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City of Nanaimo




Visiting Vancouver Island

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Attractions and activities in Nanaimo and on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo, the “Gateway of Vancouver Island”, is centrally located on Vancouver Island and is the second largest City on the Island. Never too far from; shimmering waters, magnificent forests and long stretches of sandy beaches. Do not think because it is an Island it is small. It stretches 500 kilometers (320 miles) southeast to northwest with an area of 3,175,000 hectares (9,493,171 acres) and 3,460.0896 kilometers (2,150 miles) of coastline. Vancouver Island is home to more than 700,000 people. Nanaimo has approximately 80,000 of those people not including surrounding area. In the Central Island of Duncan, Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Ladysmith and Port Alberni there are about 250,000 people. Come to visit and stay awhile in a Lakeview Home while visiting Nanaimo, the Harbour City.


Five native villages had gathered together and called this ”Sneymo” and in the native tongue meant “great and almighty people”. Coal was discovered in abundance and attracted miners to Nanaimo. The City of Nanaimo was incorporated in 1874, making it the third oldest city in British Columbia. Our local history displayed in local museums and architecture dating back to Nanaimo’s coal boom. Coal shafts located on Newcastle Island (in Nanaimo’s inner harbour) tell a tale of their own. Nanaimo`s interesting history


Nanaimo is one of the best places to enjoy west coast living at its finest. Nanaimo’s waterfront easily accessed along the Harbour Walkway where you can shop, dine and enjoy fantastic views of marine life. Outdoors, life on Vancouver Island has long summers and mild winters favoring golf, sailing, hiking, diving and wildlife watching. Underwater scenery is just as brilliant with spectacular sites including the HMSC Saskatchewan and much more. Nanaimo has been acknowledged as the best scuba diving destination in North America.


Arts and Culture galore in Nanaimo

Performing arts are incredible, home to the Port Theatre an 800 seat Theatre. Nanaimo’s history is preserved in the Old City Quarter fantastic architecture hosting local shops, dining and amenities and is home to a large array of cultural events to suit all interests. Vancouver Island Symphony performs locally at the Port Theatre. Theatre One brings local theatre to life. A wonderful historical walk downtown Nanamio followed by your choice of many fine restaurants, bistros, coffee shops, pubs and more. Check out our local floating pub in the Inner Harbour, only minutes by water taxi go to the Dinghy Dock Pub 


How to get to Nanaimo

Many modes of transportation are available ferries, both vehicle and passenger travel are available. Contact BC Ferries to obtain up-to date ferry information from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay in Nanaimo. Sailing time for this vessel is 1 hour 35 minutes. Or Tsawwassen to Duke Point Duke Point is located on the south side of Nanaimo.

Nanaimo airport offers many services within the aviation industry. Air Canada or the new service from Westjet

Nanaimo Parks

parksEnjoying west coast living at its finest with mild winters, early springs, long summers and spectacular fall make Vancouver Island most desirable. Loudon Park on Long Lake Enjoy the sandy beach for swimming. Use the public boat launch to launch your watercraft for a fun and exhilarating day of skiing, tubing, wake boarding and more. The Nanaimo Rowing Club  offers drop in lessons and rentals. Enjoy spring with a visit to Bowen Parks, Hailey Rhododendron Grove Garden. The Grove is in bloom from late February – July. The best display is from mid-April to mid-May. A tranquil woodland garden adopted by the Nanaimo Rhododendron Society. The Grove is situated in the Millstone Valley of Nanaimo’s Bowen Park. With over 350 rhododendrons to view it is just truly amazing. Each season has something wonderful to see or do.


Sport activities include swimming, tennis, horseshoe pitching and lawn bowling. There are many fabulous streamside and forested trails to explore. Explore Buttertubs Marsh, an 18 hectare bird and wildlife sanctuary near Bowen Park. Bring your camera and some birdseed for an unforgettable outing. Morrel Santuary offers more of the same. Visit Colliery Dam Park a 28 hectare park, a popular swimming hole for the locals in summer. Wildlife viewed here include deer, grouse, pheasant and king fisher.


