Nanaimo Neighbourhoods

Explore North, Central, and South Nanaimo

What to see, do and find in Nanaimo’s diverse neighbourhoods

At over 90sqkm in size and with a population of over 100,000 people – and growing fast – Nanaimo is made up of several distinct areas, or neighbourhoods, which all have something unique to offer visitors.

While the exact boundaries and names of each neighbourhood may be debated (by locals mostly), we have created a quick guide to help you navigate your way around all the areas of Nanaimo.

To help make locating each neighbourhood a bit easier we’ve divided our list into three general areas: North, Central and South Nanaimo.

Heritage Building | Tourism Nanaimo

North Nanaimo Neighbourhoods

(Upper and Lower) – Village Vibes, Waterfront, Residential

Nanaimo’s northernmost neighbourhood, lower Lantzville is rimmed by easily accessible beaches which are popular for walking and exploring year-round.

Reasons to visit:

  • Rocky beaches ideal for walking, summer swims and a front-row view of the early-spring herring run.
  • Meet a cute collection of animals and shop for home and garden supplies at Superior Farms (upper Lantzville).
  • Nourish and refresh at Camas, Katerina’s Taverna and Lantzville Pub.

Shopping, Outdoor Exploration and Residential

North Nanaimo is a perfect blend of homes, stores and the great outdoors. 

Reasons to visit:

  • Woodgrove, Nanaimo’s biggest mall crowns this neighbourhood along with several big box stores. But there’s more to north Nanaimo than shopping. 
  • The area is edged by expansive sandy beaches, including dog off-leash Invermere Beach. Be prepared, access to some beaches, such as Blueback Beach, is via 100+ stairs.
  • Lush, green Linley Valley is a hikers and bikers paradise, with acres of trails to explore.
  • Re-nourish at Simon Holt, Horang or Longwood Brew Pub

Lake Life, Biking Trails and Services

Though this smaller residential neighbourhood offers plenty of life services, it shines thanks to its outdoor offerings.

Reasons to visit:

  • The pride of Pleasant Valley is undoubtedly Brannen Lake, which offers a small beach for safe swimming and a boat launch for powered and non-powered vessels.
  • Let off steam and pump those pedals on the popular and well-maintained Doumont mountain bike trails.
  • Refresh with a cool drink on the scenic deck at the Black Bear Pub.

Blending Residential and Rural 

Rural acreages and modern estates blend seamlessly into this neighbourhood at the foothills of Mount Benson.

Reasons to visit:

  • Climb to the top of Mount Benson for breathtaking views over the city and beyond.
  • A family-friendly hike takes you to Ammonite Falls. Newly built stairs and platforms make this natural wonder easily accessible.

Watersports, Malls and Community Living

An established community neighbourhood, the Uplands area is home to Nanaimo’s premier watersports lake.

Reasons to visit:

  • Swim, paddle, launch your boat and even fish at popular Long Lake, a gem in the middle of the city. 
  • A fun outdoor playground and drop-in fitness activities at the Oliver Woods recreation centre.
  • Spoiled for shopping choices. Both the Nanaimo North Town Centre and the Country Club Mall are located in this neighbourhood, with plenty of national chains and unique local stores on offer.

Sea Views and Vistas

The views from this part of Nanaimo are not to be missed. 

Reasons to visit:

  • Neck Point Park. Treed trails lead you through a fairy village to secluded coves and wide ocean vistas at this ever-popular nature park. Hunt for purple starfish at low tide and watch the horizon for passing Orca.
  • Piper’s Lagoon Park. Walk along the sweep of sandy beach, paddle in the tidal lagoon or clamber over rocks and roots. At low tide, you can even walk across to the little cabins on Shack Island.

CENTRAL Nanaimo Neighbourhoods

Classic Residences Surround a Bustling Bay

Named after the large sandy bay which welcomes BC Ferries passengers into the heart of Nanaimo, this neighbourhood is a blend of classic west-coast residences and year-round waterfront living.

Reasons to visit:

  • Departure Bay Beach. Perfect for a swim or paddle in the summer months, or enjoy a stroll along the elevated 800m walkway to view the Snuneymuxw First Nation totem pole portal.
  • Take the short climb to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain for awe-inspiring views across to Saysutshun, the ocean and the city. 
  • Grab a refreshing (or warming) drink and snack from Drip Coffee or Felice Café.

Fishing Haven Amongst Established Homes

Reasons to visit:

  • An accessible floating fishing dock makes catching the stocked trout at this small urban lake easy. Birdwatch while strolling the tree-lined trails that make you feel like you’re in the middle of the country.  

Classic Homes, Community Vibes, Busy Waterway

This neighbourhood overlooks the Newcastle Channel which teems with on-water life. From sailboats and yachts to kayaks and seaplanes. The water is never still for long.

Reasons to visit:

  • Put in your boat, or rented kayak, at the Brechin boat launch and explore the channel, circumnavigate Saysutshun or head further afield.
  • Cheers to a beautiful view at a waterfront pub – Millers Pub and Carlos O’Briens are both on the water’s edge.

