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City of Nanaimo
Nanaimo from the Strait of Georgia
Nanaimo from the Strait of Georgia
Flag of Nanaimo
Coat of arms of Nanaimo
Coat of arms
Hub City, The Harbour City
Nanaimo is located in British Columbia
Location in British Columbia
Country Canada
Province British Columbia
Regional district Nanaimo
Incorporated 1874
 • Type Elected city council
 • City 91.30 km2 (35.25 sq mi)
 • Metro
1,280.84 km2 (494.54 sq mi)
28 m (92 ft)
 • City 99,863 (ranked 57th)
 • Density 1,104.1/km2 (2,860/sq mi)
 • Urban
 • Metro
115,459 (ranked 35th)
 • Metro density 76.5/km2 (198/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Nanaimoite
Time zone UTC−8 (PST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
Forward sortation area
V9R - V9V, V9X
Area code(s) 250, 778, 236, 672

Nanaimo ( nə-NY-moh) is a city on the east coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. As of the 2021 census, it had a population of 99,863. It is known as "The Harbour City". The city was previously known as the "Hub City". This was attributed both to its original layout design, where the streets radiated from the shoreline like the spokes of a wagon wheel, and to its centralized location on Vancouver Island. Nanaimo is the headquarters of the Regional District of Nanaimo.


The Native people of the area that is now known as Nanaimo are the Snuneymuxw. A westernized spelling and pronunciation of that word gave the city its current name.

The first Europeans to find Nanaimo Bay were those of the 1791 Spanish voyage of Juan Carrasco, under the command of Francisco de Eliza. They gave it the name Bocas de Winthuysen.

Nanaimo began as a trading post in the early 19th century. In 1849 the Snuneymuxw chief Ki-et-sa-kun ("Coal Tyee") informed the Hudson's Bay Company of coal in the area. Exploration proved there was plenty of it in the area and Nanaimo became chiefly known for the export of coal. In 1853 the company built a Nanaimo Bastion, which has been preserved and is a popular tourist destination in the downtown area.

Nanaimo Indians, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. (On smaller backing than other photos.) - NARA - 297757
Indigenous Nanaimo people

Hudson's Bay Company employee Robert Dunsmuir helped establish coal mines in the Nanaimo harbour area and later mined in Nanaimo as one of the first independent miners. In 1869 Dunsmuir discovered coal several miles North of Nanaimo at Wellington, and subsequently created the company Dunsmuir and Diggle Ltd so he could acquire crown land and finance the startup of what became the Wellington Colliery. With the success of Dunsmuir and Diggle and the Wellington Colliery, Dunsmuir expanded his operations to include steam railways. Dunsmuir sold Wellington Coal through its Departure Bay docks, while competing Nanaimo coal was sold by the London-based Vancouver Coal Company through the Nanaimo docks.

The gassy qualities of the coal which made it valuable also made it dangerous. The 1887 Nanaimo Mine Explosion killed 150 miners and was described as the largest man-made explosion until the Halifax Explosion. Another 100 men died in another explosion the next year.

An Internment camp for Ukrainian detainees, many of them local, was set up at a Provincial jail in Nanaimo from September 1914 to September 1915.

In the 1940s, lumber supplanted coal as the main business although Minetown Days are still celebrated in the neighbouring community of Lantzville.


Nanaimo has had a succession of four distinct Chinatowns. The first, founded during the gold rush years of the 1860s, was the third largest in British Columbia. In 1884, because of mounting racial tensions related to the Dunsmuir coal company's hiring of Chinese strikebreakers, the company helped move Chinatown to a location outside city limits. In 1908, when two Chinese entrepreneurs bought the site and tried to raise rents, in response, and with the help of 4,000 shareholders from across Canada, the community combined forces and bought the site for the third Chinatown at a new location, focused on Pine Street. That third Chinatown, by then mostly derelict, burned down on 30 September 1960. A fourth Chinatown, also called Lower Chinatown or "new town", boomed for a while in the 1920s on Machleary Street.

Location and geography

Namaimo aerial 4
Aerial photo of downtown and central Nanaimo and adjacent islands.

