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Photo by: Sam Vandervalk
Photo by: Sam Vandervalk

Nanaimo

Nanaimo City sits in the heart of Vancouver Island and is the headquarters of Regional District of Nanaimo. It goes by the name of The Habour City, but Old Nanaimo’s bathtub racing tradition gave it the title of “Bathtub Racing Capital of the World”. Shopping centers in the main terminal have made Nanaimo a favorite destination of people from Vancouver and nearby places.

Fast Facts


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Nanaimo has a population of 83,110 citizens.


Nanaimo geographical location is 55 km west of Vancouver and 110 km northwest of Victoria. It is separated by the Strait of Georgia, and is connected to Vancouver by the Horseshoe Bay Ferries in West Vancouver. Being the site of the main ferry terminal, Nanaimo also serves as the gateway to many destinations for many locations on the island— Comox Valley, Tofino, Campbell River, Parksville, Port Alberni, Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park and off its coast, Protection Island, Gabriola Island, Valdes Island, Newcastle Island and many other of the Gulf Islands.

Nanaimo experiences a moderate climate, having cool, dry summers and mild rainy winters.

Nanaimo experiences unusually dry summers for its location. This is because the mounts of Central Vancouver Island shield Nanaimo from Aleutian Low’s influence.

Transportation


Three airports serves Nanaimo. Nanaimo/Long Lake Water Airport, Nanaimo Harbor Water Airport with services to Vancouver Harbor and Airport, and Nanaimo Airport (YCD) with services to Vancouver (YVR).


Nanaimo is served by three BC ferry terminals. They are located at Duke Point, Departure Bay, and downtown. Departure Bay and Duke Point service Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen, while the downtown terminal services Gabriola Island.


The main highways that traverse the city are 1, 19 and 19A. Bus service is provided by Nanaimo Regional Transit.

Local Attractions

A history tour is provided at Nanaimo District Museum, as there are many exhibits that cover the history of the region. There are two galleries: the upper gallery features the socio-economical timeline of Nanaimo’s history. The lower gallery features Nanaimo’s history of coal-mining and the Snuneymuxw First Nation. Outside the museum is a railway engine and an authentic miner’s cottage.

Port Theatre, located in the heart of downtown, is the flagship of Nanaimo’s culture scene and arts. The Port Theatre have 804 seats. It opened in 1998 and it hosts national, international, and local talent.

Founded in 1892, the oldest continuous community band in Canada is The Nanaimo Concert Band. They keep a regular schedule of concerns, and features the best musicians in the area. 

Nanaimo is home to the first bridge build exclusively for bungee jumping. Wild Play Element Park is a great place for adrenaline seekers. There is a 140 foot bridge above the Nanaimo River where you can jump from.

The Nanaimo Centre stage is the place to perform for smaller, local theatre companies. Western Edge Theatre, Schmooze Productions, In Other Words Theatre are just some small theatre companies that perform at Nanaimo Centre Stage.

Five highly successful Summertime Blues! Festivals have been organized and presented by Nanaimo Blues Society. The festivals have been held in downtown Nanaimo and it featured national, local, provincial, and internationally famous Blues Musicians.

The Nanaimo Art Gallery can be found in two locations. It showcases works by plenty of artists, all year round.

The student body of Vancouver Island University is the backbone of the underground music scene in Nanaimo.

The Nanaimo Conservatory of Music is a charitable, non-profit organization that offers lessons in classical music and produces concerts since 1977.

The jazz composer and author, Andrew Homzy, along with the classical trumpeter Paul Rathke, are two of the most prominent musicians in Nanaimo.

Economy & Real Estate

The main economic driver in Nanaimo was coal mining. However, this was changed in 1960 when the forestry industry overtook it with the building of MacMilan Bloedel pulp mill in 1958, which was named after Harvey MacMillan. The pulp mill is owned by local investors and employees, and it injects over half a million dollars a day into the local economy.

The provincial government is the largest employer in Nanaimo. Other big contributors to the local community are the service, retail, and tourism industries.

Technological development on Nanaimo have experienced a growth spurt with the rise of companies like “Inuktun” and the establishment of Innovation Island, a government-funded site established to help Nanaimo-based technological startups by offering them access to tools, venture capital, and education.

In 2011, the average sale price of houses were $350,000.

History & Early Settlement

The Snuneymuxw were the native people of the area that now is called Nanaimo.
Nanaimo Bay was first discovered by the Europeans in the 1791 Spanish voyage conducted by Juan Carrasco, under the command of Francisco de Eliza.  They named it Bocas de Winthuysen.
The 19th century marks the beginning of Nanaimo as a trading post. The Snuneymuxw chief, Ki-et-sa-kun, in 1849, informed the Hudson’s Bay Company of the existence of coal in the area. Further exploration proved that there was plenty of coal, and thus Nanaime became chiefly known for the export of coal. The company built a Nanaimo Bastion, which has been preserved and serves as a popular tourist destination.
Robert Dunsmuir of Hudson Bay Company was a pioneer who helped establish coalmines in Nanaimo. He later became one of its first independent miners.
The double-edged qualities of coal that made it valuable, also made it quite dangerous. Nanaimo Mine Explosion, in 1887, killed 150 miners and was described as the largest man-made explosion. In the following year, another 100 men died in another explosion.
In 1940 lumber replaced coal as the main business. However, even today, Minetown Days are still celebrated in the neighboring community of