20 Best Things To Do In Nanaimo

While many people love to visit Vancouver Island, most go straight to Victoria or tour the famous city of Tofino. But  Vancouver Island’s eastern city, Nanaimo, has been underrated over the years, not until recently, despite its many goodies.

There are, however, several fun activities to do in Nanaimo, as it has a bustling art theater, excellent eateries, beautiful hiking trails, and several outdoor activities.

During our recent tour of Vancouver Island, we spent some time exploring the Nanaimo environs and had a lovely time. And so, we compiled a list of some of our favorite stops, eateries, activities, and many more.

Relax and read through the best things to do in Nanaimo.

1. Stroll Around The Old Town of Nanaimo

Nanaimo is said to be the third most ancient town in British Columbia. The old Nainamo town headlines various animated ancestral buildings which date back to the 1850s.

You will find beautiful houses, lovely cafes, and stocked boutiques on this site. It is also an excellent place to get souvenirs for your love interest.

There are rarely chain stores in this old city area of Nanaimo; instead, you’ll find various collections of stores that sell everything from local art to gorgeous clothes and antique woods.

This part of the town is also a famous spot to enjoy fantastic lunch and dinner meals, And I recommend you check out one of our favorites, La Stella Trattoria (Their woodfired pizza is fire! )

2. Visit The Bastion

A foremost tourist attraction you should see on your next Nanaimo sightseeing excursion!

The Bastion, a three-story ancient structure built in 1853 by the Hudson’s Bay Company, can be toured through the summer months.

You will find art exhibitions of trade goods and other Hudson’s Bay antiques inside this building.

You might not be allowed to get inside, though (especially when the site is closed) but be sure to check out this heroic Urban Heritage Scene. 

3. Visit The Nanaimo Museum

In this Museum, you will be schooled on Nanaimo’s rich cultural heritage and get to know the history of the Snuneymuxw First Nations, the earliest people to have lived in this area.

There are plenty of permanent displays, with a famous fun one being an exhibit about Nanaimo’s annual Championship Bathtub sprint. The Nanaimo Museum also hosts unique events and exhibitions that change seasonally.

The old photos, old coal mines, and several fascinating signposts describing the artifacts on display are all prominent features of this gallery.

Even though you won’t spend the entire day here, the lessons learned during the 1-2 hours in this Museum are pretty memorable.

Entry into the site is only $2. You can check out its opening hours here.

4. Tour Gabriola Island

Jump on a 20-minute drive to Gabriola, one of the Gulf islands in the inlets of Georgia.

You can easily spend a whole day here, as there is an abundance of things to do on this Island.

Lovers of outdoor activities can tour one, two, or even three alluring Provincial Parks on Gabriola Island:

-Gabriola Sand Park: Perfect spot for swimming, picnicking, and birdwatching.

Drumbeg Provincial Park: Perfect spot for scuba diving, hiking, and admiring the beauty of nature.

Sandwell Provincial Park: Best spot for viewing ancient petroglyphs and gorgeous views.

Gabriola’s fancy boutiques are also excellent spots to shop for local arts and crafts.


Enjoy a delicious meal at Gabriola’s Surf Lodge & Pub.

5. Try Out Some Nanaimo Bars

Spending time in Nanaimo and not sampling a Nanaimo bar is almost impossible.

These bars, which are said to be unhealthy, have exceptionally flavorful sugary treats which are practically irresistible.

A traditional Nanaimo bar is made up of three layers :

-Bottom Layer: chopped coconuts, walnuts, unsweetened cocoa powder, and graham cracker crumbs.

-Middle Layer: Thick custard buttercream layer.

-Top Layer: Dark Chocolate Ganache.

6. Enjoy Nanaimo Harbourfront Walkway

One of the best sites to tour in Nanaimo is the Harbourfront. This trail is a 3 km perfect Walkway for a fun stroll. The Harbourfront is, however, still being refined and developed yearly.

