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Nanaimo, Vancouver Island

Nanaimo Harbour on Vancouver Island, Tourism Nanaimo

About Nanaimo

Nanaimo is located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, 113 km north of Victoria, and 55 km across the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver. The City is an easy 20minute drive south from the Parksville and Qualicum Beach region of Vancouver Island.

This dynamic city projects out into the strait like a headland, affording waterfront on three sides, and spectacular ocean views at every turn. Nanaimo’s working harbour bustles with tugboats, cruise ships, float planes and ferries that can take you island hopping to Gabriola, Protection and Newcastle Island Provincial Park.

Any time spent in Nanaimo is time spent around the water - the beaches, lakes, and rivers that afford the extraordinary boating, marine and outdoor lifestyle that makes this region a magnet. Nanaimo is renowned as the temperate water diving capital of the world and as home of the World Championship Bathtub Races, which has garnered international spotlight since 1967.

Nanaimo, a University City and Haven for the Arts

Nanaimo's arts scene is vibrant year round, but it really kicks into high gear in the fall, when approximately 20,000 university students (nearly a quarter of the city's population) return to studies at Vancouver Island University (formerly Malaspina University-College). The fall semester ushers in a season of live music shows and theatre events in venues around town, and on campus. Nanaimo's largest arts venue, the 800-seat Port Theatre, also thrives during the fall season with regular performances by the Vancouver Island Symphony, and a long roster of stage plays and pop music concerts.

More Nanaimo Claims to Fame

Nanaimo Bastion on Vancouver Island, Tourism Nanaimo
Scuba diving artificial reefs in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, Tourism Nanaimo
  • Environment Canada recognizes Nanaimo as one of the mildest climate regions in the country boasting above-zero temperatures through fall and winter, and dependably warm weather in spring and summer.
  • The only remaining original Hudson’s Bay Company Bastion in North America is located in downtown Nanaimo. Nanaimo’s Bastion dates back to 1853.
  • Legend traces the sinfully delicious chocolate Nanaimo Bar back to the coal mining days of the city’s early history, but it was likely inspired by a 1952 local cookbook recipe.
  • Nanaimo is a mecca for divers. It is home to the largest artificial upright scuba diving reef in the world, the HMCS Cape Breton, a retired Canadian Supply Ship, sunk in 2001. The HMCS Saskatchewan, a 366-foot navy destroyer, was sunk off Nanaimo in 1997 to create an artificial diving reef.
  • International jazz greats Diana Krall and Ingrid Jensen are products of the Nanaimo School District jazz program.
  • Diana Krall’s iconic song “Departure Bay” is about Nanaimo’s own Departure Bay, location of a scenic local beach and the BC Ferries terminal.
  • Canada’s only floating pub, The Dinghy Dock Pub, is in the Nanaimo Harbour on Protection Island and is connected to the city by foot passenger ferry.
Information provided by Destination Nanaimo,
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