Indulge in the 'sweet' city of Nanaimo

A ferry port city on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Nanaimo, British Columbia, is a vibrant, urban centre filled with parks, trails, beaches, shops and restaurants. The city was previously known as the “Hub City,” due to its original layout where the streets fanned out from the shoreline like spokes of a wagon wheel. Today, it's famous for its namesake dessert and coveted oceanview real estate.

Did you know?

Foodista via Flickr

  • The Nanaimo bar—a no-bake, chocolate cookie bar with custard filling—is a Canadian dessert named after this city.
  • Nanaimo is home to North America’s first legal, purpose-made bungee jumping bridge, which stands 46 metres above the Nanaimo River. More than 260,000 people have jumped since WildPlay Elements Parks opened the bridge in 1990. It also hosts naked jumping as a fundraiser once a year.
  • It's the traditional home of the Snuneymuxw First Nations.
  • Home to Canada's only floating pub, the Dinghy Dock Pub.


Roy Ostling via Flickr

Built in 1886, the Occidental Hotel is a landmark gateway to Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter.

From the dramatic hills of North Nanaimo and Lantzville in the north to the rural Cedar neighbourhood at the south end of Nanaimo, there many different neighbourhoods to explore in this multifaceted city.

In the heart of Nanaimo, you'll find the Old City, dating back to the 1800s. Many of the streets here are tree lined and have lovely harbour views. This is an area that has undergone a revitalization of heritage buildings, attracting homeowners looking to update older homes in addition to the newer condos lining waterfront along the Nanaimo harbour and Front Street.

Nanaimo's Old City quarter. Raul Pacheco-Vega via Flickr

Just west of the Old City lies the University District, home to Vancouver Island University's sprawling, 908,500-square-foot Nanaimo Campus. Adjacent neighbourhood Central Nanaimo is just a stone's throw away, and with five elementary and secondary schools, it's popular among young families.

Jo-in-BC via Flickr

Then there's Brenchin Hill, Departure Bay and Hammond Bay, all highly desirable boroughs peppered with semi-luxury to luxury homes. Perched on the hillside overlooking the ocean, they offer breathtaking views of the Bay and Newcastle Island.

North Nanaimo features even more waterfront properties and is home to several large shopping malls, including Woodgrove and North Town Centre. On the northern edge of the city, you'll find Lantzville, a coastal, slow-paced community of just 4,000. 

Marcin Chady via Flickr

To the west, the rural Jinglepot areas (North Jinglepot and South Jinglepot) are nestled in a picturesque valley beneath Mount Benson. Home to acreages, farms and a few modern subdivisions, they boast beautiful hiking trails and parks, as well as Westwood Lake for swimming and water activities.

Things to do

Nanaimo's location makes it a convenient destination for a weekend getaway from Vancouver. Kick back on the beach to watch the boats go by or set sail on one of the many day excursions offered by the port in the summertime. 

The Dinghy Dock Pub. Active Steve via Flickr

Take a stroll along the Harbour Front Walkway and follow the trail to Maffeo Sutton Park, Nanaimo's signature park, where you'll pass boutique shops and trendy eateries dotting the Waterfront District. If you're looking for great shopping, be sure to check out the Old City quarter, home to a mix of quirky, one-of-a-kind stores and some of Nanaimo's best restaurants. 

Nanaimo's “bathtub races.” Kam Abbott via Flickr

Held the last weekend of July every year, Nanaimo's famous “bathtub races” are not to be missed. Since 1967, the race has seen people affix motors to bathtubs and race each other across the harbour. Finally, don't forget to enjoy a cold, local beer beverage at one of Nanaimo's four craft breweries.

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