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Nanaimo, British Columbia

Tour description

Nanaimo, Canada


Nanaimo is located on the east coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, about 70.2 miles (113 kilometres) northwest of Victoria and 34.1 miles (55 kilometres) west of Vancouver. The 'Harbour City' of Nanaimo is separated by the Strait of Georgia, and linked to Vancouver via the Horseshoe Bay BC Ferries terminal in West Vancouver. As the site of the main ferry terminal, Nanaimo is the gateway to many other destinations both on the northern part of the island, such as Tofino, Comox Valley, Parksville, Campbell River, Port Alberni, and Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. Offshore islands accessible via Nanaimo include Newcastle Island, Protection Island, Gabriola Island, Valdes Island, and many other Gulf Islands. Nanaimo is also the headquarters of the Regional District of Nanaimo.


From the last few centuries, Nanaimo's local economy has been supported by the coal, lumber, government services, retail, and technology industries. In recent years, the exquisite natural beauty of Vancouver Island's second-largest city has made Nanaimo a popular tourist destination for outdoor and nature enthusiasts alike. This picturesque port town features spectacular panoramic mountain views, a busy harbour and fabulous ocean vistas at every turn. Nanaimo is nestled at the base of Mt. Benson, which rises 3,300 feet (1,006 metres) just west of the city and Pacific Ocean. Its landscape has all the vitality and ruggedness of a Rocky Mountain setting. The Port of Nanaimo is the gateway to many other destinations, both on the northern and southern part of the island, and is therefore known as the 'Hub City'. This gateway to island adventures is easily accessible via fast ferry or floatplane from downtown Vancouver, scheduled ferries from Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen, and cruise ships. From here, it's just a short trip by boat, plane, or vehicle to some of the most beautiful spots on the west coast of the United States.


Nanaimo's coastal mountains, inland valleys, old growth rainforests, and inland valleys and waterways are highlighted by a wide array of picturesque and memorable sightseeing venues for outdoor enthusiasts. Land-based excursions include zip-lining, bungee jumping, swings and aerial adventures in the treetops above the Nanaimo River canyon at WildPlay Element Parks, and spelunking and rappelling at the Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park. Freshwater swimming and hiking are popular at Westwood Lake, as are swimming, canoeing, kayaking, boating, and water-skiing at Long Lake. The trails, forests and parks at Westwood Lake, Fine China Trail, Lighthouse Country Regional Trail, Mt. Benson, Benson Creek Trail, Cable Bay Trail, Loudon Park & Trail, Morrell Sanctuary, Jack Point and Biggs Park, Neck Point Park, Ammonite Falls, Cedar Yellow Point Artisan Trail, Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park, Parkway Trail, Cathedral Grove, Kinsol Trestle, and Gabriola Island are ideal for bird-watching, walking, hiking, bicycling, and mountain-biking. Golfing enthusiasts can enjoy year-round play at the Fairwinds Golf Club, one of Vancouver Island's finest courses, and the beautiful Arrowsmith Golf & Country Club.


Scenic and fun-filled water-based excursions include boating, sailing and salmon-fishing charters in the harbour and along the coast of Nanaimo, crabbing for Dungeness crabs at Maffeo Sutton Park's fishing pier, and trout-fishing in Nanaimo's many freshwater lakes and the Nanaimo River. You can also go swimming, kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, water-skiing and snorkelling at Nanaimo's splendid beaches, bays, gulf islands and ocean parks such as Piper's Lagoon Park, Departure Bay, Neck Point Park, and the Swy-A-Lana Lagoon. Nanaimo's cold, abundant coastal waters are ideal for whale-watching in Cowichan Bay, and some of the world's finest temperate diving and three fascinating wreck dives; the Saskatchewan, Cape Breton and RivTow Lion. Here, discover a myriad of colourful coral, fish and marine life.


Due to its compact size, Nanaimo can be easily explored in just a single day.


Going Ashore in Nanaimo


Pier Information

The ship is scheduled to dock at the Nanaimo Cruise Ship Terminal Building. Nanaimo's town centre can be reached via a 0.87-mile (1.4-kilometre) drive, or 15-20-minute walk on-foot. Metered taxis are available at the pier. Please make sure to establish a price before starting any journey.