If birdwatching is something you enjoy, Neck Point Provincial Park is a 14 hectare waterfront park. A fantastic scenic hike to magnificent viewpoints overlooking the ocean. There is a vast trail system throughout the park. For an unforgettable 180 degree view of Departure Bay and area, trek up Sugar Loaf Mountain. The hike is well worth the view. Ammonite Falls can be explored by travelling through the pristine forest to an amazing 85 foot waterfall at the heart of Mt Benson. Guided tours to the falls are offered through Tracks . See the beautiful falls link


Pipers Lagoon offers many oceanside viewpoints through the old oak trees along our picturesque shorelines. Cable Bay Trail is the perfect hike. In under an hour to catch a glimpse of sealions surfing in the wakes, or sit on rock bluffs and enjoy the scenery of Dodds Narrows. A great trail to view bald headed eagles on.


Jack Point/Biggs Park is a great kept secret in Nanaimo. The trail system runs along Duke Point. It has excellent views of the Nanaimo River, Protection Island and more. Follow over the wooden stairs to the bluff of Jack Point and watch the ferries set sail. Walk or cycle around Westwood Lake Park which has a 6km water side trail. Enjoy the wilderness terrain in this 106 hectare park. Many local residents including geese, goslings, ducks, deer, raccoons and more are in abundance here. Lifeguard on duty in July and August at the sandy beach. In the downtown centre, Maffeo Sutton Park is in the hub of the inner harbour. Home to many of our festivals and activities. The park includes basketball courts, giant chess boards, a large playground, a fishing pier and a perfect picnic spot. A short ferry ride from the park will bring you to Newcastle Island. You can explore the “jewel” of the Nanaimo Harbour. Newcastle Island is a beautiful sandstone island full of local beauty and much history.


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Local Festivals and Events

bathrubNanaimo has numerous festivals to be enjoyed. The Cadillac Van Isle 360 is a 580 nm. point to point race circumnavigating wild and rugged Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada yearly in June. Sailed in ten legs the course provides inshore, offshore and overnight legs through some of the world’s most challenging and beautiful waters.


The Great International World Championship Bathtub Race with 40 years of racing. Tubbers venture 36 miles across the Straight of Georgia . the “Great RACE” finishes at Departure Bay in Nanaimo covering a very grueling course that leaves Nanaimo harbor circles Entrance Island and then up to and around Winchelsea Island and then back to Departure Bay in Nanaimo.


Bathtub weekend, is a great highlight for the Marine Festival which occurs in July every year. The Silly Boat Regatta is a sport for fun-lovers only. Teams build their boats using great creativity and skill and attempt to allow them to be the last boat a-float. This is great community spirit raising cash for kids through the Nanaimo Child Development Centre.


Nanaimo’s own Dragon Boat Festival partakes in the ancient Chinese tradition of dragon boat racing. The boat is usually launched with a tradition called the “Awakening of the Dragon” or “Eye Dotting” ceremony, which “awakens the spirit of the dragon”. The ritual is performed to rouse the dragons to life. Money raised through this festival is to provide hope and awareness for Breast Cancer Research. Each participant wears a pink carnation and tossed into the water to remember those who lost their fight and those who continue to fight.


For the adrenaline junkies, try Bungy jumping The Bungy Zone is America’s only legal bungy bridge. Over 135,000.00 jumps to date. Romper Room home to Nanaimo’s own climbing centre for all levels from beginner to advanced. Horseback riding at Paradise Acre Ranch and mountain biking are other activities which are enjoyed by locals. Mountain biking with Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club has ample opportunity for novice to expert level. Mt Benson offers challenging off road trails for all skills levels. On Parkway trail leisurely rides can be enjoyed while taking in the local scenery.

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golfWith the mild climate of Vancouver Island, every season is a season for golf. Nanaimo offers year round golfing, come and visit one of the 19 courses within an hours drive of Nanaimo. Only 15 minutes north of Nanaimo in Nanoose Bay, visit the Fairwinds Play on this lush fairway lined by towering fir, oak and arbutus trees. Nanaimo’s own beautiful terrain mixed with ocean views, lucious greens, mountain vistas make west coast golfing a must. See Nanaimo Golf Club with its majestic course located centrally in Nanaimo with tall evergreens, willow and maple trees with picture perfect views of the Straight of Georgia. Granted BC PGA’s Facility of the Year (99). One of Vancouver Island’s top 18 hole courses.


