Nanaimo, this family Friendly city, located on Vancouver Island is home to more than 200 parks. The glorious thing about living in Nanaimo is that summer brings on a plethora of activities and events that one can partake in. And the best part is many of these activities are FREE! The following list will showcase all the great things Nanaimo has to offer that are completely free for you to enjoy.


Take advantage of the Playground Program put on by the City of Nanaimo from July 4 – August 29 (2018). Drop in at any of the participating neighborhood playgrounds for some free family fun. Activities include games, crafts and/or sports. The programs are geared towards kids ages 5 – 12.

Participating Playgrounds:

Harewood Centennial Park – located at 740 Howard Avenue

Monday – Friday, from 10:00 am – 3:30 pm

Mansfield Park – located at 800 St. Andrews Street

Offered Monday – Friday, from 10:00 am – 3:30 pm

Carmanah Park – located at 6151 Carmanah Way

Monday – Wednesday, from 10:00 am – 3:30 pm

Coal Tyee School – located at 2280 Sun Valley Drive

Thursday’s and Friday’s, from 10:00 am – 3:30 pm

Country Hill Park – located at 1899 White Blossom Way

The program is offered Monday – Wednesday, from 10:00 am – 3:30 pm

Groveland Park – located at 6273 Groveland Drive

Thursday’s and Friday’s, 10:00 am – 3:30 pm

Water Parks

There are four of them in Nanaimo, and all of them are open from June until September from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm.

Departure Bay Kiwanis Park – located at 1420 Bay Street.

Deverill Square Park – located at 200 Irwin Street.

Harewood Centennial Park – located at 740 Howard Avenue.

Mansfield Park – located at 800 St. Andrews Street.

Family Fun Nights

If you can’t make it to the above activities during the day, the City of Nanaimo is also offering a few Thursday evening programs called Family Fun Nights.

When: 4:00 – 7:00 pm at the following locations.

June 28 – Departure Bay Park, located at 1413 Wingrove Street

July 26 – Mansfield Park, located at 800 St. Andrews Street

August 30 – Harewood Park, located at 740 Howard Avenue

If group activities aren’t your child’s thing, head to one of the many parks scattered throughout Nanaimo for some good old-fashioned playground play.

For a full list of all the parks and their locations, head to the City of Nanaimo website.

Science in the Park

NS3 is hosting FREE drop-in community events at various local parks throughout Nanaimo this summer.

Nature Exploration

Explore local parks and protected areas with NS3’s outreach educators. Explore Nanaimo’s diverse habitats with nature hikes, explorations of local flora and fauna, science games and art projects. All ages welcome.

When: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10:00 am-noon

Where: Look for NS3’s purple tent at the following locations:

July 3 – 5 – Bowen Park

July 10 – 12 – Sebastion Beach

July 17 – 19 – Richards Marsh

July 24 – 26 – Divers Lake

July 31 – August 2 – Brookwood Park

August 7 – 9 – Neck Point Park

August 14 – 16 Buttertubs Marsh

Please note: for safety purposes it is required that children under age 16 are to be accompanied by a minimum number of supervising adults:

Children 4 years old and under, 1 adult per every 3 children

1 adult per every 5 children, for children ages 5 – 9

Children 10 years old to 16 years old, 1 adult per 10 children

Go for a Walk

There are some fantastic places to walk in Nanaimo. While there are definitely trails that produce a good sweat, in the hot summer months I prefer a leisurely walk. Especially ones that provide some much-needed shade, or trails that meander alongside the ocean for that cool sea breeze.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Neck Point Park – located at the end of Morningside Drive (off Hammond Bay Road) – ocean & treed walk

Pipers Lagoon Park – located at the end of Place Road – ocean walk

Westwood Lake – located on Westwood Road (off Jingle Pot Road) – walk along the lake with lots of tree coverage

Morrell Sanctuary – located on Nanaimo Lakes Road – thickly forested area

Jack Point and Biggs Park – located off the Duke Point Highway – ocean walk through trees

For further information on any above-mentioned trails (plus a few more) read the post entitled ‘Top 10 Nanaimo Walks‘.

Search for the Golden Bucket

The City of Nanaimo is hosting their annual Golden Bucket Contest between May 2 – July 31. Get your thinking hats on and explore your local parks, playgrounds and trails for a chance to win some fun weekly prizes!

Each Wednesday a new clue will be posted. You will find a question or a challenge related to the particular area you find the Golden Bucket. Email the answer to the question or a photo of you completing the challenge to and qualify to win some fun weekly prizes.

The GRAND PRIZE is a Sunset Kayak Tour for you and 5 of your friends/family, courtesy of Coastal Expression Adventure Centre (value of $300)!

Watch for a new clue each week on:

The City of Nanaimo’s Facebook page:

The City of Nanaimo’s website:

Hit the Beach

When it comes to beaches, you can’t beat the vast sandy shores located in the Pacific Rim, or even Parksville for that matter…but, Nanaimo still has some great ones to explore. Whether it’s rocky or sandy, a beach is a perfect place to be when the weather is hot!

Here a few of the best beaches in Nanaimo:

Departure Bay Beach – located off Departure Bay road. It is a great place for beachcombing any time of year, and during the summer there is a designated unpatrolled swimming area.

Morningside Beach – located at the start of Neck Point Park. This beach offers a perfect spot for little ones to beachcomb, and the sheltered bay makes for good swimming during the summer months.

Blue Heron Beach – located in Yellow Point. This is a great place to picnic, pick blackberries, and stroll along the rocky shore.

