With a population of approximately 90,000 people, Nanaimo is Vancouver Island’s second largest city and has evolved into a lively urban centre with a smartly restored downtown and lovely, walkable harborfront. The word “Nanaimo” is derived from the Coast Salish word “Sney-Ny-Mous” which means “meeting place.” Famous for its varied landscapes and more than 24 outdoor parks, Nanaimo boasts one of the most beautiful waterfronts in Canada and even has its own dessert named after it–the Nanaimo Bar!
Visitors arrive in Nanaimo via its two ferry terminals at Departure Bay and Duke Point, cruise ship terminal, twenty minute floatplane flights from Vancouver via Harbour Air or Seair, by Helijet, or by flying into the revitalized airport. Nanaimo is the mid-island transportation hub to and from the Lower Mainland, which makes it easy to travel to and the perfect central location to set up base for tours of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
There are great hiking and cycling trails, kayaking and boating opportunities, ziplines, and even a bungy jump within walking distance of downtown. Explore the Old City Quarter before catching a passenger ferry to Protection Island for a pint at the Dinghy Dock, Canada’s only floating pub. Scuba divers can explore artificial reefs in Nanaimo’s harbour and golfers have many options waiting on land, as well!
Within 30 minutes’ driving distance of Nanaimo are Parksville, home of a legendary summer sandcastle competition, and Coombs, which houses a world-famous market with goats on a roof. Visitors can also take short ferries to Saltspring or Gabriola Island.
Approximately an hour and fifteen minutes’ drive is Victoria, the largest city on Vancouver Island and BC’s capital. Steeped in rich history, you’ll find picturesque 19th century heritage buildings which house galleries, boutique shops, cocktail lounges and brewpubs. From international destinations such as the national historic site of Butchart Gardens, to hidden gems like Canada’s oldest Chinatown, your days in the region can be as busy or relaxed as you want.