The GTA’s Top-Ranked Neighbourhoods for Nature Lovers

For those who crave more green space in an urban setting, look no further than these top-ranked Greater Toronto Area neighbourhoods.

By Josh Sherman | 10 minute read

Feb 28

Wahi Where to Live 2023

Wahi analyzed data from Local Logic, a location intelligence platform, to rank GTA neighbourhoods in Toronto, York, Peel, Durham, and Halton regions in 11 categories based on lifestyle, needs, goals and interests. Wahi’s 2023 Where to Live rankings consider neighbourhood attributes such as nearby schools, transit quality, park spaces, access to restaurants and shopping, and more..


Whether it’s Highbush, a Pickering neighbourhood located right beside the continent’s largest urban park, or midtown Toronto’s leafy Allenby community, nature lovers have many appealing choices for putting down roots in the GTA.

Wahi’s top neighbourhoods for nature lovers were ranked according to several factors: the amount of nearby park space, quietness, walkability, and how cycling-friendly they are. The communities on this list are unique but all share one thing in common: They let you live in or near North America’s fastest-growing city without having to sacrifice peace and quiet or access to the great outdoors. 

Where to Live: Durham

Breathtaking natural landscapes are the norm in Oshawa/Durham, formally known as the Regional Municipality of Durham. Forming the easternmost side of the GTA and bordering Toronto as well as York, Durham touches the shorelines of three lakes: Ontario, Scugog, and Simcoe. The Oak Ridges Moraine, which rolls into the ecologically sensitive lands of the Green Belt, also stretches across the region. It forms the headwaters of dozens of rivers. In addition, Durham is a place where you’ll encounter all manner of woodlands, wetlands, streams, valleys and more. The region’s top three destinations for nature lovers are centred in Pickering, a municipality especially known for its beauty. 

1. Highbush, Pickering

With Rouge National Urban Park right in its backyard, Highbush boasts immediate access to more than 75 square kilometers of breathtaking outdoor space to explore. Hike, camp, swim, canoe, and more in North America’s largest urban park. That’s not all. In this neighbourhood, there are local parks for all ages. Woodview Tot Lot caters to kids up to age six, with easy climbers and low stairs.


Check out:

  • Rouge National Urban Park: It’s North America’s largest urban park. 
  • Altona Forest: Part of the protected Rouge-Duffins Wildlife Corridor, Altona Forest has a myriad of walking and hiking trails, scenic lookouts, marshland, and boardwalks.
  • Valley View Park: Located smack dab in the middle of Highbush, Valley View Park serves as a community hub.

2. Amberlea, Pickering

Roughly equidistant from Rouge National Urban Park and Frenchman’s Bay, Amberlea has many smaller parks within its own boundaries, too, including Amberlea Park towards the neighbourhood’s south end. The park boasts a playground complete with mini rock climbing wall, as well as a splash pad, soccer pitch, and baseball diamond


3. Rosebank, Pickering

Winding waterways and conservation lands ensconce this waterfront neighbourhood, offering peace and quiet right where the Rouge River meets Lake Ontario. Petticoat Creek Conservation Area to the neighbourhood’s south is host to about 70 types of trees and provides a natural habitat for local wildlife such as white-tail deer, foxes, and red-tailed hawks. Further inland, the nearby Glen Rouge Campground is perfect for extended outdoor retreats

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Where to Live: Halton

Forming the southwestern leg of the GTA, Oakville/Halton, or the Regional Municipality of Halton, has welcomed some suburban development but largely maintains agricultural and protected lands along the Niagara Escarpment. These make up the bulk of the area. Much of Halton’s development is concentrated around the waterfronts of the city of Burlington and the town of Oakville, affording many residents sweeping vistas along Long Ontario. Burlington lays claim to all three of the top entries for nature lovers in Halton.

1. Millcroft, Burlington

With the Millcroft Golf Club as its grassy, manicured centrepiece, this community has large swaths of green space to discover. Millcroft Park — as well as several other smaller parks in the immediate vicinity — contribute to the neighbourhood’s laid-back, outdoorsy vibe. Secluded side streets weave around the country club, with many homes featuring backyards right off the golf course

Check out:

  • Bronte Creek Provincial Park: More than six square kilometres of campgrounds, natural landscapes, and other outdoor amenities

  • Millcroft Park: Cool off at the splash pad, play a set of tennis, or watch a local baseball game — the choice is yours at Millcroft Park.

