around B.C. just a quick correction, its SLOCAN LAKE not SLOGAN i’m sure you have had more people correct this as well . No biggy just read your article which was great and seen this.

Thanks, Shawn for the correction. Unfortunately, my income from the website is not enough to hire a proofreader yet! I always appreciate knowing that people out there actually read my stuff, which makes my efforts worthwhile. All the best to you!

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The 18 Most Charming Small Towns in Canada to Explore

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There is a saying- Good Things Often Come in Small Packages . I completely agree with it. If I talk about many people’s dream holiday destination- Canada, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?

I am sure you have immediately started thinking of some of the big and fascinating cities like Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, etc, etc.. And many of you have already been there, so what’s next?

Let me add this, while the big cities are fascinating, the small towns provide solace in the hidden beauty and a unique experience. Waking up to birds chirping in the background, the constant calmness in the surroundings, and watching a mesmerizing sunset can make your day. But in Canada, you are never far from its scenery. So, buckle up for some of the best small towns in Canada. Who knows, you might find your next trip destination!

1. Dawson City, Yukon

Dawson is a beautiful small city with a very small population of about 1400 residents. Most of the streets are calm, and you will forget the concept of traffic here. When visiting, you can check out places like art galleries, historical monuments, local theatres, and much more. One of the most fascinating things about the small town is that all the buildings maintain the 19th-century visual fashion , taking you back in time as soon as you step foot in!

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Visit Dawson City (@visitdawsoncity)

2. Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec City

If you love the natural beauty you must visit Baie-Saint-Paul. Situated on the shores of the St. Lawrence River, it can be counted as one of the best places for adventures as well as food. You must explore its historic buildings such as the 1714 Église de Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul which adds charm to the already beautiful town. This town is the perfect place for every type of artist!

3. Jasper, Alberta

small cities in canada to visit

If you are someone who loves adventures, then Jasper, which has a little more than 4000 inhabitants, is the best town for you. I enjoyed a lot there on my last trip. It offers the alpine lakes, dog sledging, wildlife tours, ice skating , and more. I highly recommend you take a tour of Columbia Icefields . This is something you must not miss out on as it fulfils many people’s wishes, providing them with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You should also try out the water rafting on the Athabasca River; you will not only enjoy the view but also have fun!

4. Victoria-by-the-Sea, Prince Edward Island

Victoria-by-the-Sea is the smallest town in Canada, with fewer than 100 inhabitants. It is also the best seaside town that Prince Edward Island has to offer. The best time to visit is in the summer, when people migrate here and add to its fun, rather than in winter when it is very quiet.

5. Banff, Alberta

banff

If you’ve been waiting for a town that fulfils your aesthetic-worthy sceneries, Banff is the perfect place. It has breathtaking views and amazing adventures that you can try out. The Cave and Basin Hot Springs were the first hot springs created when the town was advertised as a spa resort. This picturesque place offers a lot of charm and an abundance of jaw-dropping wildlife and beauty. While visiting Banff, you can try mountain biking, kayaking, and soaking in the area’s natural beauty.

6. Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

Being one of the fastest-growing towns out of all the small towns, Mahone Bay is located in  Nova Scotia  and has a population of a little over  1000 inhabitants . It is known specifically for its three churches, but there is more to that. Visit artisan studios like Amos Pewter to see local artisans turn pewter into handcrafted pieces. Check out local breweries, like Saltbox Brewing Co., to get a taste of the town. If you love nature and hiking trails, then you can visit the lakeside trail. Check small shops around the area for unique souvenirs, coffee, food, and much more!

7. St. Andrews by the Sea, New Brunswick

If you are on your way to Canada’s iconic Fundy National Park, then St. Andrews by the Sea is the perfect place for you to stop. You can even sit down and catch sight of whales. I suggest you visit Minister’s Island to explore all the historic houses. You can also go whale watching along with other animals at Island Quest Marine.

8. Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Peggys Cove Lighthouse (@peggyscovelighthouse)

This small town is known for its picturesque coastal beauty; Peggy’s Cove was founded in 1811 by 6 German families. When visiting Peggy’s Cove, it is recommended that you not swim and be careful not to walk on wet and dark rocks as it can be dangerous and rather walk on the dry, white rocks. The ocean waves are unpredictable; therefore, it is recommended that you stay away from ocean water and be cautious.

9. Churchill, Manitoba

Churchill is famous among nature-loving people from all over the globe. It is also known for its whale watching and northern lights. This small town is described as one being on the edge of the Arctic. You can do many things here in this small town, like kayaking, flying over the Arctic, or even just sitting back and enjoying a good bonfire, fulfilling food, and whale watching. And yes, how can you miss the polar bears there?

10. Tofino, British Columbia

tofino

Tofino  is a famous coastal town and a well-known place for adventure enthusiasts. It is situated in the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation around the UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve, which makes it the perfect spot for every nature lover to come and enjoy.

  • Start your journey by visiting the long Pacific Rim National Park beach.
  • Hike through the rainforests to beaches and coves.
  • Go kayaking around Clayoquot, whale watching, surfing on the beaches, and check the botanical gardens out.

11. Mabou, Nova Scotia

With a little over 1200 inhabitants, located south of Cape Berton Highlands National Park is this charming town. Mabou is known specifically for its music , whether it is in the form of live music or the form of family square dance. You should be ready to experience some of the best Scottish music. This small town has seasonal markets, music, and exceptionally tasty seafood. While in  Mabou , you must check out various places like Mabou Harbour Lighthouse.

12. Elora, Ontario

You need to take a small drive from Toronto to visit Elora. On reaching there, you will feel like you are worlds apart from a large city. Enjoy adventures like hiking, water sports like kayaking, and floating down the Grand River using a tube. However, the main attraction for tourists is the Elora Gorge Conservation Area. Elora also hosts a Rockfest every summer that showcases music from artists from Canada and beyond.

13. Trinity, Newfoundland

Trinity is a small town rich in history and theatre, offering a lot of things like saltbox houses, theatre traditions, and a national historic site . I will tell you why it is a popular destination. It is filled with history and beautifully preserved saltbox houses. When in Trinity, you can visit St. Paul’s Anglican Church , and watch a production in the Rising Tide Theatre . If you want to spend some time outside, you can also check out the Gun Hill trail for a short hike.

14. Squamish, British Columbia

small cities in canada to visit

With its small but rapidly growing population, Squamish, at over 19,000 inhabitants, is a place you should not miss out on. One thing you will love about this town is the plethora of outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, kiteboarding, and so much more. You will not be able to get enough of this place as it offers great activities and exquisite locally-made goods and treats.

15. Summerside, Prince Edward Island

Summerside, Prince Edward Island

Summerside became a town back in 1877 and though it is small in size, it is the second-largest ‘city ’ in Canada on Prince Edward Island with lots to do here. You can learn so much about the town’s history by checking out the Wyatt Historic House Museum, which showcases Summerside’s past. You can also see plays at the Harbourfront Theatre , eat delicious food and drink and shop at local shops.

16. Goderich, Ontario

Called Canada’s prettiest town , Goderich was founded in 1828 and was named after the British President of the time. The name, prettiest town in Canada, was supposedly given by Queen Elizabeth II herself. There are many historic buildings and attractions like the Huron County Museum and Huron Historic Gaol that you must check out. However, if you are more adventurous, you will be more attracted to the pretty beaches and amazing hiking options in Goderich.

17.  Ucluelet, British Columbia

With a population of around 1700 people , Ucluelet is a beautiful place to visit. Situated on the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island, it offers a lot of attractions like surfing, beautiful beaches, fishing opportunities, whale watching, and much more, with less crowds so that you can have the best time.

18. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Saving the best for last, Niagara-on-the-lake is known as  ‘the loveliest town in Canada’,  with a population of over  17,000 inhabitants . Situated on the southern shores of  Lake Ontario , not far from Niagara Falls, it is famous as a popular tourist destination, especially in summer. You can do a lot in Niagara on the lake, like visit the oldest Catholic and Anglican Churches in Ontario named St. Vincent de Paul and St. Mark’s Church . In case you are visiting between April and November, you can also experience the world-class Shaw Festival, a theatre festival that takes place every year.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Tourism Niagara-on-the-Lake (@visitniagaraonthelake)

Canada is full of big cities but also charming small towns, valleys, national parks, and much more. You can see jaw-dropping wildlife and also enjoy shopping at the local farmer’s market. I can assure you that you will love visiting there.

Last Updated on April 11, 2024 by Pragya Chakrapani

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  • 13 Most Charming Small Towns In Canada

Canada: The True North, Strong and Free. Like any great nation, Canada is known for its large cities, each with its own unique history, attractions, and diverse weather seasons. From the eastern centers of Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax to the western hubs of Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Edmonton, Canada's cities are a defining feature of what makes it an extraordinary country. But what about the smaller, lesser-known towns? In the shadow of the large cities, it is easy to overlook these sometimes-remote communities with small populations. Yet a closer examination of them reveals all the charm and beauty associated with the great north, without all the busyness of the big metropolises. Here are 13 of the most charming small towns in Canada. 

Nelson, British Columbia

Nelson, British Columbia

Silver was discovered at Toad Mountain in 1886, near the mountainous town of Nelson; it was the first major boom period for the town that today still attracts visitors looking to get a glimpse of 19th-century life. Indeed many of the buildings from the boom period have been restored and promoted as tourist centers, giving Nelson a unique charm and feeling of post-Confederation Canada; it has been called "The Queen City."Of course, Nelson is also a modern town with plenty of galleries, restaurants, shops, schools, and other festivals; summertime is particularly known for the Market Fest, a nighttime market with music, food, and entertainment for all every Friday in the months of summer. 

Churchill, Manitoba

The life of polar bears around Churchill, Canada

Located on the west shore of the Hudson Bay , the northern Manitoba town of Churchill is amongst the most uniquely Canadian locations in the nation. It is not uncommon to see the northern lights, or even some polar bears or a beluga whale or two in Churchill, and its close ties to Inuk culture make it a special point of connection between the old and new Canada. Affectionately known as the "Polar Bear Capital of the World," the first Hudson's Bay Company settlement was built in Churchill in 1717; among the historical sites of significance, still visible include the Prince of Wales Fort built more than 250 years ago. 

Goderich, Ontario

View at the lighthouse in Goderich. It is the oldest Canadian light station on Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada.

"Canada's Prettiest Town," at least according to its own motto, Goderich's predated Confederation in 1867; founded in 1828 and named after British Prime Minister, The Viscount Goderich, visitors will find an array of early Canadian history in the town; perhaps the most fascinating or even spooky of stops to visit includes the Huron Historic Gaol built in 1839, a notorious prison that was the site of the last public hanging in Canada, before its closure in 1972.There are also three beaches in the town for the more outdoors-minded visitor, sure to satisfy any sun lover! 

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia

Peggy's cove, Nova Scotia

For its stunning and picturesque coastal beauty, Peggy's Cove is a hot spot for Canadians and foreigners alike; situated on the Atlantic Coast, this small settlement was founded back in 1811 by a group of six German immigrant families. With a long history of being a fishing town, Peggy's Cove has an abundant display of tiny wooden fishing sheds that define the landscape.Combined with its rocky coastline and beautiful blue skies, it is like stepping into a postcard. And of course, one cannot forget to visit the famous Lighthouse, which has guided those on the sea since 1868. 

Drumheller, Alberta

Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia

If you are looking for dinosaurs, then look no further than this "Dinosaur Capital," located in the heart of the Alberta Badlands. It is home to the world-famous Royal Tyrell Museum, boasting a collection of over 160,00 fossils and other prehistoric material. The Museum is a must-stop for anyone with even a passing interest in geological history.The Badlands rock formations, including the famous Hoodoos, also transport visitors millions of years in the past; with hiking trails galore, there is plenty to enjoy in the outdoors in Drumheller, located just 100 kilometers from Calgary.

Summerside, Prince Edward Island

Summerside, Canada

Like many places in the Atlantic Provinces , Summerside is a quaint and picturesque postcard. Buildings in vibrant colors including pink, orange, and yellow fill out the scenery, while visitors can take a stroll down Spinnaker's Landing, an old-time fishing village on the town's main boardwalk. It is a quiet relaxing place to enjoy good company or solitary contemplation while surrounded by the ocean's breezes.  

Watrous, Saskatchewan

Little Manitou Lake, Watrous, Saskatchewan

A small town in the heart of the prairie province Saskatchewan , Watrous, a  small town in the heart of the prairie province of Saskatchewan, is some 150 km north of the capital Regina. Visiting Watrous gives one a sense of real small-town living, and yet it too has ties to colonial history. The town's All Saints Anglican Church houses some of North America's oldest stained glass windows, believed to be over 500 years old. These were originally brought from England in the 19th century and have been in the town since 1909. The town is also known for its proximity to Manitou Beach, a popular resort village renowned for its high salinity, making any swimmer float! 

St Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick

 Street view of St. Andrews

Situated at the southern tip of Passamaquoddy Bay, St. Andrews-by-the-Sea is another richly preserved historic town typical of Maritime Canada. The town, filled with colorful houses, beautiful outdoor murals, and an array of lovely gardens and flowers, is also home to beautiful galleries and museums.A popular spot for whale watching, St Andrews-by-the-Sea's other top attractions include the Huntsman Marine Aquarium and historic Algonquin Hotel.  

Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec

 Baie Saint Paul

Sitting on the northern shore of the Saint Lawrence River and northeast of Quebec City, Baie-Saint Paul's streets are lined with artist's studios, boutiques, galleries, and fine restaurants. Centuries-old houses and other historical buildings bring the flavor of old Quebec to vivid life, which one can enjoy with just a stroll.The town is also known as the founding location of the world-renowned Cirque du Soleil.

Rankin Inlet, Nunavut

Inuksuk (or spelled Inukshuk) landmark covered in snow found on a hill in the community of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Canada

Derived from an Inuit word meaning "Deep", Rankin Inlet is a small community on the northwestern shore of Hudson Bay. Human settlement in the town dates as far back as 1,200 AD, with the modern Inuit people calling it home since at least the 1700s.With a population of just under 3,000, Rankin Inlet is known for its arts and crafts scene that wonderfully showcases Inuk traditions and customs. The world's only Inuit fine arts ceramic gallery is located in the village and also gives visitors a unique glimpse of Arctic Life. 

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, Lunenburg is characterized by its abundance of 18th and 19th-century buildings and for housing the replica of the Blue Nose, the famous racing schooner featured on the Canadian dime.Just over an hour's drive away from Halifax, Lunenburg is situated at the harbor of Fairhaven Peninsula and has been called one of the most beautiful towns in Canada. 

Killarney, Ontario

Killarney Provincial Park

Ancient quartzite cliffs, stunning blue lakes, and dense forests define the Killarney Provincial Park, a rich canvas of possibilities for the renowned Group of Seven artists.Perfect for the outdoors-minded tourist, Killarney offers fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and more; then, when done for the day, the historic village is the perfect place to return to with great restaurants, pubs, and other unique entertainment options. 

Trinity, Newfoundland and Labrador

Trinity, Newfoundland and Labrador

Frequently used as a film set, Trinity was first settled by Portuguese explorers, including Gaspar Corte-Real, who gave the town its name in 1501.The town, filled with history, has a plentiful scene of museums, galleries, and colorful saltbox homes in an 18th-century style. Traditional Newfoundland folk music is frequently performed at many of the town's restaurants and theatres as visitors can soak in the natural beauty. Watching passing icebergs and going out to whale watch are definite highlights of the landscape.

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18 Best Small Towns in Alberta worth exploring

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Canada is filled with stunning landscapes , and sprinkled in it are small towns and hamlets. If you are planning a visit to the Canadian Rockies , plan to stop by one of the best small towns in Alberta and enjoy the mountains and the Prairies.

