Nanaimo as seen from nearby Newcastle Island

Nanaimo is the central hub city of Vancouver Island in BC, Canada. It is the second largest city on the island and has the second biggest harbour. In many ways it is the smaller cousin of Victoria. Like much of Vancouver Island it has moved from being primarily an industrial town to a tourist city that attracts a large number of retirees from the rest of Canada.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 6 8 11 14 18 21 24 24 21 15 9 6
Nightly lows (°C) -1 0 1 3 7 10 12 12 9 5 2 0
Precipitation (mm) 170 140 112 63 50 45 26 32 39 97 199 190

See the Nanaimo 7 day forecast at Environment Canada

Get in

Most travellers to Nanaimo will arrive from Vancouver. BC Ferries operates car ferries to Nanaimo from Tsawwassen (South of Vancouver) to Duke Point in Nanaimo, and from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay. These ferries run about every 2 hours and the Horsehoe Bay route is by far the more scenic. The ferry ride is approximately 1 hour 40 minutes long. It costs about $47 for a car and $15 per person each way for the ferry. Reservations are never required, but recommended for vehicles during peak travel times. There is a $20 charge for reservations.

The Departure Bay ferry terminal is served by Nanaimo Regional Transit to Nanaimo. Greyhound (Phone: 1-800-661-8747) operates a coach service from Vancouver that meets the Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay Ferry. The cost is $22 plus ferry fare and is timed to meet every ferry departure.

Seair and Harbour Air operate float plane service from downtown Vancouver and Richmond (YVR) into Downtown Nanaimo. Seair flys the De Havilland Beaver and the Cessna Caravan and operates from a terminal near the Departure Bay ferry terminal. Harbour Air operates the De Havilland Otter and operates from a larger terminal on the downtown waterfront. Harbour Air services operate hourly from about 7AM to 6PM and Seair operates less frequently. The cost is about $55. Seair flights using Beavers are small planes heavily used by business travellers so reservations are recommended. From May through September, Kenmore Air also offers daily scheduled seaplane service from Seattle to Nanaimo.

Air Canada Jazz operates air service from the Vancouver and Calgary airports to the Nanaimo airport. The cost to add this onto an Air Canada flight into Vancouver or Calgary is often minimal. Westjet also operates flights from Calgary to Nanaimo. The Nanaimo airport is about 20km from downtown Nanaimo.

Travellers may also come to Nanaimo from Victoria. It is about a 90 minute drive from Victoria. Vancouver Island Coach Lines operates a coach service from Downtown Victoria to Nanaimo.

Get around

There is a transit system in Nanaimo, but it is not particularly convenient for getting around much of the city. If you plan on using it, make sure you know the schedule. Otherwise you can spend a long time waiting at a bus stop.

If arranged ahead of time, cars can be rented at the downtown harbour, Departure Bay ferry terminal or the Nanaimo airport.


The Bastion


Newcastle Island


Nanaimo is the largest city that can be easily accessed by most of Vancouver Island. As leaving the Island to do shopping is expensive and time consuming, Nanaimo has become the shopping center for Vancouver Island. According to a 1990 Time Magazine article, it has more square meters of retail space per capita than any other city in North America. Much of this shopping is in the large number of malls and big box retailers on the outskirts of the City. However, most of the interesting shops are in the downtown core. Here you will find...




Painted Turtle Guesthouse

Go next

Nanaimo is a hub city for the island, as such it provides good access to a number of locations on the island.

Ladysmith, along the Trans-Canada Highway to the southeast, is a picturesque tourist town.

It is about a 3 hour drive to Tofino and Long Beach Unit of Pacific Rim National Park.

North of Nanaimo is Campbell River, Telegraph Cove and Port Hardy.

The beaches of the Parksville-Qualicum Beach region are a short 20-minute drive from Nanaimo. This region also includes Coombs, offering some wonderful rustic and exotic shopping and this is where you find the goats on the roof. It's a favorite spot for locals and an excellent stop for tourists. It's about a 30 minute drive from Nanaimo.

Routes through Nanaimo

Victoria Ladysmith  S  E  ferry → West Vancouver Vancouver
Campbell River / Tofino (via ) Parksville-Qualicum Beach  N  S  END

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, February 29, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.