Nanaimo is a pleasant coastal town on Vancouver Island, in the Canadian state of British Columbia. Offering access to the urban appeal of Vancouver and the natural beauty of the island, it is one of Canada’s finest destinations.
The Nanaimo Museum is a great place to start exploring the town, with its exhibitions about the history of coastal British Columbia, showing its Chinese, First Nations and British influences. But a walk around the central historic district is also recommended, and there are many well-restored 19th century buildings from Nanaimo’s heyday as a mining port.
Nowadays, the city is a magnet for lovers of the ocean and water sports. Every year, it plays host to the spectacle of the Dragonboat Festival, which sees crews from across the world compete, as well as a unique Bathtub Racing Festival. For visitors, there are more conventional marine activities to enjoy such as scuba diving and water skiing, along with salmon fishing on the Nanaimo River.
The city is also a great place to use as a base for outdoor camping. Not far from town, the forests of Newcastle Island are the ideal place to pitch a tent and awake in pristine natural surroundings. It’s impossible not to relax when surrounded by such natural beauty.
Natural beauty may not be Vancouver’s great appeal, but the city can easily be reached from Nanaimo, and is must-visit for any vacationers. With world-class restaurants, opera, casinos, night clubs, theaters and the excitement of the Canucks, the city’s ice hockey team, Vancouver is just a short boat trip from Nanaimo.
In winter, the town is also a leading skiing destination, with many of Canada’s finest slopes to be found on Vancouver Island, and no alpine sports enthusiasts will want to miss the descents at Mt Cain and Mt Washington.
This is a destination that can be enjoyed all year round. Skiers should head over between December and March, but for most people May and June will be perfect, with lovely weather and lighter crowds than high season in July and August. Try March for bargains in-between the seasons, and catch the town’s fine Music Festival as well.
The best way to see Nanaimo and the beautiful sights of Vancouver Island is by car. Visitors will find rental outlets near the harbor area, where the ferry arrives. Mountain bikes are a good alternative during the summer and can be easily rented. Buses do operate on some routes, but check the schedule as the service is not frequent.
Most people fly into Nanaimo Arpt (YCD) if they book a flight to Nanaimo. Nanaimo Arpt is conveniently located just 8.5 mi from Nanaimo’s city center.