Thinking about ditching big-city stress and moving north? These former Toronto residents did it—and love it
Once upon a time, Stefanie King lived in Toronto, where her police-officer husband, Adam, endured a work commute that took an hour—each way. Today? “His commute is so short now, it’s almost laughable,” King says. “It’s under five minutes, round trip.” That’s because, in August 2022, the Kings and their two preteen daughters (along with the family’s menagerie of pets) packed their lives into boxes, bid adieu to the Big Smoke’s big city stress and made the move northwest to Sault Ste. Marie.
Located on the shores of Lake Superior about a seven-hour drive— or a one-hour flight—northwest of Toronto and just 10 minutes across the border from Michigan, “the Soo,” as it’s affectionately known, is a Northern Ontario oasis and one of the province’s best-kept secrets. Five-minute commute times are the norm in this city of just under 77,000, along with incredibly affordable housing, a vibrant arts-and-entertainment scene and a local culture steeped in Indigenous history. Plus, low unemployment rates and a high demand for skilled professionals in the booming fields of finance, health care, engineering and aviation, among others, mean plenty of opportunities for job seekers.
It’s all nestled amid some of Canada’s most breathtaking natural beauty, where rivers, lakes and gorgeous beaches meet cliffs, caves and canyons. Endless outdoor-adventure options abound across all four seasons, delighting amateur enthusiasts and thrill seekers alike. “We save money on gas, bills and housing,” King says. “And everything outdoor-related is in our backyard. We love to kayak, stand-up paddleboard, swim, along with boating, water-skiing and jet skiing. And, up here, there are no lines to wait in and no fees to participate.”
Brewmaster Akeem Fitzsimons-Watkis couldn’t agree more. He and his wife, Marnie, moved from Toronto to the Soo with their dog, Churchill, on New Year’s Eve 2021 for many of the same reasons. “The August before, we spent our honeymoon camping in surrounding areas and absolutely fell in love with it,” he says. “The move here has had a great impact on our work–life balance. We have more money left over after paying our bills. We can go for a drive to Gros Cap Bluffs to see the sunset, or get to a great camping spot in less time than waiting for the elevator at our last place in Toronto.”
With three-bedroom detached houses costing under $300,000, high-quality education available from kindergarten through university, and a network of state-of- the-art health care facilities, Sault Ste. Marie offers all the benefits of big-city life tucked into a more relaxing, wallet-friendly small-town package.
King says the transition has been seamless, crediting the hospitality and kindness of her fellow Soo residents. “Our neighbourhood and the school community have welcomed us with open arms,” she says. “[Our daughters] started grades five and seven this year, and they made friends immediately. They joined rec sports and school sports, and adjusted amazingly.”
Fitzsimons-Watkis concurs. “The sense of community and togetherness is truly special,” he says. “The Soo is full of beautiful people and places. We feel so fortunate to be here and to have been welcomed with such warmth.”
To discover more about Sault Ste. Marie, visit welcometossm.com.