Qualicum Beach, 30 minutes north of Nanaimo has Eaglecrest a semiprivate course.  Pheasant Glen in Qualicum Beach, stretched out beneath Mt. Arrowsmith for the front nine while the back nine stretches through peaceful stands of the westcoast Douglas fir. Morningstar home of the CPGA Tour is home of the Canadian Tour Qualifying School. One of Vancouver Island’s Premier golf destination.


Check out Crown Isle in the Comox Valley, this award-winning platinum rated course is an excellent Championship course with 11 lakes, views of the Beaufort mountain range located only 1 hour north of Nanaimo.
Explore south of Nanaimo at Duncan Meadows which is located in the beautiful Cowichan Valley. There is a strong mix of parkland and links style holes on this championship and links style holes on this 18 hole 72 par course. There are many other wonderful golf destinations in the surrounding area.

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Water & Sports

scubaFor the anglers, salt water fishing at its finest. Chinook, Coho, and Pink salmon are readily available in the native waters of Vancouver. Island. Chinook salmon can grow up to 60 pounds or so. Even women enjoy this fascinating sport. Halibut, cod and other species are also readily caught. Crabbing and prawning are also enjoyed. The highlight is in the catch, as you can eat what you catch. Salmon Charters can be hired locally here through many local operators. If you catch lots, have it locally smoked and packaged. St. Jeans Cannery & Smoke House will process your fish to your personal liking. Fresh water fishing is enjoyed in almost all bodies of water on the Island.
Long Lake is home to wonderful Rainbow trout, bring your rod and test your skill, or luck whichever you prefer. Many of the local lakes and rivers have amazing fly fishing. Some of the local lakes include Nanaimo Lakes, Long Lake, Brannen Lake which are all equipped with easily accessible boat launches.
Enjoy the tranquility of the coast while exploring Nanaimo and surrounding area by water . Kayaking is very popular . Guided tours or self-guided tours are available. Tours are offered through Discovery Expeditions, Sealegs and Wildheart  to experience this dance with nature. Exploring Vancouver Island by kayak provides some of the world’s finest destinations.
If sailing is more your speed, explore the coast with a skippered charters through experience the magic with Nanaimo Yacht Charters. Either sit back and relax or, for the more adventurous, learn your own sailing skills.
Nanaimo offers world class scuba diving. Vancouver Island’s spectacular coastal waters are renowned for their abundant and diverse marine life. Included are six gill sharks, seals, wolf eels, colourful gardens of sea anemones and sponges.
Nanaimo is home to artificial reefs of excellent caliber including the HMCS Cape Breton and Saskatchewan off Snake Island. The ships are bristling with coral and abundant sea life including cod, scallops, seals, sea urchins, octopus, crab and sea cucumbers. Dodds Narrows is popular if you like to rub elbows with sea lions. Check out the world’s largest species of octopus, playful wolfeels, sea lions, seals and thousands of different fish and invertebrates with Sundown. In 2005, Nanaimo welcomed the RivTow Lion, a retired tugboat sunk in Departure Bay to offer a diving experience even for novices. Check out Sink or Swim diving in Nanaimo for both lessons and great diving.
Long Lake, home to Lakeview Homes, is close to the boat launch and has plenty of parking for your trailer. Long Lake has excellent water temperatures and wonderful fresh water local fishing. Locals enjoy skiing, wake boarding, tubing and swimming at the sandy beach.

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Exploring the Surrounding Area



A 20 minute drive south of Nanaimo you will find a 100 year old town called Ladysmith. Located on the 49th parallel. Named after General Smith’s young wife “Lady Smith”. It is a quaint waterfront community with very interesting history. Ladysmith is well known for some festive activities including the “Festival of Lights” , “Ladysmith Days”. While visiting Ladysmith check out Transfer Beach or explore Holland Creek Trail.