15+ Best Small Towns in Alberta Canada

Pin for Small towns in Alberta

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In Alberta (and generally in Canada) a town is created when communities exist with populations of at least 1,000 people and are given town status under the authority of the Municipal Government Act .

Alberta has a total of 106 towns, with Okotoks ( pop. 2016 – 28,880) and Stavely ( pop. 2016 – 541) being the largest and smallest of all towns respectively. Anytime a town exceeds 10, 000 people they are eligible for city status. 

The highest frequency of towns in Alberta is found in the Queen Elizabeth II Highway corridor between Calgary and Edmonton (plus other areas like Carstairs, Didsbury, Bowden, Sylvan Lake, Lesser Slave Lake, Lethbridge, Innisfail, Penhold, Ponoka, and Millet).

You will also find towns located on the Alberta – Saskatchewan border. 

Devonian Gardens Devon

We are lucky to call Alberta our home for the last 7+ years and have explored many of these towns as a road trip stop, or a weekend getaway destination. We also visited many of the cities and towns on the AB/SK border when we were planning our move to this province from Saskatchewan (like Vegreville and Lloydminster). 

We have also included hamlets in this list, as it deserves a visit. A hamlet is a smaller geographical area (less than 100).

So here is the list we will be covering in this post

Best Small Towns in Alberta 

Pincher Creek

Drumheller & rowley.

  • Waterton 
  • Peace River

Devon 

Lake louise.

  • Jasper 

Grande Cache

Fort macleod.

  • Beaumont 
  • Black Diamond 

Sylvan Lake

Canmore Best Small towns in Alberta Bucket list

Population: 13,992 (2016)

Hands down, our favorite town in Alberta is Canmore. It is located just 20 minutes outside of Banff National Park , and has no entry fees (yay). The main street of Canmore is filled with pretty cafes and restaurants, including scenic mountain views everywhere.

One of our favorite activities in Canmore is to embark on walking and hiking trails in and around the town like the Policeman’s Creek and Grassi lakes. The town itself is also pedestrian friendly and less crowded than Banff town. 

Located here is the Canmore Nordic Provincial Centre, a very popular skiing centre, originally created for the 1988 Winter Olympics. Very close to Canmore is the Nordic Spa in Kananaskis which brings a piece of Iceland’s hot springs close to home. 

Canmore Best Small towns in Alberta

Canmore is a great option for accommodation as well if hotels in Banff are all booked during peak seasons. We LOVE Falcon Crest hotel , and it has been our favorite weekend getaway place for years. The hotel welcomes you with stunning views of the Three Sisters Mountain range, and they also have a hot tub on-site.

So you have quaint walking areas, cafes, cross-country ski, and mountain bike trails – what’s not to like about Canmore?

Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church Smoky Lake

Population: 964 (2016)

Smoky Lake is a town in central Alberta. It is located on Highway 28, approximately 100 km (60 miles) northeast of Edmonton.  

With a population of around 1000 residents, you must know that there are tons of things to do in Smoky Lake and around it. 

This little town was first settled by homesteaders in the late 1800s. The provincial historic site of Victoria Settlement is nearby. 

small cities in canada to visit

Smoky Lake is known for its annual pumpkin festival, which is held every October. If you are not visiting in October, you can still visit Pumpkin Park and take snaps of the large-size pumpkins! 

Other than giant pumpkins you can visit the Smoky Lake CN Train Station Museum, and one of its many churches – First Baptist Church, Holy Ascension Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church, or the Our Lady Of Atonement Roman Catholic Church. 

If you wish to learn about the history of Indigenous Peoples, you must visit the Metis Crossing located in Smoky Lake.

small cities in canada to visit

Population: 3,642 (2016)

Pincher Creek is a small town in southern Alberta. The town is located at the confluence of the Castle and Waterton Rivers in the Rocky Mountain foothills, west of Lethbridge and south of Calgary. 

We visited and stayed in this little town during our South Alberta road trip . But we never imagined how beautiful Pincher Creek is, prior to this visit. 

As we approached the town limits, we were welcomed to gorgeous green rolling hills and windmills everywhere! The town is rightly known as the “Wind Capital of Canada.” The Pincher Creek region is becoming increasingly important for wind energy projects.

small cities in canada to visit

The town’s proximity to Waterton Lakes National Park, as well as its cultural and historical attractions, are all promoted as tourist destinations. Pincher Creek is also a great option for an overnight stay if you are visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump which is one of the oldest and largest preserved buffalo jumps in North America. 

Hoodoos near Drumheller

Population: 7982 (Drumheller) and 9 (Rowley) 2016

Drumheller is a small town located about 1.50 hours from Calgary , and it is one of the easiest day trip options from here. Drumheller is known for the famous dinosaur museum – Royal Tyrrell Museum, which contains a large collection of dinosaur fossils. 

When we visited the museum, we felt the place is so incredible and very different from the Rocky Mountains. It was definitely an amazing experience learning about fossils and the evolution and history of this place. 

Just right outside of the museum, you can take a short walk to soak in the views of the Badlands. You can also embark on a hiking expedition to the Horsethief Canyon from here. 

Near the town are other attractions like Midland Provincial Park, Hoodoos, Suspension bridges, coal mine tours (Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site), and many ghost towns. 

Read: More day trips from Calgary Alberta

One of the intriguing ghost towns here is Rowley. Classified as a hamlet, Rowley has 9 residents, and it is located just north of Drumheller. Rowley was one of the industrial towns, and in the 1920s it had about 500 residents. 

Rowley Small towns in Alberta

From the 1970s, the population started leaving. Today you will find empty houses and businesses which are being restored by the locals to bring in visitors. 

Sexsmith 

Population: 2620 (2016)

Sexsmith is a town located north of Grande Prairie. Grande Prairie is one of the most populous cities in Alberta. Sexsmith is known as the “grain capital of the British Empire”, as it was one of the most fertile regions in the province. 

The landscape and the drive in and around the city of Grande Prairie are beautiful, and deserve a stop at Sexsmith, as part of your road trip in Canada .

Sulphur Gates Grande Cache

Population: 3571 

Grande Cache is an outdoor paradise surrounded by mountains, beaches, and many provincial parks. Technically, Grande Cache is considered a hamlet (administered by the Municipal District of Greenview No. 16). It held town status prior to 2019. 

We embarked on a weekend getaway to Grande Cache from Edmonton . It is located on Highway 40 (Bighorn Highway or Scenic Route to Alaska) approximately 4 hours west of Edmonton. This route is also the shortest and most scenic route to Alaska from the United States. The nearest town is Hinton. 

It is a great idea to explore Grande Cache on a road trip. In Grande Cache visit the Tourism Information center to learn about its history, shop at the local farmer’s market, go water rafting, hit the Grande Cache beach, and play at my favorite Labyrinth Park. 

Things to do in Grande Cache Alberta Canada

Grande Cache is also a getaway to the Sulphur Gates, William A. Switzer Provincial Park, and the Wilderness Provincial Park. The town’s location on a plateau, and near three valleys and the edge of the Rocky Mountains makes this town, now a hamlet, a perfect weekend escape from Edmonton. 

Cochrane Alberta

Population: 29,277 (2016)

Cochrane is an industrial town located very close to Calgary. With a population of 29,277, it is actually one of the largest towns in Alberta (along the Edmonton Calgary corridor). It was established in 1881 and was named after a local rancher, Matthew Henry Cochrane. 

As you drive from Edmonton or Red Deer to Calgary/Banff, you will be mesmerized by the fields and the surrounding homes and valley views. The town is surrounded by Rocky View County, which is home to one of the biggest outlet malls in the province (CrossIron Mall). 

Ghost Lake Provincial Recreation Centre is located west of Cochrane. It is a reservoir formed along the Bow River, and it is a popular spot for ice fishing and skating in the winter. 

You can stay in Cochrane, as it is a good alternative if hotels in the Rockies are expensive for you.

Lake Louise Ski Resort

Population: 691 (2011)

We are including Lake Louise in this list because many visitors to the Canadian Rockies only explore the lake and then they return. And technically although Lake Louise is a hamlet, its population is close to 1000 (700 pop. to be exact), which is higher than the smallest town of Stavely. 

So why visit the hamlet of Lake Louise? Of course, for the pristine turquoise lake itself. During summers you can canoe, embark on hikes, and road trips from here to Johnston Canyon or Yoho National Park in British Columbia . 

During winters, stay at one of the resorts here and admire the winter wonderland in this stunning little town, attend ski events (Lake Louise Ski Resort), ice festivals, dog sledding, cross country skiing, and skate in the jaw-dropping natural ice rink here!

The servicing area of lake Louise is nice too. You can enjoy nice baked goods and dining here. 

Banff Town

View of Banff town - Alberta towns

Population: 7847 (2016)

I am sure you know Banff National Park and the world-class tourist attractions here. But did you know Banff town also has little gems that you can enjoy within the municipality?

Banff is a resort town located within Banff National Park. Inside the town, you will find hotels and many restaurants (along Banff Avenue) to enjoy your stay. From multi-national cuisines to fine dining, and local breweries, Banff Ave has it all.

small cities in canada to visit

Don’t forget to stop by Fairmont Banff Springs and enjoy a castle food tour . Located close to Banff Springs are Sulphur Mountain Gondola, Bow Falls, the Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre, and my favorite Cascade Gardens. Cascade of Time Gardens is a beautiful terraced garden with beautiful flora and fauna and an Edwardian administrative building. 

Views of Banff: Banff Itinerary 3 days

A few steps away from Cascade Gardens are the Cave and Basin Historic Site and the Upper Banff Hot Springs. Without a car, you can just explore walking and easy hiking and biking trails nearby (like the Marsh Loop and Vermillion lakes). 

Black Diamond

Population: 2700 (2016)

Nestled in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies is the town of Black Diamond. It is home to Canada’s best ranch counties. Black Diamond came into prominence in the early 20th century due to the discovery of coal beds nearby, hence the name. 

Black Diamond is more of a drive-by town to enjoy from Calgary and Okotoks. You can stay in either city.

University of Alberta Devon

Population: 6578 (2016)

Devon is located very close to Edmonton, about 26 km (16 miles) southwest of the capital city. It is named after the Devonian formations from the Paleozoic era. This area is populated and is located near the Edmonton International Airport in Leduc. 

The town came into existence in the mid-20th century, when one of the largest oil discoveries in the world was found here. 

One of the popular attractions here is the University of Alberta Botanic Garden, also called the Devonian Gardens. It is a nice picnic spot, and great for a date night. The gardens have curated waterfalls, butterfly conservatory, Japanese gardens, and Aga Khan gardens to name a few. 

Other attractions in the town include Devon Voyageur Park, Devon Spray Park, and Bunchberry Meadows Conservation Area. 

Hinton 

Population: 9882 (2016)

Hinton is one of the largest towns in Alberta. It is located in Yellowhead County, less than an hour from Jasper town and about 3 hours west of Edmonton, Alberta’s capital city. 

Hinton is a great weekend destination from Edmonton for history and nature lovers. You can enjoy cross country skiing, fishing, archery, mountain biking, and of course tons of nature trails for hiking and walks. 

Hinton has a lot of parks where you can spend an entire day with friends and family (BBQ, or picnics). 

For the history lover, head to the Forestry Service Museum to enjoy interesting artifacts. Hinton Coal Branch Archives and the Northern Rockies Museum of Culture and Heritage are must-visits to learn about the town’s historic past.

The latter is housed in Hinton’s original 1911 Grand Trunk Pacific Railway station, and you will learn about the town’s railway and communication history here.

Population: 2967 (2016)

Fort Macleod is named after North West Mounted Police Colonel James Macleod. It was originally named Macleod and has a strong NWMP heritage. 

The NWMP Fort Museum is a must-visit here. This fort is home to beautiful historic displays, and there are live performances conducted during the tourist season. 

Next on the list is the Empress Theatre . It is lovingly remembered as a ‘first class opera house’. It was opened in 1912, and till day continues to showcase movies, and theatre work.

Waterton Park

Watertown Lakes National Park in Canada seen from the Bears Hump.

Population: 105 (2016)

Waterton is a town (some also call it a hamlet), and it is located within the Waterton National Park. This park is part of the Canadian Rockies. 

The town of Waterton is small, so is the national park, and it is not very crowded which makes it perfect for quiet romantic and outdoor getaways. Explore their wildlife, hiking trails, camp, and soak in those mesmerizing mountain views. 

Girl in Waterton Canada in June

You can compare the downtown area of Waterton to Jasper municipality, so you will find cafes and restaurants, and hotels in the area. Read our guide on – things to do in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Peace River 

Peace River Regional Area Alberta

Population: 6,729 (2016)

Want a piece of France in Alberta? Head to Rivière-la-Paix aka Peace River. Originally named Peace River Crossing, this town is located 1,000 feet below flat terrain and situated along the banks of the Peace River, at its confluence of the Smoky River, the Heart River, and Pat’s Creek. 

Edmonton and Grande Prairie are the closest cities to Peace River. The Town of Peace River is home to First Nation communities, French-Canadian farming communities, and Mennonite and Hutterite German-Canadian farming communities.

The town came into prominence in the 17th century with the arrival of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the eastern part of Canada and then pushing their way to the west. There are a lot of historic sites in the region like the NAR station (railway station, you can participate in Alberta Prairie Steam Tours).

The Catholic St. Augustine Mission is another heritage site (established in 1888); where the missionaries first came to the Peace country, to educate the First Nations community.  

Peace River was also the site of the 2004 Alberta Winter Games.

Another French town to visit in Alberta is Legal. The town of Legal is known as the French Mural Capital of Canada.

Population: 1529 (2016)

Bon Accord is a town located very close to Edmonton on Highway 28. This town is known for ‘Dark-Sky’ preserve sites, where you can chase the Northern Lights. 

A dark-sky preserve is an area that restricts artificial light pollution and is away from the metropolis. There are 5 dark-sky preserves in Alberta, and they are created for astronomy and stargazing. Bon Accord is the first community in Canada to be recognized as an International Dark Sky Community. 

This town is named and derived from the ancestral home of the first settler of “Bon Accord”.

Vegreville Small town Alberta

Population: 5708 (2016)

Vegreville is another Alberta town worth exploring. We explored it while traveling from Saskatoon to Edmonton (during our inter-provincial move). There is a rail line connecting Vegreville to Edmonton and to Lloydminster (AB/SK border town).

One characteristic feature of small towns in the Prairies is ONE dramatic statue or a unique name. And Vegreville is home to the world’s largest pysanka , which greets you as soon as you arrive. (Huge statues are more evident in Saskatchewan’s small towns than Alberta’s like the largest Tomahawk in Cut Knife, or Moose in MooseJaw to name a few).

Anyhow, pysanka is a Ukrainian Easter egg, and Vegreville is home to a lot of Ukrainian Canadians. The annual Pysanka Festival is celebrated here, and it occurs during the first weekend of July. 

Vegreville was home to one of the largest case processing centres (for Permanent Residents, and Citizenship applications) in western Canada it was closed in 2018-19, and the office moved to Edmonton. 

Things to do in Sylvan Lake in winter

Population: 14,816 (2016)

After visiting Sylvan Lake in 2020, we had to include this pretty town in our list of small towns in Alberta. Conveniently located between Edmonton and Calgary (also a great day trip idea from each), Sylvan Lake makes for a wonderful visit at all times of the year.

The town gets its charm from the lighthouse located at the Rotary Club Park. A replica of the famous Peggy’s Cove near Halifax in Nova Scotia. The park was opened in 2016. 

Equally wonderfully is the Centennials Park, home to 5 acres of lush greenery that you see along Lakeshore Drive. The sunsets from this park are amazing. You can enjoy a romantic sunset from one of the many Adirondack chairs that line the park. The park also has beautifully groomed flowers and trees. 