Grab a seat and watch how the fishermen ready their boats and how the seaplane flies in.

Enjoy a lovely ice cream cone from Just Dessert, and drink at a tea shop or purchase a souvenir at one of the fancy stores.

Most importantly, enjoy the stunning views of Newcastle and the Protection Islands.

7. Have A Picnic At Maffeo Sutton Park

This beautiful park is located along the Harbour Front Walkway and is a fantastic place for family picnics.

It has a lawn, bathrooms, and even a beach for swimming.

You can as well take a selfie with the Huge Nanaimo Sign.

8. Catch A Ferry To Newcastle Island Provincial Park

Fondly referred to as Saysutshun by the Snuneymuxw community, Newcastle Island is a safe marine park just a 10 minutes truck ride from Nanaimo. 

In this place, you can go camping and hiking or engage in one of the tournaments organized by the Snuneymuxw people on the Island.

Ferries to Newcastle Island leave Maffeo Sutton Park and traverse the Newcastle Channel in 10 minutes.

These ferries ride every 30 minutes during summer; however, their departure time depends on the year’s season.

A ferry tour ticket is $12 per adult and $5 for kids.

Check out the Ferry schedule and additional information here.

9. Go On A Whale Watching Tour.

If you’re touring Nanaimo between April and November, ensure whale watching is on your schedule.

On the site, you will find creatures such as grey whales, humpback whales, seals, Eagles, sea lions, and several others.

Ensure to adhere to the Canadian Whale watching rules; so that you can enjoy your tour and as well not cause harm to those fabulous creatures.

Vancouver Island Whale is managed by maritime scientists devoted to conserving new aquatic life around Vancouver Island.

To book a tour ticket to this epic whale-watching site, click here.

10. Enjoy A Show At The Port Theatre

The Nanaimo Port Theatre, on the city’s water, hosts more than 250 events yearly, ranging from dance concerts to comedy shows and the Vancouver Island Symphony performances.

Check out their website to discover what shows will be available on your next trip to Nanaimo.

11. Relax and Chill At the Westwood Lake

Westwood Lake is an excellent spot to tour with your kids in Nanaimo.

It has a beautiful 5.5 km multi-purpose trail that goes around the lake and is perfect for an afternoon hike.

One can also enjoy fun noon-day activities such as swimming, Kayaking, and paddle boarding here. Also,  you can decide to lie on the coast while skimming through a book or enjoying stunning views.

12. Embark On  A Snorkelling Expedition With Seals

When you’re done enjoying your whale-watching experience, another great option you should try is getting close and personal with the local seals on a snorkeling expedition.

The Nanaimo seals, which are usually seen relaxing along the coastline and docks, are indeed adorable.

Embark on a tour to snake island, where seals are abundant, and have a unique experience you won’t forget in a long time.

The tour is open all year round and does not require diving experience.

But one is expected to know how to swim and be at least up to 10 years of age.

Once you tick these boxes, you are ready to snorkel with Nanaimo’s slipperiest inhabitants.

Location: Several locations around Nanaimo.

13. Go On A Thrilling Seaplane Trip

Seaplanes are all the excitement in Nanaimo, and you’ll be able to tour the Georgia seaplane if you want.

From the top, you will admire the expansive vistas around Newcastle Island and also the beautiful Nanaimo beaches.

Tour flights take only 20 minutes and tend to stop by Sechelt, a close-by town.

If you go on this tour during winter, you may catch a glimpse of snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Seaplane trips are surprisingly cheap and offer a rare sightseeing experience.

Surely, one of the best things you can do in Nanaimo.

Location: Harbour Air Seaplanes- 90 Front St Unit 1A, Nanaimo BC, V9R SH7. 

14. Explore Neck Point Park

Are you a fan of scuba diving, swimming, or hiking? Then this spot is undoubtedly for you.

The Neck Point Park, known for its beautiful walking trails and outstanding wildlife sightseeing experiences, is unsurprisingly a frequently toured site by nature-loving adventurers. 

