If these city walls and streets could talk, they would tell of the Indigenous villages 3,000 years ago, busy shipyards and a herring saltery. They would recall the discovery of coal and how it forever changed the city, bringing migrant workers from afar.
Evidence of Nanaimo’s history can be found throughout the city. These 6 great spots offer the chance to see and feel the past:
1. Saysutshun/Newcastle Island
From the harbour, kayak or ferry to this island and traditional Indigenous territory to see Snuneymuxw First Nation village sites, sandstone quarries, herring salteries and coal mine sites. A passenger ferry runs from late spring to early fall.
2. Departure Bay Indigenous Totem Portal
Carved from a 40-foot section of a western red cedar tree from Vancouver Island, this striking portal near the beach marks the site of the winter village and burial ground where the Snuneymuxw First Nation lived until the mid-1800s.
3. Restored Morden Coal Mine Tipple
See the most complete above-ground remains of a historic coal mine on Vancouver Island. Restored this spring, Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park’s 22.5-metre (74-foot) headframe and tipple once loaded coal into railroad cars.
4. Nanaimo Museum
Walk through a replica coal mine, learn about the local forestry industry, and see what daily life was like in a traditional Indigenous longhouse. The gift shop sells beautiful Coastal Indigenous-designed jewellery and art. For clothing made by local Indigenous artists, head to Island-ish or a BC Ferries gift shop.
5. The Bastion
Commissioned by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1853 as a defensive structure, The Bastion on the downtown waterfront has also served as a temporary jail and is now a museum, which is open seasonally.
6. Petroglyph Provincial Park
A short walk through the forest in south Nanaimo leads to a high concentration of Indigenous rock carvings of wolf-like creatures, fish and human figures that are more than 1,000 years old. Interpretive panels explain the carvings, the locations for which were typically places of power or mystery.