Our good friend Erin from Wanderlust With Kids has lived in a few of these places over the past 30 years and has this to say about the best places to live in Ontario!
As Canada’s second-largest province, Ontario is an exciting and vibrant place to call home. With its big cities, stunning scenery, and the best of both urban life combined with access to nature, it’s no wonder why so many people choose to call Ontario home.
And while choosing the best places to live in Ontario will vary depending on personal preference, there are plenty of great options, including everything from large cities to peaceful, rural towns.
When compiling this list of the best places to live in Ontario in 2023, factors such as quality of life, availability of jobs, education opportunities, and outdoor activities were considered.
11 Best Places To Live In Ontario
From Canada’s largest city to smaller towns and cities, here are the best places to live in Ontario in 2023.
Located on the banks of the Ottawa River, Ottawa is known to be one of the best places to live in Ontario.
It’s a beautiful city with a vibrant food scene and plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities right at your doorstep. Ottawa is also home to a world-class university and numerous government jobs, making it an ideal place to live for those looking for employment stability.
👉 As the nation’s capital, Ottawa has many government jobs and plenty of culture and attractions to explore.
Ottawa has four distinct seasons, and while winter can be chilly, with average temperatures ranging from -2°C to -14°C (28°F to 6°F), there are plenty of snow-filled activities to enjoy during the winter months.
Skate along the Rideau Canal or ski and snowshoe on the many trails. In the summer, those same trails are fantastic to hike or cycle along, and the Ottawa River is a great place for kayaking, paddle boarding, and even white-water rafting.
Add to this the fact that Ottawa is a bilingual city, and it’s easy to see why so many people call it home. With plenty of cultural events taking place throughout the year, as well as numerous museums, galleries, and performances, there’s always something going on in Ottawa.
For those looking for a smaller city with plenty of amenities, Waterloo is an excellent choice. Located in Southwestern Ontario, Waterloo is about an hour’s drive away from Toronto and is known for its innovation and technology-focused businesses.
With two major universities as well as several colleges, there are a wealth of educational opportunities available.
👉 The city is also home to numerous tech startups, making it an ideal place for those looking to pursue their careers in the tech industry.
Waterloo’s excellent transportation system makes getting around easy and efficient, while its proximity to Toronto allows for easy commutes, weekend trips, or day trips with ease.
Waterloo is also a very affordable place to live, and its quality of life is high. With plenty of parks and green spaces in the area, as well as a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking and cross-country skiing, Waterloo is a great place to enjoy nature while still being close to the city.
Known as “Limestone City,” Kingston is a smaller city in Eastern Ontario on the shores of Lake Ontario.
Located on the shores of Lake Ontario in the eastern area of the province, Kingston has a small-town feel with big-city amenities. It’s a smaller city with a family-friendly atmosphere, making it an ideal place to raise children.
The gorgeous downtown area is filled with boutique shops, excellent restaurants, and quaint charm, making it a great place to explore. And as one of Ontario’s oldest cities, Kingston also has historic architecture and a rich history to experience.
👉 Kingston also has excellent schools, universities, and hospitals, making it an ideal place for families and professionals.
With its many waterfront parks, conservation areas, and trails, Kingston offers lots of outdoor activities – from kayaking and swimming in the summer to snowshoeing and skiing in the winter.
And it’s proximity to the 1000 Islands makes Kingston an ideal destination for those looking to explore the area.
Similar to Ottawa, Kingston’s winters can be cold and snowy, and temperatures average around the same, but you can always find an excuse to get out and enjoy the beautiful winter scenery.
Located on Lake Ontario between Toronto and Hamilton, Oakville offers easy access to downtown Toronto by car or public transit, making it an ideal place for commuters who want to be close to the city without living in it.
Voted the best place to live in Canada in 2018 by MoneySense magazine, Oakville is an excellent choice for those looking for a family-friendly city that offers plenty of outdoor activities and beautiful scenery.
With its affordability compared to Toronto, easy access to downtown, and numerous trails and bike paths, it’s easy to see why Oakville is a great place to live.
Oakville boasts a safe and clean environment and has numerous trails and bike paths, making it an excellent place for those looking to enjoy nature while living in the city. There are also quite a few golf courses in the area, including one of Canada’s top golf courses.
👉 The downtown area is walkable, and there are plenty of good restaurants, cafés, and boutique shops to explore.
Being on the shores of Lake Ontario means that winters aren’t as cold as in other places throughout the province, while its proximity to Toronto Pearson International Airport makes it easy to get anywhere in the world.
Overall, Oakville is an excellent choice for those looking for a great place to live with plenty of amenities and activities.
Guelph is a charming city located in the heart of Southern Ontario, near Kitchener-Waterloo and just an hour away from Toronto.
