Welcome to Nanaimo

Vancouver Island’s second-largest city is a picturesque oceanfront town with spectacular panoramic mountain views and a busy harbour. Nanaimo (pronounced: Nah-nigh-mo) BC is centrally located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, 113 km north of Victoria, and 55 km across the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver. The Port of Nanaimo is the gateway to many other destinations both on the northern and southern part of the Island and is therefore known as the “Hub City.” From here, it’s just a short trip by boat, plane, or vehicle to some of the most beautiful spots on the West Coast.

Packing for your cruise stop here just got easier thanks to Nanaimo having one of the mildest year round climate regions in all of Canada. Summer begins in June and often extends into October with average daytime highs in the mid-20s Celsius (70s Fahrenheit) with lows of about 10C (50F).

Port Nanaimo is one of 18 Canadian Ports and demonstrates its commitment to the cruise industry by having built a $24 million, state of the art Welcome Centre. The centre was opened May 6, 2011 and has already welcomed guests from Royal Caribbean, Silver Seas, Crystal Lines, The World, Princess, Norwegian and Celebrity cruise lines as well as many smaller pocket cruisers. This permanent berth is the newest terminal in the Pacific Northwest and is built to accommodate the largest vessels on the West Coast of the Americas. Fast disembarkation, golf cart shuttles and complete handicap accessibility allow passengers the freedom to come and go quickly.

The city of 87,000 residents has a small town feel and locals encourage passengers to come ashore and experience “a little island time.” Ambassadors stationed in the Welcome Centre and at many shuttle stops along the way, love to share their secret hot spots such as: the Dinghy Dock Pub, where to find the best Nanaimo Bar, Newcastle Island Marine Park, the shops of Old Town, Horne Lake Caves, wine tasting locations, the Harbourfront walkway, the Arts district, and the never-to-be-missed daily cannon blast and bagpipes at the Bastion!

Need a way to find your way around by foot in Nanaimo once you’ve arrived? Check out our printable Cruise Shuttle Map 2017 or simply pick up a copy from our Tourism Nanaimo staff inside the terminal building on cruise ship day!

Visiting Nanaimo by Cruise Ship

Tourism Nanaimo looks forward to welcoming you once you arrive in Nanaimo via cruise ship. Our experienced staff will be waiting to chat with you and give you maps, directions & suggestions on different things to see and do while you are visiting our city. Stop by our information desk inside the cruise ship terminal building on your way through to your tours and say hello. If you are off the ship early enough, you can grab a free NANAIMO BAR (while quantities last) before you head off on your adventures! We can’t wait to show you how to #ExploreNanaimo. Don’t forget to get your photo taken with the giant postcard before you leave.

Regularly scheduled return shuttle buses are waiting to transport guests to the downtown Nanaimo area to explore the Art Gallery, the Museum which features First Nations culture or Cemetery Tours, the Nanaimo Bar Trail and the island’s largest shopping districts. Buskers and street musicians entertain in all central areas. Energetic guests can easily walk the 2 kms and connect to the picturesque Harbourview walkway that leads to the Bastion, Maffeo Sutton Park where ferries or kayaks take visitors to Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park, Protection Island and the Dinghy Dock Pub or Gabriola Island and the Petrogylphs. Bikes and scooters are available for those that want to explore further afield, but the most spectacular of all would be to take a float plane tour and truly soak in the majestic scenery from a higher point of view!

Port of Call General Information


  • Population: 86,000
  • Language: English
  • Currency: Can$
  • Other accepted currencies: US$
  • Automatic teller machines (ATMs) are available throughout downtown area
  • Money exchange is available at all banks
  • Telephones for international credit card calls are available at the tender pier
  • Tourist information is available at the Welcome Centre
  • Number of available taxis: 25; limo service also available
  • Taxis queue adjacent to the Welcome Centre
  • Motor coaches are staged adjacent to the Welcome Centre
  • Rental Cars available to reserve from Welcome Centre
  • WiFi available in the Welcome Centre and in coffee shops throughout downtown Nanaimo


  • Distance / duration between cruise berth and downtown: 1.2km (0.7mi / 10 min)
  • Shuttle service is free with interpretive guides on board
  • Departures of shuttle service: every 6 – 10min
  • Capacity of each shuttle bus: 52 passengers
  • Downtown shuttle service location: in front of the Welcome Centre


  • Literature available for passengers: Yes
  • Tourism counselling will be available in the Welcome Centre
  • Additional Information can be requested at


  • Shops are open: 7 days per week from 10am (1000) until 5:30pm (1730)
  • A First Nations arts and crafts shop is located in the downtown area
  • A local ‘crafters/farmers market’ will be set up on each cruise ship day, located at Pioneer Plaza on the waterfront

Info for Cruise Travel Agents

Cruisers love Agents that suggest “a little island time!”

Nanaimo first received cruise ships in 2005 but they had to anchor out and tender passengers to shore. Celebrity/RCCL, Princess and Norwegian were all visitors to the community.

Nanaimo loved cruisers so much that in May 2011 they built a $24 million, state of the art, Welcome Centre and floating cruise berth that will accommodate the largest passenger vessel currently plying the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Now that is commitment!

They say that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and Nanaimo’s greatest asset is her natural beauty! Nanaimo and Region has it all – from majestic mountains to the Pacific Ocean, guests will view historic architecture, hear cannon firings, taste fresh seafood and farm produce, and feel the pride of the local culture.