For your convenience, the waterfront and the downtown area have restaurants, and hotels located. Whether it is food/restaurants, sandy beach, resort, or views of the Sylvan Lake Lighthouse, you can’t miss the waterfront area!

So, that’s a wrap! We hope you enjoyed this list of small towns in Alberta Canada.

More posts on Alberta Cities Towns and Nationals Parks

  • Banff :  Christmas in Banff
  • Banff Hikes : Epic  hikes in Banff National Park
  • Banff Airbnbs:   Best Airbnbs in Banff
  • Bragg Creek :  Things to do in Bragg Creek
  • Alberta Airbnbs: Best Airbnbs in Alberta

Pin: Best Alberta Towns to visit this year

Pin for Small towns in Alberta

Mayuri Kashyap is an Indian Canadian traveler, writer and photographer based in Alberta. She moved to Toronto as a student in 2009, and has been calling Canada home ever since. She started the blog - Canada Crossroads - to share her travel and living experiences in the Great White North!

A History graduate and an MBA, Mayuri is a destinations marketing expert. She loves traveling with her husband, Salil and soaking in experiences across Canada, India and Europe.

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21 Comments

All of these small towns are so cute! I loved Banff when I visited a few years ago and stayed in Canmore, which was also gorgeous. I love how Alberta is in the mountains and also in the plains. 🙂

I would love to go on a road trip around Alberta and visit some of these gorgeous little towns. I can imagine this as a very relaxing holiday, with good food and stunning scenery.

Banff and Lake Louise have been on my bucket list for so long! I keep visiting Canada in the wintertime, and am not a snow-safe driver so I never get out there. I’ll have to plan a summer trip one day!

I want to visit ALL these towns in Alberta! They all look so quaint and sweet.

So many beautiful towns I didn’t even know about. I’ve been to the Rockies a few times being from BC, but really need to explore Alberta further. I did make it to Drumheller last year, somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, and wasn’t disappointed but it looks like Waterton might be the next one on my list

Such a great post. I’ve never even heard about many of these places and they are so unique! Cannot wait to visit Canada!

So glad you enjoyed the post! Thank you!

All of these towns are so adorable and picturesque! I think Grande Cache is first on my list, it is too cute. I also love all of the outdoor activities and the beautiful scenery.

I never knew there were hoodoos like that in Canada! Woah.

I’ve always wanted to visit Lake Louise and Banff! I will have to save this post for some ideas when I finally travel there. Thanks for this awesome post!

I seriously CANNOT wait until the US/Canada border is open so I can explore more of Canada – especially Banff. I’ve only been to Niagara Falls, so I know there’s a lot more to see!

This is such a lovely roundup! Great idea as I always want to get into the small towns but it’s hard to find information on them. Grande Cache looks really beautiful…and I’m gonna have to stop at Sexsmith just to make fertility jokes. 🙂

I love the concept of featuring small towns. I’ve been to Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise but I’ve really like to spend some time in the tiny towns where people don’t flock. Your gorgeous photos really tell the story of these towns.

I still haven’t made it out to the west coast of Canada but really would love to! I like the sounds of visiting the dinosaur museum in Drumheller and going to explore the nearby areas. I’ve really only heard of Canmore to be honest, but the rest of the places on your list look great to visit!

I’ve honestly never heard of any of these until now but they all look adorable!

I haven’t been to Alberta in forever! Thanks for this, brought back memories.

Looks like a great list. I have not heard of most of these cities and towns. The ones I have are Banff, Jasper, and Beaumont. Out of these Banff really attracts me a lot for its scenic beauty.

Gosh, these places look amazing – all of them! Or you are an excellent photographer. Or both… While the rocks around Drumheller and Rowley look absolutely fascinating, other towns just seem to have a pleasant and cozy feel to it. My favorite picture, however, is the one with the grain silos – really nice. Would it be possible to travel by public bus or do you have to have your own vehicle? Since I’m not driving, I always have to check – particularly in North America – and maybe Canada, too?

Thank you so much! Yes, these places are best explored with a car. But there are shuttle buses available for places like Banff, Drumheller, Hinton, etc.

Such mesmerizing and beautiful collection of places! Wish I get to visit atleast some in the future.

This post has convinced me that i need to take a trip to Canada, specially to Alberta. I had only seen about the beauty of Canada and Alberta till now in TV shows, but these pictures have hit a different nerve all together. Its interesting to know that a community of 1000+ people is referred to as a town in Canada.

When i visit, Banff National Park is sure going to be on the top of my radar.

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The best places to visit in Canada from cosmopolitan cities to the Rockies

Bianca Bujan

Apr 11, 2024 • 10 min read

small cities in canada to visit

Experience the best of Canada with these top places to visit © Hero Images / Getty Images

Visitors to Canada are equally as wowed by the wildlife and wilderness as they are by the cultural and culinary offerings in the cities that speckle this sprawling nation.

Look for polar bears on the arctic tundra of Churchill or cruise Vancouver’s curvy coastline in a canoe while gawking at the city skyline. Feast on five-star fusion cuisine in Toronto, or take in a street-side jam session in Montréal. 

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or returning to experience something new, these are the best places to go in Canada. But you'll have to plan your trip ahead because this is the world’s second-largest country – you can’t see it all in just one go.

Best for diversity

A vibrant jumble of cultures and neighborhoods , Toronto strikes you with sheer urban awe. Will you have dinner in Chinatown or Greektown? Five-star fusion or a peameal bacon sandwich? In Ontario ’s coolest city, designer shoes from Bloor-Yorkville are accessorized with tattoos in Queen West, while modern art galleries, theater par excellence, rocking band rooms, and hockey mania round out the megalopolis.

This is far and away Canada’s most diverse city, as well as its largest – about half of Toronto’s residents were born in another country.

Local tip : Snap a photo of the CN Tower  (one of the top spots to visit in Toronto ). For an added thrill: check out Edgewalk, where you can shuffle around the tower’s perimeter while taking in unparalleled city views.

A couple ride bikes with fat tires over a snowy track by a lake in a moutainous area

2. The Canadian Rockies 

Best for mountain views

The sawtooth, snow-topped mountains straddling the British Columbia — Alberta border inspire both awe and action. Five national parks – Banff, Yoho, Kootenay, Waterton Lakes and Jasper – offer countless opportunities to delve into the lush wilderness with ribbons of hiking trails , rushing whitewater and powdery ski slopes to satisfy travelers looking for mountain thrills. 

This is one of the best places to visit in Canada in winter , but there is outdoor adventure aplenty during the summer months, too.

Planning tip: For a different perspective, take the train and experience the grandeur from the comfort of your seat: luminous lakes, jumbles of wildflowers and glistening glaciers glide by as the steel cars chug up mountain passes and down river valleys en route to points east or west.

Wondering where locals go in Canada? Check out some of our writers' favorite spots .

3. Manitoulin Island

Best for Canada’s First Nations culture

The largest freshwater island in the world, floating right in Lake Huron’s midst, Manitoulin is a slowpoke place of beaches and summery cottages. Jagged expanses of white quartzite and granite outcroppings edge the shoreline and lead to shimmering vistas. First Nations culture pervades, and the island’s eight communities collaborate to offer local foods (wild rice, corn soup) and eco-adventures (canoeing, horseback riding, hiking). Powwows add drumming, dancing and storytelling to the mix for immersive experiences that connect you with the people and the land of the country that we now know as Canada.

A crossing at Downtown Vancouver where cars wait at the traffic lights and people cross the road during the day with snow-capped mountains across the strait in the background.

4. Vancouver 

Best for urban life with access to nature

Sea-to-sky beauty surrounds the laid-back, cocktail-loving metropolis of Vancouver . There are skiable mountains on the outskirts, beaches fringing the coast and Stanley Park ’s thick rainforest just steps from downtown’s gleaming skyscrapers.

For the best of both worlds, pick up provisions and a cold beer and picnic at one of the amazing city parks (it’s legal to drink alcohol at most of them during the summer). 

Shop and stroll through the diverse and charming neighborhoods – you may even spot a celebrity along the way. Known as “Hollywood North,” Vancouver is the filming location for many TV and film productions shot throughout the year.

Planning tip: With its mild climate and beautiful beaches , Vancouver is definitely one of the best places in Canada to visit in summer.

5. Baffin Island

Best for Inuit art and incredible landscapes

The rugged landscape of Baffin Island is home to cloud-scraping mountains and a third of Nunavut’s human population. It’s Canada’s largest island (the fifth biggest in the world) and the ideal place for an arctic safari where you can spot narwhals, belugas and bears in their natural habitat. The island’s crown jewel is Auyuittuq National Park – its name means “the land that never melts,” and indeed glaciers, fjords and vertiginous cliffs fill the eastern expanse. The park is a siren call for hardcore hikers and climbers – and more than a few polar bears.

Local tip: Baffin Island is also a center for Inuit art; studios for high-quality carving, printmaking and weaving can be found in many of the small towns.

Young women roasting marshmallows on a campfire on a remote beach

6. Vancouver Island 

Best for nature, surf beaches and boutique food ventures

Picture-postcard Victoria is the heart of Vancouver Island , beating with bohemian shops, wood-floored coffee bars and a past steeped in English tea culture since the 1840s.  British Columbia ’s capital city is full of charm, but it’s only the kick-off point to an island that has a bounty of natural wonders to explore.

Brooding Pacific Rim National Park Reserve includes the West Coast Trail, where the wind-bashed ocean meets a mist-shrouded wilderness, and surfers line up for Tofino’s waves. With so many outdoor adventures to try, this is one of the best places in Canada for nature lovers.

Detour: Wandering foodies will want to head to the Cowichan Valley, which is studded with welcoming small farms and boutique wineries.

Find out how to see Canada by train.

7. Whistler 

Best for skiing, mountain biking or summer paddle-boarding

This 2010 Winter Olympics venue is one of the world’s largest, best-equipped and most popular ski resorts, and it’s only a 90-minute drive from downtown Vancouver. Featuring over 200 marked runs winding down two towering mountains – Whistler and Blackcomb – this alpine village is paradise for skiers of all levels.

Skiing may be Whistler ’s raison d’être, but summer visitors with their downhill mountain bikes and stand-up paddle-boards outnumber their ski-season equivalents, making the resort a year-round hot spot for locals and visitors alike. Adding more diversity, Whistler has recently developed a thriving arts and culture scene, with highlights like the Audain Art Museum and Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre taking the stage as equally appealing attractions to the famed slopes.

8. Old Québec City

Best place to visit in Canada for romantics

Québec’s capital is more than 400 years old, and its stone walls, spired cathedrals and jazz-filled cafes suffuse it with atmosphere, romance, melancholy, eccentricity and intrigue on par with any European city. The best way to soak it all up is to walk the old town’s labyrinth of lanes and get lost amid the street performers and cozy inns, stopping every so often for a café au lait and flaky pastry.

The city is also home to Québec’s scenic highway, Rte 132. Circling the Gaspé Peninsula , this road winds past the sea and the mountains, as well as charming towns. More than 700,000 people drive it each summer. Of course, it has yet to approach the romantic popularity of Canada’s “honeymoon capital,” Niagara Falls, a region that draws more than 14 million annual visitors. But head for La Gaspésie instead, young lovers. Because if you’re on your honeymoon, you don’t need 14 million other people hanging around.

People dancing and enjoying an outdoor concert at Place des Arts in Montreal.

9. Montréal

Best for music lovers 

As Canada’s second-largest city and the country’s cultural heart,  Montréal  is a marvel for music lovers. From June to August, Montréalers get high on sunshine in parks, beaches, mountaintop forests and endless festivals. The steamy outdoors is more alive than ever with arts-loving visitors filling the streets (and the cool of performance spaces), while rooftop bars turn into parties. The best jazz-influenced musicians in the world play to equally jazzed spectators at the annual  Montréal International Jazz Festival , where there are over 500 performances and shows to enjoy (and countless are free). Nature is also never far away in Montréal where a network of cycling paths, waterways and islands crisscross the city. No wonder Montréalers grow up jogging, paddling canals and skating in the fresh air.

Planning tip:  Check out  Tourisme Montréal  for the latest live music events, big and small, throughout the city. 

Two people on a frozen canal holding hands; one is on ice-skates, the other is in a wheelchair

10. Rideau Canal

Best for ice skating

Opened in 1832, this 200km-long (124 miles) waterway – consisting of canals, rivers and lakes – connects Ottawa and Kingston via 47 locks. The Rideau Canal is at its finest in wintry Ottawa, where a stretch of it becomes the Rideau Canal Skateway – the world's largest skating rink.

People swoosh by on the 7.8km (4.8 miles) of groomed ice, pausing for hot chocolate and scrumptious slabs of fried dough called beavertails (a quintessentially Canadian treat). February’s Winterlude festival kicks it up a notch when townsfolk build massive ice sculptures.

Local tip: Once the canal thaws, it becomes a boater’s paradise, meaning you can appreciate it whatever time of year you visit.

11. The Prairies

Best for big-sky road trips

Solitude reigns in Canada’s middle ground. Driving through the flatlands of Manitoba and Saskatchewan turns up uninterrupted fields of golden wheat that stretch to the horizon, eventually melting into the sunshine. When the wind blows, the wheat sways like waves on the ocean, punctuated by the occasional grain elevator rising up like a tall ship.

Big skies mean big storms that drop like an anvil, visible on the skyline for miles. Far-flung towns include arty Winnipeg , boozy Moose Jaw and Mountie-filled Regina, interspersed with Ukrainian and Scandinavian villages.

Two zipliners head down a wire towards a vast cascading waterfall

12. Niagara Falls

Best for an iconic travel experience

Niagara Falls may be relatively short (it doesn’t even crack the top 500 worldwide for height), but when those great muscular bands of water arc over the precipice like liquid glass, roaring into the void below – and you sail toward it in a mist-shrouded boat – the falls never fail to impress.

While you’re there, extend your stay and head beyond the falls on a two-wheel biking adventure along the Greater Niagara Circle Route, or take a go at the Wildplay Zipline to the Falls , a pulse-pounding rush of a ride that offers unparalleled views of the falls below as you zoom through the sky.

Read on for the best experiences to be had in Canada.

13. Bay of Fundy

Best place to spot whales

It has lighthouses, boats and trawlers, fishing villages and other maritime scenery, yet Fundy is not your average Canadian bay. That’s because its unique geography results in the world’s most extreme tides, capable of reaching 16m (56ft) – about the height of a five-story building.

The tides stir up serious whale food, with krill and other plankton attracting fin, humpback and blue whales to feast, as well as endangered North Atlantic right whales, making a whale watch here an extraordinary must-do.

Canadian Polar Bear walking in the colorful arctic tundra of the Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba in summer.

14. Churchill

Best for polar bear encounters

The first polar bear you see up close will take your breath away, and there’s no better place for an encounter than Churchill , Manitoba, which happens to be right on the bears’ migration path. From late September to early November, tundra vehicles head out in search of the razor-clawed beasts, sometimes getting you close enough to lock eyes with the beautiful bears. Summer lets you kayak or stand-up paddleboard with beluga whales.

15. Drumheller

Best for dinosaur enthusiasts

Dinosaur lovers get weak-kneed in dust-blown Drumheller , where paleontological civic pride runs high thanks to the Royal Tyrrell Museum , home to one of the planet's pre-eminent fossil collections. The world’s largest “dinosaur” is here, too – a giant fiberglass T-rex that visitors can climb and peer out of (through its mouth). Beyond the dino-hoopla, the area offers classic Badlands scenery and eerie, mushroom-like rock columns called hoodoos.

Planning tip: Follow the scenic driving loops; these take you past all the good stuff.

This article was first published Jul 11, 2021 and updated Apr 11, 2024.

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PlanetWare.com

18 Best Places to Visit in Canada

Written by Lana Law Updated May 11, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

Author Lana Law has lived in British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba, and currently resides in Ontario.

