Nanaimo is a deep sea fishing port located about 120 kilometers (74 miles) to the north of Victoria. The city was originally a settlement of several Indian tribes coexisting peacefully. In the 1850s, however, the Hudson’s Bay Company discovered coal, which transformed Nanaimo into a thriving coal mining area. With the advent of oil-burning ships, demand for coal dwindled and the city turned to fishing and logging. Today, Nanaimo is the second largest city on Vancouver Island and serves as an important link to the mainland of British Columbia. Tourism in recent years has become a more important part of the local economy, helped in part by the B.C. Ferries, which connects the city with Horseshoe Bay. To help draw more visitors, Nanaimo has renovated its buildings, improved facilities, hosted more festivals, and opened up more boutique shops.
In 1853, the Hudson’s Bay Company built a fort to defend itself against a potential Indian attack. This stout fort today has become the symbol of Nanaimo. It houses a museum and three cannons that ceremonially fire shots every day at noon during the summer months.
The Nanaimo Centennial Museum, located at 100 Cameron Street, is a museum devoted to the history of Nanaimo. It is open everyday in the summers and five days a week during the winter.
Nanaimo has a wealth of parks and lakes that give boaters, canoeists, anglers, windsurfers, and hikers plenty to do. Departure Bay in particular has a perfect windsurfing spot. You can rent whatever equipment you need at one of the beach outlets. The city has also invented its very own sport. In mid-July, people all over the world come to participate in the Nanaimo Bathtub Race, which involves a fleet of motorized tubs journeying 56 kilometers (35 miles) across the Strait of Georgia to Vancouver. The city also has a cultural side to it. In late June, there is a festival called the Shakespeare Plus Festival in which old and new plays are performed.
Visitors can also island-hop by taking one of the ferry services to nearby Gabriola or Newcastle Islands. On Newcastle, there is a provincial park where you can camp, hike, and view wildlife. On Gabriola, you’ll find lovely beaches and a quiet, peaceful artistic community.
The Petroglyph Provincial Park is located south of Nanaimo and boasts prehistoric carvings etched onto sandstone rock. These carvings were done by native Indians some 10,000 years ago.
Carroll, Donald. Insider’s Guide Canada. Edison: Hunter Publishing, Inc, 1996. ISBN: 1556507100.
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