Explore the many facets of Nanaimo

From a historic coal town to a bustling metropolis, Nanaimo takes visitors on a flavourful journey through the years


Nanaimo, B.C.’s second oldest city, was founded as a trading post in 1849 when the Snunéymuxw chief told the Hudson’s Bay Company about the presence of coal in the area. Originally called Coalville, the community was renamed in 1860 to reflect the Coast Salish word for its local people; it means “great people” or “gathering place,” and grew to a bustling centre of almost 5,000 by the 1890s. Although the city now reflects a different economy altogether, industry has always remained at its heart.

Celebrating the past 

When the Nanaimo Museum moved to the lower level of the Vancouver Island Convention Centre in 2008, it was finally able to fulfil its full potential as an interactive, inclusive program. The new halls proudly showcase the Sports Hall of Fame (with a local focus), the industrious history of settlement, coal mining and forestry in Nanaimo, and the rich traditions of Snunéymuxw First Nations.

Find out what an underground coal mine looks like, hear first-hand the stories of generations past, and sit in a period classroom in the static exhibit. Travelling exhibits exploring natural history, Nanaimo’s cultural highlights and even a trip through space are scheduled for summer 2012.

Sweetening the experience    

In more recent history, the world-famous sweet treat known as the Nanaimo bar has drawn attention and brightened the palates of visitors the world over. Find out what all the talk is about on the city’s official Nanaimo Bar Trail through downtown. A trip along the self-guided sugar trail will lead to ice cream, fudge, lattés, and decadent desserts flavoured like the tasty sweet created in the '50s by a housewife and made popular by shops on Commercial Street.

And for a lesser travelled perspective of what makes Nanaimo a prime destination, consider a drive through the Yellow Point and Cedar area. Self-guided artisan tours showcase a local take on history and culture, and fresh treats await at Hazelwood Herb Farm and Yellow Point Cranberries. Finish off with an amazing lunch or dinner at the English-style Crow and Gate Pub on Cedar Road.

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