Canada's cities and towns offer travelers a diverse choice of experiences, from chic, cosmopolitan centers to mountain resorts and maritime cities. Determining the best places to visit may depend on your interests and the type of trip you're hoping to create.

Kayakers on Waterfowl Lake in Banff National Park

In the heart of the country is Toronto, Canada's biggest city and the highlight of Canada's arts and cultural scene. Nearby, Niagara Falls is a must-see attraction for visitors to Canada that never disappoints. In the neighboring French-speaking province of Québec, Montreal is known for fashion, culture, and history.

In the West , Vancouver and Victoria offer two very different perspectives on West Coast cities, but each has something unique to offer. The mountain towns of Whistler and Banff are places to immerse yourself in beautiful mountain scenery and enjoy a little of the great outdoors.

Eastern Canada has a culture all of its own, with a rich maritime heritage and friendly people. And scattered throughout the country are other popular cities and lesser-known gems to explore. For ideas to help plan your Canada itinerary , see our list of the best places to visit in Canada.

1. Vancouver

2. niagara falls, 4. montreal, 5. banff national park, 6. st. john's, 8. victoria, 10. québec city, 11. whitehorse, 12. whistler, 13. charlottetown & prince edward island, 15. kelowna, 16. revelstoke, 17. winnipeg, 18. churchill, map of places to visit in canada.

Vancouver

Highlights : Unlimited outdoor activities, amazing natural beauty, Stanley Park, Granville Island

For beauty, climate, a fun atmosphere, and plenty of things to do, you can't go wrong planning a trip to Vancouver . Set on the shores of the Pacific Ocean and backed by snow-capped mountains, this is an active city, where locals enjoy the outdoors year-round.

Sunbathers can bask on the beaches in summer, and skiers can hit the nearby ski resorts in winter. At any time of year, you can walk the seawall or stroll through the towering trees in Stanley Park , enjoy fine dining or a casual meal while watching the sunset, or find fabulous shopping, from the markets of Granville Island to the high-end shops in the city center.

If you are spending more than a couple of days in the city and looking for some interesting outings, take a day trip from Vancouver to some of the nearby hotspots such as Whistler , Victoria , or some of the small towns in the mountains or Fraser Valley.

Niagara Falls

Highlights : One of the world's natural wonders, boat tours, lookout at the edge of the falls

Canada's most famous natural attraction, the majestic Niagara Falls has been drawing sightseers almost since its discovery. The great wall of water pounding over the falls is an amazing sight, and the view and access afforded visitors are astounding. You can literally walk up to the edge of the falls, separated only by a cast iron railing, and see the water as it disappears over the crest.

In 2021, the Niagara Parks Commission opened the 115-year-old Canadian Niagara Power Company generating station. After years of painstaking renovations and rehabilitation, this fascinating building displays its old generators and electrical equipment. New in 2023, visitors can now descend beneath the building and walk through former water tunnels, ending up at the river's edge below the falls.

The city that has developed here, also named Niagara Falls, has been greatly influenced by the people and atmosphere the falls have created. Stuntmen and daredevils have been tempting their fate on the falls throughout the decades, and as a result, a carnival-style atmosphere has come to define this unique city. Just a short drive from Toronto , Niagara Falls is easy to reach, and the city is a fun place to spend a day or two.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Niagara Falls, Canada

Toronto skyline

Highlights : Dynamic downtown with great dining, views from the CN Tower, waterfront trails

As Canada's largest city, Toronto is the country's cultural hot spot, with ballet, opera, symphony, and Broadway shows. It's also home to the landmark CN Tower . Add extraordinary shopping, fine dining, and fantastic museums, and there is no end to the entertainment.

In recent years, Toronto's waterfront has experienced ongoing development and now boasts beautiful walking areas, restaurants, and in summer, outdoor concerts and cultural performances.

Just outside the city center, in either direction from downtown, are beautiful beaches , perfect on hot summer days. In winter, a public skating rink springs to life outside city hall, and unique winter events, including the popular Winterlicious add to the fun. You can find ski resorts near Toronto as well.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Toronto

Old Montreal

Highlights : Historical old town area, waterfront park, fantastic dining, French vibe

Montreal is a unique city, with a beautiful old historic district dating back to the 1600s and a modern city center with extensive underground shopping. Old Montreal is the main tourist hub, with cobbled streets and fantastic old buildings, a perfect place to lose yourself as you wander up and down the historical streets. In and around Montreal are a fine assortment of wonderful parks and beaches .

Montreal

Montreal is also home to a large number of fashion designers, and high-end boutiques line the historic streets, along with quaint hotels and restaurants. Located in the French-speaking province of Québec , Montreal has its own cultural identity, but English-speaking visitors will have no trouble communicating with anyone in the tourist industry.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Montreal

Banff

Highlights : Incredible alpine scenery, glaciers, Lake Louise, skiing, and historic hotels

The charming mountain town of Banff, in the stunning Banff National Park, is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to explore the Rocky Mountains and see some of the most beautiful scenery in Canada. This is undeniably a tourist town, catering to international travelers from all over the globe.

In summer, the turquoise lakes, including Lake Louise and Moraine Lake , set below glacier-capped mountains are a glorious sight. One of the best ways to experience the landscape is to drive the Icefields Parkway, which runs through the park to Jasper National Park. For those looking for a bit more adventure and exercise, consider tackling one of Banff's best hiking trails . These classic routes take you to some of the most impressive sights in the park.

In winter, skiers and boarders descend on the area to enjoy the slopes of Lake Louise Ski Resort and Sunshine Village Ski Resort , two of Canada's best ski resorts .

Consider staying in Banff at the luxurious and historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel , or perhaps choose another one of the best resorts in Banff. That way you don't even need to leave town to enjoy a gondola ride to the top of a mountain for dinner, soak in a hot springs-fed pool, find fabulous shopping, discover lovely walking trails, and possibly see elk and woodland caribou that frequently make their way into town.

  • Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Banff National Park
  • Best Campgrounds in Banff National Park

St. John's

Highlights : Historic city with colorful buildings, friendly locals, and views from Signal Hill that are not to be missed

In Canada's far eastern province of Newfoundland and Labrador is the historic and friendly city of St. John's. This is the main gateway for air travelers to the island of Newfoundland, but many people come simply to enjoy the city.

Colorful buildings line the sloping streets that run along hills, with views out over the harbor. The city also has numerous historic sites and attractions, including and Signal Hill , George Street , but the real appeal is the vibrant atmosphere, the people, and the maritime culture that makes this city so unique from mainland Canada.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in St. John's, Newfoundland

Ottawa

Highlights : Parliament Hill, winter and summer festivals, historic 19th-century Rideau Canal

As Canada's national capital city, Ottawa is home to some outstanding national museums and historic sites, as well as Parliament Hill , and it enjoys a beautiful setting along the Rideau Canal . It is also a small city, making it easy to navigate and fun to explore.

Summer is a wonderful time to visit, with a whole host of events held throughout the season, including the Tulip Festival in spring and the always lavish Canada Day Celebrations on July 1st.

In winter, when the weather is cold enough, the canal transforms into a 7.8-kilometer-long skating rink and in February, the annual Winterlude celebrations draw huge crowds. There is no bad time to visit Ottawa, and it is only a few hours by car or train from Toronto.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Ottawa

Victoria

Highlights : Beautiful harbor, mountain views, beaches, hiking and walking trails

British Columbia's beautiful capital city Victoria, has a quaint, small-town atmosphere, perhaps due to its island location. Set at the southern tip of Vancouver Island , the city has a mild year-round climate, with wet mild winters and warm, glorious summers. Victoria is one of the warmest places in Canada in winter , attracting Canadians from colder parts of the country from late fall until spring.

Views around the city are stunning in every direction, looking out over the harbor, south over the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Washington State, or across to the mountains on mainland British Columbia .

Victoria at night

Most of the tourist activity is focused around Victoria's Inner Harbour , where the Parliament Buildings and the historic Fairmont Empress Hotel are located. A stroll along the waterfront on a sunny day is gorgeous. Just outside the city center are beaches and lovely coastal areas , as well as parks and hiking trails .

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Victoria, British Columbia

Halifax

Halifax : Friendly locals, 19th-century architecture, and stunning views from the Citadel

Halifax is a great city for anyone looking for an introduction to Canada's Maritime Provinces. The Halifax waterfront is the main tourist hub in the city, particularly during the summer months, with a few historic buildings and plenty of activity. Overlooking the city is the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site , one of the city's main attractions.

Outside the city are a number of small coastal villages that offer a good glimpse of life in the Maritimes. One of the most famous villages is Peggy's Cove , home to the most photographed lighthouse in the Maritimes. A little further afield are Lunenburg and Mahone Bay , also well worth a visit. Taking a day trip from Halifax is highly recommended.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Halifax

Québec City

Highlights : Beautifully restored 17th-century architecture in the Old Town, winter fun at the Carnival de Québec in February

Like Montreal, Québec City is loaded with history and located in the French-speaking province of Québec. This is the provincial capital and a city with a history dating back to the early 1600s. The old buildings and curving cobbled streets make this one of Canada's most charming capital cities.

One-third the size of Montreal, Québec City is also relatively small and easy to navigate. While summer is the busy season, the famous winter carnival, the Carnival de Québec attracts huge crowds and is the city's most well-known event.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Québec City

Whitehorse

Highlights : Klondike gold rush history, northern lights in season

A visit to Whitehorse offers a chance to see life in Canada's far north. This is the capital of the Yukon and also a gateway to areas farther north, including Alaska and the beautiful Nahanni National Park .

The city's history dates back to the Klondike gold rush, when prospectors made their way through here on their route to Dawson City. Many of the city's attractions offer insight into the gold-rush days, and beyond the city limits are some beautiful natural areas to explore. If you are lucky, the night sky will come to life with a display of northern lights .

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Whitehorse

Whistler

Highlights : World-class ski resort, Olympic history, views from the gondola, Cloudraker Skybridge

Whistler has long been known as a world-class ski destination and was the site of many of the skiing events during the 2010 Winter Olympics hosted by Vancouver. Despite this reputation, Whistler is an equally impressive and popular summer destination, with hiking, biking, golfing, and many other activities on offer.

The village has grown over the years and is now a vibrant, high-end resort town with a great selection of hotels, restaurants, and shops.

The Whistler-Blackcomb mountains are famous for their incredible terrain and bring in skiers from around the world. The Peak-2-Peak Gondola , which joins the two mountains, is an 11-minute, 4.4-kilometer-long ride, with spectacular views, and is open to skiers or non-skiers year-round.

The resort has recently added the new Cloudraker Skybridge near the top of the Peak Chair. This 130-meter metal bridge spans a small alpine valley and ends at the Raven's Nest. The viewing platform provides 360-degree views of the surrounding area, including world-famous Black Tusk.

  • Read More: Top Things to Do in Whistler

Lighthouse in Cavendish National Park

Highlights : Small town charm, PEI National Park, incredible beaches nearby

If you are going to visit Charlottetown , you might as well take the time to explore the whole province of Prince Edward Island . PEI is a summertime playground, with beautiful beaches and interesting historic sites, including the fictional home of Anne of Green Gables in Prince Edward Island National Park .

Charlottetown is the capital and main city but has an almost small-town feel, with numerous Victorian-style heritage buildings. PEI is small enough that you can see the whole island on even a short vacation. Many visitors, particularly families, rent beach houses or cottages on PEI during the summer months.

Surfers in Tofino

Highlights : Huge beaches; surfing hotspot; cool, funky town; old-growth forest hiking nearby

The unofficial surfing capital of Canada , the small town of Tofino on Vancouver Island is one of the most unique places to visit in Canada and draws a mixed crowd of visitors.

People come here to surf, hike in the old-growth forests , and enjoy the huge beaches in and around Pacific Rim National Park . This is also a great place to see wildlife, kayak, storm watch in November, and relax at one of the luxurious resorts or set up camp under towering trees at a cozy campground .

The town itself is tiny and has an end-of-the-world type feel about it, but you can find fine dining at some of the lodges or a few of the restaurants around town. A handful of stores, galleries, and coffee shops give the town a special character.

Despite the town's small size, the area feels big. With so much to see and do, you'll want to plan at least a few days here, although it's easy to fill up a week or more. Not far away is Ucluelet , another small town, which you can easily visit on an outing from Tofino.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Things to Do in Tofino

Kelowna

Highlights : Lake Okanagan waterfront, beaches, golfing, downhill skiing in the winter

In the interior of British Columbia is the lovely city of Kelowna. This city is a favorite spot for Canadians but less well-known internationally.

Picturesquely set on the shore of Lake Okanagan and surrounded by rolling mountains, Kelowna draws tourists during the summer months, when it's possible to hike, golf, or enjoy the lake at one of the many wonderful beaches in town.

Renting a houseboat to explore the surrounding waters is a popular summer vacation in this area. In winter, the surrounding mountains are a hotspot for skiers, with the popular nearby ski resorts of Big White and Silver Star , two of British Columbia's best ski resorts , within easy reach.

Just down the lake from Kelowna is the picturesque small town of Penticton , home to some of the best beaches in the Okanagan.

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Kelowna and the Okanagan

Ski touring at Revelstoke

Highlights : A historic mining town, epic resorts and heli-skiing in the winter, mountain biking in the summer

The adventure town of Revelstoke is one of the best places to visit in Canada for adventure. Although it's a favorite destination among Albertans and British Columbians, it is still undiscovered on an international scale, making it a good place to escape the crowds associated with sightseeing destinations like Banff and Lake Louise.

Beautiful mountain scenery surrounds this small town in the interior of British Columbia, but much of the appeal comes from the activities available for outdoor lovers.

In winter, skiers come here to enjoy skiing at Revelstoke Mountain Resort , one of the best ski resorts in British Columbia , or to go heli-skiing in the Purcell Mountains. In summer, mountain biking and hiking are the most popular things to do. Nightlife here has been expanding over the last number of years, and you can find plenty of places to frequent after a day of skiing or hiking.

Biking in Winnipeg

Highlights : The Forks Market, historic 19th-century buildings, Museum for Human Rights

This thriving city in the prairies of Central Canada may not be the first image that jumps to mind when thinking about the best places to visit in Canada, but if you are traveling in summer, Winnipeg is worth a stop. Surrounded by fields, many of which glow yellow in summer with canola or sunflowers, and set along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, the city is surprisingly scenic.

The dynamic and fun Forks Market , at the confluence of the two rivers, has restaurants, and outdoor walking trails (a skating rink in winter) and is one of the first places tourists should visit. Also in this area is one of Canada's premiere museums: the Canadian Museum for Human Rights .

Within a couple of hours of the city is Grand Beach , one of Canada's best beaches set on the shore of Lake Winnipeg, and the Whiteshell Provincial Park , an area of boreal forest with some of Manitoba's best lakes and rivers. People come here to camp, hike, or spend time at a cottage.

  • Read More: Best Attractions & Places to Visit in Winnipeg

Polar bear in Churchill

Highlights : Up close and personal encounters with polar bears

The small town of Churchill is the place in Canada to see polar bears in their natural environment. These huge beasts roam the tundra just outside of town in search of their next meal when the ice is out on Hudson Bay. Tours in specially created vehicles called Tundra Buggies will take you out into the vast wilderness to see the bears safely and comfortably.

Nearby and also worth visiting is one of Canada's most famous and rarely visited National Historic Sites, the Prince of Wales Fort. Dating from 1731, this massive stone structure is fun to explore, and after your visit, you'll be glad you weren't one of the men stationed here.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

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Areas and Regions to Visit in Canada: If you want to extend your travels beyond the best cities and towns in Canada and tackle a region, you can find some interesting destinations. In Eastern Canada, consider the Gaspé Peninsula , a picturesque region in Quebec that juts into the St. Lawrence River. On the West Coast, Vancouver Island offers remote stretches of wilderness, small towns, and incredible hiking trails and campgrounds . To experience Canada's far north, have a look at the beauty of Nunavut .

