Moving to Burlington? Guide to Living in Burlington, Ontario
Whether you are looking to move out of Toronto or move closer to work in the GTA, Burlington is a quickly growing city on Lake Ontario that you really should consider! To the city’s credit, Maclean’s magazine agreed, naming Burlington the “Best Community in Canada” in their 2019 edition of the rankings. Burlington is full of trendy neighbourhoods and family-oriented communities, with options for people house-hunting in all stages of their lives. As part of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, Burlington’s access to the transit network that efficiently feeds into Toronto is just icing on the cake for this blooming bedroom community.
In the western corner of Lake Ontario, the City of Burlington occupies the shoreline between Oakville to the northeast and the core of Hamilton due south. Burlington, Ontario is part of the Regional Municipality of Halton alongside Oakville, Milton, and Halton Hills. Geographically, Halton is located in the Golden Horseshoe, a highly populated and industrialized area of Ontario which also includes the Greater Toronto Area. Burlington’s central location puts it close to the economic prosperity of Toronto and Hamilton and marks it as a popular commuter community for either area. Due to Burlington’s own thriving industries, many choose to live and work in Burlington as well. The Regional Municipality of Halton boasted a total population of 548,435 people in 2016 with 183,314 of that population residing in Burlington.
Living in Burlington puts residents just a little bit closer to the GTA than those living in Hamilton. This is reflected in the average price of the both areas when they are compared together. By the end of 2019, the average price of a residential property in Hamilton was about $535,000 while it was a much higher $755,000 in Burlington. The average price for a detached property in Burlington was about $975,000 while the price for a semi-detached property was more affordable around $590,000. Compared to Hamilton, Burlington’s housing market gets significantly fewer new listings, but they tend to spend less time on the market as well. Despite being more expensive on average than Hamilton, Burlington is considered affordable when compared with nearby Oakville’s 2019 average of over one million dollars.
As large as the city of Burlington is, its neighbourhoods can be tidily divided by their relation to the major highways that run through the city.
This neighbourhood is located south of highway 403 and east of the Queen Elizabeth Way’s turn across Lake Ontario. As Burlington’s easternmost area, it is close to Hamilton and its amenities. Southern Aldershot also benefits from waterfront views as the neighbourhood runs along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. Lakeside properties can be among some of the most expensive in the city, thankfully, Aldershot is also populated with more affordable, older character homes. Proximity to parks, schools, and community attractions make Aldershot one of the more popular family areas in Burlington. Aldershot attractions include Aldershot arena, a branch of the public library, the Burlington Golf & Country Club, LaSalle Park, and the Royal Botanical Gardens.
Neighbourhoods north of the Queen Elizabeth Way benefit from their location between the 407 and the QEW, maximizing convenience for commuters without sacrificing spacious, family-friendly living. Popular neighbourhoods include the newer Alton Village, properties from the 80s through to the 2000s in Millcroft, Headon Forest, and the much-sought-after Orchard. Two neighbourhoods stand apart from the decidedly suburban north, Tansley and the trendy Corporate. Both areas are known for being walking distance from anything you might need and for condos great for retirees and first-time home buyers looking for a smaller property.
With the shore of Lake Ontario serving as this area’s southern border and the QEW to the north, south Burlington is home to a mix of waterfront properties, dense downtown living, and older family neighbourhoods. Roseland, Shoreacres, and Elizabeth Gardens are famous for beautiful views of Lake Ontario and even more beautiful properties. These older homes are mostly detached with a historic charm and comparatively high price tags. Downtown Burlington also has a section on the waterfront, but this densely populated urban neighbourhood is great for those who want walking-distance convenience. The steep price for homes, condos, and apartments in the area are mitigated by being so close to downtown amenities and the Burlington GO station!
Rural Burlington defines the large area north of the 407 highway. This area is made up of farmland and woodland near the Niagara Escarpment. Because this area is not yet developed by the city, lots here are huge and distant from one another, but the market is much slower than in the city. While residents will be distant from Burlington’s conveniences, they can enjoy stunning views, peace of mind, and a slower pace.
