Ontario might be best known for its capital Toronto and the nation’s capital Ottawa, which are both attractive cities to live in. However, not everyone likes to live in a large city but prefers the peace and quiet of smaller locations.
Anyone looking for a small-town charm will have plenty to choose from in Ontario and regardless of where you go, you can expect to find beautiful scenery, friendly locals, and a high standard of living.
Below, you will find a list of the best small towns to live in Ontario, starting with the places with the smallest population.
Carp is the smallest town on our list, with a population of 1,965. The town is on the Carp River and about 33 kilometres from Ottawa’s downtown. In 2021, the average house in Carp cost $941,775 an increase of 25.7% from the previous year.
Carp used to be a sleepy small town with not much going on, but it is quickly developing into a sought after rural suburb of Ottawa. It has a historic downtown area where residents can get all their necessities and which is within a walking distance from the residential areas.
The residents of Carp benefit from its proximity to Carp Hills with several walking trails to explore. There is also plenty to do in Carp with tennis courts, soccer fields, and baseball diamonds for recreational use as well as organised sports. For golf enthusiasts, the town is close to several golf courses.
Alexandria is home to 4,486 residents, and it is one of the cheaper locations in Ontario to buy a property with the cheapest house listed on All Classifieds costing just $139,900. Alexandria is part of the collection of towns in Eastern Ontario that have affordable real estate and low crime rates.
The town is one of the few places in Ontario that has an almost half and half mix of French and English-speaking residents. French is the official language in Alexandria, but you don’t need to speak the language to feel at home there.
It has an ideal location between Montreal and Ottawa, making it easy to access the additional amenities of the bigger cities. However, there is plenty to see and do in Alexandria, too. Examples of local history and natural beauty include the cathedral of Saint Finnan and Alexandria Island Park.
Manotick is in eastern Ontario on the Rideau River about 25 kilometres southwest of downtown Ottawa. This rural community has a population of 4,486. At $1,163,411, Manotick has the highest average selling price in the outskirts of Ottawa because of the finite number of houses that can be built there because of the original city planning.
The community is mostly made up of empty nesters and families, as many younger people choose bigger cities with busier downtowns. The Manotick Village and Community Association works to make the community accessible for all and puts on several recreational activities and events throughout the year.
People who enjoy spending time outdoors will find plenty to do in Manotick. Its location on the Rideau River makes it perfect for fishing, watersports, and boating with connecting waterways leading down to Lake Ontario. There are also several biking and walking trails to explore in the area.
Goderich has been nicknamed the prettiest town in Canada with a beautifully landscaped town centre and a unique hub design with all streets heading outward from the downtown core. Downtown is just a walk away from Lake Huron, which is one of the world’s largest and most beautiful lakes.
Its location on Lake Huron makes Goderich a very desirable place to live, and this is reflected in the property prices. In September 2022, the average home in Goderich cost $548,000. The town has 7,628 residents.
The town has a colorful history that residents and visitors to Goderich can learn about in museums. There are also many historical landmarks. Goderich is home to over 70 artisans and 140 local businesses. During the summer, The Square hosts flea and farmers’ markets. There is also plenty of nature to explore along the western coast of Ontario.
Newcastle is located on the shores of Lake Ontario and is home to 9,167 residents. It is on the edge of the GTA with easy access to Toronto and all its amenities. This proximity is reflected in the price of properties in Newcastle with the average home costing $867,358 in September 2022.
Newcastle has a charming shopping district among beautiful heritage buildings. The area has a wide range of businesses from shops to cafes and restaurants. The town has a vibrant waterfront with plenty to explore in your free time. There is also a recreation complex with a leisure pool, a teaching pool, an amusement slide, a whirlpool, and a sauna.
There is a wide selection of houses in Newcastle, ranging from well-preserved heritage homes dating back to the late 1800s. There are also homes from every decade in the 1900s that include frame cottages, bungalows, and modern custom-built homes. The residents take a lot of pride in their homes, which are all well maintained with beautifully landscaped gardens.
The asking price of homes for sale in Dorchester has increased 4.68% compared to September last year and the number of homes for sale has increased by 437.5%. The property website, Zolo, reports that the average house price in Dorchester is $1,150,000, making it one of the most expensive small towns on the list.
Residents of Dorchester can enjoy a peaceful village lifestyle while still within a twenty-minute drive from all the amenities in London. It is popular with people who work in London, but prefer a quieter location to live in. The area has a low crime rate, making it a safe location.
Dorchester is surrounded by a forest that is uniquely important for the biodiversity of Southwestern Ontario. There are nine local trails to explore in the area, including the Community Park Trail, which is close to the urban elements of the town. Another trail, the Mill Pond Eco-Trail, is an excellent spot for activities such as fishing, snowshoeing, and nature photography.
Paris, located in the heart of southwestern Ontario, is another town on our list that has been called the prettiest town in Canada. It has a population of 12,310 and the average house here costs $732,026.