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small cities in canada to visit

10 Beautiful Small Towns Every Ontarian Should Visit In 2024

O ntario is full of beautiful small towns and if you're looking for some travel inspo this year, here are a few spots you should plan on visiting.

These 10 small towns in Ontario are worth adding to your 2024 bucket list. With historic charm, quaint streets and more, you'll feel like you've stepped into a scene from Gilmore Girls.

From waterfront villages to old-world hidden gems, here are 10 small towns every Ontarian should explore in 2024.

www.instagram.com

Address: Perth, ON

Why You Need To Go: If you want to feel like you're in Scotland , this small town is worth visiting in 2024. While the name may sound Australian, Perth has Scottish roots and is brimming with local shops, historic buildings and more.

You can dine while gazing over the picturesque Tay River, explore the quaint shops and museums and sip coffee from hidden gem cafes. You'll also want to stroll through scenic Stewart Park, where you'll find whimsical willow trees, an old-world bridge and more.

Town of Perth website

Collingwood

Address: Collingwood, ON

Why You Need To Go: Offering street festivals, farmers markets, pop-ups, delicious eateries and year-round fun, Collingwood is worth a road trip this year.

You can spend some time window-shopping in the lively downtown, where you'll find tons of unique items and treats. The town is close to the beautiful Blue Mountain Village, so you can pop over to enjoy more shopping and an array of outdoor activities.

If you're craving some fresh air, you can explore The Collingwood Trails Network where you can walk, snowshoe, bike or ski through stunning scenery.

Collingwood Downtown website

Niagara-on-the-Lake

Address: Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON

Why You Need To Go: The year just isn't complete without a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake . This little town is known for its historic beauty and has so much to see and do.

From drool-worthy ice cream to quaint stores and European-like streets, this village is beautiful during any season. You can book a stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel for a dreamy weekend getaway.

Niagara-on-the-Lake is surrounded by wineries, so you'll definitely want to do some tastings while you're in the area. There are so many tours and spots to visit that you can easily fill a whole day with boozy adventures.

Niagara-on-the-Lake website

Address: Bayfield, ON

Why You Need To Go: Located on the shining turquoise waters of Lake Huron, this little town will give you all those Gilmore Girls feels. Brimming with cute shops and local restaurants, it's a beautiful place to spend a day.

During the summer months, you can relax on one of the idyllic beaches and take a dip in the waves. Christmas is also a beautiful time to visit and you can see the village transformed into something from a Hallmark movie.

Village of Bayfield website

Address: Almonte, ON

Why You Need To Go: Dubbed the "Christmas Capital of Ontario," Almonte is a magical place and is worth adding to your bucket list this year.

From festivals, fairs and concerts to local shops and restaurants, there's always something to check out in this hidden gem.

If you're looking for some fresh air, you can enjoy a stroll along the Riverwalk or around the Mill of Kintail.

Christmas is an extra magical time to spend a day in Almonte. The decorations, Hallmark vibes and snowy streets will fill you with cheer.

Almonte website

Address: Stratford, ON

Why You Need To Go: Unleash your inner Shakespeare at this enchanting spot. The city has small town feels and is definitely worth a trip in 2024.

From April to October, you can enjoy the annual Stratford Festival which features a series of modern and Shakespearean plays.

The downtown has endless shopping and food to enjoy as well as picturesque streets. You can explore unique trails such as the Chocolate Trail or Bacon & Ale Trail for some tasty treats.

Justin Bieber fans will want to check out the Justin Bieber walking tour and Justin Bieber exhibit, Steps to Stardom.

Visit Stratford website

Address: Picton, ON

Why You Need To Go: Situated in the island community of Prince Edward County , the small town of Picton is an enchanting destination to add to your bucket list.

The area is especially beautiful during the summer months and you can enjoy the charming streets, vibrant arts scene, patios and local stores. At night, you can catch a movie beneath the stars at a drive-in theatre.

You'll definitely want to add Sandbanks Provincial Park to your plans. The area is known for its pristine, powdery-sand beaches and tropical-like waters.

Visit the County website

Address: Tobermory, ON

Why You Need To Go: Nestled on the Bruce Peninsula, this small town is a magical summer destination. It features crystal-clear waters that will transport you to the Caribbean as well as tons of warm-weather activities.

You can wander through the local shops and grab an ice cream cone as you take in the water views. The famous Grotto is worth a trip and will have you forgetting you're in Canada.

From shipwrecks to waterside patios, this spot is worth a visit in 2024.

Tobermory website

Bracebridge

Address: Bracebridge, ON

Why You Need To Go: With stunning rugged landscapes and small town charm, this spot is worth exploring. Located in Muskoka, Bracebridge is home to lots of local shops, restaurants and gorgeous views.

A winter highlight is the Fire & Ice Festival which transforms the town into a snowy wonderland. You can even tube down the Main Street.

Fall is a stunning time to visit this town, when the area fills with vibrant red and gold foliage.

You can even chase some waterfalls while visiting this spot as there are several cascades close by.

Bracebridge website

Address: Elora, ON

Why You Need To Go: Elora is a must-visit destination and is just a short drive from Toronto. You'll be whisked back in time as you explore the charming streets and boutiques.

You can spend the day getting pampered at the Elora Mill & Spa or dig into some delicious food at one of the many restaurants.

If you visit during the summer, you'll want to plan a trip to the Elora Quarry. The iconic swimming hole boasts towering white cliffs and turquoise water.

Elora website

Before you get going, check out our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.

10 Beautiful Small Towns Every Ontarian Should Visit In 2024

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Vancouver Island has one of the 'most charming towns in Canada' and it has over 40 totems

It's a beautiful spot to visit in the summer.

A person walking in front of four totems and a flower bed. Right: A person sitting on the steps an old red train car.

A person walking in a small town. Right: A person in a small BC town.

Cozy cafes , quaint shops and over 40 totems await in a small town in B.C. that has been named among the most charming towns in Canada.

The town is about a 1.5-hour BC Ferries ride from Vancouver and it's a beautiful spot to visit during the summer.

Sports betting platform Betway revealed a list of the most charming small towns in Canada and the U.S., with several Canadian small towns being featured.

Located on Southern Vancouver Island, Duncan came in fourth on the Canadian list. The B.C. town was recognized for having the joint second-most museums of any small town on their list, as well as the fourth-most parks.

"What you might not know is that Duncan is referred to as the 'City of Totems,' more than 40 of which can be found in the downtown core – so they’re definitely worth visiting, too," Betway said.

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Duncan's most well-known area is its downtown strip which has over 300 vibrant shops and services, as per the Duncan website.

You'll find over 40 totems standing in the downtown area as well as cute cafes and small boutiques selling everything from flowers to books and locally handcrafted goods.

Once you're there you can go on a Totems Tour , which will teach you the original stories told by the artists for each of the poles.

One of the most popular events throughout the summer is the Duncan Farmer's Market which runs every Saturday morning. You'll find dozens of farmers and artists at the market selling their fresh produce and unique goods.

Duncan wasn't the only town to be featured on Betway's list. Langley took the second spot on the Canadian list.

So if you're planning a road trip to Canada's West Coast, make sure you don't skip out on visiting these two B.C. towns!

Before you get going, check out our Responsible Travel Guide so you can be informed, be safe, be smart, and most of all, be respectful on your adventure.

  • 14 Best things to do in Victoria while visiting this summer, according to a local ›
  • This small town in BC with endless white sand beaches is my favourite summer destination ›
  • 11 charming small towns near Vancouver for a romantic weekend getaway ›

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This small town near vancouver was just ranked as one of the 'most charming' in canada, 11 must-see destinations in canada for newcomers, according to the narcity team (photos), i moved from ontario to bc 8 years ago & these 7 places wowed me the most (photos), 11 charming small towns near vancouver for a romantic weekend getaway, 8 of the most beautiful cities & small towns in canada, according to canucks, 8 small towns in canada that'll make you feel like you're having a european summer, 10 of the best places in canada for first-time visitors, according to the narcity team, 14 best things to do in victoria while visiting this summer, according to a local, 6 overrated travel destinations and tourist attractions in bc and where you should go instead, this ontario small town is one of the 'most charming' in canada & has shimmering lake views, 14 bucket list activities every canadian should do that aren't niagara falls or banff, these are the 11 best small towns in ontario to visit, according to locals.

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Protect Your Trip »

The 25 best beaches on the east coast for 2024.

Plan the perfect summer getaway at these picture-perfect seaside locations.

Beach and coastline at Hatteras National Seashore, Nags Head North Carolina

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Even if you only have one day to spare, these stretches of sand guarantee a relaxing getaway.

Sand and grasses along Bethany Beach in Delaware.

Bethany Beach, Delaware

Sand and plants along Canaveral National Seashore in Titusville, Florida.

Canaveral National Seashore: Titusville, Florida

Sand dunes and grasses along Cape Cod National Seashore in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Cape Cod National Seashore: Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cape May lighthouse and Atlantic Ocean at sunset in springtime.

Cape May, New Jersey

Palm tree and plants along path at Delray Beach, Florida, at sunrise.

Courtesy of Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority |

Delray Beach, Florida

Beach and pier of Folly Beach, South Carolina, at sunrise.

Folly Beach, South Carolina

Sandy path to beach chairs and umbrellas at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Aerial of hotels and resorts along beach in Ocean City, Maryland.

Ocean City, Maryland

Boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey, with Gillian's Wonderland Pier in the background.

Ocean City, New Jersey

Old Orchard Beach Pier in Maine on a sunny winter day.

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

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Outer Banks, North Carolina

Pier at Virginia Beach during sunrise.

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Sands and resorts along South Beach in Miami, Florida.

South Beach: Miami, Florida

Aerial of golf course on Kiawah Island in South Carolina.

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Travel | June 11, 2024

The 15 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2024

From a bluegrass capital in Virginia to a laid-back surf town in Hawaii, these spots are beckoning to tourists this year

Water-fountain.-Summer.jpg

Laura Kiniry

Travel Correspondent

Each year, we celebrate the many small towns that make up the heart of America. These are the types of places where communities come together to celebrate the reopening of a more than 200-year-old lighthouse, and to welcome a Major League Baseball event to a historic ballpark. The sort of spots where local citizens have come up with innovative ways to reimagine their town for a new generation, such as the opening of a live music hall inside a former church. From full-moon hikes among lunar-like landscapes to Friday night bluegrass jams, they’re the locales that truly embrace all that this country has to offer … and then some.

Much like last year , this year’s towns vary in size, but their populations are all fewer than 25,000 residents, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates. They also boast vast cultural experiences, superb nature, and a plethora of activities and events, not to mention an anniversary or opening that makes 2024 an especially great year to visit. Glassboro, New Jersey, for example, is finally welcoming the public to its long-awaited Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park and Museum of Rowan University , while the small town of Beaufort, South Carolina, is commemorating 30 years since its starring role in the beloved, Academy Award-winning film, Forrest Gump.

From the 50th anniversary of Mammoth Site , the largest mammoth research facility on the planet, in Hot Springs, South Dakota, to a major mountain expansion in Aspen, Colorado, here are 15 towns that are encouraging us to get out there and explore.

Seaside Small Town: Scituate, Massachusetts (pop. 19,297)

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This August, one of the oldest lighthouses in the country will be revealing its restoration to the public. The unveiling of the Old Scituate Light , a historic beacon built of split granite blocks that overlooks Scituate Harbor, and was activated in 1811, takes place on August 7, National Lighthouse Day . Although plans for the day are still unfolding, many local restaurants will be including lighthouse-inspired dishes and drinks—such as fresh seafood at spots like Salt Society and Hibernian Tavern , and a celebratory “beer blend” from Scituate’s Untold Brewing —on their menus. The lighthouse’s completely rebuilt lantern room will also be on full display.

The seaside town of Scituate sits approximately 30 miles south of Boston along the Atlantic Coast, and it is home to a higher concentration of Irish descendants than anywhere else in the U.S. It’s often called “ the most Irish town in America .” Its waters also feature an ample supply of Irish moss , which Irish immigrant Daniel Ward first spotted off the coast around 1847. This type of red algae seaweed is a main source of carrageenan, a gelatinous substance used as an emulsifying and suspending agent in everything from pharmaceuticals to makeup.

Set in the 18th-century home of Captain Benjamin James—a militia leader and shoemaker—Scituate’s Maritime & Irish Mossing Museum celebrates the local mossing industry and the town’s longstanding relationship with the sea. Exhibitions include a Shipwreck Room highlighting the many devastating local wrecks and an Irish Mossing Room featuring the country’s last remaining Irish mossing shed, a place the seaweed was cured, dried and kept before purchase. The museum is a stop on the drivable South Shore Irish Heritage Trail , which winds its way through nine Massachusetts coastal towns, from Weymouth to Plymouth. Another local stop is Lawson Tower , an iconic Scituate landmark that looks like a turret on a European castle, but is actually the enclosure for a water tank. An elaborate set of ten bells, which are played on special occasions, are located at the top of its 123 stairs. Both the tower and its surrounding gardens are part of the Scituate Historical Society, and they are open to the public on select dates throughout the year.

Film buffs might recognize Scituate from movies like Witches of Eastwick (1987) and the recent American Fiction (2023). Its picturesque harbor boasts a vibrant cultural arts district hosting events like a summer bandstand series every Thursday evening, and dozens of shops, including Harbor Light Toy Company , packed with puzzles, picture books and penny candy.

Fresh seafood is plentiful here, with The Mill Wharf serving up orders of fish and chips and lobster rolls with panoramic waterfront views, and the no-frills Satuit Tavern dishing out large portions of scallops, sole and clam strips (though their Thursday night prime rib special is equally as popular). For local beers and hand-pressed soft corn tacos stuffed with local haddock, swing by the Galley Kitchen & Bar .

Each early August, the town’s Heritage Days draws 30,000 visitors with a weekend of live music, food trucks and dory races, which have expanded to include other seafaring vessels, like kayaks, paddleboards and even homemade rafts.

A Revitalized Small Town: Humboldt, Kansas (pop. 1,816)

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It’s been less than a decade since the residents of Humboldt, a rural town in southeast Kansas—two hours southwest of Kansas City—decided it was time for a change. Faced with a declining population, a group of Midwest natives kicked revitalization efforts into overdrive. In 2016, they established A Bolder Humboldt , an economic development organization formed with the support of the local community, which focuses on reimagining and rebuilding the 167-year-old town for a new generation of entrepreneurs, citizens and visitors.

In the years since, this self-described “scrappy group of dreamers, builders and doers” has helped lead well over a dozen local projects—hosting summer movie nights on Humboldt’s public square, setting up a community garden project to teach area residents about food and the joys of being outdoors, and investing in places like Bijou Confectionary , a French-inspired, boutique sweets shop where macarons and petit fours share space with build-your-own boxes of fudge.

Still, it wasn’t until 2022, when the New York Times included Humboldt in its list of “ 52 Places for a Changed World ,” highlighting spots (such as Greenland and Sierra Leone) in which travelers can be part of the solution, that this small town gained a global audience. By then, Humboldt had already undergone quite a transformation.

Today, you’ll find spots like BaseCamp , a 21-acre “glampground” featuring both full-size cabins and mini A-frame cabins, perched on the edge of town. Along with additional sites for overnight RVing, the property is home to a quarry pond for anglers and sits at the trailhead for the 6.5 mile Southwind Rail Trail . The latter works its way to the nearby town of Iola, where it connects with the 52-mile Prairie Spirit Trail for a continuous hiking and cycling route through southeast Kansas.