Shopping

Nanaimo offers a wealth of shopping opportunities, from shopping centres and speciality stores to galleries and a myriad of quality arts-and-crafts outlets offering locally-produced health and beauty products, culinary items, jewellery, clothing and accessories, furniture, artwork, photography, pottery, glassware, handicrafts, floral items, souvenirs, and more. Downtown Nanaimo features three distinct shopping districts: the Arts District in the city core; the Old City Quarter up the hill; and the Waterfront District along the Harbourfront Walkway. All offer distinctive shops and services.


Cuisine

Nanaimo's cultural diversity has fostered a culinary scene rich with flavours from around the world, including French, Italian, Middle Eastern, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Continental, barbecue, and traditional Coast Salish cuisine. Nanaimo is also renowned for its fresh fish, shellfish and seafood. Local specialities include salmon and locally-sourced fruit, vegetables and award-winning wines from the Cowichan Valley. For dessert, try the famous Nanaimo Bar, a ubiquitous Canadian treat that requires no baking. It consists of a wafer crumb-based layer topped by a layer of custard-flavoured butter icing, then covered with melted chocolate made from chocolate squares. Many varieties exist, consisting of different types of crumb, flavours of icing (e.g., mint, peanut butter, coconut and mocha), and types of chocolate.


Other Sites


Nanaimo Museum

The Nanaimo Museum is located in the VI Conference Centre, and offers a unique way to explore the fascinating history of the city. The main gallery offers a sense of what life was like for Nanaimo's earliest settlers and Snuneymuxw First Nation tribe. The new expanded exhibit gallery portrays the unique aspects of Nanaimo's location, nature and character through its unique citizens, an award-winning coal tunnel replica, and the mining, industrial and social development of the community. The museum also manages the Bastion, an original Hudson's Bay Company post built in 1853, and has a wonderful gift shop.


Bastion

The Bastion is Nanaimo's first and oldest building, and the last outpost of the region's Hudson Bay Company era. Built in 1853 by the Hudson's Bay Company, it has been used as a fort, jail, store and museum. The Bastion was constructed without the use of nails, yet has been moved three times during its legacy. Hear the sound of bagpipes and watch the cannon firing every day at noon from May-September.


Nanaimo Art Galleries

In downtown Nanaimo, a wide variety of art galleries and music venues share the street with bookstores, hip cafes and fine boutiques. There are several downtown Nanaimo art galleries in all, including a renovated heritage building that provides an inspirational 10,000-square-foot (929-square-metre) space to display the paintings, pottery, glass sculptures and other extraordinary works of many Canadian artists.


Nanaimo Harbourfront Walkway

Built in 1853, Nanaimo's picturesque Harbourfront Walkway is a multi-use trail along the Newcastle Channel and downtown waterfront. It overlooks the Georgia Strait, Nanaimo Harbour, coastal mountains, and Gulf islands, as well as boats, yachts, passenger ferries and floatplanes in transit. Charming shops and coffee and tea houses can also be found here, along with an artisans' market in the summer months.


Old City Quarter

Shop, dine and relax in Nanaimo's historic Old City Quarter, which features a mix of unique retail shops, restaurants and services. Here, the pace of life is relaxed, and friendly merchants and locals greet your arrival. Part of the original economic core of the city, the Old City Quarter has buildings that date from the late-1800s to early-1900s, and those who are interested in local history can take a self-guided historical walking tour. The Old City Quarter has undergone a revitalization of heritage buildings, along with the addition of new developments that complement the period architecture.


Nanaimo Bar Trail

Take a sweet, self-guided adventure through the streets of Nanaimo and its surrounds. Stretching from Lantzville to Yellow Point, the Nanaimo Bar Trails offers a unique opportunity to experience the many deliciously creative interpretations of our famous treat, the Nanaimo Bar. Stop by the Visitor Centre or any of the participating locations, and pick up a Nanaimo Bar Trail Brochure so you can map out your route along the 34 stops.


