The Dragon Boat Festival in Nanaimo doesn’t have a lot to do with the mythical, fire-spewing creatures they’re named after. It has everything to do, however, with fierce fun, teamwork and enjoying a slew of events over three days.
Dragonboat image by Nancy Shields
The main event goes July 7-9 at the harbour near Maffeo Sutton Park. You can cheer on the 70 teams of 20 paddlers as they churn up the waters in a battle to cross the finish line first. Before- and after-race fun includes land-based events like the Shriner’s pancake breakfast, Longwood Brewery beer gardens and sampling the fare of local food trucks.
All that will have you fueled to find your own adventures around Nanaimo’s diverse backyard – perhaps in search of the otherworldly kind – like the legendary dragons.
Abyss Fault Line
Whoa. You’ll want to carefully peer into this 40-centimetre wide fissure – literally a crack in the earth – created by an earthquake. Located in the Extension Ridge area near the end of Nanaimo Lakes Road, the Abyss is eerie but cool, and completely worth checking out. There are plenty of hiking and mountain biking trails in the area, too.
Petroglyph Provincial Park
Image by Nancy Shields
Petroglyph Provincial Park has works of pictographs – or rock art (also known as petroglyphs) – spread over a small area. The sandstone etchings depict mystical beings and tell the stories, beliefs and customs of Indigenous people from perhaps a millennium ago, long before European contact. The etchings are believed to be here because the Snuneymuxw First Nations believed this area to be a place of mysterious powers. You’ll come away curious about the land and the people who first inhabited. You can leave with a piece of ancient art of your own by making a rubbing of the petroglyph concrete models in the interpretive area.
Get your fill of waterfalls
Image by Mike Anderson
There’s something magical about waterfalls that leaves you feeling like you’ve just stumbled upon an unknown spot. These waterfalls might not be a big secret but they’re definitely worth a visit. Just a short drive outside of Nanaimo, you’ll feel like you’re far from the city. To get to Ammonite Falls in Benson Creek Falls Provincial Park, take the 40-minute walk along a lovely trail amid towering trees. The falls are named after the spiral-shaped fossilized marine creatures embedded in rocks of the creek. Scientists believe those rocks date somewhere from 65 to 240 million years ago.
A day filled with paddling, hiking, biking and exploring means only one thing: finding food that’s equal to your appetite. Try these two local favourites: the Firehouse Grill, located in a heritage brick building downtown, has a menu that pays homage to its firehall history. It serves up barbecue steaks and burgers, with a dash of Cajun influence, and of course seafood. The other option is Smokin’ George’s BBQ Restaurant, famous for its slow-smoked meats, ribs, brisket and pulled pork. Everything is made in-house, and the take-out option is perfect for picnics.
After a day of adventure and local eats, start your day back on the water with a non-competitive sunset paddle.