Nanaimo is a charming coastal city on Vancouver Island. The Old City Quarter Nanaimo was formed in the late 19th century, and attracts tourists and locals for its cultural heritage and natural beauty.

What to do in Downtown Nanaimo:

Visit the Bastion

The Bastion is an icon architecture of Nanaimo, and is the first permanent structure. Built of hand hewn logs in 1852 by two French Canadian axemen, it has served as a jail, a store, a clubhouse, a museum, and most recently, an interpretative centre. The Bastion was constructed using the pièce-sur-pièce (post-and-plank) method. This entailed laying timbers across each other horizontally, with tenons cut into the ends. These tenons would then be inserted into vertical posts. This method was used partially due to the expensive cost of nails; by using the pièce-sur-pièce method, very few nails were needed. The logs were squared using only basic hand tools: a crosscut saw, broadaxe, adze, auger and pit saw. Its design is consistent with the initial fortifications constructed at the HBC trading posts throughout Canada. It is now managed by The Nanaimo Museum, and in summer time, it is open to visitors from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Go for a Stroll on the Harbourfront Walkway and Maffeo Sutton Park

The Harbourfront walkway extends from Maffeo Sutton Park to the Bastion. While enjoying the beautiful natural scenery, you can visit gift shops or sit down for a coffee or an ice-cream along the way. You may also witness wild animal like seagulls, eagles, otters, ducks, and geese. Maffeo Sutton Park is home to Nanaimo summer event. Nanaimo Bathtub Race, Silly Boat Race, Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival are all held hear. There is a green meadow and many picnic tables for you and your family to rest, and a large children’s playground for the kids to let out some energy.

Taste the Nanaimo Bar

The Nanaimo bar is a dessert Nanaimo people are proud of. It consists of three layers: a wafer and coconut crumb-base, custard flavoured butter icing in the middle and a layer of chocolate ganache on top. This high energy snack is the Snickers in the old days, when coal miner and timber jack can bring one to let the hunger go away.

Traditional Nanaimo Bar can be found at the restaurant below in Downtown Nanaimo:

A Wee Cupcakery – 407 Fitzwilliam St. (Old City Quarter)

McLean’s Specialty Foods – 426 Fitzwilliam St. (Old City Quarter)

Perkins Coffee Company – 234 Commercial St. (Downtown)

Serious Coffee Downtown – 300-60 Commercial Street (Downtown)

Javawocky Coffee House – 8-90 Front Street (Downtown)

Shopping in the Old City Quarter and Commercial Street

Walking in the Old City Quarter and on the Downtown Commercial Street is a discovery trip. There are antique stores, clothing shops, book and music stores, art galleries and much more. Artzi Stuff is a popular destination. It’s a delightful shop in a 124 year old building featuring the work of more than 65 BC artists.

My favorite restaurants in Downtown Nanaimo:

There are more than 50 restaurants in Downtown Nanaimo, offering a variety of choices. Here are 3 of them that I frequent for good reason.

The Firehouse Grill

This restaurant operates in the historical building of the old firehouse which is more than a hundred years old. The name of the restaurant is rebellious and ignite excitement. It offers an interesting combination of westernized Asian food and Asianized western food. The exterior is 19th century look, but the inside is modern and chic. Some tables feature nice harbour view.

Lighthouse Bistro and Pub

Lighthouse Bistro is on the water. You can choose to sit in the bistro, the pub, or the patio. The location is unbeatable, the food is great, and the service is friendly. Price is not high considering the location and the ambiance. Try the $12.99 3-course Wednesday Special.


Mon Petit Choux

Mon Petit Choux is a lovely French bakery on Commercial street. It is an ideal place for you to take a rest when you stroll around the downtown area. It offers organic coffee, sandwich, sweet treats, croissants, and all you desire! Born in Europe, lived in Toronto, and traveled around the world, the restaurant owner Linda settled in Nanaimo and started this restaurant. After knowing that I’m writing an article about Downtown Nanaimo, Linda said she loves Nanaimo because it is a city with the natural beauty of the island, but you don’t feel you are on an Island because the infrastructure is more than sufficient. Her vision is to offer Nanaimo a restaurant where the crescent tastes the same as that of a café in Paris.

Where you can stay in Downtown Nanaimo:

Coast Bastion Hotel

Coast Bastion Hotel is about 5 minutes walk from the beach, and may be the best ocean view hotel in Downtown Nanaimo. It is also in the middle of the shops and restaurants, and 2 minutes walk to the Harbourfront Walkway. For less than $200 per night, it well worth the location, the facilities and the view.

