Now that you are snuggly berthed, it’s time to discover all the amenities and activities you can enjoy. Beyond the lively waterfront is an enchanting small city with charming streets full of cultural and culinary attractions. There are many places to explore by foot or bike and trails to get you there. Nanaimo is perfectly located for day excursions to several islands. On this page you will find information on recreational activities, attractions, shopping, hospitality and local transportation. There are also many community events that welcome visitors.
We love to tell you about our community. So, come to the
Seasonal Visitor Centre (May – September)
in the historic Bastion, located on Front Street just above the Boat Basin
OUTDOOR RECREATION & FITNESS
The first thing you might want to do is stretch your legs along the Harbourfront Walkway. It leads north from the boat basin, over the Millstone River, then about 1.2 km to the Waterfront Suites and Marina. This a great way to get the sense of Nanaimo as a recreational port. The walkway is beside the water, crosses some parks, passes several marinas and has many an outlet for ice cream, coffee or a tall, cold draft.
Nanaimo is a comfortably walkable town with a network of walking trails and parks. Pick up the brochure at the visitor centre. Some of the places you may want to visit are the historic downtown, Old City Quarter, the interpretative trails in Bowen Park and Cedar Yellow Point Artisan Trail. For those who want to explore more widely, there are three connected bike trails with a trailhead just up the hill from the boat basin.
Biking is a fabulous way to see all of Newcastle Island. Take your bikes in your dinghy or on the little ferry. If mountain biking while you’re ashore is a passion, then we suggest the trails in Westwood Lake Park, about 6 km from the waterfront. Protection Island is another great outing on foot or bike. The island is ringed by parks and beaches. The trails and quiet roads take you everywhere. Might be best to take the ferry, but you can always tie up at the Dinghy Dock Pub. Either way, there is good pub food and ale at the end (or start!) of your day.
Gabriola Island is a little world worth spending several days exploring. Begin with the art and history of First Nations revealed in petroglyphs at the Gabriola Museum and Petroglyph Park. The natural art of Malaspina Galleries is best seen from the water, but the galleries are accessed by a 1 km trail. Fabulous biking trails, beaches, parks, golf course, a few great restaurants and a thriving niche farm community make Gabriola a microcosm of BC’s wild, but civilized, coast. Boaters have two full service marinas to choose from and Gabriola has several anchorages from which to deploy kayaks and view the robust seal population. You may anchor and land in Twin Bays, northeast of the ferry terminal or tie up at Degnen Bay Harbour Authority at the southeast end of the island. There is ferry service from Nanaimo and kayak rentals, ecotours and fishing charters get you on the water. Or under the water, including snorkeling with the seals.
If mountain biking while you’re ashore is a passion, then we suggest the trails in Westwood Lake Park, about 6 km from the waterfront. There are many hikes in the city and surrounding region. If you brought your clubs, there are nine golf courses in the area, including one on Gabriola Island and the sail-in course at Fairwinds in Nanoose Bay. Family fun abounds at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre, Morning Star Bison Ranch, Wildplay Element Park and many more places.
There are several fitness centres in Nanaimo. The one closest to the waterfront is Harbour City Fitness and Tanning; about a 15 minute walk. Nanaimo Athletic Club is about 3 km from the Boat Basin. The Romper Room Indoor Rock Climbing Center caters to all levels of skill; it is about 15 km from the Boat Basin.
Nanaimo proves it is possible to have a culture that is dynamic and laid back. Its ambiance sits between small town and big city. Nanaimo has grown quickly over the past thirty years but it doesn’t seem like anyone was caught by surprise. Everywhere you look you see good planning. As the transportation, shipping and commerce centre for most of Vancouver Island, Nanaimo is vibrant and endowed with arts and culture. Here is your guide to local attractions.
short walk from Boat Basin
The Bastion is the only surviving wooden Hudson Bay Company bastion. Its survival is a miracle, since it has been moved twice; the first time 1891 at a cost to the city of $175. Do visit Front Street above the Boat Basin and take advantage of the summer Visitor Information Centre inside.
