Past & Present - Tourism Nanaimo

Past & Present

A 2-day tour featuring museums, architecture and killer sunsets.


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Day 1


Tucked into the ground level of Hall Block 1925 is Gabriel’s Gourmet Cafe. Dr. Hall was a physician to miners, and served as Nanaimo’s mayor in 1930.The Edwardian classical building has maintained its character over the years, and harks back to Nanaimo’s coal mining history. Grab a menu inside its doors and enjoy a farm-to-table breakfast.


Explore Nanaimo’s history with a trip to our two Downtown Museums:

Nanaimo Museum – Learn about the history of Nanaimo, including the culture and history of the Snuneymuxw First Nations, on whose traditional territories we live and work. You will also learn about Nanaimo’s history as a Coal Mining town.

Vancouver Island Military Museum – Browse through the more than 25 exhibits and displays showcasing Canada’s proud Military History and Traditions. For more than a quarter century, the museum has assembled a truly impressive collection of military memorabilia and artifacts from the War of 1812 right through to Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan.


Option A: Enjoy lunch and a look into history when you eat at the Oxy Pub in Nanaimo. The Occidental Hotel, now home to the Oxy Pub, was built in 1886 and is reflective of a popular style of architecture from that day, and the work of architect John Teague. The Hotel speaks to prosperous times in the 1880s, with the completion of the Railway and Coal Mine. Today, you can enjoy a pint and your favourite pub food.

Option B: Nanaimo’s Modern Cafe offers a glimpse into architecture of the past. Built in 1910 in the Classical Period Revival style, the building now features a neon sign erected in the 1940s. This rare artifact shows what typical signage downtown in the 1940s would have looked like.


Spend the afternoon strolling the shops of the Old City Quarter. Beautifully restored heritage buildings now house upscale boutiques – clothing, food, gifts, chocolates and more – and restaurants.

Stop for a Nanaimo Bar, our iconic dessert, at Bocca Cafe.


Take the ferry over to a floating pub! Dinghy Dock Pub is located on Protection Island, a short ferry ride away.


Enjoy live music at The Queen’s, as well as a glass of your favourite beverage.

Day 2


Start your day right by stopping in at one of our island coffee shops.

Serious Coffee – With three locations in Nanaimo, the island’s own Serious Coffee has a delicious pastry and coffee ready for you.

The Buzz Coffee House – Located centrally in Nanaimo, The Buzz Coffee House has a great selection of food and beverage.

The Bee’s Knees Community Cafe – This community cafe is located downtown Nanaimo and offers wholesome food and drink.

Regard Coffee Roasters – Enjoy home-roasted coffee at this delicious stop.


Take a Heritage Walking Tour with Tracks Outdoor Adventure. This two-hour interpretive tour of the downtown core takes you to all of the important landmarks in Nanaimo’s History. Before lunch, stop at the Bastion and witness the cannon firing at noon (May long weekend to Labour Day).


Head south and stop just outside of Nanaimo at the Crow and Gate Pub. Step into old world England when you sit down to dine in this cozy pub, built in the 1970s. You will enjoy traditional pub fare in Cedar.


Take a walk in Colliery Dam, a large park in Nanaimo that is also a popular swimming hole. This is a perfect hiking spot, and offers a glimpse into the industrial history of Nanaimo. The Dams were built in 1910 to supply water for coal washing.


Tackle the Mountain Burger, or something far more modest, at Mrs. Riches. This popular Nanaimo restaurant was featured on the television show, You Gotta Eat Here and is certainly in the running for best burgers on Vancouver Island.


Head out on the water at Brechin Boat Ramp for a sunset kayak; your vessels are waiting for you at Alberni Outpost’s Adventure Centre located right at the Boat Ramp.

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