Found along the east coast of one of Canada’s most beautiful islands, Vancouver Island, is the trendy city of Nanaimo. Also known as “The Harbour City” or “Hub City,” Nanaimo was incorporated in 1874 and has since become one of Vancouver Island’s most esteemed cities. Filled to the brim with vibrant art galleries, intriguing museums, and a diverse selection of dining opportunities, Nanaimo has a little something to suit all hobbies and interests.
This classic West Coast community offers a plethora of natural beauty just waiting to be explored! Some of Canada’s most interesting flora and fauna can be found among the mature forests and the waters are filled to the brim with unique marine life, both freshwater lakes and the ocean coastline are chock full of colourful fish.
The decision to move to Nanaimo is a big one, but it’s plain to see that it’s definitely a smart decision!
With the incredible landscapes, vibrant shops and restaurants, and beautiful, historic real estate to choose from, Nanaimo is one of the top places to live in all of British Columbia!
The fantastic city of Nanaimo can be found approximately 111 kilometres northwest of Victoria, British Columbia’s capital, and fifty-five kilometres west of Vancouver and is separated by the Strait of Georgia. British Columbia mainlanders can access Nanaimo via the Horseshoe Bay BC Ferries in West Vancouver.
As the main hub joining Vancouver Island to the mainland, Nanaimo is an access point to many other fabulous destinations found on the island such as Tofino, Parskville, Port Alberni, and the gorgeous Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park.
The centre of the city is the vast Buttertubs Marsh, a bird sanctuary spanning over 100 acres. This beautiful conservation area adds a natural beauty to the city that visitors and locals alike can appreciate among the hustle and bustle of modern city living.
Living in Nanaimo provides residents with a typical coastal climate. The proximity to the ocean means the winters never hit extreme temperatures like the neighbouring provinces, remaining mild and rainy, though heavy snowfall does occur on occasion. The summers in Nanaimo are relatively dry and warm, without rising to uncomfortable temperatures. Adding to the comfortable, dry climate is the shelter provided by the mountains of central Vancouver Island.
The average age of Nanaimo locals is approximately 45.5 years old, which is slightly higher than the national median of 41.2. There are approximately 40,885 residential homes and buildings in Nanaimo, the median value of which are around $359,760. The average household income for Nanaimo residents is approximately $48,469 and the median personal income is about $34,700. These numbers are fairly common for homes on Vancouver Island, allowing Nanaimo to fall under one of the more affordable locations on the island.
A recent growth in real estate demand has caused a surge of expansion in development, particularly in the Old City/Downtown area. Construction on several waterfront properties have begun, bolstering the city’s economy. Nanaimo is the ideal location to provide locals with gorgeous waterfront views and easy access to the many scenic parks and beaches found within the city’s borders.
Nanaimo was originally populated by the Indigenous peoples of Snuneymuxw, from which the city received its name from through an English translation and pronunciation. The first European settlers ventured over to Nanaimo in 1791, led by the Spanish explorer Juan Carrasco, commanded by Francisco de Eliza.
The Hudson’s Bay Company established a settlement in 1852, creating a charming little town that would one day become an outstanding city.
The earliest economic contributors to the town was the mining and selling of coal. Chief Che-wich-i-kan, also known as “Coal Tyee,” brought coal samples down to Victoria establishing a connection to the locals in the larger town located at the southern end of the island. Coal remained the main contributor to the economy until about the 1940s when lumber took the spotlight.
Over the years, Nanaimo quickly grew from a humble little Hudson Bay Company outpost to the thriving and trendy community that locals know and love today. The city is chock full of historic landmarks, museums showcasing the rich and cultural heritage, and countless outlets for activity and entertainment.
Nanaimo is home to several noteworthy residents from politicians to athletes to musicians. Among the many famous names that have come from Nanaimo are:
professional hockey players
singer-songwriter and pianist
blues guitarist and rock keyboardist
vaudeville actress, writer, and director
Both potential and current residents of Nanaimo have ample access to a diverse selection of job opportunities. The city may have started as a simple coal and lumber community, but has since grown to a prosperous city offering a plethora of exciting opportunities in the trades, commercial, and financial districts. One of the largest employers is the pulp mill, which was established back in 1958, as well as the provincial government.
Other major contributors to the local economy include service, retail, and tourism industries.
The average salary of Nanaimo residents is $55,000. The most popular job opportunities in Nanaimo include retail managers, operations managers, and accountants which fall under the salary range of $36,000 and $95,000 annually. Some of the most popular employers include Real Estate Webmasters, Western Forest Products Inc, and Hub International, Inc.
The average hourly rate in Nanaimo is approximately $20.35. The most common companies that employ hourly employees include Vancouver Island Health Authority, The Country Grocer, The Home Depot Inc, Inn on Long Lake, and Western Forest Products Inc. These companies offer employees anywhere from $14 to $38 per hour, depending on the job description.
