Nanaimo is a city on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island in the Canadian province of British Columbia, just across the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver city. The sixth largest city in the province, Nanaimo has a population of more than 80,000 and is well-known for the wealth of natural attractions that surround it - from the forests of neighbouring Newcastle Island, rock formations on Gabriola Island to rivers, mountains and sheltered harbours on Vancouver Island itself. Nanaimo is a great place for city living amidst nature as opportunities for snorkelling, diving, hiking, biking and other outdoor recreational activities are a-plenty, and the wonderfully mild climate further encourages Nanaimo’s residents and visitors to get outside.
The city’s official language is English, so there’s no need to worry about a language barrier when on holiday in Nanaimo.
Nanaimo is often known as the ‘Hub City’, and the amazing transport networks connecting it to the rest of the region are the reason why. The city has a grand total of three ferry terminals, and ferries to destinations all around Vancouver Island and the mainland are available. On top of that, a train service that travels along the coast of Vancouver Island towards Courtenay and Victoria is also available daily. Regional buses operated by BC transit (such as the Greyhound and Laidlaw) further complement these networks by bringing passengers to regions such as Lantzville, Deep Bay, Parksville and more.
What to see and do
If in Nanaimo, don’t miss a visit to one of the city’s most stunning attractions: the Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. A beautiful area of forest scented with Douglas fir, cedar and maple trees, the park is a great spot for hiking, picnicking and camping but is most famous for its star attraction: two waterfalls cascading side by side into a crystal clear stream. Dive into this idyllic rock pool for a swim in the cool water during the summer heat, or watch salmon struggle their way upriver back to their spawning grounds in the fall.
But if aquatic sports are what you’re after, then head to the waters around Nanaimo Harbour for a spot of deep-sea diving or snorkelling. The region is famous for harbouring 3 artificial reefs created from sunken ships - including Canadian Supply Ship the HMCS Cape Breton as well as the HMCS Saskatchewan - generating an aquatic ecosystem of its own that is just bursting with life. Otherwise, take a boat over to the nearby Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park for some stand-up paddling, kayaking or canoeing.
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