Guest Blogger: Chris Istace

When one thinks of Nanaimo, what often comes to mind is that big city that you drive by to get to Tofino or that place you go to catch the ferry if you want to visit Vancouver.

If this is what you think of then you are really missing out on a city that boasts a diversity of things to see and do that rivals any other location in Canada.


Credit: Chris Istace

I had the pleasure recently of participating in a one-day itinerary that I invited some friends along to join in on. We were satisfied in sights and sounds as well as some amazing meals that completed the whole experience. The day will be a vivid memory for some time to come for me and I would like to share with you my idea of a perfect #ExploreNanaimo kind of day.

Sunrise at Pipers Lagoon

Credit: Chris Istace

The beauty of a coastal sunrise is hard to match and is cherished by locals anyone visiting Vancouver Island should do their best to experience one. In Nanaimo a frequented city park would be Pipers Lagoon , a headland jutting out into the ocean providing many seaside lookouts. For a vivid morning on your trip look up the next day’s sunrise time and plan to be at the park 30 minutes prior to get to the viewpoint and setup for your shot if you plan to take some photos. I recommend walking to the very end of the beach trail and then walking as far east to the rock outcropping where the sun will come up directly in the center of your view.

Breakfast at Gabriel’s Gourmet Café

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Credit: @viranlly via Instagram

With it’s easy to access location in the heart of downtown Nanaimo on Commercial street, Gabriel’s provides a wonderful spot to fuel up for your day ahead.  This local favorite prides itself on providing fresh local ingredients supporting the local farmers and market community, they have labeled themselves a “Farm to Table Restaurant” . The meals are tasty and very filling portions all served in a nice relaxing atmosphere sure to satisfy. My personal recommendation is to watch for the ever changing weekend eggs benny special .

Sunshine Coast Air Flightseeing Tour

Credit: Chris Istace

On foot or by car you really cant visualize the rugged and beautiful coastline that makes up Vancouver Island. With Nanaimo showcasing some of the best locations the best way to do it is see for yourself with a Sunshine Coast Air floatplane tour right out of the downtown harbor. You will see the size of Gabriola, Newcastle and Protection Islands. You’ll look down to see the national heritage site Entrance Island Lighthouse , a picturesque establishment of white building with red roofs and the lighthouse itself built in 1876 all on its own tiny island. Watch the busy boating traffic from sailboats to the massive BC Ferries make their way through the harbors and if you’re lucky might even see some whale traffic from the local orca population.

Lunch at Modern Café

Credit: Sean Fenzl

The atmosphere you experience in this restaurant rivals it’s terrific menu for its notoriety. A wonderful heritage building is home to Modern Café in an updated décor for one of the cities oldest restaurants established in 1946. The restaurant is also conveniently located in the downtown core on Commercial street. The menu is terrific but my recommended after meal treat is their signature Nanaimo Bar martini, which is also stop #20 on the Nanaimo Bar Trail!

Catamaran Tour around Nanaimo Harbour

Credit: Chris Istace

A wonderful way to tour around the waterways that make up the shoreline of the Nanaimo harbour and surrounding islands. Relax and sit back to let Captain Hans guide you on the beautiful Shadowfax Catamaran with great stories and insight into the waterways you will be exploring. Unique and beautiful views of Protection and Newcastle Islands as well as the opportunity to look back into the city skyline from the water.

Supper at Longwood Brewery

Credit: Sean Helmn

One thing that Vancouver Island is becoming well known for is the growing micro-brew industry and terrific selection of local craft beer. A great choice for your trip to Nanaimo would be a stop at the Longwood Brew Pub . A fun atmosphere, great menu selection (I loved the Fish Tacos) compliment the wide variety of beer made right on location . They too have a stop along the Nanaimo Bar Trail (#16), where you can indulge in the Nanaimo Bar Cheesecake to top off your meal.

Sunset at Pipers Lagoon

Credit: Chris Istace

Much like sunrise, the location of Pipers Lagoon makes it the premier choice to capture a spectacular sunset. As recommended for sunrise try to get to the parking lot early to search for that perfect photo opportunity spot. I would suggest walking all the way to the end of the beach trail and head NW to the end of the island point capturing the Shack Island shacks with the sun beaming from behind them.

As you can see your day will be full of diversity from hiking to flying and then sailing. How many people can say they had a fun filled day like that? This is exactly the opportunity to be found in Nanaimo & Region.


Credit: Chris Istace

So next time you are looking to book a trip to visit Vancouver Island from wherever you call home or are just a local VanIsle resident looking for a fun day trip, be sure to consider #ExploreNanaimo among your options.



‘Til next time,


Instagram: @stasher_BC

Twitter: @stasher_SK




Chris Istace is an Adventurer, Photographer & Explorer living on Vancouver Island striving to inspire others to live mindfully in a wild world and to explore beyond the usual.