Pros And Cons Of Living In Sarnia 2024: Right Fit for You?

sarnia canada

Are you considering moving to Ontario in Canada but want to avoid the high cost of living associated with the Greater Toronto Area and other larger cities? If this is the case, you may consider living in Sarnia. As a sports enthusiast who’s lived in Sarnia, I can offer you a unique perspective on what life is like in this charming city.

Sarnia – The Facts

Sarnia is a city in Ontario with a population of around 72,047. It’s located at the southernmost point of Lake Huron and is a border town linked to Port Huron in the US by the Blue Water Bridge.

  • Population: 72,047
  • Population Growth 2016/2021: 0.60%
  • Average Cost of Real Estate (Jan ’22): $539,377
  • Sales Tax: 13% HST
  • Provincial Income Tax Low Band: 5.05%
  • Provincial Income Tax High Band: 13.16%
  • Crime Severity Index 2020: 76.92
  • Violent Crime Severity Index 2020: 89.25


Sarnia is a natural deep-water port at the southernmost point of Lake Huron. It lies at the mouth of the St Clair River, on the shore of the busiest section of the St Lawrence Seaway System.

Note: Provincial Income Tax is Paid in Addition to Federal Income Tax.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Living In Sarnia?

Sarnia, Canada

Living In Sarnia Pros

  • Affordable Housing: One of the most significant advantages of living in Sarnia is the affordable real estate market.
  • Outdoor Activities: With its numerous parks and waterfront, Sarnia offers a wide range of outdoor activities.
  • Mild Climate: Compared to other parts of Canada, Sarnia has a relatively mild climate.
  • Proximity to Detroit: Being close to Detroit offers the best of both worlds—peaceful Canadian living with easy access to American amenities.

Living In Sarnia Cons

  • Air Quality: While improving, air quality in Sarnia has historically been poor.
  • Limited Nightlife: If you’re looking for a bustling nightlife, Sarnia might not be the place for you.
  • Job Market: While diverse, the job market in Sarnia may not offer as many opportunities as larger cities.

Where Is Sarnia Ontario?


Sarnia is located at the mouth of the St. Clair River, which connects Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair. It’s a border town, linked to Port Huron in the US by the Blue Water Bridge.

Proximity to Other Cities

Sarnia is about an hour’s drive west of London, Ontario, and an hour north of Detroit, Michigan. This makes it a convenient location if you’re looking to travel or commute to either of these cities.

Natural Beauty

The city has a beautiful waterfront and is known for its spectacular blue water. Geographically, its surrounding areas are flat and agricultural, making it a great place for outdoor activities.

What Is The Population?



According to City Population, the population of Sarnia is 72,047. The city has a predominantly European descent population, with less than 10% being visible minorities and under 5% of indigenous descent.

Age Distribution

Sarnia has a slightly older population than average, with the median age standing at 4-5 years higher than Canada as a whole. This makes it a peaceful and less bustling city, ideal for families and retirees.

Cultural Diversity

While Sarnia may not be as culturally diverse as some of Canada’s larger cities, it offers a tight-knit community where everyone knows your name. It’s a place where you can enjoy the beauty of Lake Huron, engage in various sports, and still have the comfort of a safe and welcoming community.

What Is The Weather Like?


Sarnia enjoys a milder climate compared to most of Canada, thanks to its southern location and the moderating effect of Lake Huron. Winters are relatively mild, while summers are warm and can get quite humid.

Seasonal Activities

Beach Sarnia

The mild climate makes Sarnia a great place for outdoor activities all year round. In the summer, you can enjoy water sports like swimming and kayaking, while in the winter, activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular.

Weather Challenges

Despite its milder climate, Sarnia is not entirely free from extreme weather conditions. Thunderstorms are common from April to September and can sometimes be severe, although destructive weather like tornadoes is rare.

What Is The Cost Of Living In Sarnia Ontario?

Sarnia Market

If you’re thinking about moving to Sarnia, you’re probably wondering how much it’s going to cost you to live here. Good news! Sarnia offers a relatively affordable lifestyle, especially when compared to big cities like Toronto or New York. Let’s break down the numbers According to Numbeo.

Monthly Costs for a Family and Single Person

  • Family of Four: Expect to spend around $3,536.1 USD (4,909.4 CAD) per month, not including rent.
  • Single Person: Monthly costs without rent are approximately $991.1 USD (1,376 CAD).

Rent Comparison

  • Rent in Sarnia is 73.4% lower than in New York. That’s a huge saving!

Utility Costs

  • Basic utilities for a 915 sq ft apartment will cost you around 219.65 CAD per month.

Food Costs

  • Inexpensive Restaurant: A meal will cost you about 20 CAD.
  • Mid-range Restaurant: A three-course meal for two people will be around 80 CAD.

Here’s a quick table for easy reference:

Expense Category Cost in CAD Cost in USD
Family of Four (Monthly, excl. rent) 4,909.4 3,536.1
Single Person (Monthly, excl. rent) 1,376 991.1
Utilities (Monthly) 219.65 ~158
Meal at Inexpensive Restaurant 20 ~14.4
3-Course Meal for 2 at Mid-range Restaurant 80 ~57.6

What Is Sarnia’s Economy Based On?

Sarnia - Industry - market

Traditional Industries

Sarnia’s economy has traditionally been based on agriculture and petrochemicals. The area south of the city, known as Chemical Valley, is home to more than 50 facilities and refineries. According to Reuters, pipelines directly bring oil from Alberta for refining.

