10 Free Things to Do in Nanaimo

I’ve heard of Nanaimo in the past, but really had no idea where it was located. Now I know! Nanaimo is in British Columbia on Vancouver Island. Here are some free things to do to help you plan your travels to Nanaimo. – CajunMama

Free things to do in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, BC - image by Kenneth Hynek via flickr

1. What a blast! –  The Bastion is perhaps most famous for its exciting cannon firing ceremony every day at noon throughout the summer. For more than twenty years now, this ceremonial re-enactment has been accompanied by the resonant sounds of bag piper Bill Poppy. Come down to the Bastion and experience the blast of a lifetime!

2. Visit Petroglyph Provincial Park – Called petroglyphs today, these exquisite symbolic etchings are richly concentrated in the 2-hectare Petroglyph Park. Locations for rock art carvings were chosen carefully, and were almost always made at places of power or mystery – places where the forces of nature were believed to be especially strong. Examples of this art form exist elsewhere, and are found in the Nanaimo area and in other locations on Vancouver Island and the neighbouring islands, but rarely can they be viewed in such concentration as here.

3. Self Guided Heritage Walks – Pick one of four heritage walking tours offered in Nanaimo. Visit the website, pick a tour, print the map and get walking!

4. Downtown Farmers Market – Their motto “Make it, Bake it or Grow It”. Visit the Downtown Nanaimo Farmers market every Friday from 10-2 May – September. It’s located in the heart of downtown Nanaimo overlooking the Nanaimo harbour.

5. Hike or Bike for miles…. – The City of Nanaimo has over 100 km of trails to choose from. From waterfront strolls to forested climbs, a paradise for any outdoor enthusiast. The City offers a comlimentary Parks & Trails Map for download.

6. Longwood Pub Brewery Tour – There is a flurry of activity as the brewer Harley Smith creates his magic and art 3 to 4 times a week. Every Saturday is tour day with reservations requested for the ever-popular 3:00 pm brewery tour and tasting. Only those patrons 19 or older may participate in the tasting component of the tour.

7. SWIM lakes, river, ocean – Nanaimo has so many swimming holes, some well known; others are protected like hidden gems. You’ll either have to get to know a local or visit Tourism Nanaimo; they can fill you in on which beaches are close to food stands, which have lifeguards, hiking trails nearby, easily accessible etc.

8. Tour the Nanaimo River Fish Hatchery – Download the free brochure that outlines which time of year you can see which type of salmon (chinook, coho, chum, pink). Stroll along the river trail and if you are visit at the right time, you might be able to release some into the river.

9. Visit Historic Coal Mine Remains – See the most complete above-ground remains of an historic coal mine on Vancouver Island. The concrete remains of the head frame, 75 feet ( 23 m.) tall, and tipple are located in Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park in South Wellington, just south of Nanaimo, British Columbia. A short, coal dusty walking trail along the same track they carted the coal out to the river.

10. Events – There is always something to check and many are absolutely free. You’ll need to know about the Island’s most comprehensive event website and click the dates you will be here to find out what is going on. You can catch anything from free concert in the park to a Bathtub Race!

Special thanks to Chelsea Barr for sharing these free things to do. For more information to plan your visit, check out Tourism Nanaimo.

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One Comment

  1. Great post and list of stuff to do in Nanaimo.

    You might want to also consider visiting the Dinghy Dock Pub. This unique and interesting floating pub is moored next to Protection Island in Nanaimo Harbour.

    Daily passenger ferry service leaves from the Boat Basin to the pub at 10 minutes past the hour. There is a small charge to take the ferry but if you kayak over it’s free! Kayak rentals are available at Brechin Point Boat Ramp through Alberni Outpost or bring your own!

    The Dinghy Dock is truly one of Nanaimo’s most unique and popular destinations.

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