Cowichan Valley

Within an hour's drive south of Nanaimo is the Cowichan Valley, and thrilling marine adventures in Cowichan Bay. The beautiful Cowichan Valley is renowned for its award-winning vineyards and stunning panoramic vistas of fertile valleys, rolling hills, undulating rivers, pristine lakes, and a dramatic coastline. The Cowichan Valley's serene countryside features 11 renowned wineries, and one cidery. From May-October, you can take guided tours into the vineyard, then relax with selected wine tastings accompanied by cheeses paired with smoked salmon and other specialities.


Coombs Market  

One of Vancouver Island's landmark attractions, the Old Country Market in Coombs Town features a small herd of friendly local goats busily grazing on the thick sod roof overhead during the summer months. Not only are they a joy to observe, the goats are a practical solution that keeps this Norwegian-inspired building looking neat and trim. A wide array of handicraft shops, fresh produce and artwork are offered here.


Cathedral Grove

Located in MacMillan Provincial Park within an hour's drive north of Nanaimo, Cathedral Grove enables you to stand beneath giant Douglas fir trees that are more than 800 years old and 200 feet (61 metres) high, and form a dense canopy of fragrant pines. This beautiful and serene old growth rainforest is on the highway between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni, and accessible via short, easy trails leading directly from the roadside.


Shack Island

Shack Island is a t-shaped, exotic slice of short bluffs and rocky beach amidst the shallow waters separating Pipers Lagoon from Neck Point to the north. Fishermen's cabins have existed here since before the 1930s, back when it took a long rowboat journey from downtown Nanaimo to access these prime fishing grounds. The shacks were constructed as weekend shelters. They are rustic in appearance and often thought to be abandoned, but actually are treasured and used as summer cabins by a lucky few descendants of the original owners.


Gabriola Island

Known as the 'Isle of the Arts', Gabriola Island is just 20 minutes by ferry from downtown Nanaimo and offers something for everyone. The island features beautiful beaches and parks that are ideal for swimming, picnicking, kayaking, hiking, biking, and golfing. Additional highlights include great pubs and restaurants, and shops, studios and galleries featuring the works of dozens of world-renowned artisans.


Outdoor Activities

Nanaimo offers a splendid array of outdoor activities, including zip-lining, bungee jumping, swings and aerial adventures in the treetops above the Nanaimo River canyon at WildPlay Element Parks, and spelunking and rappelling at the Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park. Freshwater swimming and hiking are popular at Westwood Lake, as are swimming, canoeing, kayaking, boating, and water-skiing at Long Lake. The trails, forests and parks at Westwood Lake, Fine China Trail, Lighthouse Country Regional Trail, Mt. Benson, Benson Creek Trail, Cable Bay Trail, Loudon Park & Trail, Morrell Sanctuary, Westwood Lake Park, Jack Point and Biggs Park, Neck Point Park, Ammonite Falls, Cedar Yellow Point Artisan Trail, Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park, Parkway Trail, Cathedral Grove, Kinsol Trestle, and Gabriola Island are ideal for bird-watching, walking, hiking, bicycling, and mountain-biking. Golfing enthusiasts can enjoy year-round golfing at the Fairwinds Golf Club, one of Vancouver Island's finest courses, and the beautiful Arrowsmith Golf & Country Club.


Scenic and fun-filled water-based excursions include boating, sailing and salmon-fishing charters in the harbour and along the coast of Nanaimo, crabbing for Dungeness crabs at Maffeo Sutton Park's fishing pier, and trout-fishing in Nanaimo's many freshwater lakes and the Nanaimo River. You can also go swimming, kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, water-skiing, and snorkelling at Nanaimo's splendid beaches, bays, gulf islands and ocean parks such as Piper's Lagoon Park, Departure Bay, Neck Point Park, and the Swy-A-Lana Lagoon. Nanaimo's cold, abundant coastal waters are ideal for whale-watching in Cowichan Bay, and some of the world's finest temperate diving and three fascinating wreck dives; the Saskatchewan, Cape Breton and RivTow Lion. Here, discover a myriad of colourful coral, fish and marine life.


Private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Shore Concierge Office on board the ship.

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Nanaimo, British Columbia