Built on the traditional lands of the Snuneymuxw First Nation. The city is on the east coast of south-central Vancouver Island. Since Nanaimo incorporated in 1874, it’s been a coal town, a timber town, a mill town and a tourist destination. Today, the leading sectors are in health care, technology and construction.
The Snuneymuxw Territory is located in the centre of Coast Salish territory on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and the Fraser River in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The Snuneymuxw territory encompasses one of the most productive and resource rich areas at the heart of the Salish Sea.
Nanaimo is known as the Harbour City of Vancouver island. It derives its identity from the wealth of recreation activities available – many of which are centred around the harbour situated at the centre of the city. It has a wealth of history thanks to the marina, which is also of great interest to the many visitors that make the journey over to the island every year.
Travellers can try their hand at a number of activities including hiking, boating, biking, kayaking, scuba diving and snorkelling which all form part of the fabric of this beautiful location. Nanaimo is a bustling city, with a population of almost 120 000, and a multitude of eateries, art museums, and shopping outlets. Many visitors use Nanaimo as a central point, as it provides the perfect location to use as a base if exploring the rest of the island. It is also a great point to access world renowned ski resorts, the wild Pacific Oceans and all they have to offer, accessible within just a couple of hours drive.
There are almost as many ways to get to Nanaimo as there are activities to do there. You can fly to Nanaimo’s inner harbour direct from Sechelt in the north, Vancouver to the north east, South Vancouver, Seattle, or Richmond. There are also indirect flights which go from Ganges, Saltspring Island, Maple Bay, Pender Island, Victoria, Whistler, or Comox. So as you can see there are numerous options, even when just looking at one mode of transport; the aeroplane. Sea Air Seaplanes and Harbour Air both operate float plane services from Vancouver city and the International Airport to downtown Nanaimo. Harbour . The planes are only small, and so reservations ahead of schedule are heavily recommended as they are often utilised by businessmen. Flights are incredibly short, and so are a quick way to get to the desired destination, but are not the only option. In peak months (May to September) Kenmore Air also offers one daily scheduled plane service from Washington State. Regular flights
The far more popular option with travellers is the ferry. There are numerous ferry routes into the Departure Bay and Duke Point ferry terminals. You can jump on a ferry from Tsawwassen which is just south of Vancouver, to Swartz Bay which is near to Victoria, or to Duke Point just south of Nanaimo. Ferries also travel from Horseshoe Bay which is north of Vancouver directly to Departure Bay in Nanaimo which is the closest to all the action downtown. Duke point is somewhat further away, and so unless you are staying near there, or have hired a car, or got on a bus, locals suggest it is best to use the Departure Bay terminus. It is important to pre-book where possible because ferries get very busy, and so it is best to err on the side of caution. It is of course cheaper to be a foot passenger than to drive. Departure Bay is served by Nanaimo Regional Transit, and Tofino Bus. All of which have offices within the ferry terminal.
There is the old historic downtown which is divided into quarters (even though there are three of them). The Old City quarter has multiple restaurants, and heritage sites and buildings. The Arts district in the city’s centre is a great quirky place boasting art galleries and performance spaces. Last but not least, Nanaimo’s famous waterfront, which is peppered with public plazas, shops, luxury dining, parkland, and to top it all off a lagoon where you can take a dip should the mood catch you.
North Nanaimo is known as the shopping quarter, with malls littered along the highway. There are also excellent hiking and diving spots around this area. Westside is known more for being the area for outdoorsy types. It boasts Westwood Lake which is perfect for swimming, and is even staffed in the summer. There are sprawling park lands perfect for mountain biking and trailing including to Nanaimo’s highest peak in Mount Benson. South Nanaimo, towards Cedar is popular for those looking to see rural farms, orchards, and experience the communities that work them. Cranberries, blueberries and apples are farmed here as well as numerous vegetables. The Sunday farmers’ marker is a must. For the more adventurous, there is also the opportunity to run a tree top obstacle course, and bungee jump.
From Nanaimo you can also access Protection Island that is home to Canada’s one and only floating pub, and historic picturesque Saysutshun Island. Gabriola Island is also close by, which is a popular spot for artists and photographers. All of which are accessible by one of Nanaimo’s two busy ferry ports.
So you see there are numerous ways to get to this stunning location. It does seem that most travelers do choose ferry. Running every two hours from numerous ports on the mainland, they are the easiest way to get to Nanaimo.