Finding a Home in Salmon Arm, BC

Mild winters and reasonable prices for real estate may have been two of the qualities that drew Linda and Ernie Morgan to Salmon Arm, BC, but they’ve discovered many other reasons to love their new home in the year and a half since retiring there after 26 years in Prince George.

Both of their two children now live within a six-hour drive (they’re in Calgary and Vancouver), so family visits have become much more frequent. Another bonus is that the lovely lakeside community’s relatively small size and layout make many amenities easily accessible without a car.

“We walk to the swimming pool, lawn bowling, the bowling alley, horseshoes, and pickleball,” Linda says. “We’re about a kilometre from Shuswap Lake, so we can walk down there, too.”

It’s possible to park downtown and run what would be a day’s worth of errands in a city the size of Calgary within an hour or two, on foot. Salmon Arm boasts an active seniors’ centre, a good-sized local hospital, an ample supply of health professionals such as dentists and psychologists, and a doctor/patient ratio that would be the envy of many larger cities. “In Calgary, I’d phone for a doctor’s appointment and they’d say, ‘That’ll be two months from now,’” says Theresa Black, who retired to Salmon Arm eight years ago. “Here, it’s often, ‘What are you doing this afternoon?’”

In fact, you might say Salmon Arm’s size and population (18,000) hits that Goldilocks sweet spot: it’s just right. “It’s big enough that you’ve got the stores you need, without all the traffic,” Ernie says. And anything that’s not available locally can be obtained from one of three nearby larger centres—Kamloops, Vernon, and Kelowna. “The Kelowna airport, which is international, is only an hour away,” Ernie says, “and it’s a nice scenic drive through the Okanagan.”

To their delight, the Morgans, who didn’t know a soul in Salmon Arm when they arrived, have found that their adopted home is filled with friendly, like-minded people. Partly by joining organizations such as Striders (a women’s walking, hiking, and snowshoeing group), Linda says, “we’ve met some wonderful people.”

That amicable atmosphere sealed the deal for Muriel Dodge when she visited more than a decade ago while looking for a place to retire. “Here I was, a perfect stranger—I’d been here maybe once or twice before—and people look you in the eye and give you a smile,” she recalls. “People are friendly without bowling you over. Within a year, I was at home.”

An active volunteer first with Relay for Life, then with Search and Rescue and Probus Canada (a club for retirees, of which she is now national president), Muriel describes Salmon Arm as “low-key and yet vibrant. There are lots of things to do.”

Cultural offerings include the local jazz society, free concerts on the wharf every Wednesday evening throughout the summers, live theatre, and the annual three-day Roots & Blues music festival. With four distinct seasons and a wealth of lush natural beauty, the area is ideal for a host of outdoor activities, from downhill and cross-country skiing to boating, canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, and hiking. There are 21 walking trails in and around Salmon Arm and dozens more within the region.

“Winter is long enough to enjoy the activities for those of us who like them, but it doesn’t drag on forever,” says Karen Fetterly, who moved there with her husband, Ric, from Edmonton.

Having set up a handyman business since retiring there, Ric is, Karen says, “as busy as he wants to be, but skiing still comes first.” In warmer weather, “we have a dog, and believe it or not, there’s a dog beach,” she adds.

Another summertime perk is the bountiful, top-quality, inexpensive produce available at local farmers’ markets, thanks to excellent growing conditions.

Proximity to nature is one of the assets many of Salmon Arm’s residents value most. “I walk every day around the bird sanctuary down by the lake,” says Alice Lewis, who has lived there for almost 50 years and is now the office manager at the Seniors’ Fifth Avenue Activity Centre. (The $1.85 million facility, staffed by volunteers, offers a wide array of activities and serves hot meals five days a week.) 

“I went for a walk with the Striders yesterday and we saw ospreys and herons, right in town,” Theresa Black says. “I’m looking out on my deck right now and I can see all the way to Revelstoke Mountain, with the lake in the foreground. Sometimes you forget just how beautiful it is. When people ask, ‘Where are you going this summer?’ I think, Nowhere! Why would I want to leave a place people come to vacation?”

Photos courtesy of: Province of British Columbia (trail); Salmon Arm Economic Development Society (wharf, market, and centre); Shuswap Lady Striders (group); (ospreys); iStock/Kevin Miller (vineyard).


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