Located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Nanaimo is the third oldest city in British Columbia. Population: approx. 87,000. Nanaimo is a transportation hub, connecting passengers and vehicles to/from the mainland via BC Ferries Tsawwassen–Duke Point service, and Horseshoe Bay–Departure Bay service, via floatplane terminals and airport.
Visitor Information: Open daily, year-round, Visitor Centre at 2450 Northfield Rd., Exit 21. Downtown visitor kiosk with maps, brochures, guides and event information (May–September).
This is a good-sized city with complete tourist facilities including major-chain hotels/motels, restaurants and retail stores. The Nanaimo Harbourfront Walkway (5 km/3 miles) is one of Nanaimo’s main attractions in the downtown area. Passenger ferries also connect the downtown waterfront with Protection Island (famous for Canada’s only floating pub) and Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park with greater than 20 km/12 miles of trails. Downtown offers a great variety of different water activities from sailing cruises to snorkel gear and kayak rentals.
Nanaimo’s south area of Cedar & Yellow Point boasts a huge variety of artists, artisans, farms and food, as well as WildPlay Element Park featuring ziplines, bungy jumping, primal swing and much more. Several farmers markets run in the area from May–October.
Nanaimo has some 200-plus parks, 130 kms/81 miles of trails, and 12 off-leash dog parks. Nanaimo Aquatic Center (Exit 18 on Highway 19) is the largest west of Edmonton and features a wave pool, lazy river and lots of parking.
- Nanaimo is also home of the self-guided Nanaimo Bar Trail (trail maps at Visitor Centre) that features over 35 variation of the famous Canadian dessert (including a deep-fried version).
- Downtown has the Nanaimo Museum at 100 Museum Way.
- Old City Quarter with local shops and restaurants.
- The Vancouver Island Military Museum.