This small town is partially on a steep hill which allows for great views of the Grand River area. The town has many historical buildings and unique small shops along cobblestone walkways. There are also many beautiful trails to explore and the riversides provide plenty of nature to explore.
Brant County, that Paris is a part of, is the tournament capital of Ontario. There are sports tournaments throughout the year including baseball, hockey, and soccer tournaments. Paris is a family friendly place and safe enough to let your kids walk to school. There are excellent schools and great medical offices in the town.
Simcoe is located on Lake Erie, which is the warmest of the Great Lakes, and has some spectacular beaches. The average house price in Simcoe was $636,038 in August 2022 and the town is home to 13,922 people. The town is now incorporated into the regional municipality of Norfolk County, which was listed by Maclean as one of the safest places to live in Canada in 2019.
With its lakeside location, Simcoe is an ideal place for people who enjoy watersports or spending warm summer days on the beach. There are also many excellent restaurants and craft brewers in the town for food and beer connoisseurs.
Norfolk County hosts many annual events and festivals, which include the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show, Simcoe Christmas Panorama, Port Dover Summer Festival, and Friday the 13th Motorcycle Rally. For anyone looking for additional amenities and activities, Toronto is only 1.5 hours away.
Napanee is one of the more affordable locations on the list of the best small places to live in Ontario, with the average home costing $245,000 in September 2022. The town is home to 15,892 residents, and it is popular with people who enjoy lakeside living as it is close to Lake Ontario.
The town is situated along Highway 401 and is about 45 kilometres from Kingston, making it easy to access additional amenities when needed. Residents of Napanee also benefit from its proximity to many natural spaces such as the Bay of Quinte.
The Napanee area has many restaurants ranging from franchised to locally owned restaurants. There is a rich history of arts and culture and you enjoy local concerts and theatre shows in Napanee. For people who like to be active, there are many parks and recreational leagues for both adults and children. The area also has opportunities to fish and hunt.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is in an area known for its wines and is a popular tourist destination for wine lovers. The town’s population is 17,500, but the town is growing rapidly. This growth is reflected in the property prices with the average home in Niagara-on-the-Lake costing $702,992. This represents a 71% increase in five years.
The town is on the southernmost point of Ontario, which gets the best weather in the province. Other than visiting wineries, residents in Niagara-on-the-Lake will find plenty to do, including watersports and exploring the beaches of Lake Ontario.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a lower key location than its cousin, Niagara Falls. It has a pleasant main street with historical buildings and views back to Toronto from its waterfront area. In the summer, the town hosts the Shaw Festival with plays by George Bernard Shaw and others performed on three stages around the town. The place is made for exploring it by bicycle with trails following the Niagara River.
Picton (Prince Edward County)
Picton, in the heart of Prince Edward County, has a population of 4,702, but the community of Prince Edward County has a population of 22,490. The town has some of the most expensive real estate on our list with the average home costing $1,052,500 in September 2022.
Picton is often called the gastronomic capital of Ontario, with a multitude of restaurants serving seasonal foods. The region is also known for its wines. The town and Prince Edward County have plenty of unique shops, boutiques, and markets to explore while the Sandbanks Provincial Park is great for spending time outdoors. People of all ages will enjoy spending time on the sand dunes along Lake Ontario.
Picton also has a vibrant art scene with 3.1% of the population working in the arts sector. There are plenty of art galleries, studios, and craft shops to explore. You will also find local theatre shows, live music, museums, and galleries in Picton and throughout the County.
Collingwood is a popular town and its population has grown by 13.8% between 2016 and 2021. It is now home for 24,811 residents. The house prices in Collingwood have gone up by 5.1% in a year and the average home now costs $877,270. It is an idyllic community with lively summers and quieter winters.
The town is an ideal place for people who enjoy spending time outdoors with Wasaga Beach to explore in the summer and Blue Mountain in the winter. Wasaga Beach which has been given the Blue Flag Destination Award for eco friendliness.
The Collingwood area is great for watersports in the summer and winter sports, such as skiing and snowboarding in the winter. People into boating can choose from many marinas, including Ruperts Landing, Thornbury Marina, and Cranberry Resort. There are also many bike trails to explore in the area, so you will never be short of things to do.
People looking for small town living have plenty to choose from in Ontario. Although some popular areas such as Manotick have very expensive real estate, it is still possible to find small towns with much lower property prices to live in. Great news for people on smaller budgets.
The town’s all have their unique features and attractions, but they all have a few things in common, too. You will always find friendly people, high standards of living, and beautiful nature in these small communities.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you would like to live in an even smaller place than we have included on our list, the following towns all have populations below 1,000: Latchford, Bruce Mines, Spanish, Rainy River, Gore Bay, and Kearney.
While prices have risen sharply in the more popular towns, especially those within easy commutes of bigger cities, there are still places such as Alexandria where properties are very affordable.
Manotick, Picton and Dorchester all have average home prices of over one million dollars.