Travel further South to the Cowichan Valley. “Cowichan” is Salish for “land warmed by the sun”. Outdoor activities include year round golf, sailing, hiking and exploring. Excellent local farmers markets offer a taste of home-grown produce and local artisans display their crafts. Local vinters harvest local grapes to produce award-winning wines. Wine tours in the area are highly recommended with some on the most wonderful wineries sampling their products. Check out some of the amazing local wineries at:
– A warm welcome awaits you at the award-winning Cherry Point Estate Winery, Vancouver Island Cherry Point Vineyards
– Saturna Island Family Estate Winery boasts 60 acres of vineyards that are ideal for the cultivation of classic European grape varietals Saturna Vineyards
– Merridale Cider they use cider apple varieties that have been proven for centuries in England, France, and Germany to make the best cider Merrydale Cider
– Zanatta is nestled in the Glenora region of the Cowichan Valley, just minutes from Duncan, BC, Vigneti Zanatta is proud to be Vancouver Island’s first estate winery
– A Canadian-style tasting room, and it’s right at home in Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley Blue Grouse Vineyards
– Lose yourself in the heart of Cowichan wine country at this haven of relaxation and inspiration. Damali Lavender Farm and Winery.
Deol Estate Winery is a family owned and operated winery, situated in the heart of Cowichan Deol Estate Winery
– Enrico Winery and Vineyards is home to award winning wines and friendly people
Glenterra Vineyards maintains 5 acres of vineyards in the Cowichan Valley.
– Check out 10 years of Passion at Rockycreek Winery
– Handcrafted, award winning where handcrafted meets artisan at Unsworth Vineyards


Lush countryside surrounds scenic coastal villages and charming inland communities. Culture and entertainment flourishes at all levels, often hosted in the 731 seat Cowichan Theatre. The Cowichan Native Village displays the First Nations heritage. Duncan boasts this heritage with a vast display of totem poles lining the streets.


Chemanius, a warm town with over 30 world famous murals depicting its history on local buildings for all to see. Chemanius is a charming seaside village which brims with artisan spirit. Experience the Chemainus Theatre if you haven’t visited before, you’re in for a delightful and inviting afternoon or evening of shopping, dining, music, conversation…and theatre


Victoria is one of Canada’s favorite cities. The focal point downtown in the Inner Harbour lined with stone buildings, including the BC legislature, lit up like a palace at night. Walk for miles by the sea, enjoy some of the favorite attractions including The BC Royal Museum, Craigdarroch Castle, Canada’s oldest Chinatown, The world famous Buchart Gardens, check out local whale watching with Victoria Prince of Whales Victoria was included in the Top 10 Family Vacations in Canada in TripAdvisor .


Travelling north, 20 minutes from Nanaimo you will come to Parksville/Qualicum area. Home of the beautiful Rathtrevor Beach. This area has almost 20 km of sandy beaches perfect for beachcombing, exploring, building sandcastles or just enjoying the sunshine.


Rathtrevor received its name from a gold prospector and pioneer, William Rath, who settled in the area with his wife and family in 1886. William died in 1903, leaving his wife with the farm and five children. The warm ocean water and almost a kilometer of sandy flats at low tide make beachcombing a rewarding outing. When the tide rolls in over the sun-baked sand, the warmed water is unbeatable for swimming.


Great bird watching here especially in early spring when large numbers of seabirds congregate for the annual herring spawn. The beach is one of the best spots on the island for viewing migrating Brant Geese during March and April.


Parksville is home to many local artisans and craftsman check out The famous Parksville Sand Sculpting Festival, as well as fun for the whole family with Riptide Lagoon and mini golf. The Father’s Day Show & Shine mentioned on the Oprah Winfrey show one of the best things to do on Father’s Day.


A short distance away Is Qualicum Beach the home of Milner GardensHorne Lake Caves.  There are two caves open to the public for self-exploring. Horne Lake Main and Lower Caves are accessible year round and offer visitors a chance to explore some of the more rugged caves on their own.  To explore these caves, it will involve some moderate climbing and narrow passages. Helmets are recommended and you must have at least two sources of light.


Located 8 miles from Parksville is picturesque Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. Located on the Englishman River which features a spectacular canyon between two beautiful waterfalls. Walk along the suspension bridge for a spectacular close encounter with the falls. The park is close to 100 hectares and offers many walking trails to explore lush old-growth forests of cedar, arbutus, fir, maple and hemlock Native legend claims that First Nation people during the last century found the skeleton of a white man along the river near the waterfall – hence “Englishman” River falls. A gorgeous deep crystal clear pool with a small rocky beach downstream from the base of the lower falls, a great freshwater swimming hole and sunbathing area.


