Discover Departure Bay

Nanaimo Museum's latest exhibit, Discovering Departure Bay, runs until May 31.

The history of Nanaimo’s Departure Bay neighbourhood runs deep and it isn’t as ship shape as one might think.

The neighbourhood was once the frequented by sailors running drugs and was once home to a jail as well as a haunted mansion.

Departure Bay’s history is currently on display at the Nanaimo Museum as part of their new exhibit, Discovering Departure Bay, which runs until May 31. “We read about drug smuggling and car thefts in the news and think they are modern problems,” exhibit curator Aimee Greenaway said, in a press release. “You could pick up a Nanaimo newspaper in the 1880s and read similar stories.”

In fact, during the late 1880s sailors on a coal ship from Departure Bay to San Francisco were caught smuggling opium.

The museum is showcasing Departure Bay’s history and heritage through various photos, paintings and artifacts. Many of the pieces in the exhibit were donated by various families and organizations, including the Harper family.

“The Harper family has lived on the same property in Departure Bay for over 140 years,” Greenaway said. “We are pleased that they have loaned artifacts from the Bay Saloon, a fixture in Departure Bay from the 1870s to the 1940s, to display for the exhibit.”

In addition to the new exhibit, author Lynne Bowen, will be giving a presentation on life during the 1880s in Departure Bay on April 23 at 3 p.m. Her presentation will feature stories from her book Three Dollar Dreams, including how the coal wharf changed the area. For more information, please contact the museum at 250-753-1821 or visit

Be Among The First To Know

Sign up for a free account today, and receive top headlines in your inbox Monday to Saturday.

Sign Up with google Sign Up with facebook

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Reset your password

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

A link has been emailed to you - check your inbox.

Don't have an account? Click here to sign up