Humboldt’s drink, dining and entertainment options run the gamut from made-to-order chais, matchas and cold brews at Octagon City Coffee Company to the honky-tonk-style Hitching Post , where an enormous whiskey selection goes hand in hand with old-school country music. Or splurge on innovative breakfast dishes, like pancakes made with Cap’n Crunch cereal, at the oh-so-Instagrammable HoneyBee Bruncherie .

Soon-to-open venues include Union Works Brewing Co. , which will start serving wood-fired pizzas and micro-beers sometime this summer, and the Revival Music Hall, a live performance venue for everyone from punk artists to folk singers in the bones of a century-old church.

A Bolder Humboldt has also revived the town’s annual Water Wars , a signature August event that transforms the square into a massive water park—complete with kiddie pools, Super Soakers and an ice-filled “polar plunge” tank.

Soothing Small Town: Hot Springs, South Dakota (pop. 3,609) 

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This year marks the 50th anniversary of Hot Springs’ Mammoth Site , the largest mammoth research facility on the planet and home to the biggest concentration of mammoth remains. To celebrate, the active paleontological dig site and museum is hosting Mammoth Days on June 21 and 22, complete with kids’ bouncy houses, a barbecue and food trucks, and even an atlatl (a type of spear-throwing device) competition. New exhibitions, such as one on permafrost treasures, also help ring in the site’s half-century of late Ice Age research. Visitors can embark on a self-guided tour of the facility; engage with interactive displays, including an augmented-reality sandbox that allows users to move sand and see how its topography changes in real time through projected images; and view the skeletal remnants of both Columbian and woolly mammoths in the same layout as researchers discovered them.

Hot Springs is also celebrating another milestone in 2024: the reopening of its Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary to guests, for the first time since 2020. Once again, visitors can join a guided three-hour SUV tour to watch hundreds of American wild mustangs, as well as endangered wild horse bloodlines like the Curly and Choctaw, graze freely across 11,000 acres of prairie.

Known as the southern gateway to the Black Hills , more than one million acres of forested hills and mountains ideal for camping, climbing, fishing and hiking, Hot Springs is also where you’ll find some of South Dakota’s most soothing mineral waters. Located on the ruins of the town’s historic Hot Springs Hotel, the hillside Moccasin Springs Natural Mineral Spa recently added a healing salt room to its offerings—which already include hot stone massages, soothing facials and access to several spring-fed and outdoor pools. The spa’s Dragonfly restaurant nourishes guests with veggie-filled bowls and thin-crust flatbreads.

Locally owned coffee houses and eateries are the norm in this southern Black Hills town. Pair locally roasted coffee with breakfast burritos and house chili at Wandering Bison Coffee , or opt for homemade farm-to-table food in a casual and comfy setting at Southern Hills Diner & Bakery . For juicy burgers and more than 20 beers on tap—as well as in-house brews from the state’s first kombuchary, Scobi Kombucha , try the Southern Hills Mercantile & Taproom .

Hot Springs’ skies will be bursting with color come the Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival , August 23 through 25. Expect morning balloon launches, food vendors and an evening “Glow Around Town,” in which pilots fire up their balloon burners for a spectacular light display, at this popular weekend event celebrating its ninth year.

Spooky Small Town: Sleepy Hollow, New York (pop. 10,962)

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It’s been 150 years since the charming village of Sleepy Hollow (then known as North Tarrytown) was first incorporated, and its local residents are pulling out all the stops to celebrate. Events ranging from the inaugural Sleepy Hollow Mermaid Festival , on July 20, to a rollicking anniversary block party in September are a part of the yearlong festivities.

Author Washington Irving’ s 1820 tale “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” put this tiny slice of the globe, less than 20 miles north of New York City in the state’s bucolic Hudson Valley, onto the international map.

Irving is buried in the village’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery , and he was a vestryman, Sunday school teacher and regular parishioner in nearby Tarrytown’s Christ Episcopal Church , where his pew is marked by a brass plaque. But it’s the short story of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane and the notorious Headless Horseman that lives on in various landmarks throughout town. Take, for example, the millpond at the restored 17th-century Philipsburg Manor —a former milling and trading complex that now tells the story of the enslaved Africans who once lived and worked here, and is open on select dates between May and December—where the schoolmaster walked with his dates, and the Old Dutch Church , where Ichabod’s life comes to a mysterious end. Here, a two-acre burying ground serves as the final resting place of local residents who likely inspired some of the short story’s main characters, including Katrina Van Tassel, the tale’s female protagonist, as well as the horseman himself. South of the church is an 18-foot-tall Headless Horseman statue , created by local artist Linda Perlmutter .

Halloween is when the village especially springs to life, with activities such as a haunted hayride , which follows the same route that Ichabod took while trying to escape the horseman. Another favorite seasonal happening is the SUP Witches Festival , on October 13, when hundreds of costumed enchantresses, occultists and sorcerers take to the Hudson River at Horan’s Landing on stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and other watercraft.

Sleepy Hollow’s Kykuit manor was once home to four generations of Rockefellers, an illustrious American industrial, political and banking family that amassed one of the largest fortunes on the planet. Visitors can tour this opulent hilltop estate, including its 40-room mansion and sculpture-filled gardens, between May and November. A few miles north, Rockefeller State Park Preserve is the perfect place for quiet walks along carriage roads in a hardwood forest, filled with oak, maple and beech trees.

A Small Town That Knows How to Fuel Your Fun: Aspen, Colorado (pop. 6,612) 

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It seems like there’s a new opening, anniversary or earned acknowledgement just about everywhere you turn in Aspen at the moment. This endlessly sunny resort town (Aspen gets around 300 days of sunshine per year) in the Colorado Rockies is best known for its four ski mountains—Aspen Highlands, Aspen Mountain, Snowmass and Buttermilk—that transform into hubs for hiking and mountain biking come summer. Together they fall under the moniker “ Aspen Snowmass ,” and they recently unveiled a new Hero’s terrain : 153 acres of skiable chutes, glades and trails, as well as a high-speed quad chairlift, just in time for the 2023-2024 winter season. It’s the first major addition to Aspen Mountain since 1985.

Aspen’s upscale lodging options have also expanded. The Bauhaus-inspired Aspen Meadows Resort merges natural materials like walnut and oak with a palette of primary colors inspired by graphic artist Herbert Bayer , and MOLLIE Aspen , a design-forward, 68-room boutique hotel, opened downtown in late 2023.

Also unveiled toward the end of 2023, Colorado’s first Michelin Guide features five Michelin one-star restaurants across the state, including Aspen’s Bosq . This 30-seat, tasting-menu-only eatery specializes in hyper-local cuisine served over multiple courses. Three additional Michelin-recommended restaurants in town include Prospect at the Hotel Jerome (a local landmark since 1889), showcasing foods inspired by greater Aspen’s terroir; Mawa’s Kitchen , a cozy, art-filled space serving up Mediterranean dishes infused with French and African heritage; and Element 47 , focused on Colorado contemporary eats and tucked inside the Little Nell , Aspen’s only five-star, five-diamond, ski-in/ski-out hotel.

The town even debuted three new spas for its winter 2024 season. One in particular, Base State Longevity , offers an array of innovative treatments—like cold plunge pools and red light therapy—to help rejuvenate both bodies and minds.

This summer, Aspen Music Festival and School is celebrating 75 years of showcasing classical music with 53 nights of festivities, including popular alumni performances, while the weeklong Aspen Ideas Festival (June 23-29) commemorates 20 years with its first guest curator, award-winning magazine editor and author Tina Brown .

While in town, be sure and swing by the Aspen Thrift Shop (also 75 years old) for Louboutin shoes and Prada ski gear at a fraction of their original price.

A Laid-Back Small Town: Haleiwa, Hawaii (pop. 4,941) 

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For 25 years, the Hale iwa Arts Festival has been promoting art and culture along Oahu’s North Shore. Not only does this free event provide a platform for 100-plus local painters, photographers, sculptors and more to share and sell their works, but the two-day festival (June 29 and 30) also includes live performances and plenty of food for noshing. This year’s silver jubilee celebration takes place at Hale iwa Beach Park , a favorite among swimmers and beginning surfers alike.

About a 45-minute drive northwest from Honolulu, the laid-back Haleiwa serves as the North Shore’s artistic and social center. While experienced surfers flock here for its massive waves, this small town is also rich in island history. Approximately 30 plantation-era buildings influenced by the area’s once-prominent Waialua Sugar Mill fill the town, many of them housing surf shops, boutiques and art galleries, and thanks to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street program, any new buildings must adhere to a similar design.

A good example of combining plantation-inspired architecture with a handful of preserved historic structures is the town’s Hale iwa Store Lots , an open-air retail center that’s home to everything from island wear like Kahala —Hawaii’s oldest operating apparel company, they’ve been selling aloha shirts commercially since 1936—to art galleries such as Polu Gallery , specializing in surf-inspired art from both regional and international artists. It’s also where you’ll find some of Haleiwa’s tastiest treats, including Makua Banana Bread and family-owned Matsumoto Shave Ice , a local institution.

The North Shore Chamber of Commerce hosts 90-minute walking tours of Haleiwa. Each stroll incorporates dozens of historic sites en route, such as the town’s own Buddhist temple and the wood-frame Waialua Court House , built in 1913.

Haleiwa is an ideal place for taking in the tropical offerings that make Hawaii so special. Bask in the soft sands and calm waters of its Haleiwa Beach Park, then take in one of Oahu’s epic sunsets from the park’s shores. Rainbow Watersports rents out paddleboards and kayaks to explore the island’s blue waters, or you can join one of their Twilight Glow paddles on an LED-illuminated stand-up paddleboard, keeping an eye out for spotted rays and sea turtles as you go.

Haleiwa boasts a wonderful array of food trucks, with plates of garlicky shrimp scampi from Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck competing for tastebuds with helpings of mango sticky rice and panang curry from Khan & Phim Thai . If it’s a sit-down eatery you’re after, Hale iwa Beach House pairs poke bowls and island po’ boys with superb Pacific views.

Fossil-Filled Small Town: Glassboro, New Jersey (pop. 23,987) 

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As the Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park and Museum of Rowan University gets ready to open its doors this summer, a whole new side of this South Jersey town is about to be unveiled. The 65-acre fossil park is the only site east of the Mississippi where you can actively dig for fossilized remains from the Late Cretaceous period, which ended 66 million years ago, and its 44,000-square-foot eco-friendly structure is everything that a world-class museum should be.

The space is equipped with geothermal heating and cooling systems, making it the largest public net-zero facility in the entire state, and features impressive exhibits like the “Hall of Cretaceous Seas,” home to dozens of marine recreations (including that of a mosasaur , a type of sea-dwelling lizard that was unearthed onsite) by world-renowned paleo-sculptor Gary Staab , and a “Hall of Extinction and Hope,” which explores innovative ways to take action against climate change. The museum itself is perched above an active dig site. Here, visitors can search for fossils of shark teeth and marine crocodiles alongside Rowan University’s top paleontologists.

German glassworker Solomon Stanger first established Glassboro in 1779 as a “Glassworks in the Woods,” and thanks to its quality sand and many trees, glass manufacturing became the town’s leading industry for well over a century . Downtown’s Heritage Glass Museum showcases this history through displays of antique and Depression glass, hand-blown glass from the region, and a selection of South Jersey paperweights, including several by local world-renowned glass artist Paul Stankard .

The town’s centerpiece is Rowan University , a four-year public institution that was founded in 1923 as a school for training teachers. It was also the impetus for downtown’s Rowan Boulevard , a one-third-mile corridor lined with shops, eateries and even classrooms that has been consciously developed over the last 15 years to create the “quintessential college town.” It’s home to Exit 4 Private Escape Rooms , where you’ll have an hour to outwit the Jersey Devil or break free from a haunted mountain hotel, and Cookie Munchers , a purveyor of humongous, freshly baked chocolate chip and M&M cookies. Glassboro’s Town Square along High Street serves as a community hub, hosting summer events like barbecue fundraisers and Friday night movies.

Head to LaScala’s Fire for cocktails, local brews and happy hour eats, including paninis served on wood-fired piadina . For an authentic diner experience, slide into a booth or belly up to the counter at Angelo’s Glassboro Diner . Their pork roll sandwich completes the South Jersey experience.

A Small Town Preserving Its Indigenous Heritage: Santa Ynez, California (pop. 4,505) 

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This fall, the central California coastal town of Santa Ynez will see the opening of its Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center , a long-awaited 6.9-acre landscape dedicated to the history and culture of the region’s Indigenous Chumash people. Visitors can explore a LEED Silver-certified museum with a permanent exhibition gallery displaying objects such as traditional musical instruments and hunting tools—all which shed light on over 8,000 years of ancestral life. An outdoor cultural park features an amphitheater for storytelling and gardens filled with over 11,000 California native plants. These include over 140 species traditionally used by the Chumash, such as tule grass for matting and thatching houses, and elderberries for crafting whistles and bows.

Tucked within the agricultural riches of the state’s Santa Ynez Valley, between the Santa Ynez Mountains to the south and the San Rafael Mountains to the north, Santa Ynez boasts the feel of a bygone cowboy town. Horseshoes are embedded in its crosswalks, artisan-painted wooden horses decorate its downtown streets, and Western-style storefronts hide modern shops like Santa Ynez General , featuring a curated selection of homeware (think champagne buckets and California-scented candles), and Global Gardens , the larger county’s first certified organic extra virgin olive oil producer.

The greater Santa Ynez region is home to more than 200 wineries and tasting rooms: places like Gainey Estate Vineyards & Tasting Room , where visitors can sample varietals of syrah and sauvignon blanc, and picnic on the lawn with a bottle of vino. Or pair your wine tasting with a guided trail ride through the countryside, courtesy of Vino Vaqueros Horseback Riding . Local hikes include the challenging 7.8-mile Tequepis Trail , which begins near the shores of Cachuma Lake .

For dining, the upscale Dos Carlitos Restaurant & Tequila Bar pairs plates of tostadas and ceviche with a selection of 60-plus, 100 percent blue agave tequilas. Set in a stylish farmhouse, S.Y. Kitchen whips up rustic Italian fare, such as wild mushroom pappardelle and Dungeness crab spaghetti, using simple, thoughtfully sourced ingredients. The Baker’s Table is the place for breakfast, whether it’s a slice of “flavor-of-the-day” quiche or a mouthwatering, hand-rolled almond croissant.

Baseball-Obsessed Small Town: Huntingburg, Indiana (pop. 6,495) 

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Come August 10, all eyes will be on southwestern Indiana’s Huntingburg, when its inaugural Big League Baseball Classic rolls into town. This seven-inning exhibition game is bringing together former Major League Baseball legends from teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees for a one-of-a-kind sports experience. So far the roster includes former pitcher Kyle Farnsworth and Bret Boone, a three-time All-Star second baseman, as well as local and minor league players.

The Big League Baseball Classic takes place at Huntingburg’s historic League Stadium , made famous in the 1992 movie A League of Their Own . In the film, the ballpark served as home field for the all-women professional baseball team the Rockford Peaches, and much of its 1940s vintage signage still remains on display. A group of “Peaches” in throwback uniforms also help cheer on the crowds when the Dubois County Bombers , the region’s wooden-bat summer baseball team, are in town. To get the full experience, be sure and book a 30-minute stadium tour .

Huntingburg’s picturesque downtown is a historic district of two-story Italianate and late Victorian commercial buildings that center around Fourth Street, the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare. It’s home to an impressive collection of antique stores, specialty shops and eateries: places like Downtown Emporium, featuring multiple vendors who stock everything from vintage toys to Longaberger baskets, and My Little Soap Shop , where you can fill up on bath bombs and even paint your own pottery in the evenings.