Are you looking for waterfronts?

Walk narrowly along the headlands, and you will discover Sunset Beach, Last Beach, Finn Beach, and Indian Beach, all in place for you. From selected lookout points, you may even sight orcas and sea lions.

If you have more time to spare, we suggest you hit the trail network to explore some tree-spotting experiences.

It may sound like an odd way to spend an afternoon, but the Douglas Firs and Garry Oaks are more than ready to be explored.

Location: 1055 Morningside Dr, Nanaimo, BC V9T 1N5.

15. Go For A Round of Disc Golf At Bowen Park.

Are you an avid fan of disc golf?

Then you will need to display your golf prowess at the Bowen Park Disc Golf Course.

This 18-hole course fun site for adults and kids alike offers a fantastic way for families to spend an afternoon in Nanaimo.

The course is relatively horizontal and short, and it runs past various gardens and installations that allow you to cover many of the park’s main hotspots as you go.

The Bowen Park Disc Golf course also features several technical shots and easy wins.

16. Step Back To History At Petroglyph Provincial Park

Peradventure, the Nanaimo Museum, and Bastion do not quite tickle your inner history fancy; then, you should take a more intense dive into Vancouver Island’s Indigenous history at Petroglyph Provincial park.

This site, which boasts prehistoric rock sculptures that date back over a thousand years ago, offers tourists an intriguing glimpse into the First Nations of British Columbia. 

This locale should take a little time to explore, but it is recommended that you go on an interpretative while touring this place.

You are also authorized to make castings by spanning clothes and paper across the carvings, a perfect activity for curious kids.

Location: 990-960, Trans-Canada Hwy, Nanaimo, BC.

17. Feel Like A Kid Again At Wild Play

Are you looking for a place to let off some mist in BC?

We suggest you check out as well as check in your inner wild child at the wild play Nanaimo.

This rip-rumbling attraction, practically a tree canopy obstacle course, stars everything ranging from zip lines to Bungee Jumps and Canyon swings. Even though it is not for the faint-hearted, daredevils will feel reborn on this adventure lawn.

People going on this adventure with the whole family will admire that this course comes in various difficulty levels. The classic course and the Extreme course are suitable for 5+ kids and be customized based on the degree of experience.

Whatever course you select, better come prepared for a sky-high exploration.

Location: 35 Nanaimo River Rd, Nanaimo, BC V9X 1S5.

18. Enjoy Fantastic Waterfronts Views At Piper Lagoon Park

In Nanaimo, waterfront views are not hard to see, but you will discover the perfect vantage points at Pipers Lagoon Park. This natural spot on the beachside offers incredible views of the Salish sea.

Are you looking for a place to stretch your legs in Nanaimo or want to explore the birdwatching adventure? Then Piper Lagoon Park Is your darling.

Location: 3600 Place Rd, Nanaimo, BC V9T 5T7.

 19. Be A Tree Hugger At The Heritage Forest

If you’ve ever fancied seeing something more massive than life, then go straight to the heritage forest and stare at some of the most significant trees in British Columbia.

The heritage forest, which cuts across about 50 acres near Qualicum Beach, is home to various historical trees such as the Coastal Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, Hemlock, and Grand Fir Trees.

The hiking trail is an excellent way of reconnecting to nature, as you will hear the chirping of local birds if you listen carefully.

Location: Crescent Rd E, Qualicum Beach, BC V9k 1L5.

20. Tour Along Qualicum Beach

Qualicum Beach, located just a brief ride from Parksville, offers tourists balmy sands, mountain spectacles, and some of the best sunsets on Vancouver Island.

If you decide to tour this site, we highly recommend you explore the attractions in Central Nanaimo before heading straight down to the coast with a full-to-bursting picnic basket.

You can then enjoy a peaceful lunch while inhaling the expansive vistas and grabbing some rays.

At twilight, crack open a bottle of local BC wine and make a toast to your fantastic fun-filled tour.


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