While just a few of the cruise ships bound for Alaska currently call on Nanaimo, British Columbia, this delightful harbor-front town is poised to grow as a port of choice.
Nanaimo is centrally located on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, almost directly across the Strait of Georgia from the city of Vancouver. The cruise terminal is able to accommodate even the largest cruise ships, and passengers step right off the ship into town.
Visitors enjoy the water and mountain views while strolling on the Nanaimo seawall, which winds along the waterfront. If you walk far enough, you’ll pass quaint shops, a lighthouse, and the Bastion, the oldest free-standing Hudson's Bay Company fort in North America. The Bastion now houses historical exhibits; and, during the summer, the old fort’s cannon is fired daily at noon. Right next door is the impressive new home of the Nanaimo Museum, where you can learn about the island’s early history from the perspectives of First Nations people, European visitors and Chinese immigrants.
The seawall also leads to Swy-a-lana Lagoon Park, where the saltwater lagoon, full of sea life, links to the ocean during high tide. A footbridge across the lagoon leads to Maffeo Sutton Park, which has a great playground, a public fishing pier, and benches where you can relax and soak in the view.
For an easy and scenic hike, hop on a ferry to Newcastle Island, a lovely provincial park. While hiking through the forest or along the coast, you may come across an old quarry, or some remnants of the fish packing and coal mining industries that once thrived on the island. Present-day island inhabitants include unusual albino raccoons, deer, bald eagles, mallards, geese and other wildlife.
Most surprising to many first-time visitors is Nanaimo’s reputation as a scuba divers’ paradise. British Columbia is generally acknowledged to have North America’s finest diving, and the waters off Nanaimo feature artificial reefs, made by deliberately sunken ships, that have been colonized by sea life. While the cool water isn’t hospitable to tropical fish or coral, divers can meet up with the giant Pacific octopus, six-gill sharks, wolf eels and harbor seals as well as colorful kelp, anemones and sponges.
Ask Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert how you can visit Nanaimo on a cruise to Alaska or on a ship repositioning cruise.