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Is it Better to Live in Vernon or Sicamous?


Is it better to live in Vernon or Sicamous? It really depends on what you want, and on where you stand on these 7 factors:


#1 Size: If you’ve been to Vernon and you’ve been to  Sicamous, you will likely know right off the bat that Vernon is way bigger. But is bigger necessarily better? Well, maybe, maybe not. It depends. Sicamous lies nearly an hour from Vernon on 97A North Highway, also known as the Vernon-Sicamous Highway, for obvious reasons, Sicamous is known as the Houseboat Capital of the Universe, so it gets pretty busy in the summertime, as do all the Okanagan Cities. Sicamous itself is a district municipality where Mara Lake empties into  Shuswap Lake  via short narrows. Sicamous is a resort town about halfway between Calgary and Vancouver and is the houseboat capital of Canada.


In 2022 the population of Vernon itself is 44,519, which doesn’t actually include Coldstream which its own municipality however still part of Greater Vernon, which is another 11,171 folks, let’s say in total 55 and a half thousand, and Sicamous is slightly smaller at 2,732. LOL. Or about 20 times the size. Vernon really is a small city, it’s a municipality, whereas Sicamous is a “district municipality”, which means the area of incorporation is greater than 800 hectares and has an average population density of fewer than 5 people per hectare. Did you know that? You do now! Sicamous actually didn’t even incorporate to become the District of Sicamous until 1989. Now in the summer, that population grows substantially where there are probably more Alberta license plates than BC plates, to around 8,000.

Being much smaller than  Vernon, that brings us once again to analyzing factor #2, which is:


#2: Amenities: As expected, Sicamous has way less stuff to do and places to shop. It’s really weighted heavily as a resort town, with lots of houseboats! Over 200 apparently. For Albertans, Sicamous is only 5 hours and 17 minutes to get from Calgary versus an hour longer to get from Calgary to Vernon. So if you’re in Alberta, and you want to get to a lake and you don’t want to go to Invermere, then Sicamous is a good choice, time-wise. It’s a really good “getting away from it all” town. Plus since it’s so small and more than half the license plates there are red and white, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll have some like-minded buddies to hang out with there.

Sicamous has the basics though, the very basics, a grocery store, restaurants, gas station, etc. Some little touristy shops and places to buy paddleboards and waterskis which are important around there. Vernon has all that and of course more than that, including Starbucks and 7/8 of a Cactus Club!

If you need an airport, from Vernon you can get to Kelowna International in 29 minutes, from Sicamous you either have to go to Kelowna at one hour and 26 minutes and 2 hours to Kamloops which is less exciting for sure.

Hospitals, well there isn’t one right in Sicamous, although there is a very basic health center kind of walk-in clinics, and If you need a real hospital, you would have to go to the regional hospital in Salmon Arm 22 minutes away, or Vernon Jubilee is about an hour if it’s something more major than can be fixed at Shuswap Lake General.


#3: Industry: If you need a J.O.B., it may not be a super easy job to find one in Vernon, however, it’s going to be even more difficult to find one in Sicamous. The major industries in Sicamous are Tourism, tourism, and tourism. As Sicamous is the houseboat capital of the universe, and it’s located right on a beautiful lake, it’s all about tourism.

In Vernon, the major industries are tourism as well, however also the professional service sector, agriculture, construction, some manufacturing, and forest products. And although Vernon doesn’t have a lot of quote/unquote Industry, there are some made-in-Vernon success stories such as Kal Tire, Okanagan Springs Brewery, and Tolko Industries, if you can get in with any of those companies, you’re golden. So more work in Vernon.


#4: Water: This one is a tough call. Sicamous lies right where  Mara Lake flows through the narrows into Shuswap Lake with Shuswap Lake itself being 310 square kilometers with over 600 km of shoreline. And Mara Lake itself, between Sicamous and Enderby, is just under 20 square kilometers. With over 1000 km of shoreline surrounding Sicamous, it’s no wonder it calls itself the Houseboat Capital of Canada! That is something that Vernon can’t compete with, there are no houseboats in Vernon, not commercially run houseboats anyways. In Sicamous there are somewhere around 300 houseboats you can rent in season ranging from 6 berths right up to 24. Shuswap Lake lends itself to houseboating with its more than 30 provincial and marine parks and unlimited water-related recreational opportunities.


