Are you looking for a quick answer for where the best places are to live on Vancouver Island? Our article describes our top picks for cities and towns we think are great for families, retirees, and singletons alike.
Nanaimo Real Estate
The Harbour City of Nanaimo’s population has been growing steadily over the years – and for good reason. It’s central location, large amount of amenities, and variety of real estate options make it desirable for a range of interested buyers. So what does Nanaimo have to offer?
Luxurious waterfront and waterview properties look into the Strait of Georgia with views of the BC Ferries and distant islands. The region of Departure Bay is especially known for its outstanding views, large plots for single-family homes, and convenient access to the core shopping areas.
Looking for something a more humble? South Nanaimo neighbourhoods such as Cedar, Chase River and Extension are less developed than the northern end, meaning more opportunities for vacant land and an overall quieter vibe.
Travellers love to live in Nanaimo because it acts as an excellent home base. With access to the BC Ferries and Nanaimo Airport, travelling is a breeze. It’s central location also places it perfectly between destinations such as Tofino or Victoria.
Top Nanaimo Attractions
In general, people tend to gravitate towards Nanaimo because of these amenities and features:
- BC Ferry access to Vancouver and the Lower Mainland
- Large shopping centres and big-box stores (Woodgrove Centre, Costco, Cabelas, Chapters Indigo, Michaels)
- A mix between old, heritage neighbourhoods and new, modern developments
- Centrally located on Vancouver Island
- Large selection of schools, including post-secondary options such as Vancouver Island University
Do you enjoy sandy beaches? How about a home on the beach, or within walking distance to one? Parksville is a small town on Vancouver Island with exceptional homes next to the ocean.
While originally popular with retirees, more and more younger people are choosing to live in Parksville because of its smaller size, friendly community, and proximity to Nanaimo’s larger attractions.
There are a mix of homes in Parksville, suitable for all budgets. Some of the cheapest homes on Vancouver Island are found near the outskirts of Parksville, usually on medium-sized plots of land with small ranchers or mobile homes. Conversely, Parksville also contains several luxurious waterfront condominiums that are highly sought after for their prime views and access to the beach.
Top Parksville Attractions
We love the beaches in Parksville, as well as the small-town community that goes along with it. Other great features of Parksville include:
- Rathtrevor Provincial Park (Rathtrevor Beach)
- Paradise Mini Golf & Fun Park
- Parksville Community Park
The Comox Valley is perfect for those that enjoy outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, and snowboarding. Surrounded by water on three sides, Comox is known as a picturesque, family-friendly community popular with growing families. It is also one of the best places to retire on Vancouver Island with its safe and vibrant community, mild year-round climate, and endless choices for things to do and see. The local Royal Canadian Air Force Base provides a sense of local security appreciated by Comox residents, plus it provides an airport for public use.
Homes in Comox range from small ranchers to large, executive style homes with ocean views. A selection of townhouses and condominiums are also found near the western edge as you draw closer to Courtenay.
Top Comox Attractions
The safe community of Comox contains the following attractions:
- Royal Canadian Air Force Base (19 Wing Comox)
- Comox Air Force Museum
- Comox Valley Airport
As part of the Comox Valley, Courtenay shares many of its perks with its sister Comox. In addition, Courtenay contains more shopping options and is closer to the mountains. As a larger city, there is generally more going on in Courtenay compared to Comox. If you love having that perfect mix between downtown shopping and escaping to the great outdoors, Courtenay is a great fit.
As one of the fastest growing communities on the island, Courtenay contains several new developments and homes for sale. Many custom-built homes are built in Courtenay due to its desirable location, amenities, and accessibility to nature.
Top Courtenay Attractions
- Shopping at Driftwood Mall
- Near Comox Lake
- Near Mount Washington Ski Resort
- Numerous hiking and walking trails
But what about Victoria or Tofino?
Does it seem strange that we excluded Victoria and Tofino from our list? While they are good places to live, there are a few downsides that made us leave them off our list as the best places on Vancouver Island. Don’t get us wrong, they are still amazing choices for the right lifestyle.
Potential disadvantages for living in Victoria
What is wrong with the capital city of Victoria? Not much at all, actually. However, it’ll cost you an arm and a leg to live there as it is one of the most expensive cities on Vancouver Island for real estate. This makes it harder for families and retirees to get into the real estate market unless they’ve had a lucky break or have worked hard for years saving up for prime real estate. Traffic congestion doesn’t help the cause, either. If you take public transit, be prepared to share it with university students – standing room only.
Perks such as additional ferry service to Vancouver, a local airport, and navy base aren’t actually located in Victoria, but its surrounding areas of Sidney, Saanich, and Esquimalt. If you have your heart set on Victoria, look around at the surrounding areas for opportunities for more affordable real estate listings. While there is nothing inherently bad about Victoria, the cities we listed earlier offer just as much value (or more in some cases), so we feel those are better choices for the majority of people.
Potential disadvantages for moving to Tofino
For families, Tofino provides limited opportunities for growth. With only a couple of schools and a tiny population, this is small-town living at its peak. While it does get busier in the warmer months for tourist season, Tofino may be better thought of as a vacation destination rather than a place to live.
The quiet, small-town feel may be desirable for some retirees, however medical care is limited. More serious cases will need to visit Port Alberni’s West Coast General Hospital (over 2 hour drive), which is usually quite busy.
If you’re okay with living away from major centres with limited supplies and amenities, then Tofino may suit your needs. But if you are interested in Tofino for its proximity to nature try checking out Comox or Courtenay instead, but with more options at your fingertips.
Take the next step
Are you ready to move to Vancouver Island? Build your dream home alongside the professionals at Ballard Fine Homes. Nestle your custom home amongst the trees and peaceful birds, or build near the ocean and fall asleep to the sound of waves gently lapping on the shoreline. Vancouver Island offers endless possibilities for custom builds in several outstanding locations. Contact Ballard Fine Homes today for a no-obligation discussion about your dream building goals.