Free things to do this summer in Nanaimo

The glorious thing about living on Vancouver Island is that summer brings on a plethora of activities and events that one can partake in. And the best part is many of these activities are FREE! The following list will showcase all the great things Nanaimo has to offer that are completely free for you to enjoy.

Do you live in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island? If you are looking for free activities this summer, check this article out!

Free Things to do in Nanaimo this Summer

Cool off at the Water Parks

There are four of them in Nanaimo, and all of them are open from June until September from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm.

  • Departure Bay Kiwanis Park – located at 1420 Bay Street.
  • Deverill Square Park – located at 200 Irwin Street.
  • Harewood Centennial Park – located at 740 Howard Avenue.
  • Mansfield Park – located at 800 St. Andrews Street.

Head to the Playgrounds

Take advantage of the Playground Program put on by the City of Nanaimo from July 3 – August 28 (2019). Drop in at any of the participating neighbourhood playgrounds for some free family fun. Activities include games, crafts and/or sports. The programs are geared towards kids ages 5 – 12.

Participating Playgrounds:

  • Harewood Centennial Park – located at 740 Howard Avenue
    • Monday – Friday, from 10:00 am – 3:30 pm
  • Mansfield Park – located at 800 St. Andrews Street
    • Offered Monday – Friday, from 10:00 am – 3:30 pm
  • Groveland Park – located at 6273 Groveland Drive
    • Monday – Wednesday, 10:00 am – 3:30 pm
  • Country Hill Park – located at 1899 White Blossom Way
    • The program is offered Monday – Wednesday, from 10:00 am – 3:30 pm
  • Westdale/Leslie Park – 5409 Westdale Road
    • Thursday’s and Friday’s, from 10:00 am – 3:30 pm
  • Hawthorne Park – 620 Sarum Rise Way
    • Offered Thursday’s and Friday’s – 10:00 am – 3:30 pm

Family Fun Nights

If you can’t make it to the above activities during the day, the City of Nanaimo is also offering a few Thursday evening programs called Family Fun Nights. 

When: 4:00 – 7:00 pm at the following locations.

  • June 27 – Departure Bay Park, located at 1413 Wingrove Street
  • July 25 – Mansfield Park, located at 800 St. Andrews Street
  • August 29 – Harewood Park, located at 740 Howard Avenue

If group activities aren’t your child’s thing, head to one of the many parks scattered throughout Nanaimo for some good old-fashioned playground play.

For a full list of all the parks and their locations, head to the City of Nanaimo website.

Science in the Park

NS3 is hosting FREE  drop-in community events at various local parks throughout Nanaimo this summer.

Nature Exploration

Explore local parks and protected areas with NS3’s outreach educators. Explore Nanaimo’s diverse habitats with nature hikes, explorations of local flora and fauna, science games and art projects. All ages welcome.

When: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10:00 am-noon

Where: Look for NS3’s purple tent at the following locations:

  • July 2-4th at Sebastian Beach (at the end of Sebastian Road in Lantzville)
  • July 9-11th at Neck Point Park
  • July 16-18th at Colliery Dam (Wakesiah entrance)
  • July 23-25th at Divers Lake
  • July 30-August 1st at Departure Bay Beach
  • August 6-8th at Bowen Park (meet by the duck pond)
  • August 13-15th at Buttertubs Marsh (2nd Street entrance)

Please note: for safety purposes it is required that children under age 16 are to be accompanied by a minimum number of supervising adults:

  • Children 4 years old and under, 1 adult per every 3 children
  • 1 adult per every 5 children, for children ages 5 – 9
  • Children 10 years old to 16 years old, 1 adult per 10 children

 Go for a Walk

There are some fantastic places to walk in Nanaimo.  While there are definitely trails that produce a good sweat, in the hot summer months often a leisurely walk is preferred. And when the trails provide some much-needed shade or meander alongside the ocean with a cool sea breeze, all the better!

Here are a few of our favourites:

  • Neck Point Park – located at the end of Morningside Drive (off Hammond Bay Road) – ocean & treed walk
  • Pipers Lagoon Park – located at the end of Place Road – ocean walk
  • Westwood Lake – located on Westwood Road (off Jingle Pot Road) – walk along the lake with lots of tree coverage
  • Morrell Sanctuary – located on Nanaimo Lakes Road – thickly forested area
  • Jack Point and Biggs Park – located off the Duke Point Highway – ocean walk through trees

For further information on any above-mentioned trails (plus a few more) read the post entitled ‘Top 10 Nanaimo Walks‘.

Search for the Golden Bucket

The City of Nanaimo is hosting their annual Golden Bucket Contest between May 1  – July 30. Get your thinking hats on and explore your local parks, playgrounds and trails for a chance to win some fun weekly prizes!

Each Wednesday a new clue will be posted. You will find a question or a challenge related to the particular area you find the Golden Bucket. Email the answer to the question or a photo of you completing the challenge to [email protected] and qualify to win some fun weekly prizes.

The GRAND PRIZE is a Sunset Kayak Tour for you and 5 of your friends/family, courtesy of Coastal Expression Adventure Centre (value of $300)!

