Central Island features Vancouver Island’s second largest city, Nanaimo. A fun-filled and energetic city, Nanaimo is known for its commercial success and lovely harbour. The word “Nanaimo” is derived from the Coast Salish word “Sney-Ny-Mous” which means “meeting place.” Famous for its varied landscapes and more than 24 outdoor parks, Nanaimo boasts one of the most beautiful waterfronts in Canada.
Many visitors arrive in Nanaimo via its ferry terminals, floatplane services, cruise ship terminal and revitalized airport. Great hiking and cycling trails, kayaking and boating opportunities, ziplines and even a bungy jump zone are within walking distance of downtown. Explore the Old City Quarter before catching a passenger ferry to Protection Island for a pint at Canada’s only floating pub and restaurant. While you wait for your meal, the kids can even fish through the floor of the restaurant.
Outdoor pursuits are available wherever you’re based on the island. Scuba divers can explore artificial reefs in Nanaimo’s harbour. Meet locals and their canine companions on beachside promenades. Golfers can roam between 19 courses in the region while their non-golfing partners opt for whatever pleases them: shopping, culinary tours, birdwatching and kid-friendly outings to wildlife and barnyard petting zoos.
Stretching along the sheltered east coast of Vancouver Island, the Central Island offers visitors glorious parks, sandy beaches, warm ocean temperatures, tranquil lakes, exceptional golf courses, and fabulous fresh and salt water fishing.
Nanaimo is also the mid-island transportation hub to and from the British Columbia mainland. BC Ferries has daily sailings from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay (West Vancouver on the Mainland) and Duke Point to Tsawwassen on the lower British Columbia mainland. This makes Nanaimo easy to travel to, and a great central location to set up base for tours of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
The Island Highway (Highway 19) hugs the coast from Nanaimo up to Fanny Bay, the northernmost point of Central Island. It’s always a visual treat to look across the Strait of Georgia at landmarks on the mainland and enjoy the miles of scenic, sandy beaches.