For homemade cheese ravioli and tender cuts of ribeye and filet, all served up in a landmark 19th-century space, local residents head to Mama T’s Italian Steakhouse . A thriving Latino community means plenty of authentic fare, like the carne asada tacos and chicken enchiladas available at My Jalapeño , a casual Mexican eatery.

Huntingburg’s calendar features a bevy of annual “strolls” that draw plenty of foot traffic to Fourth Street. Autumn brings Pumpkin Stroll, with shopping discounts, a pumpkin patch and s’mores, and the popular Christmas Stroll kicks off the holiday season in early November with a Hallmark-like display of decorated Victorian storefronts, visits with Santa and even a “cookie walk” with delicious samplings.

An Oasis in the Desert: Superior, Arizona (pop. 2,571) 

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It’s been 100 years since American engineer and philanthropist Colonel William Boyce Thompson founded Superior’s Boyce Thompson Arboretum on 372 acres of upland Sonoran Desert. Today, this world-renowned botanical garden is home to 20,000 desert plants from around the planet—including places like Madagascar, Japan and Israel. To celebrate its centennial , Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden is rolling out a series of exhibitions, tours and sustainability programs. A new “Spiny Splendor” exhibition is a fusion of art and nature showcasing hedgehog cactuses alongside colorful fiberglass sculptured counterparts, and its docent-led Legacy Tour sheds light on the arboretum’s history.

Located 70 miles from Phoenix, to the west, and 95 miles from Tucson, to the south, Superior got its start as a supply center for Pinal City (now a ghost town with only a few foundations remaining), and later as a mining town. These days, downtown’s mountain-backed Main Street is lined with shops and art galleries like Picket Post Antiques , a treasure trove of vintage signage, kitchenware and furniture, and the aptly named All Things Desert , stocked with everything from used books on Arizona rockhounding to potted cactuses for purchase. Bruzzi Vineyard Tasting Room is perfect for sipping wines made from Vidal Blanc grapes—an unusual find in Arizona—while browsing the many paintings, photographs and sculptures of adjoining La Paloma Fine Art .

Downtown is also home to the World’s Smallest Museum , a quirky 134-square-foot shed-like structure with a roof crafted from beer cans and plenty of pop culture memorabilia. Only two people at a time can explore this free museum’s collection, which includes a 1984 Compaq home computer and a rare variety of black obsidian stone known as an Apache Tear. The latter is reputed to be one of the largest such specimens on the planet.

For a geospatial audio tour of Superior, download the Superior A.I. audio app from ListenUp, which serves as a free “multilingual private tour guide” of this small town, turning its streets into a museum-like experience.

Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Superior to enjoy its Legends of Superior Trails , an 11.65-mile-long hiking, biking and equestrian recreational trail that runs through Superior to the climbers’ heaven, Queen Creek Canyon, passing through Arnett Canyon and its riparian forest—as well as the remnants of Pinal—along the way. Six miles west of town, the trail connects with the Arizona National Scenic Trail , a non-motorized pathway stretching 800 miles north-south across the state, from its northern border with Utah to its southern border with Mexico.

Superior’s many locally owned restaurants include Jalapeños , known for its large portions and bacon-wrapped carne asada burritos; Silver King Smokehouse & Saloon , where brisket and burgers go hand in hand with live tunes; and Felicia’s Ice Cream Shop , dishing out street tacos and Cuban paninis alongside cones of prickly pear ice cream.

Cinematic Small Town: Beaufort, South Carolina (pop. 13,850)

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When the movie Forrest Gump was released in July 1994, it became an instant classic. Now, to mark the 30th anniversary of this beloved motion picture, greater Beaufort is showcasing its own starring role. Visitors to the area can traverse the swing-style Woods Memorial Bridge where Forrest first started his cross-country run, step inside nearby McPhersonville’s Stoney Creek Independent Presbyterian Chapel where he prays for shrimp with the choir, or stroll among the thick forested trails of Hunting Island State Park, a stand-in location for Vietnam in the film located a half-hour east of town.

Founded in 1711 and located on Port Royal Island, one of South Carolina’s coastal Sea Islands, Beaufort has so much going for it. Dozens of well-preserved antebellum mansions and private homes that have been lovingly restored sit tucked among the town’s winding streets, sharing space with centuries-old, moss-draped live oak trees and lush gardens. One in particular is the John Mark Verdier House , a pre-Civil War era Federal-style mansion filled with period furniture and exhibitions, including one on Robert Smalls , a Beaufort resident who became a leader during the Reconstruction era. Many of the town’s other architectural beauties are open to the public during the Annual Beaufort Old Homes and Garden Tour happening the last weekend of June. Along with a walking tour of private homes, churches and historic places, the event promises narrated bus tours of the historic district, as well as an antique car show.

Fresh seafood and Lowcountry specialties are culinary standards in town. Dine on classic shrimp and grits or flounder po’ boys at Plums , a casual down-home eatery with views of the Beaufort River, or try Wren Bistro & Bar for shareable plates and craft brews.

Numerous offerings allow visitors to learn about Beaufort’s history while also getting lost among its natural splendor. Try a leisurely kayaking tour along the Beaufort riverfront, or opt for a boat tour with Coastal Expeditions . The company offers 1.5-hour dolphin and history excursions that cover the area’s heritage, from its Native American origins to its days under Union occupation during the Civil War. You can even hop in a golf cart to explore the town’s Hollywood movie locations, which also include the 1983 comedy-drama The Big Chill and the 1991 romantic-drama The Prince of Tides , indulging in a little seaside air as you go.

An Atomic Small Town: Arco, Idaho (pop. 930) 

small cities in canada to visit

The small town of Arco has a unique claim to fame: On July 17, 1955 , this gateway to central Idaho’s Lost River Valley (a favorite among hikers, climbers and ATV enthusiasts ) became the first community on the planet to be lit solely by nuclear-generated electricity. Arco, Idaho, is the site of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), the nation’s leading center for nuclear energy research and development, and the technology of nearly every operating reactor in the world can be traced right back to here. This year, INL is celebrating 75 years of scientific innovation with expanded summer programming that includes guided tours of its Experimental Breeder Reactor-I (EBR-I), the earliest power plant to produce electricity with atomic energy. Visitors can also peruse INL’s onsite museum, which includes radiation detection equipment and interactive displays that share the story of EBR-I’s sibling, Experimental Breeder Reactor-II.

Arco and its lab sit 19 miles northeast of Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve , a volcanic landscape of lava flows, exposed fissures and cinder cones that’s commemorating its 100th birthday this year. This lunar-like setting is where Apollo 14 astronauts, including Alan Shepard (the first American to travel into space), trained in the late 1960s for upcoming visits to the moon. This summer, the parkland welcomes visitors to celebrate “all things Crater” with events like dark night “ star parties ,” ranger-led full-moon hikes , and geology hikes among weird and wondrous formations, such as steep-sided spatter cones and billowy pahoehoe lava . Come August, Craters’ dark skies will also be one of the best spots in the country to view the Perseids , one of the brightest meteor showers of the year.

For a full night of stargazing, bed down at Arco’s Craters of the Moon/Arco KOA Journey . Perched on the edge of Idaho’s tallest mountain, 12,662-foot-tall Borah Peak, this cozy campground offers shady RV and tent sites, as well as a couple of simple cabins, from April through September. Local restaurants include the no-frills Pickle’s Place , a mom-and-pop eatery known for its juicy charbroiled Atomic Burger, smothered with grilled mushrooms and onions for a full-flavor mouth explosion, and the seasonal Lost River Drive In , serving chicken strips and ice cream sundaes.

Each third weekend in July, Arco honors its historic heritage with Atomic Days , a community-wide get-together that includes games like horseshoes and cornhole, a parade and fireworks, and even an open rodeo .

A Rollicking Small Town: Floyd, Virginia (pop. 449) 

small cities in canada to visit

Music is an essential component of southwestern Virginia’s Blue Ridge Plateau heritage. This is especially true in the small town of Floyd, where the Floyd Country Store has now been welcoming musicians, dancers and visitors from around the globe to its Friday Night Jamboree for 40 full years. Each week , the old-timey storefront transforms into a rowdy, rollicking venue for Appalachian musicians of every caliber, coming together to perform simply for the love of song and the interaction with others. People of all ages start flatfooting and clogging to the sounds, crowds pour out into the streets, and during warmer months, you might find bands playing in the nearby alleyways and parking lots.

Floyd Country Store opened in 1910, and it serves as Floyd’s community gathering space. Whether it’s indulging in simple Southern classics like Brunswick stew from its cafe, sipping on a classic milkshake at the store’s adjacent soda fountain, or shopping for homemade jams and playing cards, this laid-back country store is a one-stop shop. It’s also one of the major venues along the Crooked Road Trail ​​—southwest Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail—which is celebrating its 20th year. In addition to its Friday night jamboree, the Floyd Country Store hosts various musical events all week long, such as Honky Tonk Thursdays and Americana Afternoons every Saturday.

Floyd is known for its vibrant arts community, and it’s one that’s on full display at the Floyd Center for the Arts , three gallery spaces tucked inside a repurposed dairy barn. Peruse the works of local and regional artists in its upper-level Hayloft Gallery, partake in classes ranging from stained glass to painting, or attend a night of classical music as part of the center’s annual concert series. The Station is an artisan center filled with a wonderful selection of shops, including the women-owned Troika Gallery , home to contemporary crafts like handmade pottery and turquoise jewelry.

Floyd’s Blue Ridge surrounds are a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Adventure outfitter On the Water rents out canoes, kayaks and inner tubes for a run down the Little River, Floyd County’s largest waterway, while Along the Water offers guided horseback rides along the banks. At 4,500 acres, Rocky Knob Recreation Area along the Blue Ridge Parkway is loaded with hiking trails winding through woodlands and open pastures.

Hikers looking for sustenance can hit up Dogtown Roadhouse for wood-fired pizzas paired with live music and craft beer or local staple DJ’s Drive In, which serves up classic burgers and fries, curbside, with a side of 1950s nostalgia. The summer farmer’s market is worth a look-see too.

A Stargazer’s Small Town: Silver City, New Mexico (pop. 9,377)

small cities in canada to visit

A century ago, the U.S. Forest Service set aside a large swath of natural landscape in southwest New Mexico as America’s first designated wilderness. Known as Gila Wilderness, this roadless 559,688-acre expanse of rocky canyons, mountain meadows and aspen glades is now honoring its 100th anniversary with a bevy of celebratory events—including speaker lectures, birding excursions, stargazing and hikes—throughout the year. For the more adventurous, the Gila 100 , a 100-mile endurance run on October 12, will start just outside Silver City, which sits right on the wilderness’s southern edge.

At about 6,000 feet above sea level, the town’s prime, high-desert location in the foothills of the Pinos Altos Mountains keeps temperatures cool all summer long. Brimming with Old West charm, Silver City is a mining town turned artistic and outdoor hub. Painters, potters, weavers and glassblowers all find home in this walkable downtown filled with colorful murals and several historic Nuevo Deco-style structures.

The town’s plethora of art galleries range from the hand-painted furniture and vivid watercolor paintings of Aldea Gallery , to the rich fiber traditions of the American Southwest on display at Wild West Weaving , which also offers beginning weaver classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Shop for vintage goods at Silver City Trading Company , where a wide array of vendors feature everything from vinyl records to silver jewelry. For dining, the burning question at the charming Jalisco Cafe , known for its Southwestern fare, is whether guests want red or green chili smothered on their burritos or enchiladas, while Corner Kitchen serves up rotating breakfast and lunch menus that include regional items like papas locas (fried potatoes loaded with eggs, black beans, guacamole, salsa and cotija cheese), chilaquiles (an egg and tortilla chip breakfast dish) and barbecue sandwiches.

Silver City sits along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail , a 3,100-mile-long pathway that traverses the United States from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. About 45 miles north of Silver City is Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument . The agricultural Mogollon (Southern Ancestral Pueblo) people turned these naturally eroded alcoves into homes in the late 1200s, and they’re still fitted with the original wooden beams. Both the monument and Gila Wilderness are surrounded by Gila National Forest , over three million acres of forests, mountains and open range that’s perfect for hiking , camping and stargazing .

A Garden Lover’s Small Town: Kennett Square, Pennsylvania (pop. 6,521)

small cities in canada to visit

Pennsylvania’s scenic Brandywine Valley is known as America’s Garden Capital, and for good reason. It’s home to Longwood Gardens , an over 1,077-acre botanical garden in Kennett Square brimming with woodlands, meadows, natural wilds and meticulously landscaped grounds, as well as 20 indoor gardens, plenty of fountains, and a conservatory housing 4,600 different types of plants and trees. This November, the property is introducing “ Longwood Reimagined: A New Garden Experience ,” a transformation of 17 acres of the conservatory and its surrounding grounds—including the re-envisioning of historic sections like Longwood’s Bonsai Courtyard and its Waterlily Court, and the addition of new indoor and outdoor gardens.

Located about 40 miles southwest from Philadelphia’s Center City, Kennett Square has a long history. Lenni Lenape tribe members hunted and fished in the region for thousands of years; British troops set up camp here during the Revolutionary War; and the area served as a military encampment during the War of 1812. Kennett Square was also a prominent stop on the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safehouses that helped enslaved African Americans escape into free states. The Kennett Underground Railroad Center offers guided bus tours to the area’s documented sites, including historic homes and Quaker meetinghouses, throughout the year.

The town itself is also known as the “Mushroom Capital of the World,” because the region produces roughly 60 percent of the country’s mushrooms. Fungi lovers can purchase mushroom varietals ranging from shitakes to baby bellas at the Mushroom Cap on State Street, Kennett Square’s main stretch. About a five-minute drive south is the 19th-century, family-owned Woodlands at Phillips Mushroom Farms , which sells fresh, dried, jarred and specialty toadstools. An onsite museum highlights the growing process and health benefits of mushrooms.

When it comes to dining, Portabello’s of Kennett Square continues the fungi theme with dishes that include pappardelle pasta made with brown butter mushrooms and spinach, portobello egg rolls, and a beloved roasted mushroom soup. For comfort food at its best, Nomadic Pies serves up chicken pot pies, honey lavender custard pies, and every pie in between. One of the hottest tickets in town is Talula’s Table , a tiny farm-to-table BYOB featuring an eight-course tasting menu. Although dinner reservations must be made a year in advance, the space operates as a gourmet market during the day, with pastries, salads, sandwiches and provisions available for sale.

The annual two-day Kennett Square Mushroom Festival is the town’s signature event. Held on September 7 and 8 this year, the festive street fair includes everything from a fried mushroom eating contest to a tent where you can learn the ins and outs of sustainable mushroom production.

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Laura Kiniry

Laura Kiniry | READ MORE

Laura Kiniry is a San Francisco-based freelance writer specializing in food, drink, and travel. She contributes to a variety of outlets including American Way , O-The Oprah Magazine , BBC.com , and numerous AAA pubs.

The Forbes Advisor editorial team is independent and objective. To help support our reporting work, and to continue our ability to provide this content for free to our readers, we receive payment from the companies that advertise on the Forbes Advisor site. This comes from two main sources.

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The Cheapest Cities To Live In Canada And Whether You Should You Move

Updated: Jun 7, 2024, 12:18pm

Table of Contents

Top 15 most affordable cities to live in canada, should you move to a cheaper city, is now a good time to move, the bottom line.

If you live in one of Canada’s hottest housing markets, the exorbitant cost of real estate might be getting you down. You may have even considered whether it’s worth moving to a more affordable city. If this sounds like your own thoughts, you’re not alone.

According to a recent Royal LePage survey of Canadians living in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, half of those polled said they would consider buying a property in one of Canada’s most affordable cities if they could find a job or work remotely. Sixty percent of renters said they would consider relocating, compared to 45% of current homeowners.

