2 Days in Downtown Nanaimo

Two Days in Nanaimo | Tourism Nanaimo

Are you looking to escape the usual weekend routine without travelling too far from home? Nanaimo is a quick and convenient hop away from the lower mainland and the perfect location for a vehicle-free weekend mini-break.

Arriving directly to downtown Nanaimo is quick and easy via Seaplane or Hullo fast passenger ferry. Both Harbour Air and SeaAir seaplanes offer direct downtown-to-downtown routes multiple times per day and you land right in the heart of Nanaimo Harbour just a few steps away from hotels and amenities. Arrival by Hullo is just as simple with a complimentary shuttle ready to take you on the short journey into town.

Day One


Drop your overnight bags into your downtown hotel and then head to Nanaimo’s unique and historic Old City Quarter a few blocks inland. Enjoy exploring this eclectic and colourful collection of shops, eateries and services at your own pace and you’re bound to find something you can’t resist taking home. Don’t forget to pause for a rest and a treat at one of the stops on the famous Nanaimo Bar Trail Bocca Café, Waffle Magic and A Wee Cupcakery all have their own versions of the city’s namesake dessert to try!

Old City Quarter | Tourism Nanaimo


Stay in the OCQ for lunch at one of several diverse and delicious restaurants, or head back to Commercial Street where you can grab a taste of the island at Gabriel’s Café. Here locally produced ingredients are transformed into healthy, satisfying meals that include gluten-free and vegan options.


Two options for your afternoon depending on whether you’re experiencing typical ‘wet coast’ weather during your visit.

Option 1: Learn all about Nanaimo’s past with a visit to Nanaimo Museum. This neat place brings history to life with interactive and thought-provoking exhibits that take you back in time such as the replica coal mine and 1920s classroom. The history, culture and lives of the local Snuneymuxw First Nations people is also highlighted.

Follow this with a short walk to the Nanaimo Art Gallery where you can view permanent and feature exhibits from local and international artists that seek to inspire and engage.

Nanaimo Art Gallery | Tourism Nanaimo

Option 2: Spend the afternoon soaking up nature at Bowen Park, just a few minutes walk from downtown. Our mini-version of Stanley Park, Bowen Park has everything from a stunning waterfall to a Salmon sustaining river habitat to a colourful Rhododendron Forest. An outdoor pool, disc golf and tennis courts are all available depending on the season. As you stroll around look out for the ‘retired’ Snuneymuxw totem poles that have been laid down to return the earth.

Bowen Park | Tourism Nanaimo


After a busy afternoon, you’ll be hungry to try one of downtown Nanaimo’s delectable restaurants. For woodfired pizza and homemade pasta head to La Stella Trattoria, check out Melange for something unique, fun and different, or for a more casual vibe and menu grab a stool at the bar at Craft Fare.

Later, pick your choice of entertainment just steps away from your hotel. The Port Theatre offers a variety of musical and theatrical offerings – book ahead if there’s a specific show you wish to see. For late-night live music and dancing head to The Queen’s, or if singing is more your scene, join karaoke night at The Corner Lounge.

Port Theatre | Tourism Nanaimo

Day Two


Enjoy a breakfast of good coffee, organic baking and French-inspired treats at Mon Petit Choux café before strolling the waterfront seawall to Maffeo Sutton Park and Swy-a-Lana Lagoon.

From there, hop aboard the small passenger ferry to Saysutshun (Newcastle Island Provincial Park) where you can spend the rest of the day exploring this unique natural, cultural and historical setting.

Ferry to Saysutshun Island | Tourism Nanaimo

It’s easy to get around Saysutshun on foot, although bicycles are available to rent in the summer too. Explore the 22km of trails, multiple beaches and historical sites and learn why this island has been a special place for the Snuneymuxw people for generations.

Visit the concession stand for a cool drink, ice cream or bite to eat before continuing your visit with a cultural tour where you will hear stories and learn about the significance of the island to the Snuneymuxw people.

While wandering the island, keep your eyes open for the blonde albino Racoons that call Saysutshun home.

Bikers on Saysutshun Island | Tourism Nanaimo


Return to Nanaimo on the ferry and grab an early ‘fish n chips’ supper from Trollers Floating Restaurant before your departing flight/ferry back to downtown Vancouver. 

Look out for whales on the journey home!


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