WITHIN A DAY’S REACH
Nanaimo is centrally located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, 111 km north of Victoria, 207km southeast of Tofino and 385km south of Port Hardy. The location makes Nanaimo the perfect base for you to spend for as short as a several-day get-away, or as long as several-week vacation in Vancouver Island. Every tip of the Vancouver Island is just within a day’s reach.
URBAN PARKS & TRAILS
The map of Nanaimo parks, trails, playgrounds, pools, spray park, sports amenities, where to kayaking, fishing, swimming, etc.
harbourfront walkway (20-min driving from us to gabriola island ferry terminal where the walkway starts)
A waterfront trail that captures the essence of the city. A must to visit. This extensive 3.5mile(5.6km) walkway along the Nanaimo Harbour extends from Gabriola Island Ferry Terminal to The Departure Bay Ferry terminal and is suitable for walking, biking, rollerblading, jogging and beachcombing. Along the way, you can see yachts and boats sailing, seaplanes taking off and landing. You can hop on ferries to the nearby gulf islands – Gabriola, New Castle, etc. You will also encounter:
- Historic wooden fort The Bastion. Every day in the summer, the Noon Gun is fired, marking a past of colorful colonial control.
- Swy-A-Lana lagoon: Children like to swim, play on its sandy beach and find sea creatures.
- Swy-A-Lana lagoon fishing pier is popular for crab fishing.
- Maffeo Sutton park: Features Nanaimo’s signature playground.
- Lots of nice shops and restaurants and stores nearby. Close to downtown Nanaimo where lots of museums, theatres, and cultural centers are located.
- In the summertime, lots of events and music often hosted by the City.
- Don’t forget to follow this Nanaimo-Bar trail map to try this famous dessert.
Neck Point Park (35-min driving)
The trail from the parking lot around the park is approximately 3km. Parts of the trail are flat while other parts have stairs. Beach access available from the main parking lot. A great place to hike and enjoy the world hidden within the beach.
Pipers Lagoon Park (30-min driving)
The trail distance is 1.6km that includes accessible beach access. A fantastic spot to picnic.
Bowen Park (20-min driving)
One of Nanaimo’s main destination parks. Trails of various types are found throughout, including paved and gravel. Approximate distance from one end of the park to the other is 3 km.
Westwood Lake Park (20-min driving)
The perimeter trail is approximately 5.6km with several trail O-shoots found throughout.
JACKPOINT AND BIGGS PARK (15-min driving)
Petroglyph Provincial Park(15-min driving)
A self-guided short walk from the parking lot to the high concentration of prehistoric rock carvings. Get a glimpse back to a time more than 1,000 years ago when First Nation peoples created these traditional carvings.
Mountain trails & backcountry adventures
MOUNT BENSON (40-min driving)
Mount Benson Regional Park overlooks the city, delivering panoramic views of the Gulf Islands, the communities that make up the Nanaimo district, and the abundance of nature that makes Vancouver Island a Pacific paradise. You’ll be rewarded with fantastic views year-round.
THE ABYSS/EXTENSION RIDGE (25-min driving)
Part of Canada’s The Great Trail, is a multi-use trail that’s popular amongst hikers, mountain bikers, and trail runners for its challenging terrain and beautiful views. The trail, named after its namesake feature, boasts one of the city’s most photographed natural features.
AMMONITE FALLS (30-min driving)
A popular natural attraction that’s been available for a few hundred million years or so. A short hike from the Nanaimo Parkway, it’s a great spot to visit at the end of another hike or as a quick jaunt when time is tight. The falls are named for the collection of ammonite fossils in the area, including one that might be the largest ever found on Vancouver Island.
CABLE BAY NATURE TRAIL (20-min driving)
A light and easy out-and-back trail that’s perfect for members of the whole family, including the four-legged. Dogs are permitted to roam free, off leash, and enjoy the sights and smells of the forest. As you near the water’s edge, you might even get the chance to see some of the local wildlife relaxing on the rocky shoreline. Also a great place for amateur birdwatchers to spot a variety of species, including woodpeckers, merganser, robins, brown creepers, and many more.
COLLIERY DAM PARK TRAIL(40-min driving)
Partially Wheelchair Accessible. Those with mobility concerns should park at Sixth St. parking lot.
Dog-friendly and central! A popular spot year-round – watch the forest wake up during the spring, bring your suit and go for a dip on a hot summer day, crunch your way through the fall leaves, or enjoy the tranquillity and silence that’s only possible during a snowy winter walk.
Roberts Memorial Provincial Park (20-min driving)
An easy 1km trail through mature forest leads to the rocky beach, which offers good opportunities for wildlife viewing. From here, visitors can often see Steller’s and California sea lions, who haul out to bask in the sun on the park’s unique sandstone ledges during the summer months. Great Blue herons, bald eagles and a variety of seabirds can also be spotted in the park.