Thunder Bay, Ont., tops the list of Canada’s 15 most affordable cities, followed by Saint John, N.B., and Red Deer, Alta. No cities in the provinces of British Columbia or Nova Scotia made the cut. Affordability was determined by the percentage of income required to service a monthly mortgage payment, rather than simply the most affordable homes based on price.

“There’s an old saying in real estate, ‘drive until you qualify.’ As housing affordability continues to deteriorate and Canadians face increasingly higher barriers to entry when buying a home, this adage is becoming more of a reality,” said Karen Yolevski, COO, Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd., in a release. “Many aspiring homeowners in the country’s largest and priciest urban centres are seriously considering relocating to less expensive cities in order to get a foot on the property ladder.”

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According to the latest statistics by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) , the national average home price was $703,466 in April 2024, down 1.8% year-over-year. While prices have remained relatively stable in most markets across Canada, prices have ticked higher in Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon.

The Greater Vancouver Regional District tops the list of the most expensive real estate market in Canada at $1.2 million, up 2.8% year-over-year, with Toronto at a close second at $1.12 million, down 1% year-over-year. While significantly cheaper, a home in Montreal will still set you back $530,300, a 3.3% increase since April 2023.

What’s more, to purchase a property in these markets, you’ll need to make a minimum 20% down payment for a home over $1 million, so that’s $240,000 and $224,000, respectively for the Vancouver and Toronto properties. For that Montreal home, you’ll need to put down 5.28%, or $28,000, plus over $20,000 in mortgage default insurance .

If those numbers make your head spin and you’re looking for a more affordable home in Canada, here are the 15 cities that made the list:

i) House price based on city-level aggregate home price data from Q1 2024 ii) Monthly mortgage payment based on 3-year fixed term conventional mortgage at 5.71% over 25 years iii) Household income based on provincial median total household income data

Among those Canadians who said they would consider relocating to a more affordable city, the top three reasons for moving were: a lower cost of living (57%), to be closer to nature and/or live in a less populated area (41%) and to experience aa more relaxed pace of life (40%). (Respondents could select more than one answer.)

“It’s clear that lifestyle is an important factor in Canadians’ decisions about where to buy a home,” said Yolevski. “Unsurprisingly, in addition to lower home prices, some Canadians who are contemplating a move to a more affordable city are also seeking reduced everyday expenses, and a break from the hustle and bustle of urban centres. This is a trend that began prior to the pandemic and was accelerated during the real estate boom of 2020 and 2021, when many homebuyers relocated to smaller communities where they could safely social distance whilst enjoying greater privacy, more living space and better access to the outdoors.”

Moving can be a very emotional—and expensive—decision, so before you start searching one of these affordable cities for your next home, you might want to consider the following:

  • Cost of living: Your cost of living includes necessities such as housing, food, transportation and childcare. While this poll looks at the cost of living related to housing, it’s important to consider other costs. For example, if you need to commute to your job, gas prices can vary substantially between provinces. If you look at the GasBuddy price map, the average gas price in Newfoundland is currently 186.1 cents per litre, compared to 137.68 cents in Manitoba. To help you compare the cost of a basket of groceries between provinces to give you a sense of food costs, Statistics Canada provides an Average Retail Food Prices Data Visualization Tool . For example, a grocery basket costing $676.42 in Nova Scotia would cost $625.86 in Ontario.
  • Quality of life: Quality of life means different things to different people, so it’s important to be clear on what matters most to you. If you have children, you’ll want to research what the schools are like in the neighbourhoods you favour. Do you want to be closer to nature, parks or playgrounds or are museums and art galleries more your style? Other measures may include whether there are churches nearby, access to health care or hospitals, and the political lean of a particular riding.
  • Job opportunities: If you’re fortunate enough to work from home or can arrange a transfer with your current employer, this is less of a consideration. But if you need to find a new job, you’ll want to consider both how a move will affect your career opportunities and advancement, as well as the paycheque you’ll be taking home.
  • Family: Saving money on your mortgage may be an enticing incentive to move away, but if you currently live close to extended family members, this decision should consider more than just the emotional cost of leaving. If you’re used to having grandparents helping with childcare, for example, you’ll need to replace that support in your new community—and that can be costly. According to StatCan , in 2022 parents paid an average of $7,790 per year for full-time child care. You’ll also need to consider the cost of travel for family occasions such as birthdays and holidays.
  • Taxes: This is less important if you’re moving within the same province, but if you’re moving out of the province, it’s a good idea to consider the different tax rates and the impact on your budget. For example, if you look at the tax brackets and income tax rates by province, income up to $49,231 is taxed at 5.05% in Ontario, but in Quebec, up to $49,275 is taxed at 14%. Then there are also three different sales taxes in Canada: PST, GST and HST. Alberta only charges 5% GST, while Manitoba charges PST (7%) and GST (5%), and Nova Scotia charges 15% HST. You should also compare the property tax between different properties, which should be part of any home’s listing.
  • Closing and moving costs: Your mortgage isn’t the only cost you’ll need to consider when budgeting for a move. Whether you move down the street or across the country, it can cost you thousands of dollars for expenses such as a home inspection, land survey, appraisal fee, legal fees, land transfer taxes, home insurance and moving costs, to name a few.

Home sales activity fell 1.7% between March and April 2024, according to CREA, while the number of new listings rose 2.8% over the same time period. While the national sales-to-new listings ratio came in at 53.4%, indicative of a balanced market, it is slightly in favour of a buyer’s market.

“April 2023 was characterized by a surge of buyers re-entering a market with new listings at 20-year lows, whereas this spring thus far has been the opposite, with a healthier number of properties to choose from, but less enthusiasm on the demand side,” said Shaun Cathcart, CREA’s Senior Economist

However, with many Canadians waiting for interest rates to come down, inventory levels could change quickly as buyers re-enter the market.

In another Royal LePage survey from February 2024, of the 27% of Canadians who have been active in the real estate market since the BoC started raising rates in March 2022, over half of those said they were forced to postpone their search due to raising rates. Among those, 51% said they would start looking for a home again if rates reversed: 10% said a 0.25% cut would be enough to reboot their house search, while 18% said they were waiting for a cut of 0.50% to 1%, and 23% said they needed a rate cut of more than 1%.

On June 5, 2024, the Bank of Canada (BoC) finally cut its key interest rate from 5% to 4.75%—the first policy cut in over four years. This is good news for mortgage holders, especially those with variable-rate mortgages that are tied to the BoC’s rate. If inflation continues to cool, most recently coming in at 2.7% in April, it is likely that we will see further rate cuts this year.

The Big Six Banks have already started cutting their prime rate from 7.2% to 6.95, effective June 6, 2024.

If you’re shopping around for a mortgage, Forbes Advisor Canada has this guide for the Best Mortgage Rates in Canada.

With the skyrocketing prices for homes in Canada’s largest cities, shopping for a home in a more affordable city can help you stretch your money further. But be sure to look at the other costs of a move before you raise that “For Sale” sign.

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The smith manoeuvre: what it is, how it works and should you use it, think financial review 2024, what is a home equity sharing agreement, what is a heloc and how does it work, mortgage rates history, canada’s $10,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers.

Fiona Campbell is a Staff Writer for Forbes Advisor Canada. She started her career on Bay Street, but followed her love for research, writing and a good story into journalism. She is the former editor of Bankrate Canada, and has over 20 years of experience writing for various publications, including the Globe and Mail, Financial Post Business, Advisor’s Edge, Mydoh.ca and more.

small cities in canada to visit

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  1. The Best Small Cities To Live in Canada

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  2. The 12 Best Small Towns in Canada

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  3. 30 Best Small Towns in Ontario You Need to Visit (2024)

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  4. These are Canada's most adorable small towns and villages

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  5. 10 Of The Best Things To Do When Visiting Montreal, Canada

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  6. Top 10 Beautiful Small Towns in Canada

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VIDEO

  1. The 10 best small towns to live in Alberta, Canada

  2. Best Small Towns in Canada for Newcomers

  3. Top 10 Best Small Towns to Live in Canada 2024

  4. TINY TOWNS OF ONTARIO (5 adorable small cities you must visit)

  5. The 10 best small towns to live in Manitoba

  6. The 10 best small towns to live in Saskatchewan

COMMENTS

  1. The 12 Best Small Towns in Canada

    Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec. Francis Gagnon/Courtesy of Tourisme Charlevoix. Baie-Saint-Paul ranks among Canada's cultural capitals, thanks to its lively art scene. Case in point: Cirque du Soleil got ...

  2. 29 Most Charming Small Towns To Visit In Canada (2023)

    The best time to visit Alma is in summer when the average temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius and rainy days are rare. 2. Baddeck, Nova Scotia. Population: 769. Karen from Wanderlustingk: one of the most charming small towns in Canada is Baddeck.

  3. 15 Most Charming Small Towns in Canada (+Photos)

    Like many places in Canada, the land was in use long before Europeans arrived - Neepawa meaning 'Land of Plenty' in the Cree language. Today there are many historic buildings to admire: the Margaret Laurence Home, where the Canadian novelist grew up, and the iconic Roxy Theatre Neepawa, built in 1906, still in use today for events and ...

  4. The Most Charming Small Towns in Canada

    Elora, Ontario. Visit the picturesque town of Elora to catch a glimpse of its cascading waterfalls while hiking through the Elora Gorge Conservation Area. Beautiful 19th-century buildings line the ...

  5. 16 Top-Rated Small Towns in Canada

    While there are plenty of reasons to visit Canada's big cities, traveling to small towns provides a special experience for travelers who really want to get to know a place. There's usually no need for detailed itineraries and long-winded tour guidebooks; in a small town, the best adventures are discovered by wandering around on foot or taking ...

  6. Canada's Best Small Cities

    Access to Quebec City is less than 25 minutes by road along the Pierre Laporte Bridge, or, more scenically, a 10-minute crossing via hourly ferries. The economic benefits to Lévis are plentiful. The city ranks #11 for Employment Rate among Canada's small cities and #5 for Income Equality.

  7. Best Small Towns in Canada

    Waskesiu, Saskatchewan. Arriving in this tiny town is a bit of a revelation. After driving north through the country, winding along pastoral hills, you enter the Canadian Shield, with its lakes and islands and rugged-rock outcrops. Waskesiu sits within Prince Albert National Park, and it is a popular summer playground.

  8. The 12 Best Small Towns in Canada

    Trinity, Newfoundland. Trinity, Newfoundland, is a small town rich in history and culture. Incorporated as a town in 1969, it has a population of 76 as of the 2021 Census. This scenic town is known for its connection to the arts, notably hosting the Rising Tide Theatre Festival.

  9. 36 Most Charming Small Towns in Ontario (2024)

    Pack your bags for your Ontario road trip. Here are the best small towns in Ontario, and why they're worth a visit. 1. Arnprior. Arnprior is a town of just over 10,000 people located 65 km (40 miles) west of downtown Ottawa. It's known for its architecture, festivals, boutique stores and bakeries. If you're in the Ottawa area, Arnprior ...

  10. The Best Charming Small Towns in Canada to Visit

    Among the many things she loves are high tea, period dramas, Central Park, K-pop, and her adorable mini-doodle, Colette. You can follow her on Instagram at @rosiewalano. The best small towns to visit across Canada, including Banff, Quebec City, and Charlottetown (an "Anne of Green Gables" fan's dream).

  11. 10 Beautiful Small Towns in Canada

    Trinity, Newfoundland and Labrador. Best Places to Stay. Trinity is a postcard-perfect town if there ever was one. It looks as if it was created as a film set, and it was featured in 2001's "The Shipping News," and 2013's "The Grand Seduction," but it's very real. This is a place steeped in history, with charming and colorful ...

  12. 13 Of Canada's Most Adorable Small Towns And Villages

    Vadim.Petrov / Shutterstock. 3. Summerside, Prince Edward Island. Sleepy Summerside, Prince Edward Island, is as relaxed as they come. The harbor-front boardwalk, Spinnaker's Landing, is designed to look like an old fashioned fishing village, with buildings painted turquoise, pink, aqua, yellow, and orange.

  13. 25 Best Small Towns In BC To Visit

    6. Greenwood. Greenwood, Boundary region, Canada's smallest city. If you dwell on the image of a romantic Canadian town, you should definitely visit Greenwood BC. Greenwood is a historic small town with approximately 675 residents and is located in the Boundary region of British Columbia.

  14. The 18 Most Charming Small Towns In Canada To Explore

    Victoria-by-the-Sea is the smallest town in Canada, with fewer than 100 inhabitants. It is also the best seaside town that Prince Edward Island has to offer. The best time to visit is in the summer, when people migrate here and add to its fun, rather than in winter when it is very quiet. 5. Banff, Alberta.

  15. 13 Most Charming Small Towns In Canada

    Here are 13 of the most charming small towns in Canada. Nelson, British Columbia ... perhaps the most fascinating or even spooky of stops to visit includes the Huron Historic Gaol built in 1839, a notorious prison that was the site of the last public hanging in Canada, before its closure in 1972.There are also three beaches in the town for the ...

  16. 20+ small towns in Canada to visit now

    It's about halfway between Whitehorse and Fairbanks, Alaska, and the surrounding wilderness is pristine, but the real bonus is meeting Beat, the owner and town historian. 2. Town of Dawson City, YT. Population: About 1,400. Driving distance: Whitehorse, about six hours. Go for: History; culture.

  17. 13 Best Small Towns in Ontario

    Ontario, Canada's most populous province, and its fine assortment of small towns, are spread far and wide. Some of these charming places to visit are day trips from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) or from Ottawa; others are much further afield. When to go is a consideration as well.

  18. The 10 prettiest small towns and villages in Canada

    Best small towns and villages in Canada: Victoria-by-the-Sea in PEI. Prince Edward Island is home to many seaside towns, but Victoria-by-the-Sea is one of the most picturesque of the bunch. Founded in 1819, this small village consists of just four blocks, with buildings painted in bright colours. Victoria-by-the-Sea has become a hub for artists ...

  19. 10 BEST Small Towns in Canada to Visit

    Maple Creek, Saskatchewan - one of the small towns in Canada in the middle of nowhere. In what feels like the middle of nowhere, you'll find Maple Creek. The nearest 'big city' - Medicine Hat is 100 kilometres to the west and to visit you must leave the Trans-Canada Highway. Maple Creek is close enough to Cypress Hills InterProvincial ...

  20. 18 Best Small Towns in Alberta worth exploring

    Cochrane Alberta. Population: 29,277 (2016) Cochrane is an industrial town located very close to Calgary. With a population of 29,277, it is actually one of the largest towns in Alberta (along the Edmonton Calgary corridor). It was established in 1881 and was named after a local rancher, Matthew Henry Cochrane.

  21. 15 of the best places to visit in Canada

    Planning tip: With its mild climate and beautiful beaches, Vancouver is definitely one of the best places in Canada to visit in summer. 5. Baffin Island. Best for Inuit art and incredible landscapes. The rugged landscape of Baffin Island is home to cloud-scraping mountains and a third of Nunavut's human population.

  22. The 6 Most Beautiful Small Towns In Canada According To ...

    Tofino, B.C. See on Instagram. Address: Tofino, BC. Why You Need To Go: Travel Editor Morgan Leet picked the island town of Tofino, British Columbia as one of the best small towns to visit in the country. "A go-to for a lot of people, this spot deserves the recognition it gets," she says. "There are miles of stunning sandy beaches, ancient ...

  23. 18 Best Places to Visit in Canada

    Winnipeg. 18. Churchill. Map of Places to Visit in Canada. 1. Vancouver. Vancouver. Highlights: Unlimited outdoor activities, amazing natural beauty, Stanley Park, Granville Island. For beauty, climate, a fun atmosphere, and plenty of things to do, you can't go wrong planning a trip to Vancouver.

  24. 10 Beautiful Small Towns Every Ontarian Should Visit In 2024

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