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Nanaimo [9] is the central hub city of Vancouver Island in BC, Canada. It is the second largest city on the island and has the second biggest harbour. In many ways it is the smaller cousin of Victoria. Like much of Vancouver Island it has moved from being primarily an industrial town to a tourist city that attracts a large number of retirees from the rest of Canada.


Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 6 8 11 14 18 21 24 24 21 15 9 6
Nightly lows (°C) -1 0 1 3 7 10 12 12 9 5 2 0
Precipitation (mm) 170 140 112 63 50 45 26 32 39 97 199 190

See the Nanaimo 7 day forecast at Environment Canada [10]

Get in[edit]

Most travellers to Nanaimo will arrive from Vancouver. BC Ferries [11] operates car ferries to Nanaimo from Tsawwassen (South of Vancouver) to Duke Point south of Nanaimo, and from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay. These ferries run about every 2 hours. The ferry ride is approximately 1 hour 35 minutes long. It costs about $47 for a car and $16 per person each way for the ferry. Reservations are never required, but recommended for vehicles during peak travel times. There is a $20 charge for reservations.

The Departure Bay ferry terminal is served by Nanaimo Regional Transit [12] to Nanaimo. Greyhound [13] (Phone: 1-800-661-8747) and the Tofino Bus have offices inside the Departure Bay Ferry terminal. There is no bus service from Duke Point to Nanaimo.

Seair Seaplanes [14] and Harbour Air [15] operate float plane service from downtown Vancouver into Downtown Nanaimo. Harbour Air operates the De Havilland Otter and Beaver aircraft. Both of these service operate about hourly from about 7AM to 6PM. The cost is about $70. These are small planes heavily used by business travellers so reservations are recommended. From May through September, Kenmore Air [16] also offers daily scheduled seaplane service to Nanaimo.

Air Canada Jazz operates air service from the Vancouver airport to the Nanaimo airport. The cost to add this onto a Air Canada flight into Vancouver is often minimal. Air Canada Jazz also offers two daily flights to Calgary. WestJet also offers 2 daily flights to Calgary. The Nanaimo airport is about 18km from downtown Nanaimo.

Travellers may also come to Nanaimo from Victoria. It is about a 90 minute drive from Victoria. Vancouver Island Coach Lines [17] operates a coach service from Downtown Victoria to Downtown Nanaimo.

VIA [18] operated a daily passenger service from Victoria to Courtenay with a stop in Nanaimo the cost for Victoria to Nanaimo is $23, however service is currently suspended indefinitely (November 2012).

Get around[edit]

There is a transit system in Nanaimo, but it is not particularly convenient for getting around much of the city. If you plan on using it, make sure you know the schedule. Otherwise you can spend a long time waiting at a bus stop.

If arranged ahead of time, cars can be rented at at the downtown harbour, Departure Bay ferry terminal or the Nanaimo airport.

See[edit][add listing]

The Bastion
  • Bathtub Racing - An annual race of bathtubs that have been converted into boats and race through the harbour of Nanaimo
  • Swy-a-lana Lagoon Park Swy-a-lana is a saltwater lagoon that makes use of the tide's natural ebb and flow, creating a home for marine life. An arched foot bridge crosses the lagoon, leading to Maffeo Sutton Park, where you'll find a sandlot playground, a fishing pier, picnic tables, benches and grass fields. Both Swy-a-lana and Maffeo Sutton Parks offer commanding views of the waterfront, Gulf Islands, and coastal mountains.
  • Nanaimo seawall -- a pedestrian walkway that winds along the waterfront from Cameron Island to the Nanaimo Yacht Club. Visitors especially enjoy the section of the seawall near the Bastion, where craft shops and restaurants dot the path.
  • The Bastion, [19]. The Bastion, built in 1853 as an original Hudson’s Bay Company outpost is now a museum that gives great insight into the way of life a century ago. Historic cannons are fired daily at noon throughout the summer. Admission is by donation.
  • Pioneer Plaza -- at the foot of Bastion Street, you'll find markers for a self-guided walking tour of the downtown core.
  • Nanaimo Museum, [20]. Nanaimo Museum is located at 100 Museum Way in the heart of downtown. Discover Nanaimo's fascinating history & modern day contributions to Canada's West Coast in the 1,486 sq m (16,000 sq ft) museum located in the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. Stroll through time in the main gallery to get a sense of what life was like for Nanaimo's earliest settlers & hear stories of the Snuneymuxw First Nation. Feel what it was like below the surface in the replica Coal Mine exhibit. The Museum’s feature exhibits change three times a year and exhibit everything from vintage undergarments to shellfish to the history of radio in Canada. Admission is Adults $2, Seniors/Students $1.75, Children $0.75, and Children under 5 are free.
  • Nanaimo Dragonboat Festival,[21]. - An annual 3 day event held in Maffeo Sutton Park. Over 70 teams and 1,400 participants take part in this annual event.