Nanaimo’s central island location allows cruisers to use the Port as a base camp and explore each of the surrounding regions within an hour of the downtown area: Cowichan Valley to the south and Qualicum Beach to the North.

Nanaimo truly is the “hub” city on the island and has close proximity to the cities of Vancouver, Seattle and Victoria. The cruise ship Welcome Centre, BC Ferries terminals, the Nanaimo Airport (YCD) and the Harbourfront waterway welcome millions of International visitors each year.

Within minutes of disembarking, cruise visitors can be drinking in the spectacular scenery of the area by exploring the downtown waterfront on foot, as it is a short 1 mile walk from the terminal. Regularly scheduled shuttle buses will also drop guests at stops throughout the different downtown districts. Rental cars offer the freedom to explore the surrounding regions at a leisurely pace OR pre-organized, guided shore excursions booked onboard the ship are readily available.

For those passengers with only a couple of hours, focusing on the treasures of the downtown area will be key. May we suggest: The Harbourside Walkway & parks; Old City Quarter shopping district in search of the infamous “Nanaimo Bar”; The Nanaimo Art Gallery & Museums; The Bastion and the delightful ferry or kayak ride to Protection Island to sample local brews and island fresh tasty morsels?

The cruisers that have up to 5 hours will be delighted with the abundance of fun and awesome scenery within a one hour radius of the city. For the more adventurous: tree walking at Wild Play Element Park; mingling with locals on the Cedar Yellow Point Artisan Trail; discovering the historical Murals of Chemainus; awesome Float Plane Tours; spelunking at Horne Lake Caves; or watching the goats on the roof and sampling the island’s best ice cream at Coombs market. Shore excursions through professional tour operators are also available including vineyard tours, steam trains in Port Alberni, and Cowichan Valley culinary tours.

Whether visitors have 2 hours or a full day, are adventurous or history and cultural buffs, Nanaimo and Region is the perfect gateway to an island with Infinite Possibilities.

In an effort to assist travel agents in making the best recommendations and creating customized itineraries for each guest, we have put together these quick reference Travel Tips.

  1. Vancouver Island is the largest North American island in the Pacific Ocean, stretching approximately 500km northwest to southeast, and 200 km east to west, with 3440 km of spectacular coastline. The island is home to more than 750,000 residents, and covers 32,261 sq. kms, making it about the same size as Holland.
  2. Nanaimo, BC has a population of 87,000, is situated on the 49th parallel: 49 10′ 178″Lat.N./123 55’84” Long. W. in the PST time zone.
  3. Nanaimo is centrally located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, just 34 nautical miles across the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver, 85 nm north of Victoria, and 170 nm north of Seattle, Washington, acting as the gateway to the Island.
  4. BC Ferry terminals in Departure Bay and Duke Point link Nanaimo directly to the Vancouver metro area and welcome over 1 million passengers per year. Smaller ferries offer service to and from several smaller islands.
  5. For quick and easy international connections from anywhere in the world, Nanaimo Airport (YCD) is located just 18 kilometers south of downtown Nanaimo. This busy modern airport offers multiple daily flights between Nanaimo, Vancouver and Seattle. Westjet Encore provides direct flights between Nanaimo and Calgary.
  6. Airport shuttles and taxis connect the city with the airport. National and Budget rental car kiosks are conveniently located at YCD. US driver’s licenses are honored.
  7. Regularly scheduled float plane flights to downtown Vancouver and Vancouver International Airport South Terminal are available through Harbour Air Seaplanes and Sunshine Coast Air. Flight time is approximately 20 minutes. Charter services and flights to Vancouver International Airport South Terminal is also available through Seair Seaplanes.
  8. Nanaimo has one of the mildest year round climate regions in all of Canada with summer and cruise season beginning as early as May and extending into October. Average daytime highs in the mid-20s Celsius with lows of about 10. T-shirt and shorts with a sweater and lightweight water resistant jacket will be sufficient for almost any cruise day here.
  9. Nanaimo is one of very few ports where local Ambassadors warmly welcome each and every cruise ship passenger in the Welcome Centre. These Ambassadors are also stationed at many shuttle stops along the way.
  10. Golf carts are available to transport passengers with limited mobility from the ship to the Welcome Centre.
  11. Regularly scheduled return shuttle buses are available at the Welcome Centre, as are tour buses and taxis.
  12. The picturesque Harbourfront is an easy 2 km stroll from the terminal and passengers can catch a shuttle back to the ship from several points downtown.
  13. Our event calender details many opportunities for cruisers to mingle with the locals.

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What’s Your Travel Type?

Have you ever wondered what type of traveller you are? Whether you’re more of a history buff, or perhaps a thrill-seeker? Destination Canada created this quiz to help you better understand exactly what type of traveller you are. If you’d like to see an itinerary that matches your traveller type, check out our custom itineraries.

Free Spirit

Free Spirits are most likely to be seen at a tourism hot spot, participating in a group tour, or dining out at a top restaurant.

Cultural Explorer

Cultural Explorers are most likely to be seen exploring heritage sites and museums. CE's also love to interact with locals.

Authentic Experiencer

Authentic Experiencers are most likely to be seen in nature reserves, hiking and enjoying the great outdoors, at a heritage site or a museum.