Located directly across the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver, Nanaimo is a harbour city on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island. It centres around the bustling Old City Quarter with handicraft shops and cafes while it also boasts a rich industrial and First Nations history that is showcased at its cultural museums.
Things to do in Nanaimo
In the heart of the downtown area is the Nanaimo Museum, which features award-winning exhibits within the Vancouver Island Conference Center. Step inside a 1920s schoolroom and learn about the region’s historic forestry industry before experiencing daily life in a traditional longhouse of the Snuneymuxw. A highlight of the Nanaimo Museum is the recreated coal mine shaft where you can hear stories narrated by former miners.
Also managed by the Nanaimo Museum is the Bastion, an octagonal-shaped wooden building that was constructed by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1850s to defend the local coal-mining operations. It houses exhibits detailing Nanaimo’s industrial past and the role of company clerk Joseph William McKay. Learn about the guns and ammunition that were once stored here or coincide your visit with one of the summer cannon firings.
Jump aboard a passenger ferry to visit Saysutshun Marine Provincial Park, which offers scenic views of Nanaimo. It is traversed by hiking and biking trails that take in native forests, tidal pools and historic sites that include Snuneymuxw cultural landmarks and sandstone quarries. Renting a kayak is one of the most popular ways to explore the island’s beaches.
Getting around Nanaimo
Nanaimo Airport is around 15 minutes’ drive from the city centre and has regular flights to Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. Car ferries connect from Tsawwassen (near Vancouver) to Nanaimo while buses travel south to Victoria. Local buses travel throughout Nanaimo, although most of its attractions are accessible on foot.