Thinking of moving to northern Ontario? Here’s everything you need to know!
Northern Ontario’s Population
In a lot of ways, northern Ontario is just one big small town, even though it encompasses a vast geography. When you relocate from a bigger centre, it can certainly be an adjustment. For one thing, it’s quite common for your neighbours to know who you are before you know who they are! But, no worries, this only results in friendliness and an atmosphere of looking out for one another.
Current figures have northern Ontario’s population at around 800,000 residents and growing. As you get to know the bigger cities, such as Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, you will understand the “big small town” concept. It’s almost assured that when you meet someone new, they will be a friend or a relative of, someone else that you’ve met.
Cities and Towns in Northern Ontario
Depending on your preference, you can be in a city, such as Greater Sudbury, with a population of just over 150,000, or a town, like Webbwood (population 600). If you’ll be working in the Greater Sudbury area, there are many bedroom communities in which to live, such as Whitefish, Nairn Centre, McKerrow and Espanola. They are all within an hour’s drive.
Espanola has a regional recreation complex with a salt water pool, gym and group exercise classes. Soccer, baseball and hockey associations offer plenty of recreation for school-age children. Boogie Mountain is the town’s ski hill, which offers many year-round activities. There are two elementary and one English public and one French Catholic high schools in the town. Some students choose to commute to Sudbury for high school.
Further to the west is Sables-Spanish Rivers Township where you will find Webbwood, Massey and Walford. Massey has its own arena and offers smaller scale soccer and baseball programs for children. It has two elementary schools and high school students go to Espanola, just 15 minutes away.
Blind River and the Township of the North Shore are another 45 minutes west of Massey on Highway 17. Both of these communities have a lot to offer, including a marina, arena, quaint local businesses, restaurants, schools and a hospital. You’ll also take in some of the best northern Ontario scenery, as the towns are nestled along the north shore of Lake Huron. There are an abundance of walking trails, ATV and snowmobile routes and inland lakes for outdoor fun.
If you are retired and conveniences are a priority, Sudbury, Espanola, Blind River and Little Current on Manitoulin Island are all great places to consider. All of them have full services (grocery stores, pharmacies) and their own hospitals. Espanola in particular has a very robust senior population and offers many activities, including the annual seniors’ lunch and dinner, as well as the seniors’ drop-in centre. The Town of Espanola also offers a 9-hole golf course and has upgraded its tennis courts to accommodate pickleball.
Northern Ontario Demographics
The demographics of northern Ontario are diverse. You will find young families, as well as retirees who have grown up, worked and plan to stay in northern Ontario. In recent years, many newcomers to Canada have been welcomed to the north, opening businesses and restaurants which have added a more global flavour to the area.
Northern Ontario Weather
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes,” the Norwegians say. If you enjoy taking part in seasonal activities year-round, then northern Ontario is definitely the place for you! It is common to expect a first-week-of-April snow storm (full disclosure). However, after that, the weather is generally glorious right through to mid-October.
While your friends in the south are trying to beat the summer heat and humidity, you’ll be cooling off on a walk through a wooded forest (lots of trees make for cooler temps) or with a lakeside breeze. Temperatures throughout the year generally range from -25 C in the winter to +28 C in the summer. You’ll almost always have a white Christmas (bonus) and summertime will produce some of the most beautiful wildflower blooms anywhere. The flowers attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.
One thing is for sure: your wardrobe will expand, especially in the jacket department! You will experience those spring and fall transitions that will have you dressed for cold in the morning and changing into summer clothes by afternoon. The key to winter warmth is layering and finding the right materials, such as light wool, to keep you toasty. Sometimes northern Ontario winters seem to go on longer than we want, so many take warm weather, all-inclusive vacations to beat the winter blahs.
For fun, here are some snowfall comparisons for different areas of Canada.
Northern Ontario Jobs
If you have a skill, there is little doubt that you’ll be successful in finding a job in northern Ontario. Many workplaces are constantly recruiting to keep up with demand in the mining, construction, fabrication and pulp and paper industries.
Professionals are also in demand. The medical, legal and other professional fields have positions to fill. In addition, the Canadian government has good paying jobs in northern Ontario for those who work in the public sector.
Average Home Prices in Northern Ontario
Median home price for Espanola, Nairn Centre, McKerrow, Webbwood, Massey, Walford and Spanish areas.
Many city dwellers are opting out of the urban lifestyle, instead looking for affordability in less populated or rural areas. While it’s true that northern Ontario housing prices have gone up by about 40% in the last year, buying up north is still one of your best bets for affordability.
The average price of the homes listed and sold on the Sudbury Real Estate Board is just under $500,000, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. The outlying areas still offer homes at much lower prices. For example, between Espanola and Blind River, you can still comfortably buy for under $300,000, as the chart above shows.
Northern Ontario’s Best Restaurants
From roadside chip trucks to elegant dining, you can find it all at northern Ontario’s many restaurants. Cuisine ranges from fish and chips, poutine (of course!) and burgers to delicious Syrian or Indian dishes, steak and lobster and everything in between.
You will find many familiar chain restaurants, as well as local establishments all across the north.
Family-friendly and Outdoor Activities in Northern Ontario
Science North and the Big Nickel in Sudbury are both educational and fun experiences for children and families. Sudbury also offers indoor climbing at ARC, a movie theatre complex and many arenas and parks.
In the outlying towns, Espanola has a recreational complex with a salt water pool, squash courts, gym and group fitness classes. In the Town of Espanola, you’ll also find Boogie Mountain Ski Hill, which is now a year-round attraction offering summer activities.
Massey has its own arena and is close to Chutes Provincial Park for summer trail hikes and local camping. Massey is also home to the Massey Museum and the Agricultural Society’s Fall Fair.
Blind River has its own Timber Village Museum, arena, marina and more.
Lakes dot the northern Ontario landscape and the region is an outdoor lover’s paradise with plenty of bird-watching opportunities!
Northern Ontario Real Estate
We are here to help you find the perfect home for you and your family.
Schools in Northern Ontario
Getting the right education is important. Most small towns have at least one elementary school and a high school either in town or within 20-30 minutes. Sudbury is home to many high schools, each offering a unique experience: arts, science, International Baccalaureate, sports, etc.
For higher education, there are many colleges and universities in northern Ontario, including the Northern Ontario School of Medicine in Sudbury and Thunder Bay. Laurentian University is in Sudbury and Nippising U. is in North Bay. There are several other universities from which to choose.
Area colleges include Cambrian, Canadore and CTS, offering a variety of certificate and diploma programs, as well as credits which can be applied towards a university degree later.