Coombs Village and the Country Market is about 5 miles from Parksville. The market is well known for the “goats on the roof” as a family of goats nibbles the grass from the thatched roof. Below the newly renovated market offers fresh local produce and one of the best places for ice cream. The market also has many interesting gift and craft stores to shop in. Minutes past the village, Butterfly World and the Emerald Forest Bird Garden are popular attractions. You can stroll amongst hundreds of exotic butterflies flying free in an indoor tropical rainforest. Fabulous flowering plants and foliage home to many fascinating birds and other creatures. A great family outing. Visit Tiger Lily Farm Children will delight at the antics of the baby animals, and adults will love the looks on their faces. Your family will enjoy mingling with the animals and learning all about them.



Little Qualicum Falls displays a fantastic waterfall down a rocky gorge. Explore the many wooded trails to explore both the upper and lower falls or take a dip in the rivers clear swimming pools.


Perhaps spending an afternoon lazing on the beach at Cameron Lake is appealing. If so, bring a picnic .Cameron Lake is surrounded by mountains and forests in the Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park on Highway 4, 7 miles (12 km) west of Coombs. The lake is stocked with rainbow and cutthroat trout. Great fishing through the summer, if fly fishing is your sport bring your rod and test your skills on the lake’s brown trout. Strong winds blow here in the afternoon, so if windsurfing is your sport, bring your sail.


MacMillan Provincial Park home to many giant Douglas firs some over 800 years old Cathedral Grove. Explore the trails through the canopy to experience some breath taking scenery. In 1997, the park experienced a bad windstorm which damaged some of the park, restoration of the trails have taken place and display some of the havoc that nature has experienced.


Although, with the fallen wood, it allows close up encounters with the tree rings themselves.
Count the age of one of these magnificent beauties. One of the largest trees in the park is over 76 m high and 9 m in circumference.


Port Alberni, the Salmon Capital of the World, known for some of the best salmon fishing. Stamp River is spawning grounds for many salmon. In the fall, the fish can be seen up close and person. See Stamp River for some great pics. Local Charters are offered with great seasoned experienced fisherman. You only require your license and away you go. Some very large chinooks have been caught in the inlet, some over 60 pounds.


Explore the Broken Island Group by boarding the MV Lady Rose or MV Frances Barkley and explore the Inlet .


Continue heading west to explore Tofino and Ucluelet. Tofino was named in 1792 after the Spanish Hydrographer Vicente Tofino de San Miguel (1732 – 1795) who was Rear Admiral of the Spanish Naval Academy in Cadiz. In Tofino explore Long Beach the Island’s most famous beach, enjoy in all seasons, in the summer walk for miles, in the winter the storm watching is indescribable. In Tofino there are numerous points of interest including, Pacific Rim Park, Chesterman Beach, Wick Beach, and many others where you can enjoy a serene walk or just sit and watch the waves. Whilst in Tofino, check out whale watching or even explore a hike to the hotsprings, take a trip to view some bears. Wild life watching is highly recommended, perhaps on your drive to Tofino, you may be blessed with the sight of a bear or cougar on the side of the highway. Ucluelet is a short drive from Tofino located in the Pacific Rim National Park. An ancient settlement on the northern edge of Barkley Sound, Ucluelet takes its name from the Nuu-chah-nulth phrase, Yu-clutl-ahts, “the people with a good landing place for canoes”. Experience something different, board the MV Frances Barkley and sail down the Alberni Inlet to Ucluelet. Ucluelet has some awesome diving with incredible breath taking underwater sites of natures underwater beauty and some fascinating ship wrecks, creating reefs and home to marine life. While on the west side, enjoy many activities including hiking, kayaking, fishing, whale watching, diving, storm watching and much more.


Gabriola Island a quick ferry ride from Nanaimo City Centre. Three beautiful parks, unique features including petroglyphs, millstone quarry and many local artisans.
Up to the very North end of Vancouver Island, beautiful Port Hardy On the North Island Port Hardy is the largest community with approximately (4,000 residents). The BC Ferries offers routes to the Inside and Discovery Coast which was named one of the world’s great ferry rides by Travel + Leisure Magazine. Great things to see and do and Port Hardy including Grizzly Bear tours. Year round fishing both salt water and freshwater, diving, kayaking and fantastic hiking. Check out San Jose Bay or Cape Scott. Nearby family picnic grounds at Storey Beach as well as historic Fort Rupert with its renowned First Nations’ artists. Wonderful accommodation at Storey’s Beach Retreat call for further details.

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