Living in Burlington, Ontario
Not only does Burlington have ample services to support its over 180,000 residents, it is also close to even more options for amenities in Hamilton and Toronto. Starting locally, Burlington’s general hospital, Joseph Brant Hospital is located right on shore of Lake Ontario and has a 24 hour emergency department. The city also manages a variety of community recreational facilities including numerous parks, arenas, and community centres. The extensive community programs of the Burlington Public Library are accessible at 7 different branches across the city. There is a branch of the public library in Central, Aldershot, Alton, Brant Hills, Kilbride, New Appleby, and Tansley Woods.
The City of Burlington has a truly fantastic transportation infrastructure. The 407 highway runs through the north of the city, up through Oakville, Mississauga, and into Toronto. The Queen Elizabeth Way runs across the Burlington Skyway connecting Toronto and Fort Erie as it runs through Burlington, Hamilton, and Niagara Falls.
As for public transportation, buses operated by Burlington Transit run routes throughout the neighbourhoods of the city. Express bus routes are used to streamline commuter’s connections with GO Transit. To further improve transfers onto GO transit, Burlington Transit offers a reduced ride fair for customers continuing onto GO transit. The Burlington GO Station hosts both a railway and a bus service to connect residents of Burlington with the rest of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. The station is well connected to Burlington Transit and also offers plenty of parking for those who arrive by car. A GO train from Burlington station takes about an hour to reach Union Station in Toronto.
There are four school boards that operate in the Burlington area, the Halton District School Board, the Halton Catholic District School Board, the Conseil scolaire Viamonde, and the Conseil scolaire Catholique Mon Avenir.
Most schools in Burlington are part of the Halton District School Board. Across the city, there are over 25 public elementary schools which feed into 6 different high schools. The northeast of the city is serviced by Dr. Frank J. Hayden High School and M.M. Robinson High School. Northwestern Burlington is still within M.M. Robinson’s boundaries as well as Aldershot for grades 7 to 12. The southern half of Burlington has Burlington Central High School, Nelson High School, Robert Bateman High School, and also Aldershot in the southwestern corner.
The second highest number of schools are operated by the Halton Catholic District School Board which has 14 elementary schools and 3 high schools. Those schools are divided into three groups according to which high school they feed into, Assumption Secondary School, Corpus Christi Secondary School, and Notre Dame Secondary School.
There are two French language boards that service Burlington and the surrounding area, the Conseil scolaire Viamonde and the Conseil scolaire Catholique Mon Avenir. Between those boards, there are 2 elementary schools in Burlington, École élémentaire Renaissance and École élémentaire Catholique Saint Philippe. Secondary French schools are available in Hamilton, Oakville, and Milton, Ontario.
In addition to the above options, there are also numerous private schools in the Burlington area. Ashwood Glen, Trinity Christian School, Burlington Christian Academy, Fern Hill School, and Glenn Arbour Academy are all options for students in kindergarten to grade 8. Secondary private academies include Halton Waldorf (JK to Grade 12), Blyth Academy (Grades 5 to 12), and the Burlington Royal Arts Academy which offers specialized arts programming to Grades 9 to 12.
Burlington is also in a key location to allow its residents to commute to a variety of post-secondary institutes outside of the city. McMaster University is just across the water in Hamilton, Ontario - as is the Mohawk McMaster Institute for Applied Health Sciences campus. In addition, McMaster’s DeGroote School of Business campus can be found in Burlington, offering both Undergraduate and professional programs. Nearby Oakville is the home of Sheridan’s Trafalgar Road Campus and the school’s world-renowned Faculty of Animation, Art and Design.
After the land around Lake Ontario was surveyed, the area around Burlington Bay was deeded to Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), a Mohawk chief and British Loyalist during the American Revolution. The agricultural community would grow further from the lake as more Loyalists would settle the area and industry began to arrive in Ontario.
The wealth of early transportation available to Burlington helped to keep the village growing and thriving through the 19th century. Goods could be shipped from ports along Lake Ontario or by rail when the Great Western Railroad was introduced to Burlington in the 1850s. By 1873, Burlington would be incorporated as a village, then a town in 1914 as the population continued to grow.
Burlington’s connections to both Hamilton and Toronto became crucial in the 20th century as the GTA rapidly developed and bedroom communities began appearing farther and farther from the Toronto core. In 1958, the Burlington Bay Skyway was completed, a bridge which supported Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) highway traffic in and out of Toronto. The sheer amount of traffic crossing the Burlington Bay Skyway necessitated that the bridge be twinned in 1985, increasing the number of lanes on the QEW. Both of these developments solidified Burlington’s role as a commuter community for Toronto as accessing the city was easier than ever. With Burlington’s population exploding and nearing six-figures, the town would be formally incorporated as a city in 1974.