  • Millcroft Golf Club: This 18-hole par 70 golf course is consistently voted Burlington’s best.


2. Palmer, Burlington

Halfway between the waterfront and rural Burlington, Palmer takes its name from a turn-of-the-century farmer (Charles Palmer) who was instrumental in both the local agricultural industry as well as the beginnings of Halton’s urbanization efforts. Today, the midtown community is largely residential but has a considerable amount of land dedicated to parks. Lansdown Park and Palmer Park form an impressive connected green space that extends the entire width of the neighbourhood by Tuck Creek


3. Downtown Burlington

Close proximity to urban retail amenities doesn’t mean sacrificing access to nature in Downtown Burlington. Not far from Millcroft Shopping Centre, which houses dozens of stores, you’ll find seemingly endless green spaces to explore. The Sheldon Creek Woodlot is the perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon, or for longer nature retreats, nearby Bronte Creek Provincial Park provides campgrounds during the warmer months.


“Whether it’s Highbush, a Pickering neighbourhood located right beside the continent’s largest urban park, or midtown Toronto’s leafy Allenby community, nature lovers have many appealing choices for putting down roots in the GTA.”

Where to Live: Peel

Mississauga/Peel is Ontario’s second-largest municipality. It’s home to the fast-growing cities of Mississauga and Brampton, but the region is far from what you’d call a concrete jungle. To the north, farmland dominates the landscape. In the south, the winding Credit River splits the region towards Port Credit and the Mississauga waterfront. Flows 90 kilometres from its headwaters on the Niagara Escarpment, the Credit River is a spawning area for Chinook salmon and rainbow trout and popular with kayakers and other outdoorsy types. This waterway is just one of the earthy attractions anyone who chooses to settle in Wahi’s top-ranked neighbourhoods can enjoy

1. Applewood, Mississauga 

Applewood scores high for parks. It’s located between Little Etobicoke Creek and the Mississauga Valley on the border of Etobicoke, Toronto, and has more than a dozen sizable green spaces to check out. A number of cycle paths also connect to the neighbourhood for leisure trips or local commutes. As Applewood was established in the 1970s, the trees that shade the sleepy side streets that characterize the community have had lots of time to grow and create an impressive green canopy so you’re never far from nature

Check out:

  • Westacres Park: The expansive green space has a pool, ice rink, outdoor workout equipment, and tennis courts.

  • Applewood Hills Park: Nestled on the banks of Little Etobicoke Creek, Applewood Hills Park won’t disappoint nature lovers.

  • Applewood Hills Greenbelt Trail: This 7.2-kilometre ribbon of Greenbelt land ideal for hikes, jogs, or cycling.

Malton, Mississauga 

Mimico Creek is one of the defining natural features of the former village of Malton. Green thumbs will appreciate the community garden in Elmcreek Park, while those looking to be more active in nature can traverse the Malton Greenway, a two-kilometre linear park with some of the neighbourhood’s oldest trees. Malton has something for nature lovers of all stripes.

3. Lakeview, Mississauga

Lakeview’s main attraction is right in its name. Just east of Port Credit, this one-time industrial area extends from Lake Ontario to the Queen Elizabeth Way. It’s known for providing residents convenient access to a host of waterfront amenities, including Lakefront Promenade Park, which has a beach (with volleyball courts), splash pad, playground, and boat launches, to name a few. Further inland, Cawthra Park, Lakeview Golf Course, and the Toronto Golf Club provide respites from urban living.  