Alternatively, Vernon has the 3 lakes,  Okanagan, Kalamalka, and Swan. All the lakes are close in – from downtown Vernon, it is literally 8 minutes to every one of these 3 lakes. They are all beautiful in their own right, Okanagan is 135 km long and 351 square kilometers and spanning from Vernon all the way to Penticton and was once the main traffic source taking mail and passengers up the lake to Kelowna and Penticton on the steamships. Actually, both Vernon AND Sicamous were important in the running of the steamships, in the 1880s following the constructions of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Sicamous was a key point on the transcontinental mainline and an important paddle wheeler connection, the CPR ran between Sicamous and Okanagan Landing where the paddle wheelers would then take passengers and freight further down the lake. A little local history for you history buffs. Next is Kalamalka, a smaller lake in Coldstream which back in the ’60s, National Geographic stated Kalamalka was in the top 10 most beautiful lakes In the world, Kalamalka means “lake of many colours” and is just an outstanding lake in the summer it’s so incredibly beautiful. And then third we also have Swan Lake which is a stagnant lake that is smaller and more of a nature reserve area.


#5: Climate: The elevation of Vernon and Sicamous is very similar, 380 meters in Vernon and 350 in Sicamous, pretty close.

Looking at the comparison graphs Vernon is in blue and Sicamous is in green, most of the year Vernon is 1-2 degrees warmer, and Nakusp is 1-2 degrees cooler. As you can see though on this map here, Vernon is warmer longer than Sicamous, which is to be expected in the sunny Okanagan. In Vernon there is a better chance of clear skies all year long, average monthly rainfall is way less in Vernon (Rainfall in Vernon is 333 mm versus 860 mm in Sicamous so a lot more rain!) and then snowfall, is to be expected, if there’s more rain, there's probably more snow – you can see from this graph here that yes, there is more snow in Sicamous. Now hours of sunshine, something I personally am more interested in, Vernon 2026 and Sicamous – get this – 2880! Vernon gets beat on the sun meter!


#6: House prices: Our analysis isn’t complete until we consider how much it costs to live in both places.

The average house price in Sicamous is $ 558,200 as of August 2022 and Vernon is $739,000, so Sicamous certainly wins the real estate price game. Now selection-wise, at this time there are 365 single-family homes for sale in Greater Vernon, and in Sicamous, there are 314 which I was absolutely shocked about! Seems odd so many places are for sale there right now. Anyhow, there are, according to the MLS system. I thought there would be less for sale to choose from however, the numbers prove me wrong! So Sicamous definitely wins the real estate comparison game.


#7. Fun Stuff To Do:

As I said before, Sicamous is the houseboat capital of the universe, so there’s that, and the reason that area is so great for houseboats is because of how much shoreline there is, and how much of that shoreline lends itself to boats and particular houseboat docking and also there are so many lake parks as well to stop in and enjoy if you’re house boating. This is something you don’t have in Vernon, the Vernon lakeshore is way more developed, and there aren’t as many parks or open areas to dock at.

Other things to do are all those outdoor activities that you can enjoy in both places, being golfing, fishing, and hiking and whether you live in Sicamous or in Vernon the closest downhill ski area is Silver Star (conveniently located 27 minutes outside of downtown Vernon if you’re from Vernon and 1 hour and 15 minutes from Sicamous), Sicamous has a popular cross country skiing scene in the winter as well as world-class snowmobiling as well. One of the main must-sees in Sicamous is the  D-Dutchman Dairy where you can visit their farm store, have some cheese of course, and hang with the animals.


Although Vernon doesn’t have a dairy, we do have a bunch of other cool stuff like  Davison Orchards,  Planet Bee, and many other attractions that you can see by watching our video: “9 Fun and Touristy Things to Do in Vernon BC


And those are the major differences between Vernon and Sicamous. They are both very different although really they’re only an hour apart. Both are very nice summer paradise locations, and now it’s up to you to pick which one YOU would rather live in, or visit.


For more information on Vernon specifically, please download our Vernon Relocation guide at VernonRelocation.com.


If you want to talk to us about  Vernon real estate feel free to call us at 250-549-SALT (7258), text us at 250-309-9586 or email us at webinfo@saltfowler.com.

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