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Pros and Cons of living on Vancouver Island

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Ballard Fine Homes
November 22, 2023
A beautiful beach on Vancouver Island

Have you heard about Vancouver Island? No, we aren’t talking about the metropolitan city of Vancouver, but instead, its next-door neighbour to the west. This large island is home to many small towns and British Columbia’s capital city, Victoria. While many people choose to live on the Lower Mainland, there are even better reasons to make the move to Vancouver Island. In this article, we outline several pros and cons of living on the island.

If you’re finding yourself thinking that Vancouver is too expensive and are looking for other options, you’ll want to give this one a read.

This article was originally published on May 10, 2023. We have since updated it with more valuable information. Enjoy!

Benefits of living on Vancouver Island

We love living on Vancouver Island. As a Nanaimo home-building company, we have helped countless clients build custom homes in Nanaimo, Parksville, Comox, and Courteney. Read on to discover a few of the reasons why people are flocking to the Vancouver Island real estate market.

Outdoor activities

Many people enjoy the dense, west coast environment for hiking, biking, water sports, camping, fishing, and other activities. There are several marinas located on all sides of the island, including neighbouring ones on the Discovery Islands. The ease of stepping outdoors to enjoy an outdoor activity makes this area desirable for a large number of people and interests.

There are a large number of lakes, rivers, and of course, access to the ocean. Other popular activities not already mentioned include kite surfing, paddle boarding, canoeing, floating down the river, water skiing, jet skiing, and picnics on the beach. If you hit the right time of year, you can view an amazing sand sculpting competition at Parksville Beach Fest.

We have mountains, too. In the winter, sports like skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, and tubing are popular. In warmer months, visitors can enjoy the view or participate in fun activities like ziplining. Mount Washington is a hot spot all year round.

A couple walking through Cathedral Grove

Abundant nature

Lakes, ocean, mountains, dense forest – Vancouver Island has it all. Along with plenty of outdoor recreation activities, being surrounded by nature also provides exceptional views and opportunities for local flora and fauna to seamlessly blend into your lifestyle.

Cathedral Grove at MacMillan Park is a protected old-growth forest on Vancouver Island. Visitors are able to walk through serene paths to experience the majestic nature of this beautiful forest. Some of these trees are over 800 years old and include varieties such as Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, and various types of Hemlock.

Up island is a beautiful hiking spot at San Josef Bay. This part of the island is less densely populated and feels more remote when hiking. By far the most popular hiking trail is the West Coast Trail, which stretches from Port Renfrew to around Bamfield and takes usually about a week to complete.

Goats on the Roof at Coombs

Relaxed, slower vibe

Less hustle and bustle means a more relaxed, slower lifestyle than its Vancouver counterpart. This makes Vancouver Island a great place to retire, but it’s also active enough for younger people to enjoy, too. If city living is too hectic for you, consider the slower vibe of Vancouver Island for your mental health.

Say “hi” to the Goats on the Roof in Coombs, wander through the beautiful Butchart Gardens near Victoria, camp near the shoreline at Pachena Bay, or spend a relaxing day shopping downtown in Parksville. Long walks on the beach are a’plenty, as are opportunities to be social and interact with people. The local brewery scene is strong, with several craft breweries such as Tofino Brewing Company, Twin City Brewing, Philips Brewing, Mount Arrowsmith Brewing Company, and many others.

Mild climate

Vancouver Island has a mild, temperate climate with relatively warm temperatures year-round, making it an attractive place to live. For example, many golf courses are open year-round – a rare treat in British Columbia!

In the city of Vancouver, rain is a part of life during the cooler months. While this climate does creep onto Vancouver Island, instead of hitting concrete it nourishes the natural plants and trees of the region, resulting in lush forests, vibrant blooms, and the occasional opportunity to observe a beachfront winter storm.

What’s the weather like right now on Vancouver Island? Check it out for yourself – here are some popular towns and cities you can grab that info from right now.

Nanaimo Weather

Parksville Weather

Qualicum Beach Weather

Comox Weather

Victoria Weather

Port Hardy Weather

Less traffic

Sick of getting stuck in traffic? Those days are long gone once you’ve relocated to the island. The worst traffic is usually seen in Victoria during rush hour, but it is nothing compared to the long treks on the Lower Mainland. Imagine pulling out of your driveway and driving to the store and only passing by a car or two. It isn’t a dream – many small towns have plenty of space on the road for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. You might even see someone riding on horseback, depending on the area!

Affordable real estate

Looking for cheap homes in BC? Vancouver Island has several great choices.

While real estate prices are rising everywhere, they are still relatively more affordable on Vancouver Island compared to the Lower Mainland. In addition, there are more real estate listings generally available for acreages or empty lots for you to build your own custom home.

