Clam Digging in Nanoose Bay

Spring is approaching, why not go clam digging and have a beach fire in Nanoose Bay?


You’ve heard about it, and possibly have never done it. Why not make this the year you try clam digging? Clam digging is a fun and inexpensive way to have family fun, enjoy a day at the beach and as an added bonus… it is educational for both you and especially for your kids as they explore tidal pools and observe nature.

How much does it cost?

The only cost to you is an adult tidal licence ($22.05 if a Canadian resident for the whole year), kids under 16 are free! In Nanaimo, you can purchase your tidal license at Canadian Tire, Gone Fishin’ or Cabelas. You will also want to get a claw rake and a bucket.

Just outside the community of Nanoose Bay, BC, you will find a great location (map below). Once you have parked your car on the side of the highway and have safely made it out of your vehicle, you will hike down towards the train tracks and find a path down to the ocean. One side note….you may want to make sure the tide is either on its way out or has gone out already before you trek out there. Be sure to check the tide schedules here.

OK, I have a tidal license. Now what?

In this area you will notice a bunch of rocky areas, we have found these are the best areas to start digging. I have learned a few things.

1) Use a claw rake instead of a shovel…why? Well we have crushed quite a few clams using a shovel and that makes them unusable. Walk out as close to the waterline as you can, and look for patches of rocks. Once you have found a spot, start raking the rocks away. The clams are found usually underneath.

There are several varieties of clams but you are looking for Manila Clams (Google is your friend here). They are small, abundant and perfect for steaming.

2) Be informed about closures and contamination. This always freaks me out and is probably the main reason most families don’t go out and dig for shell fish. Just double check and honestly there is nothing to worry about. You can check for closures and contamination warnings here. Nanoose Bay is area 17.

3) Know what you can keep!

4) HAVE FUN! This is educational as well as fun, send the kids on a scavenger hunt for different creatures and shells. It is the beach after all…make a full day out of it.

For added fun:

Last time we went clamming, my husband and son built a fire pit, my son was so proud to show his mama the pit him and daddy had dug out and found each and every rock on the beach. There was a trench dug around the pit too! Always call ahead to the fire department in the area to find out if there are any  restrictions for beach fires. In this area, we called the Nanoose Bay Fire Department and we were informed that fires were allowed, but no larger than 0.5 metres in height and 0.5 metres in diameter. More info here.

Send the kids on a driftwood hunt for the perfect pieces to add to the fire.

My son loves eating the clams, so we placed a flat rock in the fire pit and once it heated up we moved the wood over and placed a few of the clams on the rocks. After a few minutes, the clams start to open up (which means they are ready). He slurps them back and always wants more.

Steamed Clams

If eating them right off the fire is a bit too adventurous for your taste buds, make sure you save a couple dozen to make a batch of delicious steamed clams! There are ton of great cream, white wine or tomato based recipes online. Give them a try!

When all is said and done, clam digging is a great way to get outside and spend some time with family and friends and create some fantastic memories.

Steamed clams