Take a ferry to one of British Columbia’s oldest cities and enjoy its cosmopolitan mix of a college town, a waterfront resort and an old mining boomtown.
Nanaimo is Vancouver Island’s second-largest city and a convenient access point for the island’s natural landscape. Located on the east coast, Nanaimo is nestled between island’s mountainous interior and the scenic Strait of Georgia. Explore Nanaimo to experience a perfect balance of Vancouver Island’s history, local culture and beautiful scenery.
Stroll along the Harbourfront Walkway to see the lively city center crowded around Nanaimo’s port. Here, alongside seafood restaurants and delightful teashops, you will find the Bastion, one of the last remaining outposts of the Hudson Bay Company. Visit this mid-19th-century tower at noon to hear the midday cannon. Browse the intriguing exhibits in the nearby Nanaimo Museum to learn about the city’s history as a coal mining boomtown.
Enjoy one of the mildest climates in Canada and swim at Nanaimo’s picturesque beaches. Try diving off the island’s coast and see beautiful multihued reefs growing around the wreck sites of three ships. Spot octopus, sea lions and eels in the clear waters.
Take a passenger ferry to one of the islands around Nanaimo Harbor. Newcastle Island is a small wooded landmass only a 10-minute ferry ride from Nanaimo. Wander the beaches, check out the tide pools at low tide and try local seafood at the island’s bistro. The larger Gabriola Island, known as the “Isle of the Arts,” is a great place to explore Nanaimo’s artisan culture. Tour the small galleries and buy souvenirs at a boutique.
Head inland from Nanaimo to discover the impressive mountains and valleys of Vancouver Island’s interior. Take a wine-tasting tour of the Cowichan Valley south of the city. Explore the forested trails of the western mountains, crowned by Mount Bastion. Englishman River Falls Provincial Park is a favorite destination due to its beautiful waterfalls among wooded canyons.
Nanaimo is located 34 miles (55 kilometers) from Vancouver across the Strait of Georgia. Reach Vancouver Island by ferry or plane and make this scenic mining town your first stop.