Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: April 2022

Nanaimo is situated on the east coast of Vancouver Island. The name may sound familiar as it shares the same name as the famous Canadian dessert: the Nanaimo bar. The city features spectacular views of the ocean and has several trails, including a Nanaimo Bar Trail in town.

After spending the past two days in Vancouver, it was time to move onto Vancouver Island. We booked tickets for the ferry first thing in the morning. In terms of ferry crossings, this was probably the most scenic and smooth one we’ve ever been on. An hour and 40 minutes later, we were back on solid ground at Departure Bay in Nanaimo.

We first checked out Nanaimo’s harbour, which is one of the highlights of the city. We parked at the Maffeo Sutton Park which overlooks the harbour. It contains a few statues and monuments and provides easy access to the Harbourfront Walkway, a paved path that follows the shoreline and passes by the marina and several small shops and restaurants.

We then headed out of the downtown to get a taste of the scenery. We first hiked along the Cable Bay Nature Trail (6.6km round trip). The path is wide and winds through the forest to the ocean. There are a couple of other trails that branch off from the Cable Bay Nature Trail, but the main path is well marked and easy to navigate.

It’s about a 2km hike to reach Cable Bay. After crossing the suspension bridge over the river, it’s a short stretch to the shoreline.

The path continues along the coast and through Joan Point Park to an overlook of the Dodds Narrow, a waterway between Vancouver Island and Mudge Island with fast flowing and turbulent waters as the ocean water rushes through the channel.

While the trail continued onwards, we turned around and hiked back to the parking lot as we had other plans for the day. Besides, after all that hiking we felt like a reward was in order. We drove back into town in search of a nanaimo bar. But it turns out that most of the cafes were closed for Easter Sunday. After checking the entire list of the 39 cafes listed on the official Nanaimo Bar Trail brochure, we found two that were open. The Vault Cafe was the first one that we went to, except they didn’t actually sell nanaimo bars. Thankfully the second option at the Javawocky Coffee House did.

For those that are wondering, a nanaimo bar requires no baking. It consists of three layers: a base of graham wafer crumbs and shredded coconut; custard-flavoured butter icing in the middle; and a layer of chocolate ganache on top.

After taking a break to eat our nanaimo bars and drink some tea, we were ready to hit the trails again. We headed to Pipers Lagoon Park. The park features a short trail that loops along the rugged shoreline and provides nice viewpoints of the ocean. From the parking lot, the path starts out along a narrow strip of land that extends out to a small rocky outcropping.

We then drove to the nearby Neck Point Park, which is located along the waterfront in an environmentally sensitive area. The park features a few hiking trails. We hiked along the perimeter of the trail which contained a few stairs and boardwalk sections. Along the way there were a few interpretive signs that provided more information about the history of the park and other fun facts like about the importance of driftwood logs and the zone between high flow tides.

By the time we wrapped up our hike, it was getting late in the day. We had made plans to visit more of K’s relatives who live in Nanaimo for dinner.


73 thoughts on “Nanaimo

  1. Darlene says:

    Now this made me very very homesick. I have spent a lot of time in Nanaimo and love it. My daughter lives on Mudge Island and we often watch the whales and dolphins at Dodds Narrows, a short walk from her house. I have been to The Vault and Javawocky Coffee House. So glad you found a Nanaimo Bar (although they do serve them on the ferry) Some wonderful hikes on Vancouver Island! I look forward to more posts. Now I’m booking a trip back home in September!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      This was my first time visiting Vancouver Island and I fell in love with the scenery. Your daughter lives in such a beautiful area. That’s so neat that you can see whales and dolphins at the Dodds Narrows. We didn’t really check out the cafeteria on the ferry, but good to know that they serve Nanaimo bars as well. I have a feeling that we’ll be back soon. That’s wonderful that you’ll be heading there in September!!

  2. Ab says:

    Your hiked trails looked amazing, Linda. Glad you also got visit K’s family. Vancouver and the Island really are beautiful. Such a different feel from Toronto. I read people there gets lots of outdoor time all year along.

    The Nanaimo Bar Trail sounded delicious haha. And glad you actually found a cafe that sells them. They are so yummy. Good thing you got some more walking done afterwards!

    Enjoy the rest of your week. It’s Thursday!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We weren’t planning on spending much time in Nanaimo, but we felt obligated to visit K’s aunt and uncle so we figured we might as well make a day of it. I’m glad we did as it was actually quite lovely and there were plenty of trails to keep us busy. I couldn’t resist passing on a nanaimo bar while in Nanaimo. It’s too bad most of the cafes were closed, as I would have liked to sample a few different ones. But then again, it was probably for the best. I’m so glad it’s Fri-YAY today!! Have a wonderful weekend.

