There’s no doubt that there are great, amazing, awesome, spectacular (we could go on like this) places to live across Canada, from sea to sea to sea. But have you ever felt … well, just a little out of place? Maybe you’re on the east coast, and you long for wide open Prairie spaces. Or maybe you’re in a small town on the Prairies and desperately want the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Never fear, we’ve gone through each of the 13 provinces and territories to determine exactly the right place for you to live, based on climate, common activities, and a host of other considerations.
Live in BC if:
You’re an outdoor sports enthusiast. Whether you’re skiing in Whistler, hiking the West Coast Trail, or surfing year-round in Tofino, BC has an endless menu of outdoor activities. Honestly, you can kayak with orcas, go white water rafting on the Nahatlatch River (and a bunch of other places), rock climb on the third largest single rock face in continental North America; the list goes on and on.
You’re not a huge fan of snow. Cities in the southwest corner of the province (Victoria, Vancouver and Abbotsford especially) have average snowfalls that are significantly lower than the rest of the country, along with the mildest climates in Canada. And if you want a little dose of the white stuff? Many of the mountains are permanently snow-covered. It’s the best of both worlds.
You’re interested in Indigenous culture. BC has six regions, each with opportunities to explore the cultures of the Aboriginal peoples of the west coast. One spot to visit is Haida Gwaii, formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, which is the heart of the Haida culture. Visit Haida Gwaii and you can learn about traditional Haida arts and culture as well as immerse yourself in the outdoor beauty of northern BC.
Live in Alberta if:
You’re looking for a lower cost of living. Even though the oil boom may have slowed the province’s economy somewhat, Alberta still boasts a low cost of living. No provincial sales tax, no provincial healthcare premiums, and a relatively high average household wage makes Alberta a great choice when it comes to making your dollar go a little further. Plus, housing costs tend to be lower when compared to equivalent cities in BC or Ontario.
You like winter, but you like a little break from it every now and then. Alberta definitely has great winters, but the winter Chinook winds that blow over the Rockies can melt snow and raise temperatures up to 30 (or more) degrees in a single day.
You’re community-minded — in a sporty kind of way. More than 80 per cent of Albertans do volunteer work of one kind or another. Of those, almost 50 per cent devote their volunteer time to sports teams or recreational activities.
Live in Saskatchewan if:
You want to work in mining, agriculture, or oil. Saskatchewan is a global agricultural leader — it’s the world’s top exporter of lentils and dried peas — but it’s also a mining powerhouse, providing a third of the world’s potash and a fifth of its uranium. Prefer fossil fuels? The province is North America’s fifth-largest oil producer.
You don’t like commuting. If you hate sitting in traffic, move to Saskatchewan. Regina and Saskatoon both have average commute times under 20 minutes. Compare that to Toronto’s 32.8 minutes and Montreal’s 29.7 minutes, and you’ll save yourself some serious time and frustration by heading to the prairies.
You don’t mind extreme weather. Saskatchewan can be both very hot and very cold. In fact, it appears on lists of some the coldest and hottest temperatures ever posted in Canada.
You’d like to live in Paris, but don’t speak French. You’re in luck. Saskatoon is known as the “Paris of the Prairies,” and not just because it’s called that in the song “Wheat Kings” by The Tragically Hip. The city has an abundance of lovely Art Nouveau buildings and a network of bridges over the South Saskatchewan River, given it a Parisian feel.
Live in Manitoba if:
You’re looking for affordability. Manitoba has some of the lowest prices for housing, auto insurance, electricity, and postsecondary tuition of anywhere in Canada. In fact, after paying basic expenses, a family earning of $75, 000 has almost $9, 000 more per year left over than the Canadian average. Plus, the rate of inflation in Manitoba is much lower than that of Canada overall.
You like sunshine. While the sunniest places in the country are cities in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Gimli, Brandon, and Winnipeg come pretty darn close, each with more than 2, 300 hours of sunlight annually and more than 310 sunny days per year. Winnipeg is actually the sunniest winter city in the country.
You really like Slurpees. Winnipeg is the Slurpee capital of the world, with 7-Elevens in the city selling more Slurpees than any other city on the globe.
