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It is Better to Live in Vernon or Nakusp?


Is it better to live in Vernon or Nakusp? The answer really depends on what you want, and on where you stand on these 8 factors: 


#1 Size: 


Maybe you have been to both Vernon and Nakusp, and even if you haven’t, it doesn’t take much to figure out that Vernon is way larger.  It’s no Vancouver or Toronto, but size wise, if Vernon is to Vancouver then Nakusp is to Vernon.


Is bigger necessarily better?  Maybe, maybe not.  It depends on what you’re looking for. 


In 2022 the population of Vernon itself is 44,519. This doesn’t include Coldstream, which is its own municipality but still part of Greater Vernon, which is another 11,171 folks. Let’s say 55,500 in total, while Nakusp is way smaller at 1706.  So Greater Vernon is only about 32.5 times the population size. 


Nakusp actually isn’t a city – it’s a village, and its settlement history started in 1892 when it became part of the fur trade route.  Interestingly enough, because there were no roads or railways to Nakusp in the early days, goods were shipped in and out of town by paddle wheelers on the Arrow Lakes on the shipping route from Castlegar to Revelstoke. Vernon, of course, has an extensive paddlewheeler history as well. The steam ships travelled from Okanagan Landing from 1907 to 1935, transporting mail, food, supplies and people up and down Okanagan Lake. Nakusp was incorporated into a Village in 1964, Vernon into a City in 1892, so that’s your history lesson for the day. 


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


#2:  Amenities: 


Nakusp has way less stuff to do and places to shop so if you need the more major amenities of a city then there’s no competition.  However, Nakusp is so quaint and just nice that you can maybe forgive the lack of amenities.  The basics are here, grocery stores, there’s a Save On Foods,  the Home Grown Market, Home Hardware, Jennifer’s Chocolates, Pharmacy, the obligatory cannabis store of course, and a bunch of other little boutique stores. 


In Nakusp, there’s a 909 meter long airstrip north of town. it’s a registered aerodrome (which means it’s an airstrip and not much else) versus the Vernon Airport which is a Regional airport with 1,072 metres of asphalt runway.  Vernon Airport is more developed & it’s fully serviced with airside lots on 5 acres of property with jets in and out and everything!  Saying that, the closest international airport to both places is Kelowna International which from downtown Vernon is 20 minutes versus 3 hours and 11 minutes from Nakusp depending on whether you catch the first ferry or not.  However, from Nakusp you can go to Castelgar to the West Kootenay Regional Airport and then make a connection from there. That’s only one hour and 47 minutes. 


Hospital-wise, there is the Arrow Lakes Hospital in Nakusp which is a level 1 community hospital that provides basic services to the local community versus Vernon Jubilee, a full-scale, full-service hospital. Although for major illnesses, in both cases, you will still be heading to a larger hospital for sure.     


The main amenities in Nakusp though are the hot springs.  This is where this area outshines us, as there are no hot springs in Vernon, while there are 3 in Nakusp – the Nakusp Hot Springs, Halfway River Hot Springs and Halcyon Hot Springs.  The Halfway River Hot Springs are the least developed and really rustic. Then Nakusp Hot Springs are owned by the Village, have two pools fed by mineral springs off the forest. They have a hot pool and a warm pool.  There is a campground, RV site and cedar chalets here.  The third is my personal favorite, Halcyon Hot Springs. I love Halcyon, it’s the most developed and it’s a resort with a full service restaurant featuring high end fancy and delicious food, rustic yet really beautiful cabins and chalets with beautiful lake views, a trail by the lake with nice little lookout sitting areas plus you can paddleboard if you’re so included. The lake’s so beautifully calm with no boats so it’s a great place to paddleboard. There’s a playground, and of course the spa.  There are 4 pools here, ranging from freezing to really hot, all with views of the lake. It’s really a stunning setting. 


There are no hot springs in Vernon, however many other activities are available in Vernon typical of a larger center. There’s more and bigger parties like our annual Slow Pitch Baseball Tournament and music festival on the July long weekend, there is a Winter Carnival to make winter more palatable, plus it has a thriving arts and cultural community as well with a Splash of Red and other major events like that.  Being so close to Silver Star is one of Vernon’s huge claims to fame. It is super convenient for sure. Nakusp actually also has a ski hill but on a much smaller scale. It’s called Summit Lake Ski and Snowboard area, which is a small community-operated ski hill 16 kms east of Nakusp, has 8 runs, with a T bar and a rope tow, so it’s like skiing in the 70’s.  It is however much more affordable than the bigger mountains like Silver Star. 


#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 Nakusp.  The major industries in Nakusp used to be mining, however, right now, it’s pretty much only forestry and tourism. Interfor is active with mills around in the area plus the hot springs are big business as well yet I doubt the jobs offered are top tier pay. 