      • Ab says:

        The unexpected delights are always the best ones cuz they surprise us.

        The weekend sure flew by very quickly. 😆 Here’s hoping this week flies by too.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        For sure. That’s one of the reasons why I love taking road trips. It’s a great to have a rough idea of where your going, but to build in some room to be spontaneous as you’ll never know what you’ll find along the drive.

        This whole summer has been going by so quickly. I wish I could just press the pause button on the weekends. Hope the transition back to the office hasn’t been too rough.

      • Ab says:

        Thank you! Return to office has been good. Commute sucks but it’s so nice to see colleagues and friends again! 🙂 And it’s only a few days a week as we’re hybrid. Hope it’s going ok for you too!

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        The commute is easily my least favourite part about going into the office. It takes me about two hours one-way door to door. We’re supposed to come in three times a week, but it’s not really being enforced, so I’ve just been going in once a week and hoping no one notices. So far so good 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! My grandmother used to serve Nanaimo bars at tea time. I haven’t had one in years, so it was nice to be reminded of just how delicious they are (and to reminisce about my childhood). We initially weren’t going to spend much time in Nanaimo, but since we were having dinner with my husband’s aunt and uncle, we figured we’d make a day of it. I was pleasantly surprised at how lovely the city is and how there’s lots of great hiking trails nearby.

  3. kagould17 says:

    Thats funny. My post tomorrow is about the ferry to Nanaimo. Glad you had a good ferry experience and time in Nanaimo. We have never used this city as much more than a jumping off place, but you found some good trails. And Nanaimo Bars. My Patty makes the best. Happy Thursday Linda. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Great minds think alike and we’re both clearly thinking about Vancouver Island. We’re hoping to return sometime soon and perhaps hike the West Coast Trail. It was a very relaxing and scenic ferry crossing from Vancouver to Nanaimo. It wasn’t high on our list of places to visit, but we were having dinner with my husband’s aunt and uncle so we figured we’d stay nearby and check out the sights. I’m glad we did as it was actually quite lovely. Plus, it gave us a good excuse to stuff our faces with Nanaimo bars. Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful weekend.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      What a lovely tradition to have every Easter. My grandmother used to always serve Nanaimo bars during tea time. I haven’t had one in years, so it was a nice treat, especially after going for a hike!

  4. inselleben says:

    I love Vancouver island! Thanks for sharing. Unfortunately, I never got to try the delicious Nanaimo bars when I visited the island. A good reason to come back! Greetings from Sweden!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      This was my first time visiting Vancouver Island and I can easily see why you love it. The scenery is just incredible. I haven’t had a Nanaimo bar in forever, so it seemed fitting to have one while visiting Nanaimo. It was delicious. I would totally love to return someday as well. Take care. Have a wonderful weekend. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We were lucky and had such fabulous weather while visiting the west coast. The views of the ocean never get old. That and eating those delicious Nanaimo bars! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Linda

  5. wetanddustyroads says:

    Beautiful and tranquil harbour and then a lovely walk through a high tree forest … that sounds like an awesome hike! I was wondering about the nanaimo bars (and yummy, looks delicious) 😋. Great pictures!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! We weren’t planning on spending much time in Nanaimo, but ended up rearranging some of our plans so we could visit my husband’s aunt and uncle who live nearby. I was pleasantly surprised at how many trails there were in and outside the city. It was a lovely way to spend our day, well, that and sampling some Nanaimo bars. Mmm.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Right!? We wanted to get the full experience in Nanaimo afterall. It’s probably a good thing most of the cafes were closed when we visited otherwise I’m pretty sure we would have just stuffed our faces with more Nanaimo bars and wouldn’t have done much hiking!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The scenery along the west coast is stunning. I’m glad we had such lovely weather while visiting Nanaimo to enjoy the views. There’s certainly no shortage of great hiking trails.

  6. Diana says:

    I visited Vancouver Island once, back in the day, but none of this looks familiar. I must have been in Nanaimo, though, since we took the same ferry. The Nanaimo bar looks delicious! I’m a sucker for coconut flavored anything, so I’m going to have to try these!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I with you on the coconut. It’s one of my favourite flavours. I haven’t had a Nanaimo bar in years, so it was a nice treat. We actually weren’t planning on spending much time in Nanaimo, but we made last minute plans to visit some family, so figured we should make the day of it. I’d say it worked out well.

