Nanaimo is a city that loves and thrives off water adventures of all kinds. And since you’re here to celebrate the wet and wild Bathtub Races in July, stay around for some flotational fun of your own.
In between your ocean adventures, the city has a month’s worth of land-loving events dedicated to the races, now in its 51st year. Take in concerts at Maffeo Sutton Park, a street fair, beer gardens, food festival, fireworks and a parade.
Here are more than a few ways to splash out while you’re in what is also known as Vancouver Island’s Harbour City.
Snorkel with Seals
Yes, you read that correctly and you can then check this one off your bucket and bragging rights list. Head out with a local, experienced diving company to Snake Island – an uninhabited speck of land just a 10-minute boat ride from Nanaimo – to frolic in the water with harbour seals for a couple of hours. They’re curious creatures who are not shy about checking you out as you swim side by side with what could be up to dozens at a time. Don’t worry, they’re harmless.
You won’t get cold in the provided wetsuit and you’ll also have plenty of time during the two-hour tour to explore the u nderwater world of the West Coast. Anytime you’re ready for a break, head back to the boat for a rest before diving in again. Details at divingbc.com.
There’s something magical about paddling into the sunset on calm ocean waters. Your cares of the day melt away as you listen to the waves lap against the side of your boat, breathe in the ocean air and listen to the coastal birds all around you. Alberni Outpost is one outfitter that will set you up with a kayak and gear for what will be a memorable experience exploring Nanaimo’s pretty harbour in a profusion of colours that come with a classic West Coast sunset. Want to amp up your stand-up-paddleboard game? You can also do the sunset tour by SUP for a truly liberating way to end your day on the ocean.
When you’re visiting a seaside city, one of the daily facts you need to know is the tide charts – especially if you plan to do any activities by or on the ocean. And that includes the relaxing pastime of beachcombing for marine treasures. Low tide is the sweet spot for seeing sea glass, seashells, drift wood and getting in your daily walks. Locals have their favourites, which they might just like to keep to themselves. So, here’s a list of the top 20 spots around Nanaimo that will get your sea treasure collection started or to add to it.
Dinghy Dock Pub
Maybe you’ve spent the day swimming with seals, kayaking around the harbour or beachcombing for sea glass. Then, you’ll be more than ready for a food and drink adventure at the Dinghy Dock Pub, located a short boat ride away on Protection Island. With a claim to fame as one of Canada’s most fun floating restaurants, you’ll need to get there by ferry (leaving Nanaimo every hour), or on your own steam by kayak or canoe – or by private boat.
Linger over a local craft beer and a bowl of clam chowder or Salt Spring Island Mussels while basking in the sea air and taking in the lovely views of Nanaimo and Vancouver Island. You can also walk the beach and check out the heron rookery before or after your meal. Kids won’t get bored because they can drop a line in the restaurant’s fishing hole. The bonus: it’s a prime viewing location to watch the fireworks display Saturday, July 22. But any time’s right for chilling out at this eatery unlike any restaurant in Canada.
After you’ve experienced all of these just-add-water adventures, you’ll know that Bathtub Racing is just the tip of seafaring fun in the Harbour City.
All images by Nancy Shields