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 Home > Travel BC > BC Cities and Towns > The Islands  > Nanaimo

Nanaimo - 'The Harbour City'
You can find Nanaimo, often referred to as 'The Harbour City,' 111 km (69 miles) north of Victoria on Hwy 1. Nanaimo is situated on Vancouver Island's east coast directly across from Vancouver.

View Across Georgia Strait
If you happen to be on the west side of Vancouver on a clear day, Nanaimo can be seen looking towards the west across Georgia Strait, past Vancouver's Point Grey.

British Columbia's Coastal History
If you enjoy heritage buildings and old relics from the past, you'll enjoy Nanaimo. British Columbia's coastal history seems to be everywhere. When you're out and about take a walknear the Bastion through the downtown core, especially along Commercial Street or the Old City Quarter, and relish all the old buildings and businesses.

Waterfront Walkway
Another nice place to walk is along Nanaimo's waterfront. The waterfront walkway takes you along a path that follows the oceanside with views of Newcastle and Protection Islands past waterfront condominiums, dockyards, small waterfront cafés, and a pub, eventually reaching Maffeo-Sutton Park.

Trans-Canada Trail
After Maffeo-Sutton Park the walkway crosses Millstone River and joins the Trans-Canada Trail. The Trans-Canada Trail then carries on to the Departure Bay ferry terminal past various Nanaimo marinas and waterfront pubs.

Nanaimo Museum
The Nanaimo District Museum is also situated on the waterfront in the heart of Nanaimo; the museum brings history to life with some excellent depictions of early coastal living on Vancouver Island. Several displays show the relationships between the Europeans, First Nations and the Chinese immigrants.

Snuneymuxw First Nation
The Nanaimo area is the traditional lands of the Snuneymuxw First Nation. Translated meaning, "Great and mighty people," the Snuneymuxw have lived throughout the area for thousands of years. This proud heritage is in evidence with various artifacts on display throughout the community.

Maffeo-Sutton Park
Another place you might want to discover is Newcastle Island. There is a passenger-only ferry that travels between Maffeo-Sutton Park located downtown and the island. The service is run by Snuneymuxw First Nation starting in April and runs right through to September.

Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park
Once on the island you can walk around and visit Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park If you are boating, there are berthing facilities for up to 50 vessels. The island is beautiful with access to various private beaches located along the oceanfront.

Protection Island
Across from Newcastle Island towards the south is another island called Protection Island. You have to take another passenger ferry, the Protection Connection Ferry that leaves the inner harbour. Once over you can find walking trails, three parks - Smugglers, Pirates, and Gallows Point, as well as Smugglers Lake and Beach plus the Dinghy Dock Pub.

Gabriola Island
Gabriola Island is another great spot to visit and there is a car ferry if you want to drive over. For a good day trip though, take your bike and enjoy the quiet country roads that meander around the Island.

Sandstone Shelves
Make sure you visit the northern shoreline on Gabriola Island and experience some great views of BC Ferries from the sandstone shelves along the ocean's edge. Lots of First Nations art with petroglyphs can be found everywhere along the coastline.

Petroglyph Provincial Park
If you are going south from Nanaimo you can also view some excellent examples of historic First Nation art at Petroglyph Provincial Park. The park is located on the old highway 19A while travelling south towards Victoria.

Waterfront Hotels
Nanaimo is home to two of British Columbia's nicest waterfront hotels, the Dorchester Hotel and the Coast Bastion Hotel. They're conveniently located right along the waterfront with an unsurpassed view of the picturesque Nanaimo Harbour. Everything about Nanaimo is here including the historic Bastion, built in 1853, the original fort that protected the early townsfolk.

Nanaimo Casino
If you're on Vancouver Island and enjoy gaming, there is a casino in Nanaimo. Located near the Port Place Shopping Center is Great Canadian's Nanaimo Casino. For people holidaying at some of the resorts, there is a shuttle service from Port Alberni, Qualicum Beach and Parksville to this casino.

