Best Small Cities to Live in BC

Whether you’re just visiting or you’re looking to settle in for good, British Columbia has quickly become one of the most popular provinces in Canada. Fantastic cities line the coast of the Pacific, charming towns can be found up in the mountains, and quaint villages filled with interesting residents are scattered all over the province!

Although the thriving cities of Vancouver or Victoria are the most densely populated, the small cities of B.C. are not to be overlooked. These gorgeous areas are often tucked away among the most spectacular landscapes and are filled with friendly locals ready to welcome all who come to see their little slice of paradise.

There’s plenty of these cities to fill the province, but the following is a collection of some of the best small cities to live in and a few examples of what makes them so great!

Ashcroft

Population: 1,500

Average cost of real estate: $334,900

The charming village of Ashcroft is one of the smallest residential areas on this list, home to just 1,500 people. Though small, Ashcroft packs a punch when it comes to scenery and offers locals the chance to live among some of the most beautiful sights along the Thompson River.

Many young families choose to reside in Ashcroft due to the immaculate parks, phenomenal schools, and well maintained recreational areas. Real estate in the village is made up of a mixture of older, heritage homes and newer, contemporary homes so no matter what style interests you, you’ll probably be able to find it among the Ashcroft listings.

Ashcroft Highlights:

Abundance of Hiking Trails: If you’re looking for a place where you can get out, stretch your legs, and enjoy all that nature has to offer, Ashcroft is definitely for you. Between the quiet stretch along the river and the vast forests surrounding the village, there are numerous trails to walk, jog, or even break out your ATV.

A Hub of Activity: The Ashcroft Hub is a great spot to mingle with the community. Complete with a fully stocked fitness centre, dance facilities, athletics courts and fields, and more, The Hub has a little something for everyone to stay fit and active. The centre is also home to several community events throughout the year, giving newcomers a chance to get to know the neighbourhood.

Shops Galore: Whether you’re looking for the best fresh produce or a speciality giftware shop, you can find it all within the boundaries of Ashcroft. Downtown is filled with unique local businesses and familiar brand names and the Desert Hills Ranch Farm Market has all the fresh fruits, veggies, and even homemade ice cream you can eat as well as fresh flowers and themed events.

Nanaimo

Population: 160,000

Average cost of real estate: $602,905

Nanaimo is one of the bigger small cities of British Columbia. Also known as “Harbour City,” Nanaimo is the epitome of classic West Coast culture and can be found just off of mainland Vancouver. Locals can travel to and from the mainland via a well-honed system of ferries and can take in the beautiful sights of the Pacific Ocean daily.

Nanaimo real estate is made up of a variety of housing styles, perfect for all lifestyles from young, aspiring professionals, to seniors seeking a quiet home to spend their retirement years. The mild climate, year-round, further accommodates those who are not so happy to settle for the harsh Canadian winters found elsewhere in the country.

Nanaimo Highlights:

Pristine Parks: Nanaimo has a reputation for beautiful, well-maintained park and recreation areas. From the tulip-infused fields of Maffeo Sutton Park to the interesting rock formations of Jack Point, the views found in these gorgeous areas are unbeatable!

Sensational Shops: Channelling their inner “big city,” Nanaimo is home to some larger shopping complexes including the Woodgrove Centre or the Nanaimo North Town Centre. You’ll also be able to find the quintessential small-town charm at the local shops of the Cedar Farmers Market or the Nanaimo Art Gallery, offering the best of both worlds to residents.

Vibrant Views: From the hike up to the lookout of Mount Benson to the beautiful stretch of beach along Departure Bay, locals are no strangers to the spectacular views that B.C. is so well known for. Looking out onto the ocean, there are several islands surrounding Nanaimo allowing locals to gaze out upon or take a boat ride out to cruise through the various inlets.

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Maple Ridge

Population: 82,256

Average Cost of Real Estate: $914,191

One of the hidden gems of Maple Ridge, the city definitely doesn’t get the same shoutouts as Nanaimo or Kelowna. However, this fabulous little city is easily one of the best places to live in British Columbia! The city is steeped in history, offers breathtaking views, and produces a high quality of life for the locals.

If you’re looking for a more private single-family home attached to a piece of land, Maple Ridge is where it’s at! The reason that this city is one of the more expensive ones on the list is because of the amazing stretches of land that come with the properties, from one- to twenty-acre plots!

