Our local residents are well versed in the best things to do in Nanaimo. They know the secrets, what makes Nanaimo a great place to live. We’ve asked Andrew Nixon from the Nanaimo Adventure 360 team to share his ideal 48 hours in the Harbour City—his Nanaimo 360. Here’s a look at where he grabs a bite, where he likes to catch a view of the harbour, and more:
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been curious about the world and the blend of cultures within it. I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up in a town that not only embraces a wide variety of cultures, but celebrates them. So naturally, when it comes to exploring the world (including my own backyard), I feel compelled to immerse myself in historic sites and to interact authentically with the people and natural settings of where it is I’m visiting.
Nanaimo is rich with history, wacky traditions, and a beautiful blend of cultures. Add to it the diverse natural terrain surrounding the area, and it’s hard to believe why anyone wouldn’t want to vacation here. When I get the chance to “stay-cation’ in my hometown, I’m drawn to the harbour and Old City Quarter to get back in touch with our history and diverse culture.
Breakfast: I’m a big believer in starting the day off right with a hearty breakfast, and Java Wocky always delivers. When I’m downtown, this is one of my go-to places. Not only is the breakfast bagel the best I’ve ever had, but the harbour view that comes with it is breathtaking. With my black coffee and sandwich in hand, I claim a table outside and watch as the harbour comes alive.
Morning: Now that I’m properly fueled for the day, I set out for a slow stroll along the walkway. I’ll stop by the crabbing pier to see if the seals are out to play, and stop by to say hello to the statue of our famous former mayor Frank Ney. One of the things I love about spending my days along the water is the people that make the area come alive. On any given day, there are talented performers serenading the passersby, families creating memories, and amazing permanent installations around Maffeo Sutton Park.
Lunch: After landing safely in the harbour, it’s time for lunch. Since I’m on a mission to indulge in the most authentic Nanaimo experience, there is only one option: Trollers. This sweet floating food stand is found on the docks along the Harbour Walkway and serves up some of the freshest seafood in Nanaimo. I order the oysters almost every time but you can’t go wrong with their legendary fish ’n’ chips.
Afternoon: After a lovely lunch, I head over to Harbour Air to check in for my scenic tour. If you haven’t had the chance to fly in a float plane, you’re in for a treat! We can all agree that Nanaimo is a naturally beautiful area but seeing it from an aerial view takes it to a whole new level. Tours run daily, taking off from the boardwalk terminal at 1:15 pm. Choose between two exhilarating packages that highlight the natural beauty of Nanaimo and its remarkable coastline. The Classic Nanaimo Panorama package features 20 minutes of unparalleled views of the city’s urban and mountain topography while the Strait of Georgia package includes 40 minutes of breathtaking views of the Sunshine Coast. Whichever package you choose, you’re in for an aerial treat!
Dinner: A trip to Nanaimo’s harbour is not complete without heading to the Dinghy Dock Pub. Hop on the Protection Connection ferry for a short 10-minute cruise to Protection Island for a unique dining experience at this floating pub. There’s always something fun scheduled, from live music to trivia nights, but the best part is watching the sunset over the harbour.
Breakfast: When I’m exploring Nanaimo and step away from the harbour, the Vault Café is where you’ll find me. The atmosphere in this café is unlike anything else in the city. The local art displayed on the walls, the mismatched furniture and serving ware, and the amazing music make it the perfect place to start the day. Enjoy one of their fresh, in-house baked goods, a yogurt parfait, or simply order their fresh made bread and preserves.
Morning: If you’re like me and want to learn everything about the place you’re visiting, a museum is likely on your itinerary. Nanaimo is lucky to have three local museums: the Nanaimo Museum, the Nanaimo Military Museum, and the Nanaimo Bastion. The feature exhibit at the Nanaimo Museum on now through to September 5th is the Centennial Stories showcase. This must-see exhibit highlights Nanaimo’s foundation in 1867, our city’s home front experience in World War I, as well as a look into past community centennial celebrations. In the summer months, you’ll want to make sure you plan your museum tour right so you can catch the daily piper and Bastion cannon firing at noon.
Lunch: Since Commercial Street is only a block up from the cannon, I like to stop at 2 Chefs Affair and dine on their patio. I’ll order my favourite menu item (the risotto balls) and enjoy some of Nanaimo’s best people watching. During the summer, there are often local musicians, who will enhance you dining experience, showcasing their talents across the street at Diana Krall Plaza.
Afternoon: Since I’m on a culture trip, I’ll continue by checking out the current exhibit at the Nanaimo Art Gallery. I’m always blown away by the high quality of work on display at our local gallery. Victoria, BC based artist, Marianne Nicolson, is the feature solo artist whose work is currently on display. Marianne’s creative scope of work includes paintings, light-installations, and videos, inspired her concern with the health of the coursing waters that surround out coastal communities. After I finished my tour, I like to pop over to Hill’s Native Art Gallery. The intricacy of work in this gallery reminds me how lucky I am to live in Nanaimo and have the opportunity to learn so much about other cultures.
Dinner: After a day of browsing museums and art galleries, it’s time to treat myself to an indulgent dinner in the Old City Quarter. La Stella Trattoria’s wood-fired pizza and handmade pasta are made in-house with fresh ingredients in authentic Italian fashion. For those of you with gluten allergies, have no fear! La Stella Trattoria serves delicious gluten free options as well.
What’s your Nanaimo 360? Leave a comment below and let us know YOUR favourite Nanaimo experiences!