It is almost impossible not to be awestruck during your journey to Nanaimo. Whether you are on an outside deck of a BC Ferry watching the islands pass by or a dolphin follow the ship, whizzing into the harbour on HarbourLynx, flying over Georgia Strait on a floatplane, landing at Nanaimo Airport or driving along the Island Parkway, the journey into Nanaimo is breathtaking. Nanaimo is well serviced and easy to get to from Vancouver, Victoria, Comox and Port Hardy.
BC FERRIES , which operates vehicle and passenger ferries, have 2 terminals in Vancouver. Horseshoe Bay in north Vancouver on Highway 1 provides service to central Nanaimo at Departure Bay. Service from south Vancouver on Highway 17 to Duke Point Terminal on Duke Point Highway off of Highway 1. Crossing time is 1.5 to 2 hours.
There is also a BC Ferry terminal in downtown Nanaimo that provides service to Gabriola Island. The terminal is across from Port Place Shopping Centre and next to Cameron Island (the tallest building in town and has an orange roof). Crossing time is 20 minutes.
During the summer months and particularly on the weekends both BC Ferries and HarbourLynx experience delays. Everyone trying to make the same ferry (usually the afternoon sailings). Make a reservation on either ferry and avoid a sailing or two wait. Or stay an extra day and leave early in the morning on a non-weekend day.
Travelling on Vancouver Island is fairly straightforward, there are only a handful of major roads. You will be surprised at how big the Island is: the size of the Netherlands or one third the size of California.
From Victoria drive north on Highway 1. If you are arriving at the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal you can turn right onto McKenzie Street and bypass downtown Victoria saving you a half hour of driving. The travel time is about 1.5 to 2 hours depending on the time of day.
From Port Hardy or Comox Airport drive south Highway 19 or 19A (the waterside route). From Port Hardy the travel time is about 4.5 hours and from Comox is about 1.5 hours.
From Tofino drive east along Highway 4 but make sure and stop at Cathedral Grove to see the enormous Douglas Fir and Sitka Spruce. Travel time is about 3 hours.
There is also bus service from Vancouver, Victoria and Port Hardy via Greyhound and from Vancouver, Victoria and Tofino by Tofino Bus.
Nanaimo is well served by frequest flights from Vancouver. Several airlines including Air Canada fly daily into Nanaimo Airport. Flight time is 25 minutes.
Harbour Air and Baxter Air fly from downtown Vancouver to Downtown Nanaimo's Seaplane Base. Baxter Air and Seair provide service from the Fraser River next to Vancouver International Airport YVR to Nanaimo. Flight time is 25 minutes.
In the summer months Kenmore Air provides service from Seattle to Brechin Point Marina across from The Buccaneer Inn. Flight time is about 75 minutes.
The Victoria to Courtenay train (named the Malahat) operates daily service to Nanaimo. On the Malahat you'll discover some of the most beautiful countryside in Vancouver Island between Victoria and Nanaimo. The Nanaimo train station is located on Selby Street next to the Old City Quarter. Journey time is about 2.0 hours.
No matter which way you arrive you'll be mesmerised by the scenery. Sit back, take it all in. Start planning your next trip back here!