Watch for a new clue each week on:

Hit the Beach

When it comes to beaches, you can’t beat the vast sandy shores located in the Pacific Rim, or even Parksville for that matter…but, Nanaimo still has some great ones to explore. Whether it’s rocky or sandy, a beach is a perfect place to be when the weather is hot!

Here a few of the best beaches in Nanaimo:

  • Departure Bay Beach – located off Departure Bay road. It is a great place for beachcombing any time of year, and during the summer there is a designated unpatrolled swimming area.
  • Morningside Beach – located at the start of Neck Point Park. This beach offers a perfect spot for little ones to beachcomb, and the sheltered bay makes for good swimming during the summer months.
  • Blue Heron Beach – located in Yellow Point. This is a great place to picnic, pick blackberries, and stroll along the rocky shore.

Take in a Concert in the Park

Enjoy FREE concerts in the park all summer long (July 3 – August 29)!

When: Concerts will be held on Tuesday afternoons (12:30 – 1:30) and Wednesday evenings (6:00 – 7:30) at either Maffeo Sutton Park or the Bowen Park Amphitheatre. So bring your lawn chair and a picnic and enjoy some musical entertainment in two of Nanaimo’s most beautiful parks!


Tuesday Afternoons (12:30 – 1:30 pm)

Maffeo Sutton Park in July

Bowen Park Amphitheatre in August

Wednesday Evenings (6:00 – 7:30 pm)

For the month of July, the evening concerts are held at the Bowen Park Amphitheatre.

In August, the evening concerts are held at Maffeo Sutton Park.

Partake in a Festival

Nanaimo hosts many festivals throughout the summer. And unless you spend money on food or trinkets while there, many of them are free!

  • Dragon Boat Festival – July 5 – 7 at Maffeo Sutton Park
    • Go cheer on the 70+ racing teams for some good old-fashioned wet and wild fun!
  • Silly Boat Regatta – Sunday, July 14 at Maffeo Sutton Park
    • Boat building, activities, crafts, sports zone, children’s mini-regatta, entertainment, and of course boat races
  • World Championship Bathtub Race – July 19 – 21 at Maffeo Sutton Park
    • Help celebrate this fun race with a whirlwind weekend full of activities. There will be a launch party, beer garden, concerts, dance, street fair, kids zone, vendors, Festival of Lights (fireworks) and much more. Without a doubt, this is one of the best weekends to spend downtown in the harbour city!
  • Hawaiian Holidaze – Friday, August 9 at Westwood Lake, from 1:00 – 3:00 pm
    • Enjoy a wide variety of tropical themed games and activities for the whole family

Sunset Cinema Series

Each summer, Coastal Community Credit Union presents the Sunset Cinema Series.  NS3 will also be in attendance prior to the movie starting to offer engaging and hands-on science activities (6:00 – 9:00 pm). 

The 2019 schedule is as follows: (Please note, movies show in communities across Vancouver Island. Nanaimo’s movie is highlighted below).

  • Monday, July 22 – Colwood: Juan De Fuca Recreation Centre – The Lego Movie – The Second Part
  • Tuesday, July 23 – Duncan: Cowichan Sportsplex – Smallfoot
  • Wednesday, July 24 – Campbell River: 1800 Alder St – Ralph Breaks the Internet
  • Thursday, July 25 – Courtenay Rec Centre – Spiderman Into the Spider-verse
  • Friday, July 26 – Parksville Community Beach – The Incredibles 2
  • Saturday, July 27 – Nanaimo: Maffeo Sutton Park – How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World

Get Active

Nanaimo has two outdoor fitness areas that are completely free to use for locals and visitors alike.

  • Oliver Woods – is located at 6000 Oliver Road
  • Beban Park – is located at 2300 Bowen Road

Bowen Park, located at 500 Bowen Road, also has disc golf. The best part is you can borrow the discs for free from the Recreation Centre!

And of course, the parks mentioned above also have tennis courts, skating bowls, playgrounds, and/or walking trails to help keep you active this summer.

Go Swimming

I’ve already mentioned two great ocean swimming spots above (Departure Bay & Morningside Beach), but Nanaimo has some wonderful freshwater swimming holes too.

  • Westwood Lake – located on Westwood Road – this is one of Nanaimo’s best-loved parks, in part because it is a great place to swim. It is also Nanaimo’s only lifeguarded freshwater swimming spot (June – August).
  • The Nanaimo River – (several entry points)
    • A great entry point is on either side of the Cedar bridge (on the way into Cedar), although parking is at a premium.
    • There are also some great spots off Nanaimo River Road (watch for areas that have a mass of congregated cars).
    • The safest entry point is at the Nanaimo River Regional Park (there is parking off of Frey Road, as well as Fry Road).

!!! Please remember!!! The Nanaimo River has a fast flowing current in many areas and has many spots that are deceptive and very dangerous. For safety purposes, stay in the wide pools, and avoid areas with churning, frothing, and/or bubbling water. Make sure to always keep children at arms lengths, and obviously always be extremely cautious when anywhere near waterfalls and/or rapids!


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