DescriptionSome 120 kilometres (75 mi.) north of Victoria, Nanaimo began as a Hudson's Bay Co. outpost called Colvilletown, established for miners brought from England and Scotland to mine coal. A thriving forest and marine products industry replaced coal's influence, and the economy of contemporary Nanaimo is centered on technology, service, manufacturing, tourism and recreation.
Offshore islands and nearby mountains and lakes provide a variety of recreational opportunities including hiking, swimming, camping and picnicking. Charter companies offer wildlife tours year-round to view animals such as the area's bald eagles and sea lions.
For a touch of wilderness in the middle of the city, check out Bowen Park, on the Millstone River just north of downtown. This 36-hectare (89-acre) expanse provides an outlet for a variety of activities. Trails wind through forests of fir, hemlock, cedar and maple, and kids enjoy the 4-H barnyard open July through August. A rhododendron grove, a nature center, duck pond, picnic shelters, swimming pool and sports fields complete the complex. In winter, tobogganers take to the park's big hills.
Exotic trees provide a setting for picnicking at Harmac Arboretum, 11 kilometres (7 mi.) south at Harmac Pulp Mill and Duke Point roads. Newcastle Island is a marine provincial park accessible by a 10-minute ferry ride from Maffeo-Sutton Park on the harborfront. Automobiles are not permitted; the ferry operates daily every 30 minutes on the half hour and hour from spring through mid-October. Round-trip fare is $9.
In addition to the ferry, salmon sport fishing, scuba diving, windsurfing and sailing are also available from Nanaimo's natural harbor. An intertidal park with three lighted water curtains and a 4-kilometre (2.5-mi.) walkway along the seawall graces Nanaimo's waterfront. St. Jean's Custom Cannery is one of three factories where fishing enthusiasts can have their catch canned or smoked.
On a landscaped hillside, Vancouver Island University offers views of the city and harbor below and also is the site of Nanaimo Art Gallery. Visitors interested in prehistoric art can see sandstone carvings at Petroglyph Provincial Park, 3.25 kilometres (2 mi.) south on scenic Hwy. 1. Other cultural endeavors can be enjoyed at The Port Theatre, an 800-seat performing arts center at 125 Front St. that hosts local, national and international events; phone (250) 754-8550 for ticket information.
Nanaimo is accessible from the mainland by BC Ferries, which sails from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay and from Tsawwassen to Duke Point, 8 kilometres (5 mi.) south of Nanaimo. For more information phone (250) 386-3431 or (888) 223-3779.
Visitor InfoTourism Nanaimo 2450 Northfield Rd. NANAIMO, BC V9T 3K7. Phone:(250)756-0106 or (800)663-7337
Things to SeeNanaimo Art Gallery
Bungee JumpingWildplay Element Park
HikingTracks Outdoor Adventures