A short visit to Nanaimo (British Columbia, Vancouver Island)

Nanaimo, BC (A walk around Old City Quarter and Waterfront) Nanaimo (“The Harbour City” as its motto indicates) is a little bit of a perplexing city for me. It’s a point of entry towards the central and even northern part of Vancouver Island. It’s a rather important port. It’s the city you have to go through when you want to go to Parksville and Qualicum Beach, Courtenay/Comox. Yet for some reason, I had never really paid much attention to it, until recently. And I’m very glad I have.

Nanaimo, BC (A walk around Old City Quarter and Waterfront)

During my water governance book writing retreat in Vancouver Island this past December, I had to go through Nanaimo to go to Parksville and Courtenay. I had been to Nanaimo before on a little bit of a working trip, and buzzed in-and-out every time I went to visit Parksville, but this time, I spent a couple of days just touring the city, and learning more about The Harbour City from one of the best representatives of their city, Chelsea Barr (who works for Destination Nanaimo). On the way in, I stayed at the Coast Bastion Hotel and on the way back at the Best Western Dorchester Hotel.

Nanaimo, BC (A walk around Old City Quarter and Waterfront)

Incorporated as a town in 1874, and originally a coal mining town, Nanaimo flourished and so did a number of other industries. The first settlements of English families gave way to the beginnings of a community. As noted in their historical overview:

Fishing, logging, lumber milling, sandstone quarrying and transport industries were all developed. Communities were forming around Nanaimo as other coal deposits were discovered and worked. The Wellington Mine, for example, was opened in 1869 by Robert Dunsmuir. He built a rough railway from Wellington to Departure Bay to ship his coal. In 1886, the E & N Railway, also built by Dunsmuir, provided the first land route between Nanaimo and Victoria.

What I found incredibly fascinating is that in the Old City Quarter, some businesses are nestled in actual old-style houses. Like Delicado’s in this photo. I’m always extremely fond of this mixture of local business and housing. Like I wrote on my post on the economic geography of the lower West End, remember that one?

Nanaimo, BC (A walk around Old City Quarter and Waterfront)

I had the opportunity during my visit (and delight, may I add) to take the train from Nanaimo up island to the Comox Valley, although I really want to take it all the way from Victoria to Courtenay. In the next couple of weeks I will have more posts about Nanaimo, Courtenay and all the other destinations I hit during my writing retreat. You can read all those here.

Related posts:

  1. Quadra Island (Discovery Islands, British Columbia)
  2. The Modern Cafe (Nanaimo, BC)
  3. The Old City Quarter (Nanaimo, BC)
  4. The Coast Bastion Inn (Nanaimo, BC)
  5. The Dorchester Hotel [Best Western] (Nanaimo, BC)

Comments (3)

MuskieJanuary 22nd, 2011 at 7:36 am

I’m off to Nanaimo now, not my favourite place on the Island, but kinda a shopping hub for North Islanders, plus the ferries. Eaten all over this town too. Eating lunch there today with sister and such, not sure where we’re going. There are some OK burger places, the Longview Brew Pub is nice too, especially when the right beers are on tap.

Angie BarnardApril 24th, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Oh no, we are so sorry to have missed you during your Nanaimo visit. Next time consider staying at the Painted Turtle Guesthouse! We came to town 7 years ago at the start of the revitalization of downtown Nanaimo and have seen our little downtown flourish and evolve. There are now so many great independently-owned shops, restaurants, and even amazing entertainment for such a small town. Nanaimo is a great little mini-getaway especially if you float-plane it over from Vancouver.
See you next time!

Sandy ClarkDecember 19th, 2011 at 12:19 am

I am a local realtor, raised in Nanaimo and I too love how our city is transforming. Our downtown core is absolutely fantastic with a nice array of unique shopping, delectable cafes and restaurants, quality entertainment, lovely residential and commercial developments, and of course the magnificent waterfront with the seawall, marinas and sheer natural beauty. Nanaimo is a hidden gem! With its central location on Vancouver Island and ease of access to Vancouver or Richmond via air or seaplane within 20 minutes or via ferry, the low cost of housing, low lease rates for business, high end technology, incredible scenery, fishing, boating, highly regarded Vancouver Island University (VIU), amazing parks, recreation and culture, Nanaimo is the city to live, play and work! I was away for nine years returning in 2005 and I couldn’t imagine another place I would rather be. Nanaimo is an undiscovered paradise that I am sure will continue to enjoy ongoing growth and economic development. This would be a great city for big corporations from Vancouver to relocate their business to, potentially reducing their building or lease overheads in half. This is a lovely city for all families, seniors, professionals and students alike. I can’t say enough about our beautiful city.

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