Cambie Hostel Nanaimo

Cambie Hostel operates in a historic brick building, and is about 10 minutes walk from the beach. There are recreational facilities including an arcade/game room, a television in a common area, and a nightclub with karaoke. Can’t expect better for $60/night double room.

How to come to Downtown Nanaimo:

Regular Ferries

BC Ferries Come across the Georgia Straight from the Mainland. Two trips get you from the mainland, either from Horseshoe Bay (West Vancouver) to Departure Bay (Nanaimo) or Tsawwassen to Duke Point (15 minutes south of Nanaimo). Please follow the link below for BC Ferries schedule.



Seaplane is fast and an amazing experience. The terminal has regular scheduled flights from Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast, and only a 20 minute trip, and is located right at Downtown. Rate is about $90 per trip. Please follow this link for more details.

Proposed Fast Ferry

Island Ferries is working on a new passenger ferry between Downtown Nanaimo and Downtown Vancouver. It would link the two cities with a 1 hour travel, and is expected to begin operation by the end of 2018.

If you plan to move to Downtown Nanaimo:

The old city area has lots of charm. But most single family home here are about a century old and are not in very good condition unless well updated. Most people who move to Downtown Nanaimo chose condo living.

There are many condo buildings in this neighborhood, unit price various from less than $200,000 to more than 1 million. Below are some popular condo complexes and a summary of their price level and features.

Cameron Island

Cameron Island is an Iconic building of Downtown Nanaimo. It’s situated on a peninsula at the waterfront, so that most units boasts breathtaking ocean view. There are 3 buildings, The Beacon (a 26 storey tower building) in the middle and two 7 storey buildings on the wings. A well-designed pond in the middle gives the garden view units a water view to appreciate. Built in the 1990’s but very well maintained, Cameron Island is the most pricy complex in Downtown Nanaimo. Medium price for a 1100 sq ft unit with nice view in 2018 is about $600,000. It is the ultimate choice for many of the elderlies in town, and attracts out of town buyers for its convenience and charm.

The Beacon

Address154 Promenade Drive
Unit SizeMost units 1150sqft- 1600sqft
Number of Unit Sold on MLS in 20175
Average Price in 2017$608,200
Pet RegulationNo pets
Rental RegulationRental cap
FacilitiesUnderground parking and storage, swimming pool, hot tub, exercise room, clubhouse, and wheelchair access
Strata Fee$413-$577 for most units in 2017

The Newcastle

Address150 Promenade Drive
Unit SizeMost units 1100-1300sqft, penthouse-style “garden patio” suites 1850-1900sqft.
Number of Unit Sold on MLS in 20177
Average Price in 2017$468,714
Pet RegulationAllowed with certain limit
Rental RegulationRental cap
FacilitiesUnderground parking and storage, hot tub, wheelchair access
Strata Fee$430-$524 for most units in 2017

The Gabriola

Address150 Promenade Drive
Unit SizeMost units 1100sqft-1300sqft, penthouse-style “garden patio” suites 1850-1900sqft.
Number of Unit Sold on MLS in 20176
Average Price in 2017$466,133
Pet RegulationAllowed with certain limit
Rental RegulationRental cap
FacilitiesUnderground parking and storage, hot tub, wheelchair access
Strata Fee$408 for 1100sqft units in 2017

Studio NA

If you are looking for a newer building with smaller units and affordable price, Studio NA may be a good choice. It is steps to the shopping and restaurants of the Old City Quarter, a short stroll to the beachfront sidewalk, and prices are under $300,000 until May 2018. It’s a premium choice for single people or young couple who work in the Downtown area, and is also popular among investors.

Address99 Chapel Street
Year Built2010
Unit Size625 sqft -860 sqft
Number of Unit Sold on MLS in 20176
Average Price in 2017$247,967
Pet Regulation1 dog or cat
Rental Regulationallowed
Strata Fee$221- $359 in 2017

Cavan Place

Cavan Place is steps to the Casino and the Port Place shopping mall in Downtown Nanaimo. Some units overlook the ocean from the city, and other units has mountain views. Mountain view units are under $200,000 and Ocean view units average at around $260,000 until mid 2018.

Address30 Cavan Street
Year Built1990
Unit Size530 sqft -880 sqft
Number of Unit Sold on MLS in 20173
Average Price in 2017$183,333
Pet RegulationNot allowed
Rental Regulationallowed
Strata FeeAbout $200 in 2017

You can search for Nanaimo Downtown condos below. If you need assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me.