10 minute walk from Boat Basin
Our tidily preserved, c. 1920 downtown has a wide variety of shops and eateries. Bring your camera. You will want to remember the charm and colour of historic Nanaimo. Pick up a Nanaimo Bar Trail brochure before your stroll.
15 minute walk from Boat Basin
Take the walking tour and go back even further in time to the late 19th century. Pick up a Nanaimo Bar Trail brochure before your stroll.
10 minute walk from Boat Basin
Boating visitors will be especially interested in the Harbour and Snunéymuxw Exhibits. Everyone will be fascinated by a trip to a 1920s classroom in the Educating Nanaimo re-creation. Top it off with immersion in the controversial history of the Nanaimo bar.
5 minute walk from Boat Basin
The museum has assembled a truly impressive collection of military memorabilia and artifacts from the War of 1812 right through to Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan.
Culinary, craft beer, old-growth forest and more.
5 minute walk from Boat Basin
Elegantly perched above the harbour, the theatre invites seafarers to enjoy a variety of entertainment and events. Home of the Vancouver Island Symphony.
Lovers of the sea will not want to miss the Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival, Silly Boat Regatta or the World Championship Bathtub Race. There is always something going on at Maffeo Sutton Park, adjacent to the Boat Basin.
Never a dull moment in Nanaimo
Leave the deed to the boat on board.
Port Place Shopping Centre is shown On the Waterfront. It features Thrifty Foods, London Drugs and many clothing and accessory stores. Here are other malls with their major stores listed:
- Country Club Centre 10 km from Boat Basin: Best Buy, Shoppers Drug Mart, Save-On Foods
- Nanaimo North Town Centre 12 km from Boat Basin: Canadian Tire, London Drugs, Sears, Fairway Market
- Woodgrove Centre 15 km from Boat Basin: Hudson’s Bay and a variety of retail stores, services and entertainment
- Nanaimo Home Hardware 8 km from Boat Basin 250-758-8220
- Arbutus Home Building Centre (Gabriola Is.) 250-247-8157
- Rona 4 km from Boat Basin 250-734-4450
- Tally Ho Liquor Store 10 minute walk from Boat Basin 250-753-3051
- BC Liquor Store 10 minute walk from Boat Basin 250-716-5205
In addition to the restaurants shown On the Waterfront, there are many more within walking distance.
- Gabriel’s Café 39 Commercial Street
- Serious Coffee 60 Commercial Street
- The Pantry Family Restaurant 101 – 648 Terminal Avenue
- Food Koma 165 B Commercial Street
- Mon Petit Choux 101 Commercial Street
- 2 Chef’s Affair 123 Commercial Street
- Le Café Francais 153 Commercial Street
- Sukkho Thai 123 Commercial Street
- The Vault Café 499 Wallace Street
- Thirsty Camel 14 Victoria Crescent
- Fiddlehead Bistro 486A Franklyn Street
- The Nest Bistro 77 Skinner Street
- Gina’s Mexican Café 47 Skinner Street
- La Stella Trattoria #1-321 Wesley Street N.
- Pho A Dong 428 Fitzwilliam Street
- Asteras Greek Taverna 347 Wesley Street N.
- Aladdin’s Café 135 Nicol Street
- Zalathai Thai Restaurant 22 Victoria Crescent
- Bistro Taiyo Japanese Restaurant 331 Wesley Street
- Real Food Co. #3-321 Wesley Street N.
- Firehouse Grill 7 Victoria Road
- West Coast Water Taxi 250-816-0567
The car/truck rental outlets nearest the waterfront are listed below. In addition, there are Enterprise, National, Discount national chains and Island Time RV Rentals and ACE Car Rentals.
- Practicar Car & Truck Rentals 250-753-6461
- Budget Car & Truck Rentals 250-760-7368
- Van Ventures Rentals Ltd. 1-855-591-4449
- Tuffy City Powersports Ltd. 250-591-0415