In Vernon the major industries are tourism, the professional service sector, agriculture, and construction, some manufacturing and forest products.  And although Vernon doesn’t have a lot of “industry”, there is definitely more than Nakusp, so if you need or want to work you will probably have a much easier time finding work in Vernon.  `


#4:  Water: 


This is an interesting one.  Nakusp is on the Arrow Lakes, which, now that the Lakes are combined, is actually a larger body of water than Okanagan Lake.  The Arrow Lakes are divided into Upper Arrow Lake and Lower Arrow Lake and are actually widenings of the Columbia River. It’s kind of interesting, originally the two lakes were 14 miles apart, but then they became one 230 km long lake due to the reservoir created by the 1960’s construction of the Keenleyside dam. I guess in low water the lakes are still separate actually.  The only way you can get across this 230 km lake is by ferry and there are 3 crossings.  The water temperature is described as “cool and refreshing” by one person online and “cold as the grave” by another.  I can’t find anything regarding the temperature of the lake.  I think it’s cold though.  Beautiful, but cold.  The really nice thing is Village of Nakusp is right on the water, whereas in Vernon the downtown is 8 minutes away from the lake.  The lake itself runs when they are combined, all the way from Revelstoke to Castelgar between the Selkirk Mountains to the east and the Monashee Mountains to the west.


Comparatively speaking, Arrow Lakes are long skinny “arrows” whereas Okanagan Lake, the main competitor, is extremely large with broad sweeping vistas and warmer temperatures. Comparing the two, Okanagan Lake is 135 kms versus 230 for both upper and Lower Arrow Lakes.  Saying that, 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 being 135 kms long and 351 square kilometers and spanning from Vernon all the way to Penticton and as mentioned already, was once the main traffic source taking mail and passengers up the lake to Kelowna and Penticton on the steamships.  Next is Kalamalka, a smaller lake in Coldstream which back in the 60’s, 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 have Swan Lake which is a stagnant lake that is smaller and more of a nature reserve area, and still very beautiful in its own right. 


#5.  Accessibility


One of the criteria we haven’t used in our other “Is It Better to Live In” videos, is how easy it is to get there, because most of the places we have examined are pretty easy to get to from here, wherever here is.  Nakusp, on the other hand, isn’t that easy.  Which I’m sure is on the reasons it’s not that developed, and still has only 1706 people after existing for so many years. 


Regardless of which direction you come from, whether it’s from the Vernon / Lumby end or from the Revelstoke end, you have to take a charming little ferry. I imagine it’s charming for a while. I’m not sure how many times you have to cross the lake with the Needles Cable Ferry on Highway 6 and if you’re coming from Revelstoke on Highway 23, you take the Shelter Bay ferry.  On the bright side, they are both free.  If you miss one though and have to wait for the next one – it’s annoying for sure.  There are two great things about this though, if the village doesn’t grow that much then you don’t have to worry about things like traffic lights and gridlock now or in the future, and I suspect most move out here to get away from it all and you’re in fact, literally doing that, it’s remote and it’s tough to get to. 


Vernon of course is easy, you just drive past the Welcome to Vernon sign and you’re there. Ta Da!


 #6:  Climate:


In this case, to examine the differences in the climate, let’s start by looking at elevation.  The elevation of Elevation Vernon is 380 meters versus 457 meters in Nakusp, so there’s a difference in elevation for sure and you’re going to find you’re going to have more precipitation in Nakusp than Vernon. 


I found some great comparison graphs actually – most of the year Vernon is a few degrees warmer, and Nakusp is a few degrees colder except in the months of December, January and February where Vernon actually seems to be a slight bit colder on average, which I admit I did not expect.  Vernon is warmer longer than Nakusp, 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 649.9 mm in Nakusp  so almost double the rain) and then snowfall, as to be expected,  93.3 cm in Vernon 192.1 cm for total snowfall in Nakusp, again, almost double.  Monthly sunshine, something I personally am more interested in, Vernon 2026 and Nakusp 1902 and unfortunately I don’t have a fancy graph for that one.  


#7:  House prices:   Now let’s have a look at the housing market


Average house price in Nakusp is $ 642,000 as of August/September 2022 and Vernon is $ 739,000 for single family homes.  I’m not sure of the exact percentage difference however I know that Nakusp’s homes are less expensive for sure.   Especially for houses on the lake.  I unfortunately can’t tell you how much that difference is, however I’m sure we can all guess it will be quite a bit.  Nakusp will always win the house pricing race for dollars, even if not for selection and variety of homes on the market.  Nakusp has some nice homes though for sure. 


#8.  Fun Stuff To Do: 


As I said before, the hot springs in Nakusp are the number one draw, however being in a more rural area it enjoys many of the same activities that Vernon offers, hiking, biking, snowmobiling, boating obviously, paddleboarding, etc. 


Both locations have their Farmer’s Markets, Vernon has the Monday and Thursday markets at Kal Tire Place which is a huge drawing card for the growers and artisans in the area, plus the Friday night market at Polson Park that we have talked about in other videos that has happened the last two summers and hopefully will continue, it’s a ton of fun for Vernonites and tourists, and the Saturday market in Nakusp is also a great place to pick up your produce, purchase some locally made goods, there’s street entertainers as well in both locations,


Although Vernon doesn’t have hot springs, we do have a bunch of other cool stuff 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 Nakusp.  They are both very different and located a little over hours apart.  Both very nice in their own ways, and very different in so many ways, so now it’s over to you to decide which area you like better! 


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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