You’re a festival junkie. Manitoba has a ton of festivals, many of which are the biggest of their kind. The Winnipeg Folk Festival is one of the oldest and largest in the world, Manito Ahbee is the largest pow wow in Canada (and the second largest in North America), and Folklorama, held in Winnipeg every August, is the world’s longest-running and largest multicultural festival.
Live in Ontario if:
You enjoy interacting with many different cultures. Toronto is considered the most multicultural city in the world with approximately half the population having been born in a country other than Canada. Half the population in the city also has a mother tongue that is a language other than English or French, with Chinese, Italian, Punjabi, Tagalog/Filipino and Portuguese being the most commonly spoken mother tongue languages. More than half of all new immigrants to Canada settle in Ontario.
You like lakes. Ontario is home to four of the five Great Lakes, which form the largest fresh water system on earth. If you’re a super-fan of the GLs, you can actually drive around all five a trip that will take you through eight states and a chunk of Ontario.
You’d like a job in government, finance or natural resources. Ottawa — which is also ranked as the top Ontario city to live in by Maclean’s magazine is the home of Canada’s federal government, while Toronto is the financial centre of the country. Employment in the natural resource sector, including forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas — has also grown over the past year, which is good news for those who don’t necessarily want to live in a big city.
Live in Quebec if:
You’re a history buff. Quebec was explored and settled by Europeans early in Canada’s history, with French presence beginning in 1534 and a permanent settlement established about 70 years later. The area around Quebec City is particularly significant in Canada’s history as a nation, and the city is the oldest French-speaking community in North America. Of course, the province has long been home to many of Canada’s Indigenous peoples with Algonquian, Iroquoian, Mi’kmaq and Inuit groups among the most populous.
You speak French. While Montreal is largely a bilingual city, and there are English-speaking communities throughout the province, 77.1 per cent of Quebecers are Francophone, meaning French is their first language. You can manage without speaking French in Montreal, but you may have a tough time finding a job. In the rest of the province, it’s a good idea to work on your French fluency before settling there. (Happily, the government provides free French lessons to newcomers.)
You enjoy maple syrup. This sounds like a tired Canadian stereotype, but in Quebec’s case, it’s true: the province produces 94 per cent of Canada’s maple syrup, which accounts for 87 per cent of the maple syrup in the whole world. With that volume, it’s no wonder that three men were able to steal $18 million worth of the sweet stuff in 2011 and 2012. (Luckily, they were convicted last November.)
Live in New Brunswick if:
You like old things. New Brunswick is home to Canada’s oldest incorporated city (Saint John), Canada’s oldest continuing museum (The New Brunswick Museum in Saint John), Canada’s oldest university building (the Old Arts Building on the campus of the University of New Brunswick in Fredricton) and Canada’s oldest independent brewery (Moosehead Brewery, also in Saint John).
You aren’t into big cities and don’t like crowds. New Brunswick has lovely cities, but they’re not huge compared to other cities in the country. The census metropolitan area of Moncton, the largest city in the province, has a population of just over 144, 000 (slightly bigger than Brantford, Ontario), while the population of Saint John sits just over 125, 000. Also, New Brunswick was the only province or territory to record a population decline from 2011 to 2016.
You’re into cool natural wonders. Where to start? Check out the highest tides in the world in the Bay of Fundy, which also cause the Saint John River to flow backwards twice a day. The largest whirlpool in the western hemisphere, affectionately known as “Old Sow,” is between Deer Island and Indian Island, although you have to go to Maine to see it properly. For a freaky optical illusion, watch your car roll uphill at Moncton’s Magnetic Hill.
Live in Nova Scotia if:
You want a decent wage and a low cost of living. At $67, 910, Nova Scotia has one of the highest average annual family incomes in the Maritimes, as well as average housing prices that tend to fall below national averages. The story is even better in Halifax: the average family income is $80, 490, above the Canadian average. A house in Halifax will cost an average of $281, 000 above the average house prices in the rest of the province, but still far below other urban centres in the country.
You value postsecondary education. There are 81 postsecondary students per 1, 000 people in the province, which is three times the national average. Halifax — population 403, 000 — has six degree-granting universities. There are five more universities in the rest of the province, including the Francophone Université Sainte-Anne.
You love the ocean. No point in Nova Scotia is more than 60 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean. You enjoy a fun night out. Nova Scotia has more pubs per capita than any other city in Canada.
