Nanaimo, British Columbia

Nanaimo Harbour, Nanaimo, British Columbia
Nanaimo Harbour, Nanaimo, British Columbia

Nanaimo, B.C.’s sixth largest city, is the terminus for ferries to Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, to Gabriola Island, and to Newcastle Island.

If you need to take a ferry from Nanaimo, you’d be well advised to come at least a day early so that you can sample some of the delights of this vibrant town of a hundred thousand. All amenities await you, with a wide choice of accommodation, restaurants, and shops. In addition, you can enjoy the waterfront scene, perhaps take in a play at the luxurious Port Theatre, or just enjoy a harbor front meal.

Nanaimo from the Gabriola Island ferry, Nanaimo, British Columbia
Nanaimo from the Gabriola Island ferry, Nanaimo, British Columbia

Three self-guided heritage walks leaving from one of Nanaimo’s most famous landmarks, the Bastion, are worthy of exploring: the Railway Connection, the Coal Connection and Harbour Connection. You just have to follow the colour coded footprints and read the historical plaques en route.

In the past few years, the waterfront of this booming town has been transformed into a trendy and fun place to be. Stroll along the Harbour Side Walkway, a four kilometer walkway along the harbour and Newcastle Island Passage, which passes storefront parks, businesses and marinas with views of Nanaimo District Museum and Port Theatre, across Front Street.

Nanaimo Architecture, Nanaimo, British Columbia
Nanaimo Architecture, Nanaimo, British Columbia

Carry on to the Bastion, a white, octagonal, three-story blockhouse open to the public and containing historical relics. Read the historical plaques as you wander, stop at an outside espresso bar and listen to the buskers, tuck into a nautical shop, say hello to “Black Frank’s” bronze statue, and check out the boats in Nanaimo’s boat basin.

This walk can wind up taking all day!

Try to find time, though, to also take the little ferry over to Newcastle Island. This 336 hectare island is all parkland, beloved of locals, boaters and tourists alike. It has a fun filled history dating back to the early 20th century, when it was a popular resort destination. The dance pavilion is now an interpretative centre, the restaurant still dishes out mouth watering food, the docks and sports fields are still enjoyed.

There is definitely a bygone air about this place, combined with a happy feeling: nineteen kilometers of trails wander around and across the island, beaches and fun places to explore abound, swimming is popular, and camping is coveted. Boaters have known about Newcastle Marine Park for a long time. It may be time you discovered it.