Nanaimo is home to some of the top schools on Vancouver Island. The public schools are operated by School District 68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith. With over thirty elementary and secondary schools, the students residing in Nanaimo have access to some of the best schools in the area including access to some of the top resources.
School District 68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith provides exceptional education to residents of central Vancouver Island, focusing on the cities of Nanaimo and Ladysmith in particular.
There are forty-eight schools within the district’s borders offering education to approximately 15,250 students from kindergarten through grade twelve.
Public schools within the borders of Nanaimo include:
Alternatively, there are also several fantastic independent schools available to the residents of Nanaimo. These private and religious-based schools offer an alternative education to the public school district. Private schools within the borders of Nanaimo include:
When considering moving to the beautiful city of Nanaimo, potential residents have an excellent selection of neighbourhoods to choose from, catering to all lifestyles. With approximately thirteen main neighbourhoods, Nanaimo offers a space for everyone of all walks of life.
Brechin Hill can be found just up the hill near the ferries at Departure Bay. This scenic neighbourhood offers spectacular views of Departure Bay and Newcastle Island. The homes of Brechin Hill consist of towering windows, sweeping views, classic decks, and a general sense of maritime living. Real estate constantly falls in the mid-priced range, making Brechin Hill an affordable option for everyone.
Chase River, sometimes recognized as South Nanaimo, is a semi-rural neighbourhood centred around the Nanaimo River Estuary, approximately five minutes south of the downtown core. The area is close by to several strip malls complete with diverse dining options, a supermarket, gas stations, and all basic supplies you could need. The homes for sale in Chase River feature classic older models as well as several mobile homes and can be accessed via the public bus routes.
Cinnabar Valley is located between Chase River and Extension, just ten minutes from Downtown Nanaimo. Many families reside in this area and are familiar with the beautiful valley views from homes set high upon the slopes. Cinnabar Valley is a welcoming neighbourhood as well as one of the safest, not to mention most beautiful. The green surroundings offer plenty of open space and is the perfect place to commune with nature.
College Heights is filled with gorgeous, upscale homes looking out over Nanaimo and the Georgia Strait. Just across the Nanaimo Parkway from Vancouver Island University, College Heights an upper middle class, executive neighbourhood and can be found just six minutes from Downtown Nanaimo. Residents of this beautiful community prefer biking over driving and many pedestrians and bicyclists fill the streets and sidewalks.
Departure Bay is a lovely oceanside neighbourhood decorated with character homes by the beach. Departure Bay is a large bay where the ferry terminal is located and the residents of this great neighbourhood caters to semi-luxury and luxury lifestyles. Nearby Departure Bay are several park and recreation areas including Departure Bay Beach, Beban Park, Linley Valley, Pipers Lagoon, and Kinsmen Water Park.
Divers Lake is a modest family neighbourhood that was established in the 1970s and 1980s. Mature trees line the streets, creating a quaint and quiet atmosphere for the families residing there. Conveniently located in the middle of it all, residents of Divers Lake can access staple amenities, a variety of delectable restaurants, and entertainment opportunities with ease via car, public transportation, or bicycle.
Dover Bay is located along the northernmost borders of Nanaimo just across from Lantzville. The Dover Bay community is filled with idyllic, cookie-cutter homes featuring beautiful ocean views. Perched high above the ocean, these upper-middle class homes offer sweeping views out over the water. Dover Bay is a highly coveted area and maintains a reputation as one of the safest neighbourhoods in Nanaimo.
Hammond Bay is a small body of water found in North Nanaimo. The surrounding neighbourhood stretches along the hillsides overlooking the water. Along Hammond Bay Road is a collection of stunning luxury homes featuring spacious yards and sweeping views. The hilly terrain of Hammond Bay provides shelter from the winds as well as the beautiful views the neighbourhood is known for. Nature lovers have ample opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors via the nearby parks, Eagle Point, Linley Valley, and Rutherford Ridge.
Harewood, also known as the University District, is a delightful, mature suburb of Nanaimo. Plenty of older homes, including cottages and farmhouses, fill this charming neighbourhood. The nearby university brought in a large influx of young families and students to the area, adding a more trendy and modern vibe to the neighbourhood.There are several small malls, complete with a supermarket, drug store, a selection of pubs and restaurants, as well as services such as gas stations and auto mechanics nearby, offering residents all they could possibly need without straying too far from home.
Hospital Area is the name designated to the community surrounding Nanaimo’s hospital. This highly desirable neighbourhood is filled with friendly residents and affordable properties. The homes in the Hospital Area consist of spacious yards and mature foliage. Located along one of the main bus routes, access to this delightful community is a breeze. The Hospital Area is conveniently situated midway between Downtown Nanaimo and the North End.