Located on Vancouver Island, Nanaimo is about 110 km northwest of Victoria, and 55 km west of Vancouver, separated by the Strait of Georgia, and linked to Vancouver via the Horseshoe Bay BC Ferries terminal in West Vancouver. As the site of the main ferry terminal, Nanaimo is the gateway to many other destinations both on the northern part of the island — Tofino, Comox Valley, Parksville, Campbell River, Port Alberni, Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park — and off its coast — Newcastle Island, Protection Island, Gabriola Island, Valdes Island, and many other of the Gulf Islands.

Buttertubs Marsh is a bird sanctuary located in the middle of the city. The marsh covers approximately 100 acres (40 hectares). Within this is the 46 acre (18.7 hectare) "Buttertubs Marsh Conservation Area", owned by the Nature Trust of British Columbia.


Like much of coastal British Columbia, Nanaimo experiences a temperate climate with mild, rainy winters and cool, dry summers. Due to its relatively dry summers, the Köppen climate classification places it at the northernmost limits of the Csb or cool-summer Mediterranean zone. Other climate classification systems, such as Trewartha, place it firmly in the Oceanic zone (Do).

Nanaimo is usually shielded from the Aleutian Low’s influence by the mountains of central Vancouver Island, so that summers are unusually dry for its latitude and location — though summer drying as a trend is found in the immediate lee of the coastal ranges as far north as Skagway, Alaska.

Heavy snowfall does occasionally occur during winter, with a record daily total of 0.74 metres (29.13 in) on 12 February 1975, but the mean maximum cover is only 0.2 metres (7.9 in).

The highest temperature ever recorded in Nanaimo was 40.6 °C (105 °F) on 16 July 1941. The coldest temperature ever recorded was −20.0 °C (−4 °F) on 30 December 1968.

Climate data for Nanaimo Airport, 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1892–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.6
Average high °C (°F) 6.9
Daily mean °C (°F) 3.5
Average low °C (°F) 0.1
Record low °C (°F) −18.3
Average precipitation mm (inches) 187.9
Average rainfall mm (inches) 167.8
Average snowfall cm (inches) 21.0
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm) 19.7 16.0 18.2 15.6 14.8 12.4 7.6 6.8 8.2 15.5 20.5 20.4 175.6
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm) 18.0 14.9 17.8 15.6 14.8 12.4 7.6 6.8 8.2 15.4 19.8 18.8 170.0
Average snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm) 3.1 2.3 1.0 0.0 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.1 1.2 3.2 11.0
Average relative humidity (%) (at 3pm) 81.5 71.1 65.5 59.6 57.8 57.0 52.7 52.1 56.2 68.5 78.4 83.2 65.3
Mean monthly sunshine hours 56.8 88.6 133.1 179.0 224.4 226.1 288.8 280.0 213.9 131.9 67.0 50.8 1,940.2
Percent possible sunshine 21.0 31.0 36.2 43.6 47.4 46.7 59.1 62.8 56.4 39.3 24.3 19.7 40.6
Source: Environment Canada


Nanaimo is served by two airports: Nanaimo Airport (YCD) with services to Vancouver (YVR), Toronto (YYZ), and Calgary (YYC) and Nanaimo Harbour Water Aerodrome with services to Vancouver Harbour, Vancouver Airport (YVR South Terminal), and Sechelt;. Nanaimo also has three BC Ferry terminals located at Departure Bay, Duke Point, and downtown. The downtown terminal services Gabriola Island while Departure Bay and Duke Point service Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen respectively. A private passenger ferry operates between Nanaimo Harbour and Protection Island. A seasonal passenger ferry operates between Swy-a-Lana Lagoon and Newcastle Island.

Highways 1, 19, and 19A traverse the city. Bus service in the city is provided by Nanaimo Regional Transit.

