Are you planning a move to British Columbia but looking for a quiet location away from the big cities? If so, you may be interested in living in Nelson, BC, a mountain community on the edge of West Arm Provincial Park, and just one of the many attractive small towns in BC.
Technically, Nelson is a city, but with a population of just over 10,000, it has a small-town feel. Lakes, rivers and mountains surround this tourist destination; it is popular with outdoor enthusiasts and has a thriving art community.
This article will give you all the key information about living in Nelson. In addition, we will provide you with an unbiased view of the pros and cons of living in Nelson, BC, to help you decide whether it is the place for you.
Living In Nelson, BC – The Facts
Here are a few key facts about this small city for anyone interested in living in Nelson, BC.
Where Is Nelson?
Nelson is located in south central BC, just an hour’s drive from the US border. It will take around 4 hours to drive to Kelowna (the closest international airport) and 8 hours to reach Vancouver. The city is nestled in the Selkirk Mountains on the edge of the west arm of Kootenay Lake.
What Is The Population Of Nelson in 2023?
The population of Nelson in 2023 is around 11,467, based on the latest government of BC estimates released at the start of the year.
The town has seen slow but steady growth in recent years. The latest federal census data (released in 2022) showed a population of 11,106, representing a growth in the population of Nelson of 5.1% between 2016 and 2021.
The average age of the population is 43, around 1 year higher than the national average, and the population of Nelson is predominantly white and English-speaking.
According to the latest census data, visible minorities account for around 9% of the population. The largest minority groups living in Nelson are South Asian, Filipino, Japanese and Chinese.
What Is The Weather In Nelson, BC, Like?
Most of Canada experiences cold, harsh winters with pleasant, moderately hot summers. However, BC’s coastal location and mountain ranges mean its climate isn’t typical of Canada.
You will find significant variations in the climate even within the province. Overall the BC weather is milder and wetter than the rest of Canada. The south coast has the mildest winters in Canada and warm, pleasant summers, while the southern interior has very short winters with long, dry, hot summers.
Nelson has four distinct seasons, with summer highs of around 28 deg C and winter lows of about -7 deg C. The climate here is mild compared to much of Canada, with relatively high precipitation levels (around 850mm per annum).
What Is The Cost of Living In Nelson Like?
Most immigrants find the cost of living high in Canada, and BC is one of the more expensive provinces. House prices in BC are around 50% higher than Canadian averages.
Rural areas tend to be cheaper but are still subject to high provincial taxes. For example, sales tax is 12% on most goods (5% GST plus 7% PST) compared to 5% in provinces such as Alberta, and the top income tax bracket is also relatively high.
Nelson is a cheaper place to live compared to much of BC; property prices are 15-20% lower than the provincial average. However, it is still expensive relative to most of Canada.
What Is The Nelson Economy Based On?
Traditionally the economy of Nelson has been based on forestry and mining. These industries are still crucial to the city but are now a regional business and shopping centre.
The city also benefits from a healthy tourism industry. Visitors are attracted to the natural beauty of the areas, the numerous outdoor activities and the city’s historic buildings.
Is Nelson A Safe Place To Live?
Canada is one of the safest countries in the world to live in. Crime rates are low, and the country always features near the top of the annual Global Peace Index rankings.
Within Canada, Quebec, Ontario and the Maritime provinces have the lowest crime rates, while rates are highest in the territories.
British Columbia’s crime rates are higher than national averages, and Nelson also has slightly higher crime rates than average. However, violent crime rates for Nelson are significantly lower than provincial and national averages. It is a safe place to live.
Are You Planning A Move To Canada?
Are you wondering whether to make the move and have endless questions?
We have the answers to these and many more questions.
What Are The Schools In Nelson, BC, Like?
Canada has a strong and publicly-funded education system, which consistently ranks as one of the best in the world. Education is administered at a provincial level, and BC has a reputation for excellent education within Canada.
Nelson has a range of schools covering ages from kindergarten to grade 12. If you want to enroll your children in French immersion, then this option is available in Nelson’s public schools.
LV Rogers High School also offers an Advanced Placement (AP) program. Advanced placement courses allow students to earn post-secondary credits or qualify for more advanced college or university classes.
What Is The Healthcare In Nelson, BC Like?
Canada has an excellent publicly-funded healthcare system which covers “medically necessary” care. Generally, hospital and doctor visits are covered, while other types of care, such as dental, optical and prescriptions, are funded for certain groups of people.
In Canada, healthcare is administered at a provincial level, so anyone living in Nelson would be covered through BC Healthcare.
You should be aware that there is currently a shortage of family doctors in much of Canada, and it can be difficult to find clinics taking on new patients. This is especially true of the smaller towns and cities.
The regional Kootenay Lake Hospital is based in Nelson and offers surgical procedures, inpatient facilities and 24/7 emergency care.
Pros And Cons Of Living In Nelson
The pros and cons of living in Nelson, BC, will vary from person to person, but whatever you are looking for, these are key factors for you to consider.
Pros Of Living In Nelson BC
- Beautiful location
- Attractive historic town
- Outdoor activities
- Close to a ski hill
- Lively art community
- Mild climate
- High School AP Program
- Good hospital facilities
Cons Of Living In Nelson BC
- High BC taxes
- 4-hr drive to an international airport
- Relatively wet climate