Living Forest Oceanside Campground - Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, BC

Travel Spotlight

Nanaimo

Nanaimo is the main city on the east coast of Vancouver Island where BC Ferries arrive and depart to the BC Mainland and to some of the Gulf Islands. The region has become a popular destination with its waterfront district a major attraction including its 5 km (3 mi) Harbourside Walkway providing stunning views across the water. Boutiques and cafes, a concert area, kid’s activity zone and heritage attractions are along the route. Nanaimo is world-famous for its decadent Nanaimo Bar and this dessert now has a tour named after it enabling you to sample the many delicious and creative interpretations of the Bar at the local cafes. If you are looking for outdoor adventure, some of the best scuba diving in North America can be found along the Nanaimo coastline, plus there are many trails, golf courses, boating and sailing opportunities.

The market plaza in Nanaimo.

Location

Located on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, 114 km (68 mi) north of Victoria and 36 km (22 mi) south of Parksville. Separated from Vancouver and the mainland by the Salis Shea (Strait of Georgia), most people arrive in Nanaimo via BC Ferries from either West Vancouver to Departure Bay (1 hr 40 mins) or Tsawwassen to Duke Point (2 hrs).

The harbour viewed from Newcastle.

A Step Back in Time

The city’s name is derived from the Coast Salish people who had several villages in the area. They called themselves the “Snuneymuxw” which translates as “a great and mighty people.” While the small community was first called Colvile Town, it was soon changed to Nanaimo, an adaptation of Snuneymuxw.

In the mid 1800s, the Hudson’s Bay Company began to mine the rich coal deposits near the harbour. Skilled workers from the United Kingdom were brought here to extract the coal, arriving in Nanaimo on November 27, 1854 after a long journey around Cape Horn to Vancouver Island. Coal continued as the main resource of the area until 1940 when lumber supplanted coal. Today, forestry is still a major contributor to the local economy as are service, retail and tourism.

An aerial view of the harbour in Newcastle.

Contact Information

Tourism Nanaimo

Camping Lodging

The Super Camping / Select Lodging Guide

First Published in 1989