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.