Vancouver Island is passionate about the outdoors and passionate about everyone experiencing it in all of its natural glory! There is plenty to see but the Island can feel dauting – no worries, we have set out 25 of the top outdoor activities in and around Nanaimo including Qualicum Beach and Parksville, where you can experience something new each and every day.
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1. Visit a memorable waterfall at Ammonite Falls
This natural attraction has been a hit with visitors for a few hundred million years! Ammonite Falls will be reached after a lovely 4.5 kilometre hike and the reward is totally worth it! The rushing water engulfed in the beautiful dense forestry is picture perfect.
Address: 3328 Creekside Pl, Nanaimo
2. Get your adrenaline pumping at WildPlay Elements
Enjoy a heart pumping time at WildPlay Elements, the perfect location for adrenaline junkie! Climb along the trees on the obstacle course, swing along the dense forest or above the water on a zipline, bungee jump, and more!
Address: 35 Nanaimo River Road, Nanaimo
3. Enjoy a bike ride at Westwood Lake Park
Regarded as a year-round favorite destination, Westwood Lake Park is the perfect place to spend the day for bikers! There is a beautiful 5.5 km trail around the lake and the option to refresh with a swim and a picnic after!
Address: 381 Westwood Road
4. Get tricky at Steve Smith Bike Park
Looking to up your schools on your two wheeled transport?! Improve your memento, socialize with other bikers and learn to take jumps and land them properly at this awesome venue in the heart of Nanaimo.
5. Go to the Abyss with a hike to The Extension Ridge Trail
Part of Canada’s ‘The Great Trail’ this 9-kilometre round trip is a moderate yet challenging terrain offering stunning views! This trail is nicknamed by locals ‘The Abyss’ due to a large crack running right down through the earth at 50 cm wide! The trail is well marked and well maintained.
6. Try something new with a game of Disc Golf at Bowen Park Disc Golf Course
Get out there with some friends to try one of Nanaimo’s most popular disc golf course at Bower Park. It is 18 holes and there is a call for technical shots which make it challenging but fun for anyone wanting to play.
Address: 500 Bowen Road, Nanaimo
7. Explore Beban Park
Offering 160 acres to explore, Beban Park is a wonderful destination for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. Here you can stroll the pretty park, or start a game of soccer, tennis, pickleball, basketball, and more! There is so much to see and do at Beban Park!
Address: 2300 Bowen Road, Nanaimo
8. Enjoy paddling with Coastal Expression
Coastal Expression allows visitors to rent a kayak by the hour or for the day but also have awesome tours for people to join! They don’t just stop at kayak rentals but offer canoes and stand up paddle boards and camping gear rentals, too.
Address: 1840 Stewart Ave., Nanaimo
9. Get a Cardio Work-out at Mount Benson Regional Park
Hike the Mount Benson Regional Park trails to enjoy panoramic views of the Gulf Islands. The 8km Mount Benson Loop is steep and rough providing a great cardio work-out.
Address: 2761 Benson View Rd, Nanaimo
10. Experience waterfront views at Pipers Lagoon Park
This waterfront park is the ultimate spot for watching the perfect sunrise and sunsets! It’s also a haven for spotting birds including sandpipers, horned grebes, kingfishers and much more. Enjoy a leisurely stroll around this 8-hectare favorite.
Address: 3600 Place Rd, Nanaimo
11. Get lost in the many trails of Hemer Provincal Park
There are over 11 kilometers of walking trails to enjoy as you weave through dense forested area housing coastal Douglas firs, red alder and big – leaf maple trees, along Holden Lake and marsh land. The park is also popular for horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, and wildlife viewing – you can even spot beavers, if you’re lucky!
Address: Hwy 1, Nanaimo
12. Marvel at the underground at Horne Lake Caves
Do something brave and explore caving at Horne Lake Caves, through the exciting Riverbends Caves underground passageways, chambers and crystal formations! Professionals will give you all the information you need to participate safely and confidently for the tour, which you can do with others or privately, if you prefer!
