You may have heard of Nanaimo because of those delicious Nanaimo bars that are sold all across Canada, and yes, it was named after the city on Vancouver Island! But there’s more to Nanaimo than Canada’s favourite dessert! Did you know that this is the ‘Bathtub Racing Capital of the World’? No, seriously!
Bathtub racing was invented here in Nanaimo in 1967 with a race between Nanaimo and Vancouver as a way of promoting this quirky little city to the rest of the world. The idea took off and now there’s a bathtub race here on the last weekend of July every year, and it’s quite a spectacle if you’re visiting Vancouver Island at this time!
Nanaimo is also well known as a harbour city – there are actually three terminals here, two of which service the BC Ferries coming over from the mainland. Departure Bay deals with services from Horseshoe Bay, while Duke Point deals with services from Tsawwassen. The third terminal is downtown and from here you can get ferries over to the nearby Gabriola Island.
While thousands of tourists arrive from the mainland in Nanaimo, many of them don’t stay and instead make their way to other destinations around Vancouver Island. Admittedly you probably wouldn’t want to spend your whole vacation in Nanaimo, but it is worth booking into a hotel for a night or two and seeing what the city has to offer. The downtown area is nice after all, and you can walk along the Waterfront. There are a couple of places to stop for a bite to eat or a drink, and some nice souvenir and craft stores to visit too, while enjoying the views out across the water.
Other attractions include the Nanaimo Museum, which is a very educational visit if you’re interested in some of the early history and culture of Vancouver Island. The museum is set within Piper’s Park which also includes a historic miner’s cottage and a restored 1890s locomotive.
Talking of history, The Bastion is a well known landmark in Nanaimo and difficult to miss being that it’s situated right on the waterfront. It’s an important piece of Canadian history as it remains the oldest free-standing Hudson’s Bay Company fort in North America. The Bastion is operated by the Nanaimo Museum and is sometimes open for tours.
Photos and article copyright Claire Bolgil. Claire is a freelance travel writer based in Beautiful BC. Find out more about her at www.clairebolgil.com