The Royal Botanical Gardens are an attraction that Burlington shares with the City of Hamilton and a famous natural attraction of the area. The gardens occupy over 1000 hectares of the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere and provide public access to gardens, trails, and exhibits. Across the different seasons, visitors can experience the diverse blooms of the Rock Garden, Arboreum, Hendrie Park, Laking Garden, and the Royal Botanical Garden Centre. The main centre is also home to cafés, theatres, the Natural Playground, and the indoor Mediterranean Gardens. In addition to the gardens, the RBG sanctuaries have 27km worth of outdoor trails across three areas, the Cootes Paradise Trails, the Escarpment Property Trails, and the Hendrie Valley Trails. Alongside its natural attractions, the RBG offers educational programs and camps for all ages of people interested in nature, art, and health.
Burlington draws a crowd in the summer season for its two largest festivals, the Sound of Music Festival in June and Ribfest at the end of August. The Sound of Music Festival is an outdoor celebration that brings live music to downtown Burlington for a special weekend series. The event features concerts, carnivals, community entertainment, and the traditional Grande Festival Parade. Burlington’s Ribfest is regarded as the biggest one in Canada! Over Labour Day weekend, festival-goers can enjoy local vendors, entertainment, and of the course, the food! It may take all weekend and a bottomless appetite, but it’s possible to try every flavour of the traveling festival - or just choose one special sauce to try! After that, guests can cast their vote for the best ribs at the festival and stick around for the judging and prizes on the last day.
The City of Burlington has a large and diverse population. This means that exploring Burlington’s many restaurants is like taking a culinary tour of the world! Here are 5 popular restaurants around town that provide a sample of the great flavours Burlington is capable of.
1. Judge & Jury
A British-style pub located north of the Queen Elizabeth Way. They serve lunch and stay open past dinner to 1am on every day of the week except Sunday (which is just 10pm). This pub is known for its comforting food which can be enjoyed in the classic pub interior, an outdoor patio, or off of a take out menu. Dining in allows you to pair your nice, hot food with some of the Judge & Jury’s selection of draught and wine.
Next stop on the world tour is MYTHOS, a cozy pocket of colourful Greek cuisine and an extensive wine bar. The lunch menu offers light options like fresh salads and pita wraps alongside heavier entrée meals and pasta. The dinner menu is an expansion of this with even more options for appetizers and entrées. If you can’t narrow down the menu, you can order MYTHOS’ specialty, the Cyprus Meze, a platter with a little bit of everything meant to accompany drinks. It works out well that MYTHOS also has a fully-stocked wine bar to compliment the meal!
Sometimes, the classics are the best. When you’re craving pizza, Son of Peach absolutely has your fix. Not only are the pizzas among the best in the city, every topping, side dish, and dip is prepared in-house from locally-sourced ingredients. Pizza options on the menu range from Tomato & Mozzarella to their spin on the classic Hawaiin toppings - smoked bacon, peameal bacon, pickled jalapenos, and big chunks of pineapple.
This next place has been a staple of Burlington’s casual dining for over 30 years. Jake’s Grill & Oyster House serves up all manner of seafood, from crab cakes, steamed clams, shrimp, mussels, scallops, lobster and a huge variety of fish dishes. Seafood alternatives include Baby Back Ribs and Sirloin, expertly grilled. Daily specials include BBQ Ribs, (Fish) Taco Tuesday, Fish & Chips, and fresh P.E.I. Mussels!
This restaurant will rekindle your love of healthy eating with awesome alternatives and exciting world flavours. This café serves soups, salads, chili, bowls, and burgers with everything on the menu being gluten-free and vegan. Lettuce Love is a chance to try tasty meatless options like pulled BBQ Jackfruit, Tempeh patties, and veggie patties - or traditionally meatless dishes like Falafel. They serve breakfast pancakes and desert as well - using dairy and egg alternatives, they have even mastered pancakes and cheesecake!
Burlington, Ontario is not just a lively and affordable bedroom community to Toronto, it’s the culturally-rich hometown of natural wonders, great food, and stunning waterfront views. If living in Toronto sounds too crowded, tiresome, or expensive, consider taking a step along Lake Ontario and exploring some of the great neighbourhoods that Burlington has to offer.