Address: 3905 Horne Lake Caves Rd., Qualicum Beach
13. Take in the magnificence of waterfalls at Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park
Regarded as ‘one of the most beautiful parks on central Vancouver Island,’ you should definitely make time to visit this spot to see for yourself how it got this reputation! You will enjoy the memorable waterfalls that sits amongst the mountain peaks! You can pop in Cameron lake for a refreshing swim or fishing.
Address: 4001 Alberni Hwy, Qualicum Beach
14. Feel small amongst the historic trees at Heritage Forest
This impressive forest is protected to keep its precious ecological reserve! Gawk at the ancient mixture of trees including Coastal Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, Hemlock, Grand fir and more as you stroll the 50 acres. You will likely spot some endangered plants, deer and interesting birds.
Address: Crescent Rd E, Qualicum Beach
15. Chase waterfall at English Rivers
Englishman River Falls Provincial Parks outdoes itself with not one but two stunning waterfalls that will keep you smiling ear to ear. The walk to the offers various trails to meander about through set amongst lush forestry.
Address: Englishman River, Parksville
16. Embrace the peace and tranquillity at Spider Lake Provincial Park
As powerboat are strictly prohibited, Spider Lake makes for a wonderful option for a hot summer day for those seeking a quiet paddle on the waters with their kayak or canoe. There’s also lovely beach area for those wanting to relax and the waters are inviting for a swim.
Address: Hwy 19, Nanaimo
17. Discover picture perfect beaches at Qualicum Beach
4 kilometers of ideal sandy beach paired with the delicious salty water and high mountain peaks as the backdrop make Qualicum Beach a must see! Enjoy a paddle, swim, walk, enjoy a picnic but be sure not to leave before witnessing one of their sunsets!
Address: 3109 Island Hwy W, Qualicum Beach
18. Go Back in Time at Petroglyph Provincial Park
This unique destination will take you back in time and allow them to learn a little about pre-historic life in the area. There is a short interpretive walk that leads you to view the petroglyphs that were created more than 1000 years ago. Let imaginations run wild at this amazing site.
Address: 990-960, Trans-Canada Hwy, Nanaimo
19. Get your steps up at Lighthouse Country Regional Trail
For a great, accessible trail, head to Lighthouse Country Regional Trail, where the land splits into two great trails that offer about 2.5 km of walking, each. The trail is frequented by walkers, runners, cyclists and equestrian who all love the nature beauty and serenity that this park offers.
Address: 3475 Lioness Blvd, Qualicum Beach
20. Have a blast at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park
Camping, swimming, hiking, and walking are the many things activities you can enjoy in a day at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park which boasts an impressive 347 acres of land or enjoy including some sandy beach and 25 camping spots.
Address: 1240 Rath Rd, Parksville
21. Learn while enjoying the Hamilton Wetlands
Did you know the wetlands are impressive networks of high biological diversity which works to support a range of species and plant communities? Well, you will continue to develop your knowledge around these interesting and important areas of land with a visit to Hamilton Wetland which you can walk around, explore the area and spot wildlife of every kind.
Address: Hilliers Rd S, Qualicum Beach
22. Indulge your sweet tooth with a visit to the quirky Nanaimo bar Trail
Most Canadians know the ooey gooey pleasure of biting into the infamous Nanaimo bar, with layers of chocolate paired with coconut and custard cream. Well, there is even a trail, which maps out 39 of the best spots in the city that whip up a mean version, from cocktails, to cakes to tea lattes.
23. Take a break at Rosewell Creek Provincal Park
Rosewell Creek, in Fanny Bay, is a lovely nature park that is often uninhabited, making it a sweet spot for a relaxing break. You can stoll through the diverse range of trees while taking in the beauty that is Rosewall Creek!
Address: BC-19, Fanny Bay
24. Spot the fish at the Big Qualicum Hatchery
Experience the work that goes ino the research, projects and developments at the local hatchery where you can learn the ins and outs of the salmonid behaviour, their life cycle and habitat requirements. There are also lovely areas for a picnic and some trails to enjoy a walk.
Address: 1391 Claymore Rd W, Qualicum Beach
25. Visit the charming Coombs Country Market
Visit the enticing stalls, food, artisan shops and more at the one of kind Coombs Country Market. And no, you are eyes are not playing tricks on you – those are real live goats roaming on the roof!!
Address: 2326 Alberni Hwy, Coombs