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Nanaimo is one of the portals to Vancouver Island, home of countless outdoor activities perfect for exploring in a motorhome rental. This large city is on the southeast side of Vancouver Island and is easily accessed by the Vancouver city ferry. Like many other Canadian towns, this one also started as a Hudson Bay Trading outpost in the mid-19th century. Coal was the main export from Nanaimo, and relics from that time can still be found all over.
There’s a significant presence of Indigenous Nations people in Nanaimo who continue to preserve the heritage of their ancestors. They took advantage of the natural resources that the land and sea offer long before Europeans arrived. Tourists can learn all about their way of life at several sites near Nanaimo. Being one of the largest population centers on Vancouver Island, you’ll find plenty of RV rentals in Nanaimo. You can drive almost the entire length of the island in your Nanaimo RV rental, from Victoria on one end to Port Hardy on the other.
The coastline around Nanaimo makes it a sought-after destination for paddlers. Kayakers can explore beaches only accessible by boat, rocky bluffs, estuaries, and small islands. Canoe and kayak destinations near Nanaimo include the Newcastle Island Provincial Marine Park, the Nanaimo River Estuary, and Protection Island. The tides will heavily influence where you can go, so be sure to check on them before getting on the water.
There are over 100 miles of hiking trails for all preferences and abilities in and around Nanaimo. One of the easiest is the Colliery Dam Nature Trail, a flat interpretive trail along the river that’s especially known for being dog-friendly. One of the most scenic – but challenging – trails is the five-mile Mount Benson Trail. This tough climb takes you to a hilltop park that affords 360-degree views that are spectacular year-round. You’ll also find several waterfall hikes in the area too, including Little Qualicum Falls, Englishman River Falls, and Ammonite Falls.
Nanaimo is an excellent mountain biking destination with some of the best trails on Vancouver Island. Cyclists can find trails suitable for all styles and abilities. You’ll find four miles of single track and wide trails at Westwood Lake and 38 miles of trails at Doumont. There’s also a bike park in the middle of Nanaimo where you can practice tricks and jumps. The Nanaimo Parkway Trail is a more peaceful trail, connecting many of Nanaimo’s parks via a 12-mile paved path.
The surrounding area has countless opportunities for you to base your rental RV in Nanaimo and set out to explore.
Brannen Lake RV Park has 120 sites with a mix of hookup options, from primitive to full-service. The sites are either pull-through or back-in, and all have picnic tables and fire pits. Other amenities include laundry, hot showers, and internet. There are many opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, swimming, and fishing at Brannen Lake. The campground is open year-round, has a convenience store, and also welcomes your pets. Brannen Lake RV Park is only 15 minutes from the ferry dock.
The Living Forest Oceanside Campground and RV Park is one of the larger RV parks near Nanaimo, with 300 sites. This campground is also open year-round, and RV sites have either 30-amp and 50-amp hookups, and there's a dump station on-site. The campground is on a beautiful property with forested, beachside, and riverfront campsites. Three sides of the RV park are surrounded by water, and you can stretch your legs on the hiking trails next to the river.
Ten minutes from the ferry dock, you’ll find the Jingle Pot RV Park and Campground. Amenities at this campground include hot showers, laundry, and internet. There are a total of 120 sites, including pull-through sites for larger RVs. You can reserve either serviced or non-serviced sites. This campground is known for its beautifully-landscaped grounds with rock gardens and colorful flowers. Pets are welcome at Jingle Pot.
Another year-round option for your camper rental in Nanaimo is Westwood Lake RV Camping. This campground has 52 sites, 43 of which have full hookups, and the rest have 30-amp and water service. Westwood Lake RV Camping features hiking and biking trails, canoe and kayak rentals, and beaches for swimming. Campground amenities include hot showers, laundry, and internet. Each site has picnic tables and fire pits, and pets are allowed. This campground is located between the Departure Bay and Duke Point ferries. Some sites are right on the lake while the rest are within easy walking distance.
The harbor at Nanaimo brings in some great fresh fish, and there are some fantastic restaurants to sample the local seafood. You can also book a variety of tours from the harbor, from full-day trips on large catamarans to small group tours in kayaks. Visit remote beaches, play with the harbor seals, or go diving in the kelp forests.
The Nanaimo Museum is a must-see attraction and an excellent option for a rainy day. You can walk through a traditional Snuneymuxw longhouse to see how the natives lived for centuries before European settlement and visit a coalminer’s preserved cabin. There’s also a sports museum attached to the Nanaimo Museum; this region has contributed more than its share to the sports world.
Nanaimo has a variety of shops and art galleries in the Old City Quarter and the town’s Arts District. While renting an RV in Nanaimo, you’ll find one-of-a-kind boutiques, hands-on studios, and indigenous artisans. Music lovers can find performances in several indoor and outdoor venues.
There are plenty of gas stations and outfitters in Nanaimo where you can restock your Nanaimo motorhome rental before continuing on your adventure of Vancouver Island. From the ferry port of Nanaimo, the closest mainland port is Vancouver.