Malaspina Galleries or “The Galleries” is a stunning curved sandstone cliff carved out by a millennia of crashing waves. It is a popular swimming spot and a beautiful place to watch the sunset during the summer. A must see!
You can visit the dozens of diverse beaches and parks: Sands Provincial Park or Twin Beaches, Sandwell Provincial Park, Whalebone Beach, Orlebar Point, etc.
Rent a kayak and explore Gabriola’s 98 kilometres of coastline; challenge yourself at the 9 hole golf course; rent a mountain bike or head out on foot to explore over 170 kilometres of hiking trails; discover world-renowned diving spots; book a salmon fishing expedition, or dine at Surf Lodge & Pub.
Gabriola Island is also known as “the Isle of the Arts”. There are over 70 artist studios to visit and a full calendar of thought-provoking live performances, art shows, hands-on workshops and community events to keep you entertained, educated and engaged.
SAYSUTSHUN – NEW CASTLE ISLAND (15-min foot ferry ride from Maffeo Sutton Park Dock which is 20-min driving from us)
Part of Snuneymuxw First Nation Territory. The Shoreline Trail is an 8km hike which is fun for hikers and bikers, with plenty of spots to get down to the water for a quick dip in the summer or to appreciate the power of the ocean if the weather is rough. Great for hiking, paddling, swimming, traditional salmon barbecue, interpretive walking tour, camping.
Protection Island (5-min foot ferry ride from Protection Island Ferry Dock in Nanaimo which is 20-min driving from us)
There is nothing quite like a small gorgeous island that only houses several hundred people.
Paddle around Protection Island and you’ll find beautiful beaches, forested parks and an abundance of birds and wildlife who make their home on the island.
Dinghy Dock Pub – Canada’s only registered floating pub and restaurant, right off the ferry.
3 levels of adventure courses from kids to classic to extreme, zipline tour, primal swing, axe-throwing, bungy jumping; A great place for the whole family.
NANAIMO’S 4 STAR GOLF COURSES
- Eaglequest Golf Center (10-min)
- Cottonwood Golf Course (10-min)
- Nanaimo Golf Club (25-min)
- Winchelsea View Golf Course (35-min)
Why Nanaimo? The water surrounding Nanaimo are home to dozens of pods of transient orca, humpback whales, sea lions, harbour seals, porpoise, eagles and more.
Vancouver Island whalewatching (20-min)
Nanaimo whalewatching (20-min)
Fare harbor whalewatching (20-min)
One-day or multi-day paddling(kayaking/SUP/canoeing) & wildlife tour trips:
Departing from Nanaimo:
Departing from Gabriola Island:
These sites also offer kayak/sup/canoe rental and lessons.
Looking for boating information? AHOYBC is full of resources and links for pleasure craft boaters.
Parksville and Qualicum Beach have grown to become a major tourist attraction jointly referred to as Oceanside. Here you’ll find a world-renowned beach that stretches an incredible 70km (43mi), with spectacular scenery and the warmest saltwater on Vancouver Island. The low tides and warm waters are ideal for paddling and beachcombing. Favourite water sports include kayaking, wind-surfing, SUPs and skimboarding.
Enjoy family fun at the Parksville downtown oceanfront Community Park. It features an outdoor gym, lacrosse box, kite-flying field, picnic grounds, horseshoe pits, boardwalk, volleyball and tennis courts, concession stands, and the wonderful Playground and Waterpark.
The Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition & Exhibition is held each summer over a five-week period in the park.
Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park(40-MIN)
Full of majestic old growth trees and beautiful ocean sunsets. A wide sandy beach stretches over a kilometer out to sea at low tide and the shallow water is perfect for young families even at high tide.
Hornby Island(25-min ferry from Buckley Bay to Denman Island, 10-min driving and then 25-min ferry from Denman Island)
Enjoy gorgeous beaches, and great camping and paddling opportunities. You can also experience some of the best cold water diving in the world here, with remarkable visibility and abundant marine life.
The Tribune Bay Provincial Park is considered to be one of the warmest (and most beautiful) saltwater swimming areas in the province. The bay showcases nearly a kilometre of fine white sand and has been affectionately dubbed as “Little Hawaii.”
Courtenay / Comox (1.5-hrs driving)
Excellent mountain biking along old forests, four-season fun at Mount Washington Alpine Ski Resort with an ocean view, paddling the many kilometres of stunning shorelines or scuba diving in crystal clear waters. The local Comox Valley festivals take place throughout the year, and celebrate everything from music and shellfish, to fine art and aviation.