Jinglepot can be found at the north end of town under the mountains. As one of the more remote neighbourhoods of Nanaimo, Jinglepot features homes in all shapes and sizes from old farmhouses to funky, modern developments. There are also several gorgeous natural landmarks nearby for locals to explore including the lovely Ammonite Falls and Westwood Lake.
North Nanaimo, or The North End, is one of the cleanest parts of Nanaimo as well as one of the safest. This beautiful community is located approximately twelve minutes from Downtown, or twenty during rush hour, but locals are not far from a variety of picturesque trails and beaches such as Pipers Lagoon, Neck Point, Eagle Point, Lantzville Foothills, and Long Lake.
Uplands Drive is situated between Departure Bay Road and Nanaimo North Town Centre, running parallel to the highway. Developed mostly between the 1970s-1990s, Uplands Drive is made up of mainly upper- to middle-class professionals and families and is known to be a very welcoming community. Uplands Drive is also located within close proximity to some of the finest schools in Nanaimo, adding to the appeal to families with young children.
The residents of Nanaimo have access to a fantastic selection of exciting nightlife activities to keep entertained all hours of the night. Classy cocktail lounges, thrilling game rooms, and vibrant dance halls are scattered all throughout the city. The following are some of the top nightlife opportunities available to the Nanaimo locals:
With plenty of space for dancing, Evolve is home to a vibrant music scene. The staff are known to be very friendly and the exciting atmosphere is perfect for a night out, enjoying some beverages with friends or meeting new people in the city.
The Arbutus Distillery & Cocktail Lounge
Home to some of the best cocktails on Vancouver Island, The Arbutus Distillery offers a selection of well-crafted and distilled options to choose from. The staff are incredibly knowledgeable and quick to make a recommendation on their favourite drinks.
James Street Game Room
If you’re looking for a relaxed environment to unwind and enjoy a round of pool with your buddies, look no further! James Street Game Room offers pool, foosball, ping pong, and more. This fine establishment is a great place for parties and events or just a casual hang out with friends.
Nanaimo locals are also treated to a fantastic array of diverse dining options. Whether you’re craving classic pub fare, Italian and Mediterranean delicacies, sensational sushi, or a relaxed coffee shop, Nanaimo has something to cater to all tastes. The following are some of the best dining establishments in all of Nanaimo:
Minnoz Restaurant & Lounge
Fresh seafood, gorgeous harbour views, and wonderful service; that’s what you’ll find at Minnoz Restaurant & Lounge. This incredible establishment specializes in fresh seafood right out of the Pacific and is dedicated to providing not only delicious but beautiful dishes.
Mambo Gourmet Pizza
This is no ordinary pizza joint, Mambo Gourmet Pizza offers a diverse range of toppings for your pie from traditional pepperoni to fresh-caught shrimp! You may end up paying a few extra dollars for one of these pizzas, but you better believe it’ll be worth every cent!
Melange Restaurant is a lovely little spot that utilizes local farmers and producers whenever possible. The elegant menu is full of unique and delicious options to choose from and the welcoming staff makes the dining experience all the better.
Nori Japanese Restaurant
Nanaimo’s top sushi restaurant, Nori Japanese Restaurant is the place to be when craving intricate and tasty sushi. With generous portion sizes and beautifully plated dishes, this fine establishment is among the best in Nanaimo.
Travelling around Nanaimo is made simple with the Nanaimo Regional Transit system. The bus service travels along highways 1, 19, and 19A throughout the city. Both conventional bus service as well as special needs paratransit services run through the Nanaimo Regional Transit, providing accessible service to all who reside in this thriving city.
There are seventeen scheduled bus routes running through Nanaimo and the buses run seven days a week, with exceptions on holidays.
Since Nanaimo is such a green city, every bus comes equipped with bike racks for those who opt to bike rather than drive around the city.
Due to Nanaimo’s location on Vancouver Island, ferries are available to those who wish to travel to and from mainland Vancouver and the rest of British Columbia. The Nanaimo Port Authority manages and operates the inner Harbour Basin marina as well as two terminal facilities at Assembly Wharf and Duke Point, which caters to cargo operations on and off the island.
There are two airports that serve Nanaimo. The Nanaimo Airport (YCD) connects to Vancouver, Toronto, and Calgary. The Nanaimo Harbour Water Airport operates through Vancouver Harbour, Vancouver Airport, and Sechelt.
The fun and excitement in Nanaimo is practically nonstop! There is also something going on in this vibrant city. From educational experiences at various museums and galleries to themed events and festivals put on by the whole city, there is never a dull moment in this incredible community.
There are numerous park and recreation areas found within Nanaimo’s borders.