With its beautiful natural landscape, parks, bike trails, and easy access to nearby cities, it’s no wonder why Guelph is an excellent option for those looking for a great place to live.
Guelph is known for its green spaces and parks, making it an ideal place for nature lovers. The city also boasts a vibrant downtown area with a variety of restaurants, small shops, cafés, and a year-round farmer’s market.
👉 Guelph is also home to one of the top public universities in Canada and is recognized for its excellent academics, research, and graduate programs. The agriculture and veterinary programs are ranked among the best in the world.
The city is known for its affordability compared to nearby cities such as Toronto and Hamilton, and while the winters are cold, they’re not as severe as in other parts of the province, and temperatures stay relatively moderate compared to areas further north.
Overall, Guelph is a great place to live if you’re looking for an affordable and beautiful city that offers plenty of green spaces, activities, and excellent education opportunities.
6. Thunder Bay
Thunder Bay is the largest city in Northwestern Ontario and is situated on the shores of Lake Superior. With its beautiful scenery, outdoor activities, and pristine lakes, it’s easy to see why it’s an attractive option for those looking for a great place to live.
The city offers a relaxed lifestyle with plenty of outdoor activities for all seasons, including hiking, biking, paddling, sailing, and fishing in the summer and cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in the winter.
👉 There are also plenty of other great things to do in Thunder Bay, including numerous cultural attractions, such as the Fort William Historical Park, and a variety of museums and galleries.
The city is also known for its affordability and lower cost of living compared to other cities in Ontario. However, its location in the north means that the winters are long and cold.
Overall, Thunder Bay is an excellent choice for those looking to experience nature while living in a vibrant city with plenty of amenities.
Barrie is located on the shores of Lake Simcoe and is only an hour away from Toronto. With convenient GO bus services to Toronto, it’s quickly becoming a popular choice for commuters who want to be close to the city.
Barrie is known for its beautiful waterfront, where you can enjoy views of Lake Simcoe and the city’s downtown area has a variety of restaurants, shops, and cafés.
There are also plenty of opportunities to get outdoors, and the city is only a short drive from the Muskoka region, which is known as ‘cottage country.’ It’s also close to Blue Mountain, the only year-round mountain resort and spa in Ontario.
👉 In the winter, expect plenty of snow. But because of its location on Lake Simcoe, summers aren’t as humid as in other parts of Southern Ontario.
Overall, Barrie is an excellent option for those who want to be close to Toronto without being in the city, and it offers plenty of outdoor activities and opportunities for relaxation.
Burlington is a beautiful city located on the shores of Lake Ontario, halfway between Toronto and Niagara Falls. With its picturesque views of the lake and the nearby Niagara Escarpment, it’s easy to see why it’s a popular choice for those looking for a great place to live.
The city has a vibrant downtown area with a variety of restaurants, shops, and entertainment options. Additionally, there are plenty of outdoor activities in the nearby parks, including hiking trails and beaches along the lake.
There’s also an impressive array of art galleries, museums, and theatres for those looking for culture.
👉 Burlington is also home to the Royal Botanical Gardens, known as the RBG, which is the country’s biggest botanical garden and an excellent place to visit year-round.
Winters are relatively mild compared to other areas of Ontario, but temperatures still dip below 0°C, and summers are hot and humid, with temperatures reaching mid 30s°C.
Overall, Burlington is an excellent choice for those looking to experience nature and culture while living in a vibrant city.
Often overshadowed by Toronto and having the nickname Steel City, Hamilton is quickly becoming one of the best places in Ontario to live in. Aside from its steel industry reputation, it’s also known as the “City of Waterfalls,” with over 150 waterfalls in the city alone.
Situated on the Niagara Escarpment and the shores of Lake Ontario, Hamilton is home to plenty of outdoor opportunities, from hiking part of the Bruce Trail to enjoying the waterfront trail, which is part of the great TransCanada trail.
The downtown core has undergone a significant revitalization in recent years, with a vibrant arts scene and plenty of craft breweries to explore. The city is also home to McMaster University and Mohawk College, making it a great option for students and young professionals.
Conveniently located an hour from Toronto and just under an hour from Niagara Falls and the border to the US, Hamilton has plenty to offer in terms of activities and convenience.
👉 And although housing prices are rising, Hamilton is still more affordable than living in Toronto, and an easy commute with frequent GO Train/Bus service.
Overall, Hamilton is an excellent place to live for those who want the convenience of a big city without the big-city prices.
10. St. Catharines
Situated in the Niagara region, St. Catharines is a hidden gem on the shores of Lake Ontario.
It’s known as the “Garden City” for its many gardens, parks, and trail, and there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, from hiking trails in the nearby Niagara Escarpment to enjoying the waterfront parks and beaches.