Where to Live: Toronto

The City of Toronto is known as “a city within a park” — and for good reason. Toronto has more than 1,500 parks encompassing 8,000 hectares, according to the city’s Parkland Strategy report. The parks and ravines within the city’s boundaries account for 13% of Toronto’s total land area, and, overall, Toronto is home to 10.2 million trees. Of course, at the neighbourhood level, some areas have more green space than others. Toronto’s top-ranked neighbourhoods for nature lovers tend to lean towards the north of the city and include well-known communities in the midtown area and former borough of North York

1. Allenby, Toronto

Heavily treed Allenby is a centrally located yet peaceful midtown Toronto enclave. Walk over to nearby Eglinton Park, a nine-hectare oasis complete with playground, sports fields and a wading pool, or cycle along the trails just to the south. Canopies of mature trees line Allenby’s roads, which are mostly calm residential side streets (with the exceptions of Eglinton Avenue West and Avenue Road).

Check out:

  • Eglinton Park: This is the closest major park to Allenby and provides a venue for many outdoor activities. 

  • Kay Gardner Beltline Trail: One section of the nine-kilometre cycling and walking trail on a repurposed railway line dips just south of Allenby.

  • Memorial Park: Memorial Park is to the immediate west of the neighbourhood.


2. Bridle Path, Toronto

This neighbourhood’s name is appropriate given its history. Early plans for the Bridle Path community included wooded equestrian trails — also known as bridle paths — an idea inspired by the popularity of horses among local estate owners. Today, parks, ravines, and botanical gardens surround this neighbourhood, making it an obvious choice for nature lovers — that is, those who can afford the neighbourhood’s luxury pricing.

3. Teddington Park, Toronto 

When a golf course is your neighbour, green space and quiet are to be expected. Backing on to the Rosedale Golf Club, Teddington Park doesn’t disappoint. At the foot of Mount Pleasant Road, Teddington Park is a small, exclusive neighbourhood with close access to big green spaces. It’s a stone’s throw from the Edwards Gardens botanical garden, the northern starting point of a roughly 15-kilometre trail network that extends all the way south to the waterfront.


    Where to Live: York

    Markham/York isn’t short on green space for nature lovers. York region’s namesake forest, for example, encompasses 2,500 hectares and 150 kilometres of trails alone. And then there are the ambitious targets to make the Regional Municipality of York greener than ever. By 2031, the regional municipality aims to achieve its target of being 25% woodlands. To try and meet the goal, York region has been snapping up properties to maintain and reforest by tree-planting. Nature lovers who want to live in the region should consider Vaughan, where York’s first- and third-ranked neighbourhoods are located, or perhaps set their sights on pockets of Markham, where the number-two community is located.

    1. Crestwood-Springfarm-Yorkhill, Vaughan 

    Across Yonge Street from Toronto, this neighbourhood is dotted with well-maintained parks and parkettes. Green space is a staple of many neighbourhoods within the community of Thornhill, and the trio of Crestwood-Springfarm-Yorkhill is no exception. Here, outdoor exposure isn’t limited to the warmer months. Throughout the summer, Uplands Golf & Ski Club is a popular spot to hit the tees, but when the mercury drops, the sloping nine-hole course is transformed into a skiing retreat with gentle slopes perfect for beginners. Not many GTA neighbourhoods can match that kind of outdoor amenity.

    Check out:

    • York Hill District Park: Three playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, and baseball diamonds make York Hill District a multi-generational outdoor attraction.

    • Oakbank Pond: A small nature preserve home to ducks and Canada Geese, scenic Oakbank pond is worth checking out any time of the year.

    • Pomona Mills Park: Tucked away in what’s known colloquially as the Pomona Valley, this nearby park’s forested pathway makes it easy to forget you’re in the city. 


    2. Milliken Mills West, Markham 

    Popular to commuters for bordering Highways 404 and 407, you won’t need to drive far in search of outdoor enjoyment in Milliken Mills West. Lots of green space is set aside in the neighbourhood’s east end, with the focal point being Milliken Mills Park, which sports five baseball diamonds, five soccer fields, a splash pad, a beach volleyball court, and lots of trees to relax in the shade.

    3. Concord, Vaughan 

    Although Concord has large industrial zones, its location in southeast Vaughan surrounds it on all sides by natural landscapes and outdoor amenities. Whether it’s Maple Nature Reserve to the north, Concord/Thornhill Regional Park to the east, Black Creek to the South, or conservation lands to the west, travel any direction from Concord and you’ll soon be out in the open air. It also contains all of the local parks you’d expect in a developing suburban area.

    Josh Sherman

    Wahi Writer

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