Nature-lovers will delight in the natural beauty that Vancouver Island has to offer, from centuries-old forests to tranquil streams and rivers, from rolling hills complete with walking trails to quiet, sandy banks along the beaches, Nanaimo is a picturesque beauty found on one of Canada’s most magnificent islands.
Aptly nicknamed the Harbour City, Nanaimo is made up of kilometres of beautiful shoreline along the vast Pacific Ocean. Nanaimo locals have ample opportunity to spend a sunny afternoon relaxing on the beach, taking to the waters on boats or kayaks, or exploring the rocky reefs snorkelling or fishing. Some of the beautiful beaches in Nanaimo include:
There are also several freshwater lakes such as Westwood Lake and Long Lake, which both offer a secluded beach area. Many campers and hikers enjoy the scenic and winding paths that trail through the woods surrounding the lakes.
For those who wish to enjoy the great outdoors while enjoying a relaxed or competitive game with friends, Nanaimo offers a selection of incredible golf courses featuring breathtaking views of the surrounding forest, mountains, and oceans. Perfect for all skill levels, Nanaimo’s golf courses offer the chance for golfers to improve their game or just enjoy a casual experience on a sunny afternoon. The following are available golf courses to Nanaimo locals:
Several museums provide the chance for locals and visitors alike to explore and indulge in the city’s rich, cultural heritage. The Nanaimo Museum features the history of the city. The Vancouver Island Military Museum is dedicated to the city’s military history. The Bastion is a historical landmark commissioned by the Hudson’s Bay Company back in 1853 and today stands as a symbol of Nanaimo’s rich trade era. The VIU Museum of Natural History is a collection of incredible plants and animals that impact Vancouver Island’s ecosystems.
Nanaimo has a vibrant art scene, both visual and performance. The Nanaimo Art Gallery is located in the heart of Downtown and showcases local, national, and international artists. The Gallery offers the Art Lab program which educates aspiring artists of all ages.
The Port Theatre, also found in the downtown core, hosts a plethora of performers and shows throughout the year. The Nanaimo Centre Stage provides a place for local theatre companies such as In Other Words Theatre, Western Edge Theatre, and Schmooze Productions.
Along with visual and performing arts, Nanaimo also offers a musical outlet to those who appreciate this particular artform. The underground music scene is driven by the students of Vancouver Island University. These passionate music enthusiasts have put together the Nanaimo Blues Society, which has organized five Summertime Blues festivals, an outdoor event held in the heart of Nanaimo featuring local, provincial, national, and international blues musicians
Several other musical outlets are available for the enjoyment as well as the participation of the residents of Nanaimo. The Nanaimo Concert Band is the oldest community band in all of Canada, established in 1872, and continues to hold regular concerts throughout the year. Vancouver Island University’s music department has a strong Jazz Studies program and has produced some of the top jazz musicians in Canada. The Nanaimo Conservatory of Music offers classical music lessons and has been hosting concerts since 1977.
Every year, Nanaimo is host to the fabulous Nanaimo Marine Festival. People come from all over the island to enjoy this exciting event. A big draw to this unique festival is the famous bathtub race starting in the Nanaimo harbour and travelling through Entrance Island, Winchelsea Islands, and concluding in Departure Bay.
Nanaimo is home to a multitude of excellent sports teams and clubs. Nanaimo United Football Club is the largest sports club on Vancouver Island, home to over 1700 members, and is the oldest club in Canada. The Canadian Junior Football League’s Vancouver Island Raiders are based out of Nanaimo and play at the beautiful Caledonia Park.
Hockey enthusiasts can cheer on Nanaimo’s various hockey teams. The Nanaimo Clippers play for the British Columbia Hockey League and the Nanaimo Buccaneers play for the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.
Along with the staple hockey and football teams, Nanaimo is also home to baseball, lacrosse, and rugby teams. The Nanaimo Pirates play through the British Columbia Premier Baseball League, the Timbermen are of the Western Lacrosse Association, and the Nanaimo Hornets Rugby Football Club is a part of the British Columbia Rugby Union.
Thrill-seekers can indulge in North America’s first legal bungee jumping bridge, which is operated by WildPlay Element Parks. With such an incredible array of entertainment, sporting events, and activities available to the Nanaimo community, locals will have a hard time falling prey to boredom!
When considering making the move to Nanaimo, or anywhere for that matter, it’s important to keep in mind what is important to you and your family. Nanaimo has so many great amenities and features, a fabulous selection of neighbourhoods, and some of the friendliest residents currently living there that the hardest decision you’ll need to make when moving is where you’re going to decide to settle in. This beautiful oceanside community is one of the top places to live in all of British Columbia and with the previous evidence to back it up, it’s not hard to understand what makes this city so phenomenal!