Among the many things that make this city a special place, the sheer number of waterfront parks in Nanaimo makes it worthy of much coastal exploration. From long, meandering trails to short walks to pebble beaches, these coastal gems are a perfect afternoon activity for anyone yearning for the ocean air. Here are some our favourite waterfront parks in Nanaimo:
Neck Point Park
Neck Point Park is a gorgeous 36-acre waterfront park found at the end of Morningside Drive, just off of Hammond Bay Road. Beachcombers rejoice! Neck Point has four beaches for the public to explore; Finn Beach, Indian Beach, Sunset Beach, and lastly, Last Beach.
If you’re a history buff, you’re in for a treat at this park too. Speckled throughout the beachside and trails are signs that teach of local history, flora, and fauna. There are tidal pools to explore, rocks to climb, trails to explore, and so much beach life to discover!
Because of the easy beach access, Neck Point Park is a popular spot for divers. While this coastline is home to a huge variety of wildlife including sea otters, orcas, and sea lions, it’s said that Neck Point is home to a friendly octopus who lives near a deep water rock face.
Neck Point is open from dawn to dusk, is partially wheelchair accessible, and allows on-leash dogs.
Fun fact: before Neck Point became a park, it was a common vacation spot for Nanaimo locals. During the 1930s, residents built upwards of 15 permanent cabins on the beaches, though no remnants remain.
Jack Point & Biggs Park
Just a short drive to Duke Point from downtown Nanaimo is one of the region’s best hidden gems. Located at the mouth of the Nanaimo River The 32-acre park provides a completely different perspective of the city, Mount Benson, and the Nanaimo River estuary than you’ll find anywhere else in the area. The trail is relatively short, only a 2.5 km loop, and will take you along the beach through sandstone features, naturally carved by the forces of nature.
Not far from Departure Bay is a 9-acre waterfront park, Pipers Lagoon. A perfect destination for gazing at the sunset, Pipers possesses an incredible view of Nanaimo’s coastline and the Georgia Strait. Located at the end of Place Road in the Hammond Bay area, this park is partially wheelchair accessible and offers opportunities for boating, kayaking, fishing, and wildlife viewing.
Built on an isthmus (a thin stretch of land with sea on either side), there’s much to be explored at Pipers Lagoon. Multiple trails and secluded beaches will make you forget just how close to the city you are. Bird watchers delight, this park is home to a variety of species including sandpipers, loons, kingfishers, and oyster catches.
Both Neck Point Park and Pipers Lagoon topped our list of the 5 Best Places to Watch the Sunset in Nanaimo.
Beach Estates Park
Beach Estates Park is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered. Tucked away just off the Island Highway in the Brechin Hill neighbourhood, this park takes you on a journey from a shady, tranquil trail, through the trees and out onto the sunny beach near the Departure Bay Ferry terminal. Beach Estates Park is located at 2140 Departure Bay Road and on-leash dogs are welcome.
The long, winding trail follows along Northfield Creek as it descends down the ravine and eventually into the ocean at Departure Bay. The creek flows fairly consistently all year round, with an increased volume during the rainy season. Lush, green forest and ferns surround the trail, accompanied by the gentle sound of water. Perhaps one of the most beautiful sights at this park is the gentle waterfall that cascades over a rock face.
The path down to the ocean features steep staircases, boardwalks and paths, so this park is not wheelchair friendly.
At the bottom of the trail is a pebble beach facing the Departure Bay Ferry terminal. The beach stretches far to the left, away from the terminal, so you can take a leisurely walk and enjoy the scenery as you rest and prepare for the hike back up!
Saysutshun (Newcastle Island Marine Park)
No list of waterfront parks near Nanaimo would be complete without mentioning the spectacularly beautiful Newcastle Island Marine Park. Known to many by its traditional name, Saysutshun, this island is part of the Traditional Territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation and all 363-hectares are a classified as Provincial Park.
Accessible by foot-passenger ferry or boat, this park is open to the public year-round. Among the many pristine, sandy beaches you can visit are Roga Beach, Kanaka Bay and Devil’s Horn. Each of these beaches faces in a different direction offering unique views of Nanaimo and the Georgia Strait. While you could hike the whole way around the island in a day, you might want to set up camp and spend more time getting to know this mystical waterfront park.