Welcome to Nanaimo, Canada!
With a population of just under 100,000 people, Nanaimo is a pretty quaint little city located just east of one of Canada’s biggest cities, Vancouver. Nanaimo started its life as a trading post between the Europeans and the local Natives, and during the gold rush of the 1860s, the city saw a number of Chinese immigrants coming to the city.
Nanaimo is home to many great museums and places to check out if you’re not looking to spend a lot of time in Vancouver and are looking for a city experience that’s a little more laid back. After all, a worldwide local knows that some of the best experiences can be found outside the large cities that have a constant hustle and bustle. Check out this insider’s guide to discover some special sites and experience the city from the lens of a local.
Worldwide Local Tip: Most visitors will probably arrive in the city via the Vancouver to Nanaimo ferry, which runs every two hours and takes about an hour and a half. Reservations aren’t required, but the ride costs $16 USD, and $47 USD if you’re with a vehicle, so be sure to plan accordingly.
Where to Begin
Get acquainted with the city by hanging out where the locals do. Nanaimo and all of British Columbia, in general, are very green and beautiful, so a lot of people like to spend time outdoors. The Harbourfront Walkway, is a perfect place to hang out and spend some time with the locals. The walkway is suspended above the shore and walkways go around various parks and green spaces. There are plenty of Nanaimo restaurants--catering to everything from upscale dining to fast food--and shops.
Worldwide Local Tip: Hanging out around here will be the perfect chance for you to get a legendary Nanaimo Bar! Nanaimo’s namesake sweet treat, is a no-bake dessert bar with a wafer and coconut crumb base, custard flavored butter icing in the middle, and a chocolate ganache on top. Enjoy a tasty Nanaimo bar by the Harbourfront Walkway and watch the boats and seaplanes come in.
Get Up Close and Personal with a Seal
In more tropical places, swimming with dolphins is often done by tourists and visitors, but in Nanaimo swimming with seals is the must-do. Swimming with seals is truly a unique experience, and the only qualifications are knowing how to swim. Guided tours are operated by professional guides, and it’s a great way to spend an afternoon spending some time away from the city, hanging out with delightful new animal friends.
Worldwide Local Tip: For those of you who aren’t too keen on getting close to the local wildlife, there are a myriad of whale watching tours available, as well. It might seem like a cliche activity, but a day outside, taking in gorgeous views of the water and skyline in the distance, is still really nice. Learn about marine life and view the majestic Orca’s swimming by.
Get Outdoors and Enjoy the Nanaimo Weather
The locals of Nanaimo love the outdoors and for good reason! BC has some of the best weather in Canada, and the beautiful green landscapes are gorgeous at any time of the year. A worldwide local knows that where the locals go are the best spots in town, and Break Neck Point is one of them. The scenic park is great for having a picnic or walking along the shoreline looking out onto the water. The walking trails throughout the park go around the peninsula where you’ll be fully immersed in nature with the sounds of water on one side and the tranquility of the trees and forest on the other. You might even be able to catch sea lions, orcas, or other marine life doing their thing by the water.
Worldwide Local Tip: At the far end of the peninsula, between Indian Beach and Last Beach, there is a great lookout point located on a high rock. If you’re the adventurous type, this area is popular with divers but of course, there’s also nearby beaches that are relatively secluded and quiet that are perfect for hanging out on a summer’s day.
Enjoy Your Time in Nanaimo, BC!
Nanaimo might just be a stone’s throw away from the more popular Vancouver, but just the fact that it’s smaller doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out. A worldwide local knows that those smaller cities often pack as much of a punch as the big ones.