Jaw-dropping mountains and more than 4-kilometers of waterfront walkways make Nanaimo, BC far more than a gateway stop to Central Vancouver Island. Sure it’s the second largest city on Canada’s western landmass and offers easy access to destinations such as Tofino, Ucluelet and Port Alberni. But, it’s also home to a collection of funky art, historic buildings, and quaint pubs. It’s where you’ll find artisan honey producers and a self-guided dessert tour. It’s farm to table restaurants, breakfasts doused in hollandaise and small town charm that’s delightfully welcoming.
2:00 PM Explore the Cedar & Yellow Point Artisan Trail
At the south end of Nanaimo, where downtown has yet to stretch and the airport welcomes travelers, you’ll find a collection of farms, galleries, and culinary shops. Known as the Cedar & Yellow Point Artisan Trail, there are more than 20 artisan attractions. Discover the difference between “wild” and cultivated cranberry varieties during a Signature Taste Tour at Yellow Point Cranberries. Get a taste of Island honey collected by Master Beekeeper Theo Fredrich Sr. at Fredrich’s Honey. Theo’s been beekeeping for over 60 years! And, explore locally grown herbs at Hazelwood Herb Farm where more than 400 varieties of herb plants are sold.
Fredrich’s Honey – 2798 Cedar Road, Cedar, B.C.
Hazelwood Herb Farm – 13576 Adshead Road, Ladysmith, B.C.
5:30 PM – Start the Nanaimo Bar Trail off right with a Nanaimo Bartini
Though the exact origins of the Nanaimo Bar remain unconfirmed, this triple layered chocolate, custard and coconut delight is attributed to Nanaimo. The official Nanaimo bar recipe was developed by Joyce Hardcastle in 1985. Over the years, more than 25 local businesses have given it their own twist. Today, they form the Nanaimo Bar Trail, a self-guided sweet exploration where Nanaimo Bars have inspired drinks, cakes and more. To start your sampling off right, begin with a Nanaimo Bartini at ACME Food Co.
ACME Food Co. – 14 Commercial Street, Nanaimo, B.C.
7:00 PM – Dinner at Minnoz Restaurant & Lounge
Enjoy a short stroll to Minnoz Restaurant & Lounge where modern elegance and exceptional service are paired with a reasonably priced menu. Steak is grilled to order, but it’s the local seafood that shines. Try starters such as Qualicum Bay scallops and Salt Spring Island mussles with chorizo. Larger entrees feature wild BC sockeye salmon and lobster ravioli tossed with local seafood.
Insider Tip: Only a few tables capitalize on Minnoz stunning view of the harbor. Call ahead to reserve.
Minnoz Restaurant & Lounge – 11 Bastion Street, Nanaimo, B.C.
9:00 AM – Breakfast at Two Chefs Affair
With a love for food, the husband-wife chef duo, chef Daniel Caron and chef Tammy Deline, offer enticingly addictive cuisine. Two Chefs Affair French toast, aptly titled “Love at first bite,” features a rich egg bread flavored with hints of pumpkin, cinnamon and vanilla. Their famous Eggs Benedict comes topped with lemony house made hollandaise. And, their scrambles are light on the egg and heavy on the extras.
Nanaimo Bar Trail Continued: Those up for a sweet, albeit cold, stop on the Nanaimo Bar Trail should inquire about the Two Chefs’ Ice Cream Sandwich.
Two Chefs Affair – B-123 Commercial Street, Nanaimo, BC
10:00 AM – Take in the Nanaimo’s History
As the third oldest city in British Columbia, even the streets and buildings in Nanaimo tell a story. Begin learning about the region’s heritage at the Nanaimo Museum. Here you’ll be able to walk through an real-life replica of a coalmine, learn about the First Nations people and more. Then, pick up a Heritage Walking Tour brochure from the museum to continue your exploration. While out and about, be sure not to miss the last standing Hudson Bay Company Bastion. At noon a cannon firing ceremony takes place daily. (The cannon firing ceremony is seasonal from May through Labor Day.)
