DAY 1 – Sip, Savour and Explore
Start your first day downtown with a coffee and legendary Nanaimo Bar at the quaint Perkins Coffee, one of the official stops on the Nanaimo Bar Trail. Browse the boutiques on Commercial Street then walk past the historic Bastion to the waterfront. Stroll along the wharf docks and waterfront walkway to watch seaplanes landing and local fishing boats departing against a stunning Coast Mountain Range backdrop. Spend the rest of your morning at the Nanaimo Museum where you can walk through a replica coal mine or see what daily life was like in a traditional Snuneymuxw First Nation longhouse. Go for lunch across the street at Gabriel’s Cafe, a local farm-to-fork favourite. Then head to Neck Point Park for an easy coastal and forest loop trail. Watch for sea lions offshore and bald eagles roosting in trees along the shore. Go out for a romantic wine tasting dinner downtown at Melange with an advance booking. If you’re up for live music, walk to The Queen’s nightclub for dancing or enjoy the laid-back hipster vibe at The Vault Cafe.
DAY 2 – Get Outside
Wake up and go for a morning hike on the forest trail to Ammonite Falls, a cascading waterfall that gushes in winter and spring. Next, head to the nearby Piccadilly Bistro for a picture-perfect lunch spot on Westwood Lake. Spend your afternoon together making memories outside. The treetops adventure course and river canyon ziplines at WildPlay reveal Nanaimo’s breathtaking beauty. Prefer to keep your feet on the ground? Opt for the lively Cedar Farmer’s Market, open on Sundays from Mother’s Day weekend through October. For dinner, treat yourself to exquisitely plated seafood at The View Oceanside Grill downtown. Then catch a show at the Port Theatre. Performances this spring include the Nanaimo Concert Band, Vancouver Island Symphony, the Louisiana Hayride, and a Queen tribute band. Finish your evening with a flight of local craft beer samples at White Sails Brewing, a popular stop on the BC Ale Trail.
DAY 3 – Hop over to Gabriola Island
Today’s adventure whisks you away to one of the Gulf Islands – Gabriola Island, a quick 20-minute ferry from downtown Nanaimo. Your first stop is for a photo op at Malaspina Galleries. This dramatic sandstone rock formation at the water’s edge looks like a frozen wave. Next, do lunch like a local with a sandwich or wrap at Mad Rona’s Coffee Bar. In the afternoon, drive to the island’s south end to take in the ocean views at Drumbeg Provincial Park where, on a clear day, you can see Washington’s Mt. Baker. Then meet the locals when you take a tour with hard cider tastings at Ravenskill Orchards or learn to Make Cheese With Paula. No visit to the island is complete without a visit with an artist at one of the island’s many artist studios. At some point you’ll also likely cross paths with wild turkeys in the road. Before catching the ferry back to Nanaimo, go for dinner at Woodfire Restaurant and try the gourmet wood-fired pizza made by a French chef.