Did you know visiting a community is often one of the biggest reasons why someone decides to relocate there? Of course, there are always those communities you just know you want to be part of, from the first moment you arrive. 

Some say before moving somewhere you should try the bench test, and sit on a park bench and just watch the community go about their daily lives to get a good feel for the vibe. We’ve compiled a list of some of Ontario's best "bench test" communities but be warned: visit here and you may be reserving a moving truck in the near future.

Guaranteed, these 11 small towns would pass the bench test.

Artistic Almonte

The vibrant arts community is just one of the reasons why people visit, and ultimately move here. If you are an artist, or want to be one, Almonte’s creative vibe will hook you from the start. Visit Sivarulrasa Gallery or one of the other arts-and-artisan-focused shops to really feel the vibe, and check out their local museums while you’re at it.

If you lived here:

The unique shops here are worth a visit, but if you lived here you could shop all the time in the downtown core. Another big plus are the community events – a few of the long-running events you could take part in is Celtfest, North Lanark Highland Games, Puppets Up!, and Light Up the Night (but there are way more, too).

Beautiful Perth

This small town is constantly making Narcity’s list for historic, cute, picturesque, or just plain awesome towns. Small enough you can walk across town in less than an hour, it’s also packed with stellar food and drink, cute boutique shops, and 

If you lived here:

The crown jewel of Perth is Stewart Park, the perfect place to cop a squat for a picnic, or spread a blanket under a tree and while away a sunny day reading or dozing. It’s also home to the annual Stewart Park Festival, and if you lived in Perth you wouldn’t need to worry about parking, you could walk to the festival (or anywhere else in town).

Bustling Carleton Place

Once a sleepy bedroom community, Carleton Place is really coming into its own. Just a short drive to Ottawa down a four-lane highway, Carleton Place is one of the fastest growing communities in Ontario, and their downtown is filled with one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants, and waterfront or streetside patios to hang out and indulge in some people watching.  

If you lived here:

Riverside Park is where you could spend your lazy summer afternoons, lounging on the beach and watching families play in the on-site splash pad, or spread a blanket to enjoy a picnic lunch from The Good Food Co. You could also spend time paddling with the crew at the Carleton Place Canoe Club, the oldest continuously operating canoe club in Canada.

River Views in Arnprior

Once you’ve been to the ‘Prior you will know why this small town is so popular for day trips. Stand on a bridge overlooking the mighty Madawaska River and marvel at the power of nature, or head for the beach on the Ottawa River to while away the days, beachside. 

If you lived here:

Wes’ fries could be a staple on your weekly menu (in season), and that alone is almost worth the move! Gillie’s Grove is an old growth forest and national historic site located in Arnprior and if you lived here you could spend some time bathed in coolness beneath the forest canopy. 

Get to Know Wilno

“If you don’t know Wilno, you will know now.” As the first Polish settlement in Canada, a visit to this small community is an immersion in Polish history of the historical and edible kind. Visit the Polish Kashub Heritage Museum and learn more about these intrepid first settlers and their culture, then head to St. Mary’s Church, the oldest Polish parish in Canada.

If you lived here:

You could enjoy recipes straight from the old country at the locally famous Wilno Tavern. You won’t get tired of trying authentic Polish dishes like pierogis and cabbage rolls. You’ll also love the views of the surrounding hillside, which only get better in fall.


A Small Wonder in Sharbot Lake

The community of Sharbot Lake is small but passionate about the beauty of their region. The lake itself is divided into two halves by the main road through the community so almost everywhere you go you will have a fantastic view of the water. With the Sharbot Lake Provincial Park located right on the outskirts you’ll have ready access to hiking trails, paddling opportunities, and more.

If you lived here:

The K&P Trail runs right through town and you could wander by bike, ATV, on foot (or on a horse!) down this 90-kilometre gravel trail in the former railbed. Afterwards you can relax at the Cardinal Café + Shop for a homemade donut and a frothy latte. Live music is a regular feature at the Sharbot Lake Inn & The Crossing Pub so you won’t get bored after dark.

Mighty Minden

There are few communities as well loved as Minden. Close enough to Toronto to make a good day trip, you are still far enough away to enjoy that quintessential small town feel. Enjoy views of the beautiful Gull River which bisects the town and stroll the Minden Riverwalk that takes you along the winding shores of the Gull River.

If you lived here:

The Dominion Hotel & Pub in the heart of Minden is where musicians go to jam so you will be able to enjoy live performances on a regular basis there. You’ll also have easy access to Molly’s Bistro & Bakery, where everything is made from scratch and includes old-time favourites like lasagna, meat pies, and homemade dessert pies.

Hello Haliburton

Perched on the edge of beautiful Head Lake, it’s all about the views in Haliburton, whether it’s of the lake itself or the rolling hills that surround the town. Borrow a bike from the Rotary Club’s Bike Share (it’s free) and take a two-wheeled tour through town to get a good sense of the community vibe here.

If you lived here:

A 12-minute drive from Haliburton proper, Abbey Gardens would soon become one of your favourite places to shop for locally sourced food, stop for a pint of beer at Haliburton Highlands Brewing Co. Right in town, Skyline Park offers fabulous views of Haliburton and Head Lake. 

Beautiful Bancroft

The Canadian Shield is front and centre in the landscape in Bancroft, which mirrors the beauty of the topography in Algonquin Park, a little farther north of this small town. Hastings County is the Mineral Capital of Canada and this theme is prevalent in Bancroft, which is also a popular rockhounding destination.

If you lived here:

Grail Springs Wellness Retreat is located on the fringe of Bancroft proper, and could become your go-to destination for a vegan lunch, massage or wellness experience, or for day use of the on-site water circuit. Relax with a pint at Bancroft Brew Pub and browse the works of local artists at The Muse Gallery & Café. 

Tiny but Trendy Tweed

With just over 6,000 residents, Tweed is big enough to provide the amenities you’re used to, but still small enough to have that old fashioned small-town feel that we love so much. Located on the shores of Stoco Lake and the Moira River, watersports are big here.

If you lived here:

People drive from all over to see North America’s Smallest Jailhouse, and a stop at Tweedy’s Classic Scoops will also soon be a favourite when you live just down the road. You’ll also want to don your cowboy boots for the Tweed Stampede that takes place each September Labour Day weekend.