21 Fun Things to Do In Nanaimo (BC)

Are you looking to have a great adventure in British Columbia, Canada? Imagine visiting the beautiful city of Nanaimo to enjoy unforgettable experiences with stunning attractions.

Nature is one of the primary reasons the city appeal to many tourists from far and near.

However, other reasons for its appealing nature are spectacular shops, incredible eateries, and museums.

There are many fun things to do in Nanaimo, BC, for families, kids, couples, adults, and for the weekend. You can visit the Maffeo Sutton Park, get entertained at the Protection Island, explore the Ammonite Falls, etc.

The city has one or two of your favorite entertainment exhibitions.

Where is Nanaimo, BC?

Situated on the very heart of the east coast of Vancouver Island, Nanaimo is an attractive city and a ferry port.

According to the 2016 census, the city has an approximate population of 90,500 people, which is considerably high compared with other smaller towns in British Columbia.

However, the city’s vast population shouldn’t be much of a surprise, considering that every year, fresh immigrants from all over the world take solace in the city, which partly helped to be an enticing tourist destination.

Thanks to its stunning landmarks, stunning falls, museums, beaches, spectacular restaurants, etc.

Meanwhile, Nanaimo looks out over the Salish Sea to the Coastal Mountains on mainland British Columbia, and its main focus is the harbor.

Seaplanes take off and land, boats, and tours arrive and depart, while walking trails are always ready on the shore. We have highlighted some of the best fun things to do in Nanaimo, BC.

See Also: Fun Things to Do in Ucluelet (BC)

Fun Things to Do In Nanaimo, BC

1. Colliery Dam Park

Are you looking for a nice place to host a group picnic where you can have fun with your family or friends? It would be best if you considered having a great time at Colliery Dam Park.

Considered among Nanaimo’s more extensive tourist parks and is primarily frequented by visitors during summer for its freshwater swimming spot.

Colliery Dam Park is a perfect trekking destination since the trail around the upper dam offers a suitable dog off-leash area, which is open during regular park hours.

Some steep trails and narrow bridge crossings along the upper dam trail will be found.

This park features two parking lots, with the first lying along Nanaimo Lakes road leading you straight to a bridge between the two dams, while the other lies at a curve in the road where Wakesiah becomes Sixth Street.

Having fun here is one of the most exciting things in Nanaimo, BC.

Address: 635 Wakesiah Avenue, Nanaimo, BC V9R 3l2, Canada

2. Maffeo Sutton Park

As long as Nanaimo is concerned, you can trust Maffeo Sutton Park to give you the best enjoyable outdoor adventure and entertainment with its numerous features and amenities.

No wonder it is regarded as the city’s signature park, which overlooks the popularly known harbor.

The park offers stunning features and amenities that will make your visit to the park memorable, including access to the walking trail, Lions Pavilion covered stage, Spirit Square, Playdock destination playground, ferry access to Newcastle Island ferry, Swy-a-Lana lagoon, and swimming beach, and even washrooms.

It doesn’t end there, though, as this park is a hosting ground for many special community events, especially as it is a focal point along the Harbor Front Walkway.

It is also an ideal area for walking, playground playdates, and picnics. You’ll find several artworks around the park and through the walking trail.

Address: 100 Comox Road, Nanaimo, BC V9R 3H7, Canada

3. BC Ferries

Touring within and around the beautiful city of Nanaimo, BC, will make for an intriguing adventure if you book the services of BC Ferries.

It was initially a provincial Crown corporation but currently operates as an independently run, publicly owned Canadian institution.

You can trust British Columbia Ferries provides all passengers and vehicle ferry services for coastal and inland villages in the Canadian province of British Columbia.

These services include 45 ports of call over coastal BC, alongside sailings to and from Metro Vancouver.

It also includes trips to Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, the Sunshine Coast, and Northern BC.

The ferries also give out more than 100 travel presents, which include return ferry and accommodation, as well as menus for food, shopping, and incredible wildlife sightseeing offers.

Address: 680 Trans Canada Hwy Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay, Nanaimo, BC V9S 5R1 Canada

4. Extension Ridge & The Abyss

Extension Ridge The Abyss
Photo by Russell McNeil via Flickr

Have you seen something that looks like the Extension Ridge & the Abyss? You will have the opportunity to see it live when you visit Nanaimo, BC.

Hikers will surely marvel at this opportunity, as it will be easier for them since they will only need to climb the Extension Ridge Bridge Trail to discover the Abyss.