👉 Nearby, the Niagara Wine Region makes for a perfect day trip for wine enthusiasts. Niagara Falls is also a short drive away.
St. Catharines is an affordable place to live, with housing prices significantly lower than in nearby Toronto and Hamilton, making it a great option for those who are looking for a more affordable lifestyle. It’s also home to Brock University and Niagara College, making it a great option for students too.
Winters in St. Catharines can be snowy, but its proximity to Lake Ontario moderates temperatures so winters are not as cold as other parts of the province, and summers can be mild.
Overall, St. Catharines is an excellent choice for those looking to enjoy nature and culture while living in a more affordable city. There are plenty of outdoor activities, and it’s conveniently located close to Niagara Falls and the United States border.
As Canada’s largest city, Toronto has something for everyone, from its cultural diversity and vibrant art scene to its world-class universities.
It’s a city that’s definitely worth visiting, and it’s also an excellent option for those looking to move. With a booming tech industry and plenty of opportunities in the finance, media, and health sectors, Toronto is ideal for professionals who want to pursue their career goals.
Housing prices are considerably higher than in other areas of Ontario, but neighborhoods still offer affordable living options, especially outside of the downtown core.
Toronto has a bustling downtown, with plenty of options for entertainment and dining, including world-renowned restaurants like Canoe and Alo. The city also offers an impressive array of festivals throughout the year, celebrating the city’s rich culture and diversity.
For outdoor enthusiasts, there are plenty of trails to explore in the city, including Rouge Urban National Park and the Beltline trail that passes through Toronto’s old ravines.
Toronto’s waterfront is also a great place to explore, with beaches and parks for swimming, biking, and kayaking, as well as Toronto Island, which makes for a great escape from the city.
Toronto is also home to an impressive array of museums, theatres, and galleries, such as the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Royal Ontario Museum.
Several other well-known attractions, like the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, and the Toronto Zoo make it a great destination for visitors and mean there are plenty of things to do in Toronto with kids.
👉 In addition to its vibrant art and culture scene, the city is also home to some of the world’s top universities, like the University of Toronto and Ryerson University.
Living in Toronto can be expensive, as housing prices are significantly higher than in other cities in Ontario but it offers numerous job opportunities and excellent public transit, making it an attractive option for those looking to live in an exciting and vibrant city.
Living In Ontario FAQs
Where is the most affordable place to live in Ontario?
The most affordable place to live in Ontario is in Northern Ontario, in Thunder Bay. Whether buying or renting a home, housing prices are lower than in larger cities like Toronto and Hamilton, and the cost of living is significantly less.
Now, if you’re really into affordability, you can also adopt the life of a camper and just hit the mobile home road in Ontario!
What is the safest town in Ontario to live in?
Guelph is considered one of the safest towns in Canada. According to Statistics Canada’s crime severity index (CSI), Guelph’s CSI is one of the lowest in Ontario and has consistently improved for the last three years. And combined with a high safety index, it makes Guelph one of the safest towns in Ontario to live in.
What is the best small town to live in Ontario?
While technically a city, Oakville is one of the best small towns to live in Ontario. It’s conveniently located close to Toronto and boasts a family-friendly atmosphere, beautiful parks, excellent schools, and plenty of amenities.
With low crime rates and a relatively affordable housing market, Oakville is an ideal choice for those looking for a quiet place to call home.
What is the prettiest town in Ontario?
While it’s not on our list of best places to live in Ontario, Paris is considered the prettiest town in Ontario.
Nestled along the Grand River, which connects with the Nith River, Paris is a charming town filled with historic homes, quaint shops, delicious bakeries, and a peaceful atmosphere. It’s also home to some of Ontario’s best-preserved Victorian architecture.
Where is the best place for families to live in Ontario?
Waterloo is one of the best cities for families in Ontario. With excellent schools, safe neighborhoods, and plenty of family-friendly activities to choose from, Waterloo is an ideal place for families to call home.
It’s also close to the University of Waterloo, Laurier University, and Conestoga College, making it a great option for those looking for educational opportunities as well.
Conclusion: The Best Places to Live in Ontario
When it comes to choosing the best place to live in Ontario, there are many factors to consider. From affordability and safety to culture and educational opportunities, each city in Ontario has something unique to offer its residents.
Whether you’re looking for a vibrant city or a quiet small town, there is sure to be an ideal place for everyone in the province of Ontario.
In conclusion, there is no definitive answer to the question of the “best place” to live in Ontario. Every region, town, and city offers something unique and special that appeals to different people; it is up to each individual or family to decide which location best suits their needs and desires.
Ultimately, by researching all of the options available in Ontario and considering all of the above factors, individuals and families can find a place to call home that is perfect for them.