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Boylston is a community in transition.

The tiny seaside village is perched on the northeast side of Nova Scotia, close to Cape Breton Island. Like many of its neighbours, Boylston suffered deeply following the collapse of the Atlantic fishing industry and the loss of thousands of jobs along the coast. These days, Boylston is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, one driven by people looking for a place to call home after they retire.

Some of its residents have discovered the town only recently, while others are finding themselves drawn back home after a long absence. What they have in common is the sense of being instantly welcomed into the community.

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That's why Marilyn McLean nominated Boylston as one of Canada's great communities. She and her husband are in the process of settling down after a life in the military.

"Our neighbours are neighbourly; our darling doctor mends bones and brings hot casseroles until you can manage your crutches. You awaken after a monster snowfall to a freshly shovelled walkway," she wrote in her nomination. "How can there be any better place on earth to live out one's life?"

On calm mornings in Boylston, the water by the wharf becomes as smooth as glass. Tourists driving through choose this spot to pull over and take photos of the boats as they bob gently beside the dock, casting colourful reflections across the water.

"It's a very, warm, cozy little community," says Brenda Hall, who works at the local post office.

In September, local development officer Carmel Avery-MacDonald will say goodbye to her daughter, who is leaving town to study at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S.

"I look at the graduating [high school] class every year, and you wonder how many of these kids are going to be staying," she says. "It's definitely changed our community."

Though Ms. Avery-MacDonald lives just outside Boylston, she's in the village often for her second job as a part-time realtor. She says most of the homes now sold go to retirees.

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"It seems to be an ideal location because of its proximity to a little bit of everything, and a whole lot of tranquillity as well," she says, adding it's just a short drive out of town to the local school and hospital.

Ms. Avery-MacDonald says she hopes more employment opportunities will be created once a new marine terminal is built nearby. But in the meantime, Boylston's unique seaside beauty and friendly feel seem to be more than enough to attract new residents or draw back those who left.

Craig Connolly returned to Boylston last year after seven years in northern British Columbia, where he worked as a heavy-duty mechanic. Now he runs his family's store in Boylston, which is one of just five or six businesses in the community.

Mr. Connolly says he considers the town's tiny size to be one of its best assets: "You can't beat growing up in Boylston." And now that he's back, he has no plans to leave. "It seems like everybody moves back home at one point in time."

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