You won’t only discover the Abyss but also a fairy circle and a secret labyrinth further along the trail. Join others to explore this 2.1km out-and-back Extension Ridge trail around Nanaimo, BC.

It is a straightforward path to the Abyss, as you’ll only need 38 mins to get there. You can come with your dogs, but keep them on leash in some areas.

Address: 540 Virostko Road, Extension, BC V9X 1E8, Canada

5. Westwood Lake Park

Nanaimo is widely known as a city with many adventurous and entertainment parks. There are several kinds of spectacular gardens as long as this little town goes, one of which is Westwood Lake Park.

This park is one of the most frequented and famous places to spend your vacation in Nanaimo.

The fact that it is frequented by visitors year-round is a sign that it makes for an intriguing tourist destination; hence, it would be a bad idea to add it to your things to do in the Nanaimo itinerary.

Situated in the foothills of Mt. Benson, the Westwood Lake Park is a 5.51km trail around the lake that is common among walkers and runners.

As we mentioned, it is the favorite for most tourists and features shorter loops towards the trail’s south end. The only lifeguard-patrolled freshwater swimming spot is its central beach area close to the paved parking lot.

The park also features a washroom, change room, and a little playground around the second beach close to the gravel parking lot.

Address: 381 Westwood Road, Nanaimo, BC

6. Ammonite Falls

If you want to get the best vacation experience, then you have to add Ammonite Falls to your itinerary.

It features a 5.5km trail that will lead you to the falls, and even though it is primarily seen as a challenging route, it will only take at least 1 hour and 46 minutes to fulfil.

The trail is most notable for hiking, snowshoeing, and trail running, but you can still experience several solitudes in quieter periods. You can start your course off at Creekside Place.

At about 2 kilometers, you will pass Ammonite Falls and proceed towards a Lake View not more than 1km, providing a perfect photo shoot area.

Address: Nanaimo, BC V9T 6H1, Canada

7. The Port Theater

If you are a theater enthusiast looking for a place to enjoy the best entertainment you can get in Nanaimo, BC, you should consider The Port Theater.

It is an 800-seat entertainment center that serves as a central point for locals and visitors and offers a wide range of cultural events to meet various interests and needs.

Constructed by the Port Theater Society and Nanaimo city, The Port Theater was formally opened in September 1998 and is a place where you can enjoy various art performances.

Situated on the waterfront, the theater features many galleries and offices. The theater is a hosting center for different community events.

Address: 125 Front Street, Nanaimo, BC V9R 6Z4, Canada

8. The Bastion

Photo by David Stanley via Flickr

The Bastion is an initial Hudson’s Bay Company building, symbolizing Nanaimo’s rich history.

If you want a lovely sightseeing experience, this is the perfect destination. It is always accessible every day of the week from May long weekend through Labor Day.

Constructed in 1853, The Bastion is an ancient local icon lying in Nanaimo, arguably the third oldest city in British Columbia.

The three floors of the Bastion were technically built with traditional woodworking techniques by the Hudson’s Bay Company employees.

Meanwhile, this legendary facility is run by the Nanaimo Museum and is also home to the seasonal Tourism Nanaimo Info Kiosk.

The Bastion also hosts a cannon firing ceremony, held every day at the place’s opening at noontime. You can book group tours in the off-season.

Address: 98 Front Street, Nanaimo, BC V9R 5H7, Canada

9. Nanaimo Museum

Photo by Rebecca Bollwitt via Flickr

Aside from having a fun adventure with the exciting events and exhibitions in Nanaimo, you can also learn about the local history of the Nanaimo locals.

Thanks to the Nanaimo Museum, you can learn more about the history of not just the area but also some facts about British Columbia.

This museum is a historical 8-shaped blockhouse situated at 98 Front Street within Nanaimo city of British Columbia.

In this museum, you will get to be educated a lot about the area’s history, including Snuneymuxw culture to the Bastion Era, the history of coal mining, and much more.

Address: 100 Museum Way, Nanaimo, BC V9R 5J8, Canada

See Also: Best Things to Do In Victoria (BC)

10. Neck Point Pack

You can look towards having an unforgettable experience with one of the most popular parks in Nanaimo and even British Columbia.

A visit to this entertaining park will lure you into spending all your time enjoying the numerous exhibitions and features on offer.

The Neck Point Park is a scenic park where you can go for a picnic, walk, swim, and even scuba diving. You’ll be elated at the sight of sea lions, orcas, and several other marine creatures from the lookouts in the park.

Sunset Beach, Indian Beach, Finn Beach, and Last Beach are within the coves amongst the headlands.