Campbell River (1-hr and 45-min driving)
The community is known as the “Salmon Fishing Capital of the World”. Experienced guides can take you out in search of five species of Pacific salmon, or on a boat tour in search of wildlife. Humpback whales and transient orcas are commonly seen in these waters, and Campbell River is close to prime grizzly viewing. Grizzly tours are offered seasonally between August and October—book well in advance to secure your spot and see the circle of life unfold among the salmon and the bears.
The Elk Falls Suspension Bridge is another must-do.
Port Hardy (4-hr and 15-min driving)
The Island’s northernmost community. Consider taking a kayak, seaplane or wildlife tour. Just outside of Port Hardy, enjoy the remoteness and the solitude at peaceful Cape Scott Provincial Park at the northern tip of the Island.
Englishman River Falls Provincial Park (55-min driving)
Has excellent picnic, swimming and hiking as well as two spectacular waterfalls in the midst of the forest. The park features two breathtaking waterfalls that empty into narrow rock canyons. At the base of the lower falls is a deep pool perfect for swimming.
A fabulous market, wonderful little shops, and so many ice cream flavors. You will always find what you are looking for, or find things you didn’t know you needed, in this unique space. Sit and watch the Goats eating their grass on top of the roof while enjoying some of the delicious food to be found in the market. A place you will never forget.
Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park (55-min driving)
Impressive waterfalls cascade down a rocky gorge in a beautiful forested setting bordered by steep mountain peaks at this park.
Cathedral Grove/Macmillan Provincial Park (1-hr driving)
Known for its majestic stands of Douglas fir and Western red cedars, some as many as 800 years old.
Step outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. You’ll find that there is a whole new world to see; a cavers world. As you make your way through the spectacular world that is The Underground, you will reach places within yourself that you never knew existed.
Port Alberni (80-min driving)
Downtown Victoria Quay is a good place to spot bears catching salmons.
If you’re spending some time here, visit Lady Rose Marine Services(https://ladyrosemarine.com/) and take their water taxi(Frances Barkley) to west coast community Bamfield and Uclulet. The vessel cruises along the the Broken Group Islands where there are some of the best salmon fishing spots in the world. The Broken Group Islands is also known as a world renowned kayaking paradise, where orcas, humpback and grey whales can often be seen. Sechart Lodge is a perfect place to visit if you are really keen into kayaking.
You may consider stopping at the Stamp River Provincial Park, relax by the waterfall and hike the trails.
Uclulet (2-hr and 40-min driving)
No trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island is complete without a walk along Ucluelet’s iconic Wild Pacific Trail. A must-place to go.
Also a great place to book fishing charters, and it’s a popular departure point for kayakers heading to the remote Broken Group Islands.
This place is where the surfing magic happens. Beautiful picturesque Long Beach, amazing food and awesome people. The smell of salt water in your hair, and the taste of tacofino on your lips. This is paradise!
A scenic community and have been in some famous Hollywood movies. Take a walk along the harbour and enjoy restaurants, shops. Closest to get groceries(49th Parallel Grocery or Save-on-Foods).
The jewel of Ladysmith, a wonderful place to take your family with a large seaside park for the children to monkey around on. Take a nice dip in the pacific ocean, or paddling and go exploring. Chase your children through the water park, or sit and enjoy a picnic. There is lots to do and so much fun to be had.
Best known for its collection of murals depicting the community’s history from its Indigenous population to early European settlers. Stop by the Chemainus Visitor Centre and pick up a map of the mural route, and follow the yellow footprints past more than 40 works of art.
Kinsmen Beach (or Kin Beach) offers a beautiful sandy beach, boat launch, picnic tables, playground and washrooms. Great place for beachcombing and launching a kayak.
cowichan river tubing (45min)
Try Tube Shack tubing on Cowichan River. It is sure a blast!
City of Totems. A not-to-be-missed highlight is a self-guided Totem Tour Walk past dozens of poles, each of which tells a story.
mill bay (50min)
Quiet waterfront streets, beaches and wonderful Gulf Island views. You can also take shortcut to Butchart Garden by taking car ferry from Mill Bay terminal to Brentwood Bay terminal.
bamberton provincial park (55min)
Long fine beach, popular place for camping, warm water ideal for swimming and paddling.
kingsol tresol (60min)
One of the tallest free-standing and most spectacular timber rail trestle structures in the world.
goldstream provincial park (65min)
Hiking, camping, salmon spawning channel.
If you come from Metro Vancouver to Victoria, take the ferry route of Tsawassen Ferry Terminal – Victoria Swartz Bay Terminal
British Columbia Parliament Building, the Butchart Garden, Butterfly Garden, Royal BC museum, Beaconhill park, Afternoon tea at Fairmont Empress, etc.
Click here for beach and Lakes.