Maple Ridge Highlights:

Summer Festivals: Maple Ridge is known to host some of the most magnificent festivals and events throughout the year! The community comes together to host a festive celebration of various holidays and events showcasing local talent and delicious foods. Some of the most notable festivals include Emerald Pig’s Bard on the Bandstand, Caribbean Food Festival, and the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Country Fest.

The West Coast Express: Not only is the West Coast Express the only commuter railway in Western Canada, but it’s also a major railway system servicing the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia. The proximity to this fantastic and convenient mode of transportation is a big draw to Maple Ridge residents.

Fantastic Amenities: One of the seven Regional City Centres in Metro Vancouver is Maple Ridge’s Town Centre. This fantastic facility features more than 750 businesses and houses over 11,000 residents. Locals can find every basic necessity and then some within reasonable walking distance. This Town Centre is a slice of urban living with the benefits of small-town charm.

Cobble Hill

Population: 1,775

Average Cost of Real Estate: $430,4971

Cobble Hill is nestled into the glorious Cowichan Bay, one of the most breathtaking inlets in Canada. The moderate summers and the mild winters offer the perfect marine climate, keeping locals happy all year long and the fresh mountain air provides a high quality of living that can’t be beat.

The affordable real estate costs are much more manageable than some of the bigger B.C. cities and offer a selection of beautiful vistas along the Cowichan Bay as well as charming cottages set amongst some of nature’s finest. The beauty that fills Cobble Hill is a unique and spectacular feature, envious of nature lover’s all over the country.

Cobble Hill Highlights:

Heritage & History: All throughout Cobble Hill, gorgeous historical sites are just waiting to be explored and enjoyed such as The Bakery, The Post Office, and The Market. The famous Cobble Hill Fair has been a staple in the community since 1909. Every year, locals gather to show off their agriculture and livestock and enjoy an awesome selection of live entertainment.

Artisan Specialties: Cobble Hill has become known for the amazing wineries offering delectable wines, famous both within the local circles and national. Some of the top wineries in the area include the Merridale Estate Cidery and the Cherry Point Vineyards. Visitors can tour these vineyards, learn about this incredible art form, and sample some of the finest wines in the country.

The Great Outdoors: From golfing at the championship Arbutus Ridge Golf Club to horseback riding along the rolling hills of the countryside, Cobble Hill residents have ample opportunity to explore their great backyard that is the B.C. landscapes. Cherry Point Nature Observation Park provides visitors with spectacular views of the ocean horizon and soft, sandy shores along the beach, perfect for a family outing or an intimate date night.

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Duncan

Population: 4,944

Average Cost of Real Estate: $490,000

Duncan is one of Vancouver Island’s most magnificent residential gems. The lower cost of real estate paired with the tranquil and calming scenery creates the ideal setting for those who aren’t meant for a bustling urban life. The amenities and activities featured in this quaint town are perfect for residents who wish to slow things down and appreciate the simpler aspects of life.

One thing is for sure, the sense of community found within Duncan is unparalleled. The friendly and welcoming atmosphere makes the transition to this beautiful town smooth and pain-free. The tourists who flock to the area to take in the unique cultural heritage, particularly the City of Totems, are welcomed with open arms and treated like locals themselves.

Duncan Highlights:

Comfortable Climate: As with many of these coastal cities, Duncan has an extremely comfortable climate all year long. However, both locals and visitors have noticed that Duncan always seems about ten degrees warmer than the surrounding cities. Not only does the sheltering valley offer protection from harsh winds, but also keeps the cool ocean breezes at bay, allowing for more enjoyable summer temperatures.

Unique Boutiques: Duncan is filled to the brim with eclectic local shops featuring second-hand items as well as hand-crafted furniture and decor. Downtown is made up of a collection of charming boutiques and locally run coffee shops to enjoy in between your perusing. Familiar favourites can also be found among the shops, but it’s the unique local boutiques that really give Duncan its charm.

Friendly Neighbours: As previously mentioned, Duncan is home to some of the friendliest folks on the West Coast. Whether you’re out working in your front yard or you’re strolling along the downtown streets, be prepared to run into someone you know or have a lengthy chat with a friendly new face.

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While this list has covered some of the best small cities in British Columbia, keep in mind that this incredible coastal province is filled with amazing cities and towns! The phenomenal scenery alone is enough to convince someone to make the move to any one of these unique destinations, let alone the lengthy list of wonderful amenities, family-friendly attractions, and top-rated public or private schools. If the small population of Cobble Hill draws your eye or the more urbanized Nanaimo is better suited to your lifestyle, take the time to explore the fabulous features of each small city and find the one that’s perfect for you!