Concerts in the Park

Enjoy FREE concerts in the park all summer long (July 3 – August 29)!

When: Concerts will be held on Tuesday afternoons (12:30 – 1:30) and Wednesday evenings (6:00 – 7:30) at either Maffeo Sutton Park or the Bowen Park Amphitheatre. So bring your lawn chair and a picnic and enjoy some musical entertainment in two of Nanaimo’s most beautiful parks!


Tuesday Afternoons (12:30 – 1:30 pm)

Maffeo Sutton Park in July

Bowen Park Amphitheatre in August

Wednesday Evenings (6:00 – 7:30 pm)

For the month of July, the evening concerts are held at the Bowen Park Amphitheatre.

In August, the evening concerts are held at Maffeo Sutton Park.

Partake in a Festival

Nanaimo hosts many festivals throughout the summer. And unless you spend money on food or trinkets while there, many of them are free!

Family Fishing Day – Sunday, June 17 at Colliery Dam Park, from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Learn to fish, play games, make crafts, help with trout release

National Indigenous Peoples Day – June 21 at Maffeo Sutton Park, from 4:00 – 8:00 pm

Salmon BBQ, live performances, artists booths, children’s activities

Canada Day Celebration – Sunday, July 1 at Maffeo Sutton Park

Starting at 11:00 am, join in the celebration of our great country, and enjoy music, entertainment, food and free family events.

Dragon Boat Festival – July 6 – 8 at Maffeo Sutton Park

Go cheer on the 70+ racing teams for some good old-fashioned wet and wild fun!

Silly Boat Regatta – Sunday, July 15 at Maffeo Sutton Park

Boat building, activities, crafts, sports zone, children’s mini-regatta, entertainment, and of course boat races

World Championship Bathtub Race – July 20 – 22 at Maffeo Sutton Park

Help celebrate this fun race with a whirlwind weekend full of activities. There will be a launch party, beer garden, concerts, dance, street fair, kids zone, vendors, Festival of Lights (fireworks) and much more. Without a doubt, this is one of the best weekends to spend downtown in the harbour city!

Hawaiian Holidaze – Friday, August 10 at Westwood Lake, from 1:00 – 3:00 pm

Enjoy a wide variety of tropical themed games and activities for the whole family

Outdoor Fitness

Nanaimo has two outdoor fitness areas that are completely free to use for locals and visitors alike.

Oliver Woods – is located at 6000 Oliver Road

Beban Park – is located at 2300 Bowen Road

Bowen Park, located at 500 Bowen Road, also has disc golf. The best part is you can borrow the discs for free from the Recreation Centre!

And of course, the parks mentioned above also have tennis courts, skating bowls, playgrounds, and/or walking trails to help keep you active this summer.

Go Swimming

I’ve already mentioned two great ocean swimming spots above (Departure Bay & Morningside Beach), but Nanaimo has some wonderful freshwater swimming holes too.

Westwood Lake – located on Westwood Road – this is one of Nanaimo’s best-loved parks, in part because it is a great place to swim. It is also Nanaimo’s only lifeguarded freshwater swimming spot (June – August).

The Nanaimo River – (several entry points)

A great entry point is on either side of the Cedar bridge (on the way into Cedar), although parking is at a premium.

There are also some great spots off Nanaimo River Road (watch for areas that have a mass of congregated cars).

The safest entry point is at the Nanaimo River Regional Park (there is parking off of Frey Road, as well as Fry Road).

!!! Please remember!!! The Nanaimo River has a fast flowing current in many areas and has many spots that are deceptive and very dangerous. For safety purposes, stay in the wide pools, and avoid areas with churning, frothing, and/or bubbling water. Make sure to always keep children at arms lengths, and obviously always be extremely cautious when anywhere near waterfalls and/or rapids!

Free Events

Here are all the great events happening on Vancouver Island for FREE! With all these ideas, there should be no excuses for boredom.

Check and you will find so many free events happening here. You can also subscribe to Harbour Living Weekly for FREE weekly updates of events happening each week. Following are just two good examples which will happen this weekend!

Marty Steele at the Keyboards

Thursday, June 20th, 2019 – Friday, June 21st, 2019
5pm to 7pm Thursday 5:30pm to 7:30pm Friday

Now that summer is here, and with a newly expanded performing schedule and a renovated kitchen, Marty can now take advantage of his huge repertoire of favourite easy listening tunes while dining, along with a helping of tunes for your dancing pleasure. Many people have commented to the management about him playing the best dinner music anywhere. He is truly the “Piano Man of Nanaimo”. (NOTE: Marty will be adding Thursdays to the calendar in April, starting at 5pm.

Guaranteed fun for young and old alike, it makes for a very satisfying early evening in a very comfortable setting. There is no substitute for the sound of a keyboard during the season as Marty plays your favourite tunes mixed in to his set list along with any other special requests that he might know. Please see below:

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Because the entertainment schedule is not completed for the ensuing month until near the end of the previous month, please check this listing, or call the restaurant (or check their website, if the schedule is completed) for the latest updates regarding Marty’s playing schedule. He usually plays on selected Friday nights (See note above)

From the Studio

Thursday, June 20th, 2019 – Sunday, June 30th, 2019

Artist Eileen Williamson is the feature artist at Art 10 Gallery. Her purpose as an artist is to study and paint the green spaces both wild and preserved in the urban landscape of our growing communities. The show features a collection of popular local places. Eileen’s show opening is on June 8 from 2 to 4 and is on for the entire month of June.

Hope this gives you some great ideas on FREE things to do in Nanaimo this summer! If you know of any others, please leave a comment below and share your knowledge!