One of our absolute outdoor joys, especially in spring are with a visit to Bowen Park, Hailey Rhododendron Grove Garden with over 350 blooming rhododendrons every year. The Grove is in bloom from late February – July. A tranquil woodland garden adopted by the Nanaimo Rhododendron Society. The Grove is situated in the Millstone Valley of Nanaimo’s Bowen Park. Also in the park, visitors can enjoy many sporting activities including; swimming, tennis, horseshoe pitching, disk golf and lawn bowling. There is a multitude of fabulous stream-side and forested trails to explore. Why not explore the 18 hectare bird and wildlife sanctuary of Buttertubs Marsh, which is near Bowen Park as well. Perhaps you would like to bring your camera and some birdseed for an unforgettable outing to the Morrel Santuary. Check out the hidden gem at Colliery Dam Park, a very large and historical park where many locals swim, fish and hike.
Are you an avid birdwatcher? Well there are incredible bird watching and photography opportunities close by. If you follow along the shoreline to Neck Point Provincial Park, this is a 14 hectare oceanfront park, where there are breathtaking panoramic views of the Strait of Georgia and overlooking the islands. There is a vast hiking trail system throughout the park and some of the best ocean views of the Straight. If you travel a bit further along Hammond Bay Road, you will come to Pipers Lagoon which offers spectacular viewpoints through the old Glengarry oak trees along our picturesque shorelines. If you go to the lagoon in low tide, you may have the opportunity to walk out and around Shack Island. If your idea of sightseeing is 180 degree view of Departure Bay and ocean down there, trek up Sugar Loaf Mountain. The hike is well worth the birdseye view. If you are looking to just have a casual hike at a serene lake, Lost Lake is about 1 km around the lake, nestled in some very large mature trees. How about hiking through a pristine forest to an 85 foot waterfall at the heart of Mt Benson? Well this is the spring or when the water levels are higher Ammonite Falls is a must see. If you prefer you can have a guided tour to the falls are offered through Tracks. Check out this video of the falls.
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Does the idea of hiking copious stairs to arrive in a private secluded beach appeal to you? If so, then Blue Back Beach would be a highlight. A lot of locals also use this as a popular work out spot, to keep up on their fitness.
How about a walk or cycle around Westwood Lake Park which is a scenic 6 km water side chipped trail. Enjoy the wilderness terrain in this 106 hectare park. Many local residents including geese, goslings, ducks, deer, raccoons and more are in abundance here. There is a lifeguard on duty in the hot summer months of July and August at the sandy beach. Another popular swimming beach and park area is Loudon Park at Long Lake. It has a great sandy beach perfect for children to play and there is a swim raft for the swimmers to make their way out to. A perfect picnic spot for the whole family.
In the downtown centre, Maffeo Sutton Park is in the hub of the inner harbour. Home to many of our festivals, events and activities. The park includes basketball courts, giant chess boards, a large playground, a fishing pier and a perfect picnic spot. A short ferry ride from the park will bring you to Newcastle Island. You can explore the “jewel” of the Nanaimo Harbour. Newcastle Island is a beautiful sandstone island full of local beauty and much of the Coal mining city’s history.
Check out Beban Park its has some of the city’s key recreational facilities and amenities including indoor swimming pools, soccer fields, playgrounds, tennis courts, basketball hoops, equestrian centre, bike parks, BMX track, off leash dog park, golf course, driving range and home to the Vancouver Island Exhibition and Fairgrounds. Cycling the city via the E & N Trail or the Parkway trail is enjoyed by many residents and visitors. It essentially runs from one end of Nanaimo to the other. However if you are wanting more challenging cycling and mountain biking is your speed, connect with The Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club and maybe try to conquer the Abyss or do self guided riding using TrailForks.
Cable Bay Trail is an incredible picturesque hike and actually one of our favorite hikes. In under an hour, one can catch a glimpse of sea lions surfing in the wakes, or sit on rock bluffs and enjoy the fierce tidal changes and watching the marine vessels navigate the waters in Dodds Narrows. This is a great trail to view bald headed eagles on. While so close on the south end of town, check out Jack Point/Biggs Park is a great kept secret in Nanaimo. The trail system runs along Duke Point. It has excellent views of the Nanaimo River, Protection Island and more. Follow over the wooden stairs to the bluff of Jack Point and watch the ferries set sail or sit and enjoy a beautiful sunset.
If you would like to print out the Local Nanaimo Parks and Trails map click here.