Stay in Nanaimo and explore the rest of the island
While there is so much to see right here in Nanaimo, we’re also a great way to explore the rest of Vancouver Island to find new experiences and friendly folks.
No matter what direction you point the car, whether it’s your own or a rental, you can find a great new adventure on Vancouver Island, then come back to your room in Nanaimo to rest and reflect on the beauty of the west coast.
Drive north from Nanaimo for about 90 minutes, and you’ll arrive in Campbell River, a growing community at the souther end of Discovery Passage, with Indigenous artwork, Discovery Pier, fresh-caught local seafood, and a suspension bridge that gives you an eagle’s view of the spawning salmon.
If you’re in a hurry, take the inland route (Highway 19), but if you have the time, take the old highway (19a) to cruise along the waterside, through the communities of Parksville, Qualicum Beach, Courtney, and Comox.
If the bright lights of Vancouver are calling your name, you can fly or ferry there right from Nanaimo. It’s about a 25-minute flight from harbour to harbour aboard a helicopter with Helijet or on a seaplane from Harbour Air or Sunshine Coast Air. There are two ferry routes serving Nanaimo: Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay, a warm and fun community on the sunshine coast, or Duke Point (just south of Nanaimo) to Tsawwassen. Drive on or walk on for a gorgeous cruise across the Strait of Georgia, part of the Salish Sea.
Spend the day seeing the sights of Vancouver, then come back to Nanaimo to enjoy our leisurely pace and friendly people.
At just over 90 minutes to the south, Victoria is a great place to spend the day, exploring the famous gardens, checking out the Parliament building, or feeding the baby goats at the petting farm in Beacon Hill Park. The newly expanded Malahat route will get you there quickly and safely, or you can take the Pacific Marine Circle Route to drive amongst the trees and natural beauty of Vancouver Island, with stops in Lake Cowichan, Port Renfrew, and Sooke.
On your way back to Nanaimo, be sure to stop in Chemainus to see the murals, and if it’s near the holiday season, plan to stop and walk down First Street in Ladysmith to enjoy the impressive 200,000+ lights on display.
Port Alberni, a little over an hour northwest of Nanaimo, is a destination where the journey is a stunning part of the experience. Stop in Coombs to see the goats on the roof at the marketplace, go for a hike in Cathedral Grove, part of MacMillan Provincial Park, to find giant Douglas fir trees and ancient Western red cedars, or hunt for petroglyphs in Sproat Lake park – watch for K’ak’awin, one of the finest petroglyph panels in B.C.
Once in Port Alberni, you can walk along the Harbour Quay to enjoy the little shops and tasty treats, visit the Alberni Valley Museum for a hands-on look at life in the Alberni Valley, or grab a coffee and watch for black bears across the river from your comfy spot on Victoria Quay. And if you’re up for it, keep going west to find the communities of Ucluelet and Tofino.
No matter where your compass leads you, the best vacations start – and end – in Nanaimo.