Emerging Sectors

In recent years, Sarnia has also seen growth in emerging sectors like biochemicals and clean energy. The city is home to one of Canada’s largest photovoltaic plants, which converts light to electricity.

Does Sarnia Have Good Transport Connections?

Public Transport

Sarnia Transit operates bus services within the city, covering around 15 routes. This makes it easy to get around the city without a car. Additionally, there are several buses to and from London each day, providing good connectivity to nearby cities.


If you’re like me and enjoy a good bike ride while watching the local sports teams practice, you’ll love Sarnia. The city has a good network of bike lanes, and the flat terrain makes it ideal for cycling.

Rail and Air Travel

Air Transport

For longer journeys, Via Rail offers daily passenger rail services to Toronto. Detroit’s Metro Airport, about 80 minutes away by car, serves as the closest international airport, offering more flight options than the local Sarnia airport.

What Outdoor Activities Can I Enjoy?

Parks and Beaches

Beach Sarnia

Sarnia boasts more than 100 parks, some of which offer waterfront access and public beaches. Canatara Park is one of the largest, featuring close to a kilometer of waterfront. Waterfront Park, north of downtown, runs under the Blue Water Bridge and is another popular spot.

Water Sports

Summer in Sarnia is a dream come true for water sports enthusiasts. You can indulge in activities like swimming, sailing, and kayaking. The city’s location along Lake Huron provides ample opportunities for these activities.

Trails and Hiking

If you’re into walking or biking, Sarnia offers numerous woodland trails. One of the most popular is the 16km Howard Watson Trail, perfect for a day of exploring. In the winter, these trails are great for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Entertainment And Nightlife 


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Dining and Bars

Sarnia offers a decent selection of bars and restaurants, although it’s not particularly known for its bustling nightlife. If you’re looking for more extensive options, you might have to travel to nearby cities like London or Detroit.


For shopping, you can visit the downtown riverfront area or head to Lambton Mall, which houses around 72 stores. If you’re looking for more extensive shopping options, London and Detroit are just a short drive away.

Arts and Culture

If you’re interested in the arts, Sarnia has something to offer. The city is home to a world-class art gallery and the Imperial Theatre, which hosts live shows and performances throughout the year.

What Are The Best Neighbourhoods?

Best Neighborhoods in Sarnia

Downtown and South End

If you’re looking for lively areas with more bars and restaurants, the downtown area or the city’s south end are good options. These areas are generally more bustling and offer a variety of entertainment options.

Quiet Areas

If you prefer a quieter lifestyle, the north of the city is a good choice. These areas are generally more peaceful and are perfect for families or retirees.

Beach Access

For those who prioritize beach access, Bright’s Grove or Point Edward are excellent options. These areas offer beautiful views and are perfect for people who enjoy spending time by the water.

Is It A Safe Place To Live?

Crime rates in Canada

Crime Rates

According to local crime statistics, crime rates in Sarnia are very close to the Canadian national averages. People generally feel safe living here, and there don’t seem to be any areas with particularly bad reputations.

Community Safety

The sense of community in Sarnia contributes to its overall safety. It’s a city where neighbors look out for each other, adding an extra layer of security.

Emergency Services

Sarnia is well-equipped with emergency services, including police, fire, and medical services, ensuring a quick response in case of emergencies.

Is The Air Quality Bad?

Historical Context

Sarnia has historically had some of the worst air quality in Canada, mainly due to its Chemical Valley and pollution from the US. However, significant improvements have been made in recent years.

Current Status

According to recent air quality index readings, Sarnia’s air quality has improved, with most readings ranging from low to moderate risk. However, it’s still something to consider if you have respiratory issues.

Ongoing Efforts

Efforts are ongoing to improve air quality, including stricter regulations and community initiatives. While not perfect, the situation is much better than it used to be.


Is Sarnia a good place for retirees?

Yes, Sarnia is often considered a good place for retirees due to its slower pace of life, affordable housing, and numerous outdoor activities.

How are the schools in Sarnia?

Sarnia has a range of educational options, including public, Catholic, and private schools. The schools are generally well-rated, making it a good place for families.

Are there any colleges or universities in Sarnia?

Yes, Lambton College is located in Sarnia and offers a variety of diploma, certificate, and degree programs.

How is healthcare in Sarnia?

Sarnia has several healthcare facilities, including the Bluewater Health Hospital. However, some specialized treatments may require travel to larger cities.

Is Sarnia pet-friendly?

Yes, Sarnia has several parks and outdoor spaces where you can take your pets. Some parks even have designated off-leash areas for dogs.

What are the shopping options in Sarnia?

Sarnia has a variety of shopping options, from big-box stores to local boutiques. Lambton Mall is the primary shopping center.

Is Sarnia LGBTQ+ friendly?

Sarnia is generally considered to be LGBTQ+ friendly, with various community events and organizations supporting inclusivity.


So, is Sarnia the right choice for you? Only you can answer that, but hopefully, this guide has provided you with the information you need to make an informed decision.

Sarnia offers a unique blend of small-town charm, natural beauty, and affordability. However, it’s essential to weigh these pros against the cons, such as the city’s air quality and limited nightlife options.

If you’re looking for a quieter life away from the hustle and bustle of larger cities like Toronto, Sarnia could be an excellent fit for you. Its proximity to Detroit also offers the best of both worlds—peaceful Canadian living with easy access to American amenities.

As a sports fan, I can vouch for the city’s community spirit and the joy of watching local games, whether it’s hockey or football.

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