Nanaimo is now known as “The Harbour City”. The city was previously known as the “Hub City”, which has been attributed to its original layout design where the streets radiated out from the shoreline like the spokes of a wagon wheel, as well as its generally centralized location on Vancouver Island.
The original economy in this area was coal mining; however, the forestry industry took over in the early 1960s with the building of the MacMillan Bloedel pulp mill at Harmac, (named after Harvey MacMillan), in 1958. Today the pulp mill is owned by the employees and local investors and is a major player in the local economy. The food service, retail and tourism industries are also big contributors to the local economy.
The Nanaimo Art Gallery is a public art museum located downtown at 150 Commercial Street. In addition to contemporary exhibitions by local, national and international artists, the Gallery operates Art Lab which offers year-round art-based programs for learners of all ages. The Gallery also holds a collection of artwork, operates The Gallery Store, which features work by local artists and artisans, and runs Artists in the Schools, a program that operates across three school districts. The Port Theatre in downtown Nanaimo hosts many performers and shows during the year. Smaller, local theatre companies such as In Other Words Theatre, Western Edge Theatre and Schmooze Productions perform at the Nanaimo Centre Stage. Nanaimo also began running a fringe theatre festival in 2011.
The Nanaimo Blues Society has organized and presented five 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. The Nanaimo Conservatory of Music, a non-profit, charitable organization has been offering classical music lessons and producing concerts since 1977
It’s the many options from sea to sky that attract visitors to Nanaimo, from trails and rainforest waterfalls to beaches and relaxation, to enjoying a beverage at one of the 4 local craft breweries.
From the water, you can set sail from the Nanaimo harbour on a catamaran, fishing boat or hovercraft. It’s just one of the ways to catch a glimpse of Nanaimo’s local wildlife of BC.
Nanaimo is also home to North America’s first purpose-made bungee jumping bridge, operated by WildPlay Element Parks.
The main campus of Vancouver Island University is located in Nanaimo. It offers a Bachelor of Education degree as well as programs and courses in university transfer, access, trades and applied technology, health and human services, and career and academic preparation. The campus also has a Continuing Education department that offers certificate programs, personal and professional development courses, and online courses.