There is a spectacular walking trail of at least 2km, following the shoreline of this small peninsula, across beaches, and via arbutus trees, Garry oaks, and Douglas fir.

A lookout point is sitting on a high rock at the far end between Indian Beach and Last Beach.

Before the Lookout, you’ll see a tidal zone exposing a gravel sandbar that ends at a little rock island at low tide, thus, showing where the term “neck” in Neck Point Park originated.

Indeed! It is among the most famous dive sites in the park and allows divers to walk through from the neck.

Address: 1055 Morningside Dr, Nanaimo, BC V9T 1N5, Canada

11. Protection Island

Situated 1.5km northeast of downtown Nanaimo within the Nanaimo harbor, the Protection Island is a fun-filled center where you can enjoy a memorable weekend.

It is a calm island. A small, lively community exists of young families, professionals, and retirees.

This Island, meanwhile, was formally called Douglas Island by the name of James Douglas, who was the first Governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. But, the name was changed to Protection Island in 1960.

Protection Island features a fantastic eatery and pub, community dock & hall, museum, fire station, boat ramp, library, and community garden.

You’ll also find several exciting arts, music, and drop-in sports lessons. Your experience on this Island will have you hungry for another visit to Nanaimo.

Address: 640 Terminal Avenue N, Nanaimo, BC V98 4k2, Canada

12. Bowen Park

Bowen Park is one of the most popular parks in the small city of Nanaimo, BC. The Western Fuel Company of San Francisco donated the park to the town to serve park purposes. Its land title was officially registered in 1931.

Situated at the very center of the city, the park features several facilities, including a swimming pool, curling club, tennis courts, lawn bowling green, horseshoe pitches, sports fields, two playgrounds, outdoor lacrosse box, sand volleyball courts, disc golf, and outdoor amphitheater used for private events.

You’ll also find two covered picnic shelters.

On your way to the park, you’ll see several interpretive trails meandering along the Milestone River.

You only need a little walk to take you to a stunning waterfall and fish ladder. You will find Bowen Park an exciting adventure when you visit.

Address: 500 Bowen Road, Nanaimo, BC V9R 1Z7, Canada

13. Cable Bay Trail

You will find this 2km hiking trail an enjoyable tour when you add it to your things-to-do itinerary.

Located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, the Cable Bay Trail is one of the best ten forest walks as long as the Vancouver Island area is concerned and can be accessed through Nicola Road in Cedar.

This trail is an exciting hike via an ancient forest that features giant leaf maple trees and leads you to a sandstone shoreline across from Gabriola Island and Mudge Island.

On getting to the river, turn right and continue along the shoreline path to Joan Point Park at Dodd Narrows, where a mystic tidal current appears at the right tides.

Cable Bay Trail is a perfect area where you’ll get to see several marine mammals like orcas. Meanwhile, the Dodd Narrows current produces a fantastic fishing adventure for whales and the rest.

You’ll see sea lions passing by during migrating events, like lying on the log booms parked around the nearby Harmac pulp mill.

Address: 1709 Wilkinson Road, Nanaimo, BC, Canada

14. Cedar Farmers Market

Cedar Farmers Market is a must-visit if you want to experience a maximum shopping spree in Nanaimo. It is open every Sunday from Mother’s Day until October end.

The market has been moved from its initial location to its present area at Woodbank School, 1984 Woodbank Road.

Cedar Farmers Market deals on locally produced fruit, vegetables, food trucks, homemade ice cream, home décor, ethically raised meat, potted plants, fresh-cut flowers, sustainable seafood, pottery, locally-roasted coffee, and jewelry, all-natural bath, and skin care products, and so on.

Address: 1984 Woodbank Road, Nanaimo, BC V9X 1H4, Canada

15. Nanaimo Bars

Why not spare a few hours of your time in Nanaimo to taste some of the best snacks the city offers at the Nanaimo Bars?

It features yellow and brown desserts made up of a thick layer of custard-flavored icing sugar with an added layer of chocolate, all dwelling on top of a coconut and crumb wafer.

Thanks to Nanaimo city, you now have an option of the best location to purchase and have a taste of these delights.

It has even aided its visitors by publishing a map that shows the path that leads to the Nanaimo Bar Trail. Hurry as soon as possible to pick up your map at the Nanaimo Visitor Center.

Address: Nanaimo, British Columbia

16. Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park

You can enjoy your brief vacation in Nanaimo with a trip to the Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park.

If you watch closely over the Nanaimo harbor from the Harbourfront Walkway, you’ll find Newcastle Island off to your left.

