The past decade has seen the “Harbour City” evolve into one of the more popular destinations for tourists, businesses and retirees. It is truly a great place to live as well as a place to make a living. Close to 80,000 people now reside in the city, and it is the main artery for central and northern Vancouver Island, having a trading area of over 1.75 million people within an 80 km radius.
Located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Nanaimo is 95 km north of Victoria and 35 km west of Vancouver. Situated on a narrow coastal plain bounded by Mount Benson on the West and the Straight of Georgia on the East, the city enjoys a mild climate with plenty of sunshine. The proximity to the Straight provides for this moderate climate, with precipitation largely taking the form of rainfall.
The word Nanaimo is derived from the Salish Indian word Sney-Ny-Mous meaning “Meeting Place”. Salish Indian village sites remain in the Nanaimo area to this day.
Mining brought white settlers to this area over 150 years ago, when the Hudson’s Bay Company established a trading post and fort. For 100 years, coal was the principal product of Nanaimo until the mines were closed in 1949. Since then the importance of the City as a regional centre for trade, manufacturing, and government administration has increased as it has diversified into the area of forest products, tourism, shipping, fishing, processing and agriculture. It is also the regional government centre for both the Federal and Provincial governments.
Nanaimo’s history is well preserved in many of the renovated buildings in the Downtown Core. The Centennial Museum boasts many fine exhibits and on Newcastle Island another museum, housed in the refurbished pavilion, displays chronologically the history of this important site.
Nanaimo enjoys a wide variety of recreation facilities including numerous urban and rural parks and excellent recreation complexes. The total park area within the City is approximately 2,790 acres. This includes 876.5 acres of playgrounds, tot-lots, and community parks. Provincial parks totalling 1,320 acres and 23 acres of amenity parks.
The major parks within the city are: Newcastle Island, Bowen, Beban, Westwood Lake, Colliery, May Richards Bennet, and Pipers Lagoon. Newcastle Island is located adjacent to Nanaimo and is accessible in the summer months by ferry.
Bowen and Beban Parks are major recreational complexes, featuring auditoriums, pools, tennis courts, fitness activities and a wealth of other recreational pursuits. Bowen Park also features a well-stocked petting farm in the summer. Most other parks feature a variety of court, pools, hiking trails, ball diamonds, picnicking, soccer field and fishing for your pleasure.
Nanaimo offers the golfer year-round playing enjoyment on some of the most scenic courses in the world. Golfers have a choice of playing during any month of the year, on any one of the following uncrowded public courses: one 18 hole, three 9 hole, putting greens and driving ranges.
As well, a variety of marinas and marine facilities exist in and around Nanaimo to serve a wide range of boats and water craft. Seven major local marinas supply storage for more than 3,000 vessels.
The Gulf Islands and surrounding waterways offer great opportunities to the Sailor, Powerboater, Scuba Diver, Windsurfer, Salmon Fisherman, Bottom Fisherman Naturalist and Artist like on a year-round basis.
There are 34 elementary schools in Nanaimo. There are also 6 junior and senior secondary schools. Many programs are offered to meet the needs of students throughout the district. The high calibre of education to be had in Nanaimo has culminated in National and International recognition for our students. The school district has a full French Immersion Programme.
Vancouver Island University has 8,000 full-time and more than 13,000 part-time students. Programmes offered at Malaspina cover a wide range of vocational and academic disciplines. Students attend Malaspina from across Canada and around the world.
For some time, Nanaimo has been referred to as a hub city. It is the meeting place of highways and roads which form the transportation network for all Vancouver Island. From the south, the Trans Canada Highway passes the Duke Point Industrial to lead directly to port assembly facilities, the rail yards and the centre of the city. The Highway then continues north to Departure Bay ferry terminal and by ferry to Vancouver. From Port Hardy, Campbell River, Port Alberni and Parksville, the Island Highway feeds into the City Centre.
Nanaimo is an ideal distribution point boasting ample warehousing. Port and shipping facilities serve a worldwide market. Models of transportation include trucking, shipping, airlines and railways for Vancouver Island, and shipping and airlines to the rest of the world.
In recent years the Nanaimo area has become Canada’s fastest growing retirement region for the following reasons; its proximity to large metropolitan centres, affordable shopping, a broad selection of recreational pursuits, affordable real estate and Canada’s most equable climate.
Excellent medical care is available at the Nanaimo Regional Hospital, the largest medical facility on Vancouver Island north of Victoria. In other locations in the City, there are the Kiwanis Lodge 150 bed intermediate care facilities and Malaspina Lodge 109 bed intermediate care facility.