The Nanaimo Port Authority operates the inner Harbour Basin marina providing mooring for smaller vessels and the W. E. Mills Landing and Marina providing mooring for larger vessels. The Port Authority also operates two terminal facilities one at Assembly Wharf (near the downtown core) and the second at Duke Point for cargo operations. In 2011 the Authority completed the addition of a $22 million cruise ship terminal at Assembly Wharf capable of handling large cruise ships including providing Canada Border Services Agency clearance.


In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Nanaimo had a population of 99,863 living in 43,164 of its 45,138 total private dwellings, a change of 10.3% from its 2016 population of 90,504. With a land area of 90.45 km2 (34.92 sq mi), it had a population density of 1,104.1/km2 (2,860/sq mi) in 2021.

At the census metropolitan area (CMA) level in the 2021 census, the Nanaimo CMA had a population of 115,459 living in 49,348 of its 51,568 total private dwellings, a change of 10% from its 2016 population of 104,936. With a land area of 1,279.28 km2 (493.93 sq mi), it had a population density of 90.3/km2 (234/sq mi) in 2021.

In 2016, the average age of a Nanaimoite is 45.5 years old, higher than the national median at 41.2.

In Nanaimo, there are 40,885 private dwellings, 39,165 which are occupied by usual residents (95.8% occupancy rate). The median value of these dwellings are $359,760, which is higher than the national median at $341,556. The average (after-tax) household income in Nanaimo is $48,469, lower than the national median at $54,089. The median individual income is $34,702, which is also lower than the national median ($38,977). The unemployment rate was 7.7%.

According to the 2016 census, Nanaimo is approximately 82% European, 8.4% aboriginal, and has small visible minority groups including 2.2% South Asian, 2.6% Chinese, and 2% Southeast Asian.

As of 2011, more than half of Nanaimo's residents do not practice any religion (51.7%), considerably higher than the national ratio (23.9%). However, for those who do participate in religions, most are of a Christian faith (44.7%). There are also Sikh communities (1.1%) and Buddhist communities (0.6%).

Nanaimo's population is predominately Anglophone. As of the 2016 census 86.7% of residents claimed English as their mother tongue. Other common first languages were Chinese Languages (2.0%), French (1.3%), German (1.2%) and Punjabi (1.0%).


The Nanaimo Art Gallery has two locations, and showcases works by many artists year round. The Port Theatre in downtown Nanaimo hosts many performers and shows during the year. Smaller, local theatre companies such as In Other Words Theatre [1], Western Edge Theatre [2] and Schmooze Productions [3] perform at the Nanaimo Centre Stage [4]. Nanaimo also began running a fringe theatre festival in 2011 [5].

A huge component of the underground music scene in Nanaimo is from the student body of Vancouver Island University. The Nanaimo Blues Society has organized and presented five highly successful, Summertime Blues! festivals. These outdoor Blues festivals have been held in downtown Nanaimo featuring local, provincial, national and internationally renowned Blues musicians.

The Nanaimo Concert Band, known as the oldest continuous community band in Canada, was established in 1872. They maintain a regular schedule of concerts and feature some of the best musicians in the area.

The Music Department at Vancouver Island University offers a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies. Faculty members include guitarist Pat Coleman, trumpeter Greg Bush, and bassist Ken Lister.

The Nanaimo Conservatory of Music, a non-profit, charitable organization has been offering classical music lessons and producing concerts since 1977.

Other prominent musicians in Nanaimo include classical trumpeter Paul Rathke and jazz composer and author Andrew Homzy.


The Nanaimo bar, which is a no-bake cookie bar with custard filling, is a Canadian dessert named after Nanaimo.

Nanaimo hosts the annual Nanaimo Marine Festival. Part of the festival includes the bathtub race. The race starts in the Nanaimo harbour downtown, goes around Entrance Island, north west to Winchelsea Islands by Nanoose Bay and finish in Departure Bay back in Nanaimo. Until the 1990s the race alternated between racing from Nanaimo to Vancouver and from Vancouver to Nanaimo.

Sister cities

Nanaimo has one sister city:


Nanaimo Waterfront2
Nanaimo waterfront

The original economic driver was coal mining; however, the forestry industry supplanted it in the early 1960s with the building of the MacMillan Bloedel pulp mill at Harmac in 1958, named after Harvey MacMillan. Today the pulp mill is owned by the employees and local investors and injects well over half a million dollars a day into the local economy. The largest employer is the provincial government. The service, retail and tourism industries are also big contributors to the local economy.

