Downtown Nanaimo sits above an island-sheltered harbour on the south central coast of Vancouver Island.
The city is due west of Vancouver across the Strait of Georgia. Victoria is 114km/68mi south along the multi-lane Trans-Canada Highway.
The city stretches long and lean from north to south, hemmed in by the ocean on one side and Mount Benson to the west. The view to sea from the downtown Harbourfront Walkway takes in nearby Newcastle and Protection islands. Further to the east and also accessible by a short ferry ride is Gabriola Island.
Nanaimo's central location makes it a prime base for exploring Vancouver Island. Tofino and Ucluelet on the far west coast are just over two hours away by car. In the immediate neighborhood are Qualicum Beach, Parksville and Ladysmith, while Mount Washington Alpine Resort is a two-hour drive to the north.
Climate and Weather
Sheltered from the more dramatic weather on Vancouver Island's west coast, Nanaimo has a temperate coastal climate that swings between dry and not-too-hot summers and wet winters during which temperatures rarely dip below the freezing mark. Average summer highs are 20°C/70°F and much of the annual precipitation (1,144mm/45in) falls in November, December and January.
Dress in layers to keep warm on cool summer nights. And always pack raingear in the off-season, when the wet stuff ranges from a pleasant light mist to more extreme downpours.