Ah, beautiful Nanaimo! Some call it home, others just stay for a day, but all love it. Nanaimo is known for its festivals and of course its famous dessert: the Nanaimo bar! While most people know the Nanaimo of today, what most people don’t know is that Nanaimo is a historic city with a very colourful past. Read on to find out more about how the city of Nanaimo came to be.


Nanaimo started out as a small town and was known for a long time as “The Harbour City”, or “The Hub City” for the way its streets were formed like the spokes of a wheel. For a while the city was also considered to be the hub of Vancouver Island. The first people to live in Nanaimo were the Snuneymux Peoples, a native group that inhabited North Vancouver Island. It was from the Snuneymux that the current city name evolved. During the voyages to the Americas, the Spanish explorers were the first to land in Nanaimo. Not long after that, British immigrants arrived and it was soon turned into a trading post for coal that quickly caught the interest of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Nanaimo became a booming coal mining town with it’s harbours running day and night. Other traditional Canadian infrastructure began to creep into the town with the construction of the Esquimalt-Nanaimo railroad in 1873. Unfortunately the Nanaimo mine explosion of 1887 killed 150 people and shook the town. Because of this devastation, after nearly a century of coal mining Nanaimo became more known for its lumber when its first pulp mill opened. Since then, Nanaimo has increased it’s production to include fishing and sandstone cultivation.


Today Nanaimo boasts its cultural diversity with four separate Chinatowns established in different sections of the city over the years. It holds many festivals such as its annual Dragon Boat festival to celebrate these cultural ties. There are over five theatre companies in Nanaimo which all perform often in the centre of town. Nanaimo also holds art galleries, museums, jazz and blues scenes, and Canada’s oldest community concert band- yet another piece of it’s long history with music.


For every significant event in Nanaimo there is a festival. From the World Championship Bathtub Races to the Summertime Blues! Festival, attending the city’s events reveals a lot about its history. These festivals bring out both locals and tourists to enjoy the long standing traditions of the Nanaimo and its inhabitants.


It’s easy to see why Nanaimo is becoming a popular tourist destination as people learn more and more about it’s rich history. Come and see for yourself why Nanaimo is a great city of both the past and the present!