You can join other passengers to board a ferry that is always ready to transport you to the nearby Island, formally known as Saysutshun.

In Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park, nature and history come together through nature trails, beaches, Snuneymuxw community sites, and old sandstone quarries.

In Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park, you will also feature remains of a fish story and coal mine sites. You can also do a group camping in this park and organize walk-in sites for your family to gain easy access to nature.

Address: 668 Center Street, Nanaimo, BC V9R 4Z4, Canada

17. Woodgrove Center

Photo by Andy Nystrom via Flickr

Are you looking to make the best use of your weekend to engage in a shopping spree in Nanaimo? The best place you can do that is in Woodgrove Center.

Located on Vancouver Island inside the harbor city of Nanaimo, BC, this shopping center is considered the biggest on Vancouver Island.

It features more than 140 stores and services, which include Walmart, Hudson’s Bay, Sport Chek, and Chapters, and is made up of approximately 724,713 square feet of retail space.

The shopping center’s food court in the central west area features modern, comfortable, and clean family washrooms.

In this center, you will find a women’s washing room, especially for nursing mothers, and a family room for families with kids. Woodgrove Center ensures that you enjoy its shopping center and get the best shopping experience.

Address: 6631 Island Hwy, Nanaimo, BC V9T 4T7, Canada

18. Morrell Sanctuary

Photo by Russell McNeil via Flickr

Apart from the fun that the city of Nanaimo offers, you can also gain some educative adventure thanks to the Morrell Sanctuary.

Owned by the Nature Trust of British Columbia, this sanctuary is rented and run by the Morrell Sanctuary Society for Environmental Education.

It is a non-profit institution that sits at around a 278-acre land space and features dog-friendly trails, interpretive signs, and educational programs to enlighten its visitors. You’ll be given a fantastic visitor guidebook designed by the sanctuary volunteers.

These guidebooks feature maps and pictures of flowers, plants, and birds growing and living in the Morrell Sanctuary, which depicts the truly incredible beauty of Morrell Nature Sanctuary.

The guidebook will also serve as a source of information, inspiration, understanding, and awareness for all visitors.

You can hike to Westwood Lake in the other area from this park. Remember to maintain the marked trails during your visit.

Address: 787 Nanaimo Lakes Road, Nanaimo, BC V9R 3C2, Canada

19. Pipers Lagoon Park

You can join other visitors to enjoy nature at its fullest at Pipers Lagoon Park, making this park one of the top things that should be on your list of places to visit in Nanaimo.

Located north of downtown Nanaimo, Pipers Lagoon Park stretches into the ocean.

It creates a stunning tidal flat in the inland area and offers beautiful sceneries across the Salish Sea from the outside.

You’ll find walking trails leading around the little peninsula alongside high points, which look across cliffs and lower sides where you can go down to the water’s edge.

If you need proper relaxation or even a quiet stroll, then Pipers Lagoon Park is a must-visit. For those residing in the city center, this area offers a perfect place to go closer to the ocean and carry out a small wildlife sightseeing adventure.

Address: 3600 Place Road, Nanaimo, BC V9T 5T7, Canada

20. Vancouver Island Military Museum

One of the best adventures you will ever have in Nanaimo is exploring Vancouver Island Military Museum to check out different features like Canada’s navy, army, and air force.

You can also see the wars they have fought and the crucial roles they have played in the history of Canada.

Located on a mountain atop downtown Nanaimo, this museum is an 8-shaped structure featuring exhibits including various artifacts and items like weapons, medals, models, uniforms, and other memorabilia.

Some volunteers are always ready to answer your questions and show you around the museum.

Address: Cameron Road, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada

21. Vancouver Island Whale Watch

One of the best ways to have a fun-filled experience on a sunny day around the ocean is by engaging yourself in a whale-watching tour from Nanaimo.

Thanks to Vancouver Island Whale Watch, you’ll experience British Columbia’s most Sustainable whale watching tour on a memorable day at sea.

Here, this whale-watching adventure will be more incredible and enjoyable when you board an open zodiac-style boat or semi-covered vessel, which is always available around the area. Daily departure services are available from Nanaimo and Vancouver.

The boat will transport you via the Salish Sea ecosystem to explore whales and other marine creatures in their natural ecosystem.

Its coastal wilderness houses killer whales, sea lions, humpback whales, eagles, seals, porpoises, etc. A marine professional expertly guide your tour with a solid academic root in marine biology, so you’re safe.

Address: 90 Front Street #5, Nanaimo, BC V9R 5H7, Canada