A Weekender’s Guide to Nanaimo, British Columbia

A Weekender’s Guide to Nanaimo, British Columbia


When you want a relaxing vacation that’s away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Nanaimo is the place to be! Surrounded by natural beauty and the ocean, the city of Nanaimo has one of the longest shorelines in Canada. Whether you’re a B.C. local or just visiting Vancouver, you should definitely take the ferry to Vancouver Island and make your way to Nanaimo for a weekend island getaway. Here in the Harbour City, you will find isolated beaches, wildlife, old-growth forests, friendly people, and yes, the famous Nanaimo Bars. If you only have 2 days in Nanaimo, here’s a guide to help you make the most of your time. [caption id="attachment_806" align="aligncenter" width="1500"

A relaxing vacation that’s away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Nanaimo is the place to be! Photo: Mike Anderson | Tourism Nanaimo

Day 1:

We recommend spending time in and around downtown Nanaimo core on arrival day. Start your day off right with a nice cup of coffee and delicious brunch or lunch at one of the local hotspots, such as: [caption id="attachment_808" align="aligncenter" width="1500"]

Start your day off right with a nice cup of coffee Photo: Mike Anderson | Tourism Nanaimo[/caption]

  • Gabriel's Gourmet Café – Farm to fork cafe. Gabriel’s Cafe sources ingredients from local, small and sustainable farms.
  • Mon Petit Choux – Serves fresh breakfasts and lunches. Their authentically baked French pastry is a must-try.
  • Modern Cafe – Serves delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner. Famous for their Nanaimo Bar Martinis.
  • SukkhoThai – Award-winning Thai cuisine. Perfect for lunch or dinner when you’re craving for fresh and flavourful Thai food.
  • Asteras – Located in Old City Quarter of downtown Nanaimo. Serves warm, tasty and authentic Greek food with generous portions.

Tip: If hotel is your choice of accommodation, stop by your hotel even if it’s too early for check-in. Your room may not be ready but you can always check your baggage with the hotel staff until it’s ready.


Explore downtown Nanaimo for some people watching, shopping and absorb the essence of the city. Downtown Nanaimo has a great selection of unique shops with 3 distinct districts:

  • The Arts District – Located in the city core. You can check out art galleries, bookstores, and clothing boutiques
  • The Old City Quarter – Home to a vibrant mix of boutiques and specialty shops. The architecture has a mix of new and revitalized heritage buildings.

The Old City Quarter in Nanaimo Photo: Mike Anderson | Tourism Nanaimo

  • The Waterfront – Stroll along Harbourfront Walkway for spectacular views of the city and watch local fisherman crabbing at the pier. There are also trendy shops and cafes along the trail.

Stroll along Harbourfront Walkway for spectacular viewsPhoto: Mike Anderson | Tourism Nanaimo

Are you looking for a little culture during your trip? Make a stop at the Nanaimo Museum, the Vancouver Island Military Museum, or grab tickets to see a live show at the Port Theatre for later in the evening.

For visitors with a sweet tooth, don’t forget to grab a Nanaimo Bar from one of the many cafes in downtown. For an ultimate Nanaimo Bar experience, pick up a brochure at the Visitor Centre to follow the Nanaimo Bar Trail.


Minnoz Restaurant & Lounge

Make your way back to the harbourside and enjoy a delicious meal at Minnoz Restaurant & Lounge. Here, you’ll be treated to West Coast inspired fare, daily fresh specials, and a daily happy hour between 4 and 6 PM.

Need a Place to Stay?

Coast Bastion Hotel in Nanaimo

Coast Bastion Hotel is in a prime location close to the ferry terminal, downtown Nanaimo, and the mentioned restaurants above. Upon checking-in, you’re greeted by spectacular views of the harbour and ocean, and friendly staff who are available around-the-clock! There is free Wi-Fi for you to stay connected and upload your most Instagram-worthy photos. The guest rooms are modern, plus some are also pet-friendly. For a good night’s sleep, break a sweat at the fitness room or relax with a massage at Pure Spa.

Day 2:

Start the day right with a gourmet breakfast at Minnoz Restaurant & Lounge or treat yourself to breakfast in bed so you have energy for outdoor adventures later. We’ve included different local gems depending on your interest.

Activity: Newcastle Island

After breakfast, you can rent a kayak or hop on the Newcastle Island Ferry by foot to Newcastle Island Marine Park, traditionally known as Saysutshun by the Snuneymuxw people. Spend your afternoon there to explore the sandy beaches and tidal pools, view wildlife, or visit the historical Snuneymuxw Village Sites to learn about their culturally rich history. We highly recommend hiking or biking on Newcastle Island. There are various lookout points and trails with breathtaking panoramic views. After a busy day on the Island, replenish your body at the Saysutshun Bistro with burgers, seafood chowder, house-made bannock or cinnamon buns.

Newcastle Island Photo: Nancy Shields | Tourism Nanaimo

Activity: Mountain Biking

Thrill-seeking visitors will love Nanaimo’s fast and gnarly mountain biking trails. Mountain bikers from all over the world come here for the fast tracks and spectacular scenery. Popular trails are:

Mountain Biking

  • Doumont Trails – Race down on the black diamond runs or take a casual cross-country ride to enjoy the view.
  • Westwood Lake Trails – One of the most popular multi-purpose trails. Westwood Lake is also close to downtown. Perfect for expert and casual riders.
  • Stevie Smith Bike Park – Has an exceptional pump track and it’s one of the best in Canada.

Activity: Hiking

For avid hikers, try Westwood Lake trails, Mount Benson Regional Park, Cable Bay, or make the trip to Ammonite Falls for a stunning hike and magnificent waterfall views.

Hiking Photo: Mike Anderson | Tourism Nanaimo

Afternoon Brewskis

When you've had your fill of adventures, visit White Sails Brewing for some craft beers to wet your whistle. Pair it with some snacks like pretzels, nachos and pepperoni

White Sails Brewing Photo: Mike Anderson | Tourism Nanaimo


Finish off the day with a nice dinner at Figo Italian Bistro and then continue your hunt for Nanaimo Bars by following the Nanaimo Bar Trail.

Nanaimo Bars

Coast Bastion Hotel

The Coast Bastion Hotel is one of the best hotels to stay in Nanaimo thanks to its fantastic location, amenities, and dedicated staff. The hotel has been a landmark in Nanaimo for more than 30 years. The word, ‘Bastion’ is regarded as something that upholds an attitude. Fitting as the hotel has been a longstanding welcoming beacon for travelers and the local community. During your time here, you can experience the natural beauty of the area, stay active, and spend quality time with friends or family. If this sounds like the ideal weekend getaway, then book your stay at the Coast Bastion Hotel today.

Coast Bastion Hotel is one of the best hotels to stay in Nanaimo