After passing through the bustle of downtown Dartmouth or exiting the zipping Circumferential ("The Circ" as we call it) Highway, you've arrived in Woodlawn, gateway to the comfortable, low-slung homes and quiet streets and home to a large fraction of Dartmouth's families.  And no wonder, with a park or ball field in every neighbourhood and all the neighbourhoods linked by miles of leafy, paved pathways.

Woodlawn, Nantucket and Portland Estates represent three generations' of community building, with Woodlawn the most venerable, dating to the 1950s.  Much of Woodlawn's housing stock hails from the mid-twentieth century: bungalows and split levels and two-car driveways.  Many of these homes have had just one or two owners, so you can benefit from their careful improvements: finished basements, renovated bathrooms, or broad decks for summer barbecues.

Woodlawn also houses the Tacoma shopping complex - groceries, pet supplies, a drug store, a genial pub - as well as Woodlawn Plaza, with a yoga studio, Bulk Barb, tobacconist, comic book shop.

Nantucket was built in the 1970s, named for the Nantucket whaling company that once plied Halifax Harbour.  The yellow brick homes are anchored around a few parks: the smaller Alder Piper and Collins Grove parks and the larger Bell Lake Park, with its shoreline path, tiny beaches and the charming Abenaki Aquatic Club, where a small membership fee allows you free kayak rentals every weeknight and weekend, plus a supervised beach for the kids.

Homes in this neighbourhood boast some of Dartmouth's best views, as it slopes from Woodlawn Heights to Portland Street and into Portland Hills, offering wonderful sunsets and views of the city lights.  Due to this slope, many homes here boast well-planned and tended gardens to take advantage of the sun's angle and prevent steep uphill mowing.  The pride of ownership is self-evident.

Across Portland Street lies Portland Estates, the newest of these neighbourhoods.  Construction on this large community finished in 2008, and development continues on a block of pubs and restaurants next to the express bus terminal.  A variety of housing is available, from condos and large duplexes to generous family homes with high-end finishes and all the amenities.  The streets stretch out in peaceful cul-de-sacs and crescents, where kids are safe playing a game of street hockey.

One of the neighbourhood's loveliest features is the popular Portland Lakes Trail system, which meanders down from Baker Drive to Morris Lake, crossing wetlands, greenbelts, and shoreline.  The wetland is home to osprey and red-winged blackbirds, and blue heron sightings aren't uncommon.  Both the flagship Portland Street Superstore and the Woodlawn branch of the library is accessible via the trail.  Morris Lake Park itself has a handful of tennis and basketball courts, plus a boat launch and play structure.

Woodlawn, Nantucket and Portland Estates share the same DNA: they were built for people looking to put down roots in a neighbourly community.  But don't let the suburban idyll fool you: all of these homes are just minutes from The Circ.