By Jamie Moore, Tourism Nanaimo
Nanaimo’s outdoor playground is unparalleled. Located in the heart of Vancouver Island, this harbour city opens the door to adventure. Gear up for incredible outdoor activities — from kayaking, and mountain biking to hiking to the top of Mount Benson and countless gorgeous natural spaces in between.
It all starts here. www.tourismnanaimo.com
Take a whale watching tour
Ever wondered what it’s like to see whales blowing and skimming across the ocean waters? Head out with Vancouver Island Whale Watch on a tour and keep your eyes peeled for orca, humpback, and other marine mammals through early October.
Paddle in protected waters
Take a multi-day excursion or circle Saysutshun/Newcastle Island in a kayak or canoe. Glide alongside amazing rock formations and see seals, sea stars, crabs and anemones in the clear water. The Dinghy Dock Pub on Protection Island is a great paddle-up pit stop.
Climb a mountain
Stand tall after climbing 1,000 meters to the peak of Mount Benson, and feel the immensity of the full-circle view. Want a quicker fix? Take the five-minute hike up Sugarloaf Mountain in Departure Bay for vast views over the harbour and city.
Zip-line over the canyon
Thrill-seeking travelers can take on heart-pounding challenges with adventure courses, bungee jumping and zip-lining through the treetops in the beautiful Nanaimo River canyon at WildPlay. Kids as young as five years old can try the adventure courses.
Feel the mist of waterfalls
Knotted ropes help you navigate the steep slope to the cascading Ammonite Falls at the end of a remote forested trail (4.5 km), where the spray thunders in spring and fall. Closer to downtown, check out the falls at Beach Estates Park, Bowen Park and Colliery Dam.
See the seals & shipwrecks
Did you know Nanaimo is home to two sunken Navy vessels? Near Snake Island just outside Departure Bay, these artificial reefs now covered in marine life are a big draw for scuba divers. Seals also haul out on nearby islands.
Explore Indigenous history
Hop the foot ferry from Maffeo-Sutton Park to Saysutshun Island/Newcastle Marine Park, a traditional First Nation territory, to see village sites, sandstone quarries, totems, scenic lookouts and sandy beaches. Camping is also available.
Shred some singletrack
Bring your own bike and gear or stop by a local outfitter and get yourself trail-ready. With three major trail networks all at various levels, Nanaimo delivers big-air jumps,drops, adrenaline-spiked singletrack, and plenty of casual XC trails for cruising.
Hit the beach
Nanaimo’s long oceanfront makes this an ideal place for swimming, windsurfing, and snorkeling. Head to ocean parks such as Pipers Lagoon, Departure Bay, Neck Point, and Swy-A-Lana Lagoon. For freshwater swimming, Westwood Lake and Long Lake are local favourites.