Nanaimo Harbour

Why I love living in Nanaimo and why you should too.


When I moved to Nanaimo nearly 10 years ago I really didn’t know what to expect. I had visited “the island” only twice before for short vacations, and while Nanaimo is a wonderful tourist destination; living as a local is completely different.  I am now 100% an Islander and cannot imagine living anywhere else. Below are my top reasons why I love living in Nanaimo and if you are considering moving to here or any of the other great area’s on Vancouver Island, here is why you should.

Outdoor Opportunities Galore!

Whether you like to hike, bike, swim or boat, paddle, fish, go clam digging, camp, enjoy a beach fire or even want to try bungy jumping;  The Nanaimo area has got you covered.  Love to golf? You can do it year round at one of the many world class or local golf courses and driving ranges. The great thing about Nanaimo in particular is often you don’t even have to leave your neighbourhood to get out for an afternoon of mountain biking or throwing your line in one of the local lakes to catch “the morning bite”.

Parks and children’s playgrounds are abundant.

There are a number of great parks from Altrusa Park (Beban Park) and Oliver Woods in central Nanaimo, to Swy-A-Lana Lagoon playground downtown. There are small parks in almost every Nanaimo family neighbourhood. There are 3 neighbourhood spray parks that are open in the summer months for all ages (yep I have even partook on hot days). The City of Nanaimo also offers free summer family fun at a number of parks throughout the city.

On and off-leash dog parks for your furry family members.

Nanaimo offers 12 off-leash dog parks for our furry family members:

See map

  • Beban Park (entrance off Labieux Rd)
  • Cable Bay Trail (ROW Nicola Rd)
  • Colliery Dam Park (upper dam trail only)
  • Westwood Lake (area at the back of the park by the power lines)
  • Beaufort Park (grassy portion accessed off of Chelsea Rd)
  • Diver Lake Park (off-leash between October 1 and April 30)
  • St. George Ravine Park
  • Invermere Beach Park (check tide information to ensure tide is out far enough)
  • May Richards Bennett Pioneer Park (forested land adjacent to park)
  • Gallow’s Park (Protection Island)
  • Northfield Park (Parkway Highway rest stop behind visitor info kiosk)
Nicole and Bentley

Ocean, Lakes and Rivers

Fresh sea air and wonderful family days are at your fingertips at any one of Nanaimo’s local beaches. Pipers Lagoon and Sunset Beach at Neck Point are a must see, as well as Departure Bay Beach and Swy-A-Lana lagoon and many   beach accesses in North Nanaimo.

Nanaimo River Swimming

Westwood Lake, Brannen Lake and Long Lake offer great opportunities for freshwater swimming and are also good for boating, fishing, canoeing, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding.

Lakes and Salt water aren’t for everyone, so be sure to check out Nanaimo River. The river offers many great well known and hidden crystal clear swimming holes and beaches and many spots along the river are safe for families young and old.

The Weather

Early Spring to late fall on Vancouver Island is as close to heaven as you can imagine. The average summer time temperature is a comfortable high of 29 degrees and a winter time low of 3 degrees.

For those of you thinking “But what about the rain?” Now there is a rumour, well no, it’s not a rumor… it does rain here… a lot. On average most of it is when most places are getting snow, in November, December and January with a high of 138mm to a low of 0 for most of the summer.

Spring time in Nanaimo. Neck Point Park in North Nanaimo

“What about the snow?” It does snow maybe a couple times during the winter but doesn’t usually stick around too long in the low lying areas. But not to worry if skiing, snowboarding or tubing is something you just can’t do without,. Mt. Washington ski resort is just over an hour a way from Nanaimo. You can be up on the slopes before you know it.

Nanaimo Indoor Recreation

There are 2 swimming pools in Nanaimo, Beban Park Pool and The Nanaimo Aquatic Centre, where there are indoor slides and even a wave pool. There are also 2 ice skating rinks Frank Crane Arena and the Nanaimo Ice Centre,  that serve seasonal sports as well, like hockey, roller derby and lacrosse. There are also a number of recreational facilities that offer indoor activities and sports for all ages.

The Culture

You would never know there are over 90,000 people living in Nanaimo as it is very spread out from South to North.Traffic is rarely an issue and the road system is generally well planned with several alternate routes around the city. There are a wide range of age groups, cultural and ethnic groups making Nanaimo very diverse in culture as well as many service groups, clubs and activities that help you get acquainted to Island Life.

There are several outdoor activity groups like BMX groups, hiking groups, running groups, off-roading groups, as well as clubs for rowing, kayaking, Dragon Boating, and crafting. Whatever you are into there seems to be a group to try it out.

Nanaimo has a feeling of community, even for its size. Neighbourhoods block watch is active in a lot of areas and makes us feel safe where we live.

Proximity to Vancouver

One of the great things about living in Nanaimo is it’s proximity to Vancover. It’s closer than you think. On a clear night you can see the lights on Cypress Mountain Resort and  the lights of of the city across the water. Getting there is no problem. BC Ferries offers daily trips from Nanaimo to Vancouver. There are a number of sea planes like Harbour Air, Seair, Kenmore Air and Helijet.and there is a foot passenger ferry in the works at the moment to launch summer 2018, which would provide service from Nanaimo to Vancouver.

BC Ferries view from the deck

A couple years ago we wanted to take our family to the P.N.E. in Vancouver. We didn’t want to take the car over on the ferry, so we decided to catch the bus at the stop at the end of our road to the Departure Bay ferry terminal and we walked on. After the 1 hour and 40 minute boat ride, we were in Horseshoe Bay. We caught the bus just outside the terminal and after a short bus ride, we were right at the front gate of the fair grounds. We arrived 30 minutes before the gates opened on opening day… Now that’s convenience! Many islanders make the same trip every week to catch a hockey game, concert or to have a weekend getaway with friends.

Final Thoughts

Moving our family to Vancouver Island and in particular to Nanaimo has proven to be a great choice. It is a fantastic place to raise a family, retire or live the solo life. One of the many things about I find most appealing about living where we do is that most neighbourhoods still have a feeling of a community and watch out for each other. We can walk down the street and be greeted by a smiling faces or walk the harbour front and almost always expect to receive a good morning hello.

Our family has made some life-long friends, we love being a part of a fantastic town and we love living in Nanaimo!