  7. Thattamma C.G Menon says:

    So wonderful nature photos and the blue ocean inspiring view 🌷🙏👍🏻
    Very calm and so quiet places , and very tasty 😋 wafer pieces seems !!
    Thank you so much for sharing dear friend 👏😊💐

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for commenting. I’m glad we had such fabulous weather to enjoy the trails and the scenery. It was nice to treat ourselves afterwards with something sweet.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. It was very refreshing (and super scenic) to hike near the ocean and we welcomed the fresh air. It’s too bad the water was chilly otherwise it would have been nice to go for a swim afterwards. Instead we settled on having a Nanaimo bar.

  8. salsaworldtraveler says:

    Your photos and descriptions remind me that Vancouver and Vancouver Island are at the top of my list of places to visit in North America. I saw them from a distance driving from Whistler, BC. Plans for a family gettogether in Vancouver fell through. If I get there, I’ll have to try one of those delicious nanaimo bars.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I can easily see why these spots are at the top of your list of places to visit in North America. The scenery is simply stunning, especially of those old growth forests. Hopefully you’re able to reschedule your family gathering in Vancouver soon. It’s such a beautiful area and there’s so much to see and do. And yes, if you do visit Nanaimo, getting a Nanaimo bar is a must. It’s all part of the experience and they are very delicious.


    It’s nice to be able to venture a little farther than Ontario! I still hope to get to Vancouver Island one of these days as last time we had to change course due to forest fires on the way. Your photos make me want to try again 😊

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. The timing worked out well as we managed to go before any of the delays and issues at Pearson. We also scored a sweet deal on our flight and some of our accommodations. It was lovely to visit before tourism picked back up and we didn’t have to deal with any of the crowds. It was amazing. Hopefully you’re able to visit Vancouver Island. It’s such a beautiful area with all those tall mossy trees.

  10. Bama says:

    If I lived in Vancouver, I think I would go to Vancouver Island very often to do some hiking. I know I would become very much an outdoor person given all the beautiful landscape and great hiking trails around the city and the island.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The amazing thing about Vancouver is that there’s also some great hiking within and just outside of the city. It’s not that long of a ferry ride to get to Vancouver Island. It’s neat because the island definitely feels more laid back. If housing weren’t so expensive, I would totally consider moving here.

  11. elvira797mx says:

    Wow! Wonderful place, amazng and beautiful photos too! So relaxing! And the cake delicious!
    Have a lovely time! Enjoy your Friday! Thank’s for share, Linda.
    Take care.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. What better way to treat ourselves after a hike than by indulging in some dessert. The Nanaimo bars were delicious. Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for commenting. I’m glad we had such wonderful weather for exploring the trails in and around Nanaimo. It seemed very fitting to treat ourselves with Nanaimo bars afterwards. They were quite tasty.

  12. ourcrossings says:

    From the outdoor activities, cultural history, and mild climate to phenomenal schools, Nanaimo has something to offer people from all walks of life, and that’s why it is no surprise that the city has been recognized as one of the best places to live on national and even international lists. It’s one of the places I would love to explore one day 🙂 Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. I can see why it’s a top spot for people to visit and live. The scenery is spectacular. Vancouver Island in general also seems more laid back compared to the mainland. Hopefully you’re able to visit someday. You and your family would love it here. Enjoy the rest of the weekend. Linda

  13. leightontravels says:

    Wow you certainly packed it in here. Some lovely walking trails, as always, plus the Nanaimo bar looks fantastic. We both have incurable sweet teeth, I’m sure we would be all over that.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s not hard to with scenery like that. It helps that the weather was gorgeous, which makes spending time outdoors much more enjoyable. I can relate to having a sweet tooth. It’s always good to treat yourself while on vacation. Besides, having a Nanaimo bar is one of the quintessential things to do in Nanaimo so who am I to deprive ourselves of that experience!?

  14. Third Culture Kid says:

    Fact: my Mum and I have made Nanaimo bars for Christmas every year without fail (even when I had appendicitis) for over 20 years! A family friend in Ottawa gave us her recipe. I didn’t learn the correct pronunciation until after moving to Canada though. The nature looks amazing there too! It’s like people walk around and then replenish with Nanaimo bars lol

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      What a lovely Christmas tradition. My grandmother used to serve Nanaimo bars during tea time. We were such brats and would only eat the first two layers. I haven’t had one in years and they were as good as I remembered them to be. This time I ate the bottom, which was super delicious. I’m such a fan of all things coconut.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I haven’t had a Nanaimo bar in foreverrr. It was nice to be reminded of just how delicious they are. This hiking was top notch as well. I was pleasantly surprised that there are so many trails in and around town.

