Welcome to Nanaimo! Just steps from our stunning harbour is your home away from home – the Best Western Dorchester, a beautifully appointed historic building offering convenient and comfortable luxury.
Check in and drop your bags, taking a moment to relax in your new surroundings.
Public Art in Maffeo Sutton Park
Your first activity is a self-guided urban art crawl. Walk to Maffeo Sutton Park to view incredible displays of public art like Breaching Orca, a metal sculpture by artist Carl Sean McMahon made entirely of scrap metal and the newly installed Driftwood Nests by Samuel and Deryk Houston. What shapes can you find in the intricate weaving of wood? In the park, a favourite place to picnic, people watch, and wade into the saltwater lagoon, you will occupy your time walking along the shore and through green space.
The Urban Art Gallery
Head along the walkway towards the downtown core and discover shops, as well as coffee bars along the way. You will want to stop for a cone of homemade ice cream! Shop a stunning variety of mugs and tea, or find the perfect souvenir.
Find your way to Victoria and Commercial street, where several displays of outdoor mural art are being created. This is an exciting and vibrant time in the city of Nanaimo, as the Urban Art Gallery works to repurpose blank walls into stunning pieces of street art, including artist collaborations and the mural on the former A&B Sound Building.
The Vault Café
Stop at The Vault Café – this historic and eclectically decorated building offers a laid-back vibe and a warm respite from your urban walk.
Head to Gallery Merrick, located in the heart of downtown Nanaimo. This gallery space features contemporary Canadian art by emerging and established artists, including Nanaimo’s own Claudia Lohmann. Take your time taking in the beautiful pieces and chatting with the very knowledgeable staff.
Find your way back down Commercial Street to Modern Café – a beautiful example of Nanaimo’s architecture. Enjoy the country’s best gourmet mac and cheese under the bright lights of the historic marquee sign.
Enjoy a delicious breakfast, at your leisure, at local hotspot Gabriel’s. There you will find Eggs Benny in unique and delectable iterations or try the hotcakes for a delicious experience. Power up with a coffee and you are ready for the main event – Earthlings.
Earthlings at Nanaimo Art Gallery
Experience this touring exhibition of ceramic sculptures and works on paper created by seven contemporary artists from distinct cultural and geographical positions. Nanaimo is the only British Columbia destination on this tour organized and circulated by Esker Foundation in Calgary.
You will find inspiring works of art that examine the merging of animal and human, reality and myth, actual and imagined spaces. This exhibit will leave you with much to muse over during lunch. Before you leave the Gallery and head to a delicious French-inspired cafe, shop The Gallery Store for your Earthlings publication, along with other unique gifts by local artists.
Mon Petit Choux
Mon Petit Choux is just down the street, and it offers delicious baguette with homemade preserves, breakfast anytime items and some of the best soup and sandwiches in Nanaimo. Save room for our signature dessert – the Nanaimo Bar, which is on offer in the sweets case at the front of the restaurant.
Spend your afternoon shopping along Commercial Street and in the Old City Quarter – for everything from art to kitchenware to the perfect dress – before you grab your camera and head just out of the downtown core for some waterfalls and fallen totems that will inspire your own artistic creation.
Head to Bowen Park and explore the green space that is home to wildlife, rushing waters and First Nation totems that have since been laid to rest by the Snuneymuxw people. There is plenty of opportunities to grab the perfectly framed shot.
Departure Bay Beach
Head North toward Departure Bay beach and find yourself standing along the shores of the Salish Sea where you will be inspired by just how beautiful the waters are. This area of Nanaimo allows you to look out as the ferry departs and arrives, and dip your toes in the saltwater.
A newly erected totem is the subject of your gaze.
End your day in the north end of Nanaimo at Eve Olive, a restaurant nestled atop Rutherford Hill and in a beautifully appointed wood building. Enjoy fresh, delicious vegan food and just the right wine pairings.
For a more adventurous add-on to your cultural exploration, add kayaking in the harbour, ziplining in Maffeo Sutton Park or fishing in the harbour.
If you have an extra day to spend, head to Cedar Yellowpoint just south of the downtown core. On your self-guided tour, you can tour farms and artisan studios.
— Written by Curtis Havekotte