Nanaimo Museum – 100 Museum Way, Nanaimo, B.C.
12:30 PM – Lunch at Gabriel’s Gourmet Cafe
Healthy comfort food is often given an Asian twist at Gabriel’s Gourmet Café. With fare that will satisfy meat eaters, veggie lovers and gluten-free diners alike, you’ll be treated to a menu crafted from local, sustainable products. Though selections change based on availability, you might find items such as a Thai green curry rice bowl with your choice of chicken, tofu or prawns; a curry chicken wrap with apple tomato chutney, cilantro, and green onions; and a three bean chili spiked with chipotle and lime.
2:00 PM – Meander Through Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter (and enjoy a stop on the Nanaimo Bar Trail)
Just up the hill from the waterfront, you’ll find a collection of historic buildings from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Now known as the Old City Quarter, this was originally the city’s economic core. Today the area is a hub for galleries, specialty stores, and eateries. Among the highlights is the Esquimalt & Nanaimo Railway Station, which continues to serve its original function as a major entry point for the city via a passenger rail service. Also of note is Saint Andrew’s United Church with its stunning collection of stained glass windows and its high hipped roof.
Nanaimo Bar Trail Continued: As your appetite will allow, don’t miss your chance to make another stop (or two) on the Nanaimo Bar Trail. In the Old City Quarter you’ll find selections such as a Nanaimo Bar inspired cupcake at A Wee Cupcakery or a classic Nanaimo Bar at McLean’s Specialty Foods.
McLean’s Specialty Foods – 426 Fitzwilliam Street, Nanaimo, B.C.
A Wee Cupcakery – 407 Fitzwilliam Street, Nanaimo, B.C.
6:00 PM – Dinner at Modern Café
Established in 1946, Modern Café puts a contemporary spin on classics. Here, old world brick walls are combined with moody recessed lighting for a sultry vibe that begs you to lean in close to that someone special. Their cuisine’s focus on classic tastes features comforting dishes such as three different variations of Mac & Cheese (Moms, Vegetarian and Modern), a saffron spiced salmon, and braised pork ribs. Those up for sharing will love their tapas menu, a collection of small plates including poutine, fries topped with cheese curds and beer gravy; fish tacos featuring avocado mousse and roasted corn salsa; and coconut prawns.
Nanaimo Bar Trail Continued: Continue your chocolate-custard indulgence with another Nanaimo Bar inspired libation. Here, Modern Café’s Nanaimo Bar Martini features a shot of espresso for an additional depth of flavor.
Modern Café – 221 Commercial Street, Nanaimo, B.C.
9:00 AM – Breakfast at Tina’s Diner
Don’t expect fancy and don’t expect light. Tina’s Diner is true to its name. This local favorite dishes up classic diner fare in a booth and counter setting. Their hollandaise is thick and creamy. Their corned beef hash is studded with onions and packed with well-seasoned potatoes. Those looking for a slight twist on the traditional Eggs Benedict will love the Shrimp Benedict, a seafood inspired breakfast selection that’s sure to fill you up.
Tina’s Diner – 187 Commercial Street, Nanaimo, B.C.
10:30 AM – Hike the Cable Bay Trail
The Cable Bay Trail offers a light, hour-long hike that twists through a forested trail down to an expansive waterfront. Keep an eye out for migrating sea lions. They like to sun themselves on the log booms. Looking for a hike with a little different feel? Pick up a Parks & Trail brochure at the Visitors Center and choose your own.
12:00 PM – Get Tea Leaves Read at Calico Cat Tea House
From defining your personality and taste in significant others to exploring how you deal with confrontation and what your future holds, tea readers at Calico Cat Tea House have been dazzling drinkers for years. But, readings are performed by reservation only, so call ahead. The tea house is also an excellent place to grab a bite to eat. You’ll find a selection of soups, salads, sandwiches, crepes and more.
Calico Cat Tea House – 1081 Haliburton Road, Nanaimo B.C.
Photo provided by Tourism Nanaimo