Parks and Activities Rule in This Core Zone

The central Nanaimo neighbourhood covers a large area around both Bowen and Northfield Roads. 

Reasons to visit:

  • Beban Park. This large recreation complex includes an indoor pool, two ice rinks, and a busy social centre that hosts events and shows year-round. Outside find tennis courts, soccer pitches and an 18-hold pitch and putt course. 
  • Bowen Park. At the other end of Bowen Road is Nanaimo’s answer to Stanley Park. Stroll alongside the Millstone River Salmon habitat and watch as it cascades over an impressive waterfall. A seasonal outdoor pool, kids playground, social centre, grass bowls and disc golf course will keep you busy all day.
  • Fill up on a bowl of Pho’ at Huon Lang Vietnamese or enjoy a Gluten-Free meal at Off the Hook.

Students and Sports Teams Live and Play Here

Home to the Vancouver Island University campus and Nanaimo’s stadium district – this is the place to come to catch a game.

Reasons to visit:

  • Nanaimo Aquatic Centre. A 50m lap pool, leisure pool with waves, water slides, lazy river, hot tub and sauna the NAC is a family favourite. Cross the road to find 2 rinks with public skate times at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.
  • Watch a team: The stadium district hosts Nanaimo NightOwls baseball, Harbourside FC Soccer and many athletic meets.
  • Eats and drinks: Indulge in a homemade cinnamon bun at Bees Knees Café or enjoy Italian-Korean fusion at The Plate.

History, Entertainment and Lots of Character

Nanaimo’s downtown is a thriving, lively location where uniqueness and local influence are celebrated.

Reasons to visit:

  • Waterfront. Mingle with locals and visitors as you stroll through Maffeo Sutton Park and along the 5km waterfront walkway past luxury apartments and marinas. Hop on the ferry to explore nearby Saysutshun.
  • That’s entertainment! Live music, comedy, theatre, karaoke and dancing can all be found downtown.
  • Shop local. Find unique, local gifts and products in stores located along Commercial Street and a few blocks inland at the old City Quarter.

Lake Haven is a Favourite Among Locals

This established neighbourhood which blends urban and rural is home to Nanaimo’s jewel in the crown Westwood Lake.

Reasons to visit:

  • Walk or run the 6km circuit around this enchanting lake in the foothills of Mount Benson. The two beaches are very popular for summer swimming in the waters which only allows person-powered vessels. Dog off-leash and extensive running trails can be found behind the far side of the lake.
  • The East Wellington area of South Jinglepot is home to two wineries, Millstone and Chateau Wolff, offering fully homegrown options for tasting and sale.

South Nanaimo Neighbourhoods

Revitalized, Vibrant, Original 

South Nanaimo is where residential Nanaimo first grew. With a blend of original and modern homes, this eclectic neighbourhood has lots of green space and fun places to explore.

Reasons to visit:

  • The twin lakes and trails at Colliery Dam, originally built to supply water to the coal industry, are popular with dog walkers, anglers and swimmers. 
  • Harewood Centenary Park: This community park is always busy during the summer with young families and kids making the most of the splash park, accessible playground, skateboard park and beginners mountain bike area.
  • Petroglyph Park: Get a glimpse of images carved into the rock more than 1,000 years ago at this small provincial park. Bring paper and crayons to make your own castings from replica carvings.
  • Hungry? Wolff Brewing, Baby Salsa Mexican and SIP Neighbourhood Pub will all satisfy.

Where Residential and Rural Meet to Play

These rural communities in south Nanaimo have lots of open space to explore.

Reasons to visit:

  • Nanaimo River is where locals go to cool off on hot summer days. Several popular swimming holes offer gentle entry or jumping-in spots.  
  • Located about 1km along the Extension Ridge trail you can find what locals call ‘The Abyss’. How this 50cm wide fissure, or crack in the earth, was formed is debated, but it is a unique sight to see. Ensure small dogs and children are strictly supervised.
  • Looking for some high-adrenaline fun? Stop in at WildPlay Nanaimo where you can bungy jump over Nanaimo River, go on a zip wire adventure or traverse through the treetops.
  • Fill up at one of Nanaimo’s oldest restaurants. The Bold Knight specializes in Steak and Seafood.

Country Lifestyle, Village Feel

The small village-like community of Cedar and its more rural neighbour Yellowpoint offer pastoral scenery, popular markets and enjoyable walks that end at the ocean. 

Reasons to visit:

  • Fresh local produce and artisan goods can be found at the beloved Cedar Farmer’s Market which runs every Sunday from Mother’s Day to Halloween.
  • Drive through the rolling countryside and find some unique gifts, art and produce along the Yellowpoint artisan trail.
  • Stretch your legs at one of several parks and trails including Hemer Park and the Cable Bay Trail.
  • End your visit at one of two iconic eateries – Fine dining at Mahle House and English-style food and drinks at the Crow and Gate pub.

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