Live in PEI if:
You want a small-town feeling (and plenty of room at the beach). PEI is Canada’s smallest and least populous province, with a permanent population of only 140, 000. Charlottetown, the biggest city, only has 40, 000 inhabitants. There are, however, 800 kilometres of beaches; plenty of room to stretch out in the sand.
You want to work with food. Agriculture and food processing are big businesses, as PEI produces about 30 per cent of Canada’s potatoes. The potato industry is the most important source of income for the island’s 2, 000 farmers. Tourism (and the businesses that support it) is also a booming industry.
You like to bike, hike or snowmobile. The tip-to-tip 435-kilometre Confederation Trail was created when PEI’s railway was abandoned in 1989. Perfect for bikers and hikers in the summer and snowmobilers in the winter, you can travel across the island on a relatively flat trail, staying at picturesque towns along the way.
Live in Newfoundland and Labrador if:
You want to feel safe. The homicide, sexual assault, and criminal harassment rates in Newfoundland and Labrador are some of the lowest in Canada. The province’s overall crime rates are also low.
You want to be at the forefront of economic change. Newfoundland and Labrador has been leading Canada in Gross Domestic Product for the last three years with major growth in the oil and gas sector fuelling the province’s economic engine. In fact, the province has one of the fastest-growing economies in North America.
You don’t get messed up by time changes. Newfoundland and Labrador has two time zones: western Labrador is in the Atlantic time zone (where it joins the other Maritime provinces) and eastern Labrador and the island of Newfoundland are on Newfoundland time, half an hour ahead of Atlantic time.
You enjoy food you can’t get anywhere else in Canada. Whether you’re eating fish ‘n’ brewis, cod tongues, flipper pie, bake apples or any number of Purity cookies, Newfoundland and Labrador cuisine is unique.
Live in the Yukon if:
You really don’t like hot summers. Even in summer, the temperature in most towns in the Yukon doesn’t get above 23 degrees, making it nice and comfortable if you’re not a fan of hot, sticky weather. The southwest Yukon is actually in the rain shadow of the St. Elias and Coastal mountains, meaning it’s also relatively dry. In fact, Whitehorse is the driest city in Canada.
You want to live in the far north, but also want a relatively low cost of living. Living in Canada’s far north is always going to be more expensive than living in the south, but Whitehorse has an average cost of living lower than many other northern communities. The average yearly family income is more than $94, 000, well above the national average.
You’re a night owl. If you’re up around midnight between late August and April, you should get a spectacular view of the Aurora Borealis. In the summer, daylight extends almost until midnight, perfect if you’re at your best later in the day.
Live in the Northwest Territories if:
You want to live in an area with rapid economic growth. Yellowknife has the third-fastest growing economy in Canada, following Vancouver and Toronto. Mining, including a growing diamond mining industry, and oil and gas exploration are important economic drivers. The NWT are now the second-largest producers of diamonds in the world.
You enjoy hearing (and learning) different languages. The Northwest Territories has eight official languages: six Aboriginal languages in addition to French and English. Although English is spoken most widely in Yellowknife, Indigenous languages are spoken throughout the rest of the territory.
You want a real community feeling where you live. Because Yellowknife is relatively isolated, it has a strong sense of community and a distinct character all its own.
You think snow forts are cool. Every year, residents of Yellowknife get together for the Snowking’s Winter Festival to build an enormous castle made of snow and ice and celebrate the arts for a month of fun activities.
Live in Nunavut if:
You want to feel young at heart. Canada’s youngest territory also has Canada’s youngest population, with more than 50 per cent of Nunavut’s residents under the age of 20.
You’re not a drinker — unless it’s Tim Hortons. More so than in the rest of the country, access to alcohol is highly restricted in much of Nunavut. Different communities set their own rules, ranging from full prohibition to restrictions on the amount of alcohol allowed to be bought to regulations on where alcohol is sold. Never fear, though. You can still get a Timmy’s double-double.
You love wide open spaces. Nunavut occupies one-fifth of Canada’s total land mass, but only has a total population of 36, 500, giving it one of the lowest population densities in the world. The capital city, Iqaluit, is the smallest capital city in Canada.
You’re not overly fond of cars. With only about 30 km of paved road, it’s often easier to use boat or ATV (in the summer) and snowmobiles (in the winter) to get from place to place.