Located on the shores of the Salish Sea, on traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, Nanaimo’s rich history and culture, as well as natural amenities, make it an attractive destination for vacationers. Consider exploring this guide, choosing your favourites from our suggestions, and finding more that we can add to the list in future editions. Share your adventures with us on social media, using the hashtag #ExploreNanaimo.
|Photo by Sean Fenzil|
Enjoy a Nanaimo Bar
Nanaimo feels pride in its signature dessert and enjoys Nanaimo bars in all their many forms. “It’s kind of this iconic Canadian dessert,” says Diedre Tansey, food blogger. “When you get the texture and get the flavours right it is just amazing.” Cafés, bakeries, restaurants and breweries have tinkered with the treat in some fun ways to co-operate on creating the Nanaimo Bar Trail. tourismnanaimo.com
Watch world-class bathtub racing
There’s one mode of ocean transport, more than any other,that people identify with Nanaimo – bathtubs.The Great International World Championship Bathtub Race is the main event every year at the Nanaimo Marine Festival. The weekend consists of a series of events, with concerts, street fairs and other family activities, a Sailpast parade, fireworks and more leading up to the great bathtub race on Sunday morning.“Bathtub weekend is iconic,” says Greg Peacock, Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society commodore.This year’s race will be held July 21, when skippers piloting boats made from tubs will attempt to navigate a 58-kilometre course starting and ending at Maffeo Sutton Park. The Nanaimo Marine Festival is July 19-21. bathtubbing.com
|Photo by Jordan Dyck|
Learn about the Bastion
Nanaimo’s iconic Bastion was built in 1853 by the Hudson’s Bay Company and is the last of the original free-standing HBC bastion forts. Operated as an exhibit by the Nanaimo Museum, it is open for tours daily during the summer season. Every day at noon during the summer, museum staff fire the historical cannons next to the Bastion, located on Front Street.
Nanaimo has some of the best temperate water diving in the world. There are three artificial reefs – HMCS Cape Breton, HMCS Saskatchewan and the Rivtow Lion – and an undersea garden of natural phenomena awaits. Snorkel excursions are also available.
Float at the Pub
Take the Protection Connection ferry to Protection Island’s Dinghy Dock Pub, Canada’s only registered floating pub.
Canoe or kayak the Marine Trail
The Salish Sea Marine Trail is a network of identified and mapped land access points for paddlers. The B.C. MarineTrails Network is continuing to develop campsites, make dock improvements and install signs. bcmarinetrails.org
WildPlay Element Park partners with the City of Nanaimo to offer a zip line attraction right over the Sway’ A’Lana Lagoon at Maffeo Sutton Park.
|Photo by Brandon Infanti|
Climb a Mountain
If you can handle a brisk pace on some of those aforementioned walking trails, then it might be time to see if you can step it up and ascend the summit of Mount Benson. Set aside five to seven hours for a round trip, and expect some steep spots, but the reward at the top is Nanaimo’s best views. Start your hike at the trailhead to the Witchcraft Lake Regional Trail on Benson View Road.
|Photo by Photo by Sarah Étoile|
Saysutshun/Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park, just a 10-minute water taxi ride across the channel from Maffeo Sutton Park, features a perimeter trail and other walking trails, a campground, amenities and First Nations culture.Saysutshun in the Hul’qumi’num language means ‘training for running’ and competitive canoe pullers used to run the island’s trails to build strength and endurance.
See what’s on stage
The Port Theatre, an 800-seat downtown venue located steps away from Nanaimo Harbour, stimulates and enhances artistic, cultural and economic activity on central Vancouver Island. The theatre’s programming includes a range of cultural events designed to meet many diverse interests.“I’m always looking for interesting artists, some emerging, some better known, some very well established…” says Bruce Halliday, Port Theatre general manager. “A very simple measure of success is watching an audience leave the auditorium and there’s a buzz after the show.”