Do[edit][add listing]

Newcastle Island
  • Bungy Jumping, TreeGo and Ziplines at WildPlay Element Park [22] (Formerly known as the Bungy Zone). (About 10km south of town)Summer Hours: Open 7 days a week 10AM-6PM. Check website or call for off-season hours. North America's first and many say best permanent legal bungy jumping site. TreeGo Aerial Tree Course $20-$40 Bungy Jumping $100.
  • Camping/Hiking on Newcastle Island [23] Newcastle Island Provincial Marine Park offers spectacular trails through beautiful forests and along its wild coastline. They used to mine coal on the island and their are a few mines open to tour. Only a 10 minute ferry ride from downtown.
  • Scuba Diving: Nanaimo has world famous cold water scuba diving. [24]
  • Nanaimo River. In the summertime, this is the most beautiful thing you could ever imagine.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

Nanaimo is the largest city that can be easily accessed by most of Vancouver Island. As leaving the Island to do shopping is expensive and time consuming, Nanaimo has become the shopping center for Vancouver Island. According to a 1990 Time Magazine article, it has more square meters of retail space per capita than any other city in North America. Much of this shopping is in the large number of malls and big box retailers on the outskirts of the City. However, most of the interesting shops are in the downtown core. Here you will find...

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • Longwood Brew Pub, 5775 Turner Rd, Nanaimo, BC V9T 6L8 (North Nanaimo), +1 250 729-8225, [1]. Rated Nanaimo's Best Pub 2016, Longwood Brew Pub serves fresh and local West Coast cuisine combined with in-house handcrafted Ales and Lagers. Downstairs you will find a full pub, while on the main level is a family-friendly dining environment. Live music every Thursday.  edit
  • The Green Olive, 150 Skinner Street (downtown Nanaimo), +1 250 716-0030. All dishes are made to serve 4-6 people, and as a result, makes this place the most affordable gourmet restaurant for groups, with entrees averaging $22.  edit
  • Phoenicia Mediterranean Cuisine, 347 Wesley Street, +1 250 755-9150. A Mediterranean restaurant located in a modern, pastel coloured house in the Old Quarter district, about 4 blocks from the harbour. Great atmosphere, personable staff, and excellent food $12-15 for an entree.  edit
  • Gina's Restaurant, 47 Skinner Street, +1 250 753-5411. A Mexican restaurant in a bright pink building on the hill in downtown Nanaimo. Excellent food $10-15 for an entree.  edit
  • A number of good inexpensive Vietnamese restaurants are in Nanaimo. And a fine Vietnamese sandwich shop is a block away from Vancouver Island University.
  • Discovery Room is a secret fine dining restaurant hold inside of Vancouver Island University (also known as Malaspina University-College)
  • La Famiglia Ristorante Italiano, #1-321 Wesley Street, (250) 591-1321. 11:00am-10:00pm. Open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week. They provide a casual lunch, offering panini, soup, salads, and pastas. Dinners are served in a candle lit setting, with traditional Italian favourites such as veal parmigiana and chicken cacciatore. $10-$20.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • The Old City Station, 150 Skinner St, [2]. Has excellent drink specials every day, 20 beers on tap (they serve a FULL pint of beer, as opposed to other bars in the area...), as well as live music on weekends. It's huge, has a dozen flat panel TV's, aesthetically pleasing, and the menu is to die for because they share a kitchen with a gourmet shared dining restaurant, The Green Olive. It's easy to walk to (just up the art gallery alley off Commercial Street), and super affordable.  edit
  • Power House Living Foods (Power House Living Foods), 200 Commercial St. (Downtown Nanaimo), [3]. 10-6. Organic Raw Vegan Foods in downtown Nanaimo. In a city with very limited selection and high food prices this might be an option you want to explore. 10-15. (49.166946,-123.937025) edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Painted Turtle Guesthouse