Vancouver Island Convention Centre
Nanaimo is in the midst of a transformation of part of the downtown core with the Vancouver Island Convention Centre. This dynamic plan envisioned by civic and business leaders will change the area around Commercial Street and towards the waterfront area towards the Nanaimo Museum and Port Theatre with the addition of a new auditorium, hotel, condominiums and a new retail sector.

International World Championship Bathtub Race
A good time to visit Nanaimo is during the annual International World Championship Bathtub Race held near the end of July. The 58 km (36 miles) race starts from the Nanaimo harbour, goes around Entrance Island and ends at Departure Bay beach. The Marine Festival includes a parade, beer gardens, a street fair, Kiddies Karnival and Vancouver Island's best fireworks show.

Heritage Walk
Nanaimo has so much recreation for you to enjoy. Sports such as world-class scuba diving, sailing, kayaking, golf, hiking and fishing are present every day of the year. Nanaimo has also developed a biking/walking trail called the Heritage Walk that encompasses the whole city taking you past parks and throughout the downtown.

Old City Quarter
One business area that you'll find really unique is Nanaimo's Old City Quarter located on Wesley Street. To get here from the waterfront go up Bastion Street across the bridge, then along Fitzwilliam Street to Wesley Street. The Old City Quarter is a nice mix of restaurants, including a Keg restaurant, women's clothing boutiques, shops, unique galleries and condominiums.

Morden Colliery Provincial Historic Park
If you are going south towards Ladysmith from Nanaimo, at about 7 km (4.4 miles) is the community of South Wellington. Once here visit the Morden Colliery Provincial Historic Park. This is where the Pacific Coal Company operated in the early 1900's and also the start of a recreational trail called the Morden Colliery Trail which goes to the Nanaimo River. To get here you turn east at the Morden Road traffic light on Hwy 1.

WildPlay Nanaimo
Just south from South Wellington on Hwy 1, 18 km (11 miles) from Nanaimo is the small community of Cassidy and the site of WildPlay Nanaimo. For a wild and crazy time you'll have to experience the 44 metres (143 feet) jump into the Nanaimo River off the world's only bridge jump.

Swimming Holes on the Nanaimo River
If you enjoy swimming holes, the Nanaimo River has to be rated in one of the world's best category. Just up from WildPlay Nanaimo on Nanaimo River Road by 3 km (2 miles) is a great place to get introduced to the river. Beautiful crystal clear, warm, rocks, deep pools and quite varied, you perhaps want to visit this place. Please remember some areas are quite dangerous and have to be respected when attempting to swim or hike into.

Coming to Nanaimo
You can have a quite a few options on travel modes when coming to Nanaimo. Most people use the BC Ferries with terminals either at Duke Point to Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay. Bus service can also be arranged through Greyhound and there are plenty of scheduled flights using the Nanaimo Harbour with sea plane service or the Nanaimo Airport at Cassidy.

Travelling North from Nanaimo
Besides travelling south from Nanaimo there are numerous other places to discover by going north for less than an hour. Try visiting Parksville, Qualicum Beach for beautiful beaches and rivers, Port Alberni for fishing and Mount Washington in Courtenay for fantastic skiing and snowboarding.

Information on Nanaimo


RV Resorts and Campgrounds



Map of Nanaimo
click image for map of "The Harbour City"


Great National Real Estate Building
Great National Real Estate Building


Millstone River
Millstone River


Nanaimo Waterfront
Nanaimo Waterfront


Troller's Fish & Chips
Troller's Fish & Chips


Protection Connection Ferry
Protection Connection Ferry


Gabriola Island  Ferry
Gabriola Island Ferry


Petroglyph Provincial Park
Petroglyph Provincial Park


Historic Bastion
Historic Bastion


Dragon Boating
Dragon Boating


"Black Frank"
"Black Frank"


Waterfront Walkway
Waterfront Walkway


Old City Quarter
Old City Quarter


Nanaimo Public Wharfs
Nanaimo Public Wharfs


Nanaimo Harbour
Nanaimo Harbour


Nanaimo River Swimming Hole
Nanaimo River Swimming Hole


Seaplane Base
Seaplane Base

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