Nanaimo is the second largest city on Vancouver Island behind the capital city of Victoria. Situated in the mid-island area, this city of 79,000 people, is a hub for the entire Vancouver Island community.
What stands out immediately about Nanaimo is its shopping. Often described as "A mall in search of a city", the area boasts a proliferation of strip malls and outlet stores. In fact, many islanders come from north and south to take advantage of Nanaimo's selection and prices.
But if one really wants to experience the personality of this city, the shoreline is the best place to start. The Harbour City's city harbor is a picturesque tribute to Nanaimo's nautical history, providing mooring for every kind of vessel, from freighters and fishing boats to yachts and sail boats. In the summertime, a cannon-firing ceremony (including bagpipes and Highland dancing) occurs at high-noon - a booming reminder of the days when the historic Hudson Bay Company Bastion was the main artery of this city's lifeblood.
Today, the sea brings more recreation than commerce to the area. Ocean-loving visitors can enjoy a wide array of aqua-oriented activities including fishing charters, kayaking trips, scuba diving and wildlife cruises. A must-see for the marine enthusiast is Newcastle Island Provincial Park, a 306 hectare marine park that is ideal for picnicking, camping or just a day-hike.
Some days, a comfortable seat and a good pint or two seem to have more appeal than shopping, hiking or historic cannon-firing ceremonies. It's a good thing Nanaimo is known for its pub culture, too. In fact, the city has an impressive collection of pubs and restaurants that attract locals from all over the island as well. From swashbuckling seafood fare and the region's finest fish & chips to Ukrainian, Mediterranean, Southwestern and even Thai, there's a menu to suit everyone's tastes here.
One of the most notable events on the Nanaimo calendar is the internationally-renown Nanaimo Bathtub Race. Started in 1967 as the Nanaimo to Vancouver Great International World Championship Bathtub Race, this often comedic spectacle runs between Nanaimo and Departure Bay on July 26. With amazingly decorated and constructed 'boats' and an accompanying parade and festival, this unique event, while it has been copied the world over, is the original and best of its kind.
Nanaimo is worth a visit, even if you're staying in the Victoria or Vancouver area. Beer, bathtubs, beautiful boats… Need we say more?