A map of Vancouver Island

Lower cost of living

When compared to places like Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, and Richmond, Vancouver Island tends to have a lower cost of living. Paired with more affordable real estate listings, this means you can purchase your dream home and still have money left in your pocket for other things you want – vacations, a second property, a new boat for your lakefront home, whatever you want! With rising prices across the globe, these opportunities to save a bit of money and still have a decent quality of life are becoming rare. Fortunately, Vancouver Island is still a relatively affordable place to live, surrounded by beautiful forests, good people, and a relaxed atmosphere.

There are many resources online for comparing cost of living measures. Whether you’re looking for the cheapest place to retire, somewhere for a fresh start, or the most luxurious home you’ve ever owned, you can find it all on Vancouver Island.

Here are a few cost of living resources that we like:

WorkBC Cost of Living Calculator – enter your desired town and your profession (or yearly salary), then fill out your expenses column to get a customized report.

Numbeo is a crowd-sourced cost of living database. This means that people enter in values based on their experiences. Sometimes this can be a bit inaccurate, but it does give a great picture of what to expect in general for the area.

Townfolio leans more towards general demographics but can be equally as useful as the other resources we have mentioned.

Two people on the beach with arms outstretched looking at the sunset.

Plenty of luxurious waterfront homes to choose from

The abundance of lakes, rivers, and ocean waters means finding a luxurious waterfront home on Vancouver Island is a high possibility, not a dream. Lakefront properties, beach houses, and river view homes are plentiful. Purchase a home that’s already established, renovate it to suit your needs, or start from scratch and build your own luxury custom home. Don’t take a vacation, live the vacation!

Ballard Fine Homes has several developments underway, some of which are right on the waterfront. If you are interested in waterfront home, please reach out to our team for more information.

High sense of community

Do you miss the good old days before smart devices where people talked to each other face to face? While smartphones are still a part of life, Vancouver Island is home to many smaller towns with a large sense of community. In these towns, locals will spark up conversations with each other on the bus, at the grocery store, or anywhere else people gather. When unfortunate circumstances occur, often you will find the community gathering together to offer their help to one another.

Potential disadvantages for island living

Transparency is important to Don Ballard and his team, which is why we want to inform you of some potential disadvantages of living on Vancouver Island, along with the perks. In this way, you can decide for yourself if island living is suitable for your lifestyle.

Less sophisticated public transportation options

Do you rely on the SkyTrain? It doesn’t exist on Vancouver Island, so relying on your vehicle is more important than if you were living on the mainland. While each city or town has its public transportation system, it is limited to city buses that tend to run less frequently than the SkyTrains in Vancouver or Burnaby. So you may need to allocate a little bit of extra time in your travel plans if you are used to getting around in a flash.

The benefit is that these rapid transit options aren’t needed. In most cases, you can drive across town in minutes (not hours), so getting around isn’t that big of an issue.

Potential for urban construction due to the rising population

The word got out and more and more people are relocating to Vancouver Island. What does this mean for you? With a growing population, there is more of a demand for services and housing. These don’t come out of thin air, so some areas will see more of a construction boom compared to others. Sometimes this can mean traffic delays or added noise, but it also means a higher quality of living once these amenities are complete and ready for public use.

Fewer job opportunities

The number of businesses and job opportunities is fewer than their mainland counterparts, so it might be slightly more difficult to find a job. This makes sense, as there isn’t a collection of metropolitan cities crammed side by side like on the Lower Mainland.

orcas swimming near Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island small towns to consider

Did you enjoy our pros and cons article for Vancouver Island? We have a few more related articles for various towns and cities on the island. Check them out below and help fine-tune your search for your beautiful home!

Pros and Cons for living in Courtenay, BC

Pros and Cons for living in Comox, BC

Moving to Nanaimo – what you need to know.

Your ultimate list of things to do in Nanaimo

How much does it cost to build a house in Nanaimo?

Pros and Cons for moving to Parksville, BC

Pros and cons for moving to a small community like French Creek

Perks and considerations for living on a lake or near the ocean

However, with so many jobs having the ability to work remotely from home, this can be more of a perk than a loss. What better place to have your office than in the relaxed, scenic environment found on Vancouver Island?

Ready to make a move?

Have you come to a decision about moving to Vancouver Island? Are you wanting a little bit more information before you make the leap? Contact the team at Ballard Fine Homes to find out more about what it is like living on Vancouver Island. We have built custom homes for clients in areas like Nanaimo, Parksville, Comox, and Courtenay to name a few, and are happy to provide insider information about each of these communities to help you be better prepared.