  15. Linda K says:

    You definitely discovered some beautiful areas over in that location. Nanaimo is usually only a place to pass through after catching a ferry from Vancouver so it is nice that you spent some time to enjoy some of the prettier places it has to offer.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We initially weren’t planning on spending much time in Nanaimo. We made a last minute change to our plans in order to have dinner with some of my husband’s family who live in the area so we figured we might as well make a day of it. I’m glad we did as I was pleasantly surprised at how much Nanaimo has to offer. Plus the scenery is just beautiful.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m glad we had such fabulous weather for enjoying the sights in and around Nanaimo. It was also nice to indulge in some Nanaimo bars after going for a hike. We wanted to get the full experience after all. While it would have been nice to sample some of the different Nanaimo bars in town, it’s probably a good thing that most of the cafes were closed when we visited.

  16. TowardsZEROAccident says:

    Apparently, Nanaimo looks cool place. Especially the Dodds Narrow, waterway between Vancouver Island and Mudge Island would have been of great view.
    Thank you for sharing such beautiful place💐🌹

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We had a wonderful day exploring the sights in and around Nanaimo. The Dodds Narrow was a bit of a hike to get to, but the views were worth it. It was neat to see the water rushing through the narrow channel. I wouldn’t want to fall in!! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was a very pleasant trail through the forest that provided some lovely viewpoints of the ocean. It was also well signed and easy to follow. What better way to treat ourselves afterwards than by having a Nanaimo bar. We were in Nanaimo after all, so it only seemed appropriate.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Nanaimo has done an exceptional job with their waterfront. I’m glad we had such fabulous weather to soak in the views. The hiking (and the Nanaimo bars afterwards) was fantastic.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It’s funny how the weather can make such a huge difference in terms of our moods and what we’re able to see and do in a day. We couldn’t have asked for nicer weather when we were in Nanaimo. It was perfect for hiking and just wandering around the waterfront.

  17. BrittnyLee says:

    This sounds like it was an awesome trip. It’s too bad the shops were closed but it makes sense with the holiday . I’m glad you found one though ! Those trails sound gorgeous. They must’ve worked up an appetite. You describe these places so intricately. I want to go !!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. It would have been such a bummer not to have a Nanaimo bar while visiting Nanaimo, but thankfully we managed to find an open cafe that was serving them. It was a nice treat after going for a hike.

      • BrittnyLee says:

        Good thing you found one aww. I want to try one of those Nanaimo bars. The photos you posted make it look so good 😌. My sister and I went on the hike that is longer permitted called, Glen Onoko in Jim Thorpe. It’s very dangerous so I could see why but it was an experience I’ll never forget or regret. There were some parts of the hike that we went straight up, having to rock climb. That was the most intense hike we’ve ever done. When we finished, we went out for Italian food and finished a whole container of fries and two massive hoagies haha. We were starving 🤣

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I haven’t had a Nanaimo bar in forever. My grandmother used to serve them during tea time when I was younger and I couldn’t help but think of her when we ate them.

        Sounds like the hike you went on with your sister was challenging, but very rewarding. And what better way to treat yourself than by eating a feast afterwards. Italian food is my favourite. I’d say it was well earned!

      • BrittnyLee says:

        Thank you !! Aw that memory of your grandmother sounds like a precious one. I love when a certain food reminds us of loved ones. When I have tea, I think of my grandpa. He would always have the kettle steaming and whistling when I was at my grandparents house. The whistling sound and the hot tea will always remind me of him because of that . Another thing that reminds me of him is coffee cake. I don’t know if you have those in Canada but he always ate them . Haha 🤣😆. Grandparents are so special. I wish we had longer with them. I love Italian food, too. It’s delicious 😋.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        For sure. It’s nice to have those memories and reminders. I couldn’t agree more about grandparents. They are the best. And all this talk about food and sweets is making me want to bake. I haven’t had a coffee cake in awhile, but now I’m craving it!

      • BrittnyLee says:

        Aren’t they delicious?! I love them ! I would like to try to bake one. 🙂 That would be a cool idea for a post . Baking is fun when you’re making something you’re excited about 🙂 . Glad you appreciate coffee cake too

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