Technological development on Nanaimo has been growing with companies such as "Inuktun" and the establishment of government-funded Innovation Island as a site to help Nanaimo-based technological start ups by giving them access to tools, education and venture capital.

The average sale price of houses in Nanaimo for 2011 was approximately $350,000. A recent surge of higher-density real estate development, centred in the Old City / Downtown area, as well as construction of a city-funded waterfront conference centre, has proven controversial. Proponents of these developments argue that they will bolster the city's economy, while critics worry that they will block waterfront views and increase traffic congestion. Concerns have also been raised about the waterfront conference centre's construction running over its proposed budget. Nanaimo has also been experiencing job growth in the technology sector.

Sports and recreation

  • Nanaimo is home to the largest sports club on Vancouver Island, Nanaimo United Football Club. NUFC is home to over 1,700 members, and is one of the oldest sports clubs in Canada, having been formed in 1903.
  • Nanaimo is home to North America's first legal, purpose-made bungee jumping bridge, operated by WildPlay Element Parks.
  • Nanaimo is home to the Canadian Junior Football League's Vancouver Island Raiders, who play at Caledonia Park.
  • Nanaimo is home to the British Columbia Hockey League's Nanaimo Clippers and to the Western Lacrosse Association's Nanaimo Timbermen, both of which play at the Frank Crane Arena.
  • Nanaimo is home to the Nanaimo Buccaneers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, who play at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.
  • The Nanaimo Pirates, of the B.C. Premier Baseball League (BCPBL), play at Serauxmen Stadium.
  • Football Nanaimo plays at Pioneer Park.
  • Nanaimo is home to the Senior A lacrosse team the Timbermen of the Western Lacrosse Association. Nanaimo is also home to the Junior A Timbermen and Junior B Timbermen.
  • Nanaimo is home to the Nanaimo Hornets Rugby Football Club. Is part of the British Columbia Rugby Union, Established in 1888 is the second oldest Rugby Club in Western Canada, Home ground and club is situated in Pioneer Park since 1968.


Nanaimo has over 30 elementary and secondary schools, most of which are public and are operated by School District 68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith.

Aspengrove School is a JrK-grade 12 Independent (private) school accredited as an International Baccalaureate World School and offers the IB Primary Years, IB Middle Years and IB Diploma programme and received a 10 out of 10 by the IB Organization (IBO) in 2011.

The Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique operates two Francophone schools, École Océane primary school and the École secondaire de Nanaimo.

The main campus of Vancouver Island University is located in Nanaimo, which brings many international students, mostly East Asian, to the city.

Notable people

  • Terry Beech, politician
  • Red Carr, professional ice hockey player
  • Gene Carr, professional ice hockey player
  • Justin Chatwin, actor
  • Jimmy Claxton, baseball pitcher who broke US baseball's racial colour barrier
  • Raymond Collishaw, British flying ace of World War I
  • Allison Crowe, singer-songwriter and pianist
  • John DeSantis, actor
  • Michael Edgson, swimmer
  • Jodelle Ferland, actress
  • David Gogo, blues guitarist
  • Paul Gogo, keyboardist for the rock band Trooper
  • Christopher Hart, actor and magician
  • Bob Hindmarch, professor and ice hockey coach
  • Constance Isherwood, lawyer
  • Ingrid Jensen, jazz trumpeter
  • Susan Juby, author
  • Diana Krall, jazz pianist and vocalist
  • Tim Lander, poet
  • Susan Morgan, Oregon politician
  • Callum Montgomery, professional soccer player
  • Phil Olsen, Olympian javelin
  • Steve Smith, professional downhill mountain biker
  • Shane Sutcliffe, boxer
  • Kirsten Sweetland, triathlete
  • May Tully, vaudeville actress, writer, director
  • Lorna Vinden, wheelchair athlete

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Nanaimo para niños

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