  • Bev and Sandy's Place, 2734 Camcrest Drive, +1 250 758-4983, cell +1 250 616-2636 (), [4]. checkin: 4PM or by arrangement; checkout: 10AM. A two-room B&B offering personal service. On the northwest side of town. Accept cash, cheque and credit cards. Most pets welcome. "$75/night.  edit
  • Buccaneer Inn (The Buccaneer Inn), 1577 Stewart Avenue (3 blocks south of Departure Bay Ferry Terminal), +1 877 282-6337, [5]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. The Buccaneer Inn features comfortable, plush beds with down duvets in a separate bedroom, full kitchen facilities, ensuite bathrooms, full coffee and tea making facilities, games and books basket and local art all in a spotlessly clean room. Free wireless internet and free use of the front desk laptop, secure gear storage for scuba diving gear, dive gear rinse station, storage facilities for bikes and kayaks, BBQ deck. Ranked #1 on since 2004! AAA 2 Diamond and Canada Select 3.5 Star accommodation. Across from 5 restaurants and pubs including waterfront dining. Beautiful walk along Harbourside Walkway to downtown. Central Nanaimo location; great for seeing all of southern and central Vancouver Island including Victoria, Tofino, Oceanside, Chemainus and Comox Valley. $60-199.  edit
  • Coast Bastion Inn (Coast Bastion Inn), 11 Bastion Street, +1 250 753-6601 (toll free: +1 800 716-6199, fax: +1 250 753-4155), [6]. An upscale hotel in the heart of downtown Nanaimo. $145-$275/night.  edit
  • Graycliff Cottage Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast (Graycliff Cottage Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast), 7550 Lantzville Road, Lantzville (Just follow the Department of Highways' B&B signs), +1 250 390-3203 (toll free: +1 888 801-1822, ), [7]. checkin: Between 3:30PM-6PM or by arrangement; checkout: 11AM. From your bedroom window, your deck, or the hot tub, watch eagles, seals, sea lions, cruise ships, or beautiful sunsets. Or take a quiet walk along the secluded beach. All suites self contained and include: Private exterior keyed entrance; Queen size bed with down duvet; Ensuite bath; Cable TV & VCR; Small refrigerator & coffee bar with complimentary coffee, teas & hot chocolate. Fresh full breakfast served every morning in the dining room overlooking Georgia Strait. Wireless high-speed internet available. From $103 Double occupancy. $20 extra per person.  edit
  • Painted Turtle Guesthouse (Painted Turtle Guesthouse), 121 Bastion Street (corner of Commercial and Bastion Streets downtown), +1 250 753-4432 (toll free: +1 866 309-4432, ), [8]. A simple but friendly hostel aimed square at the backpacker set, in the heart of downtown Nanaimo, around the corner from The Old City Station Pub, and The Green Olive: Nanaimo's Premier Shared Dining Experience. Rooms are free of phones or televisions, but free wireless internet covers the hostel. Double room $75/night for two people, Dorm bed $25.25/night; less in off season.  edit

Get out[edit]

Nanaimo is a hub city for the island, as such it provides good access to a number of locations on the island.

Ladysmith, along the Trans-Canada Highway to the southeast, is a picturesque tourist town.

It is about a 3 hour drive to Tofino and Long Beach Unit of Pacific Rim National Park.

North of Nanaimo is Campbell River, Telegraph Cove and Port Hardy.

The beaches of the Parksville and Qualicum Beach region are a short 20-minute drive from Nanaimo. This region also includes Coombs, offering some wonderful rustic and exotic shopping and this is where you find the goats on the roof. It's a favorite spot for locals and an excellent stop for tourists. It's about a 30 minute drive from Nanaimo.

Routes through Nanaimo
VictoriaLadysmith  S noframe E  → ferry - North ShoreVancouver
Port Hardy / Tofino (via Bc4.png)Parksville  N noframe S  END

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