A Foodie’s Guide to Nanaimo
An adventurous foodie shares her love for Nanaimo's dining & drink establishments
I’m always thinking about my next meal. When travelling, I most look forward to seeing what locals eat, learning about the eateries and experiencing them for myself. I’m delighted to be able to do the same in my own backyard. Nanaimo’s local cuisine is rich with farm to table, in both food and drink. In between sipping and savouring, there’s a wealth of natural beauty that sets the stage for unique adventures.
Breakfast: If I’m to fuel an entire day of adventures, I tuck into breakfast at Mon Petit Choux. Occasionally I’ll branch out, but I’m a stickler for tried and true. My go-to default is the Canadian Bacon & Eggs, with a housemade baguette and preserves.
Morning: Sundown Diving takes eager travellers out to Snake Island to dip into the cold waters and explore what lies beneath. I zip into a wetsuit, don a mask, and strap on some flippers. With a plunge into the ocean waters and a short swim, I’m welcomed by the many creatures who call the Salish Sea home. With an immense respect for the wild nature of these residents, I keep my distance and observe their grace below the surface.
Lunch: After spending the morning in the water, I’m ready to whet my appetite and celebrate a successful swim. Right in the heart of downtown Nanaimo is White Sails Brewing. This brewery has an ample tasting room and a menu of snacks from local food vendors. I can tick the box on both food and drink from some of my favourite spots. Today I opt for the Snake Island CDA, a nod to my morning adventures and this rich, dark ale complements the Little Qualicum Cheese brie wheel and Mambo’s pizza I’ve ordered.
Afternoon: Eager to stretch my legs, I head back towards Commercial Street. I make my way through the shops, stopping in to browse vintage finds, eclectic home décor, and local art. I always leave time to cross the bridge to the Old City Quarter, home to some of my favourite clothing stores, as well as the renowned McLean’s Specialty Foods.
Dinner: It’s in the Old City Quarter that I stay for a lighter dinner. Bistro Taiyo has some of the best sushi I’ve had on the island, and on colder days their sesame soup really hits the spot!
Breakfast: For day two, I start with the breakfast hash at Gabriel’s Gourmet Cafe. It changes daily, and my favourite variations include pulled pork and the season’s veggies. If the hash isn’t calling your name, give the pulled pork pancakes a try.
Morning: Just a short jaunt from the downtown core is the ferry from Maffeo Sutton Park to Newcastle Island. Saysutshun, as it’s called by the Snuneymuxw First Nation, is rich with traditional stories and culture. Here I can both learn about Nanaimo’s past and hike the trails that so many have travelled. I opt to join a walking tour, where the Snuneymuxw people share their knowledge and stories.
Afternoon: I ferry back to Nanaimo, and head over to the pick-up spot for my food tour with Vancouver Island Expeditions. I’m looking forward to an afternoon of noshing and tasting! This local company’s A Taste of Nanaimo tour covers local craft beer, wineries, and food producers.
After filling myself to the brim with flights and samples, I’m ready to take it easy. I stroll through Maffeo Sutton Park, watching the crab trappers on the pier. It’s a great spot to just hang out, watch the float planes come and go, and take in the sights.
Dinner: I’ve managed to make room yet again for another bite, and I’m thrilled to have reservations at La Stella Trattoria. This quiet spot is home to thrilling authentic Italian food, my favourites being the house bread and the Calabrese pizza. It’s always a tough choice between the beet salad, the arancini and the meatballs to start, so from time to time, it ends up being all three (we suggest you bring friends to help you out!).