Summer Family Adventures – Nanaimo #FamilyTravel

Tourism Nanaimo


Well our bags are packed, we’re ready to go
We’re off to #ExploreNanaimo
It’s time for us to say a small goodbye

‘Cause we’re leaving, on the ferry
Don’t worry, we’ll be back Monday
Oh Babe, can’t wait to go!

When your husband and daddy supreme to your darlings is away for work on Father’s Day, it can put a bit of a damper on the occasion. But, when that job is only a ferry ride away, what else can you do but pack up the kids to visit? I haven’t been to Nanaimo since my oldest was a tot, and this seemed the perfect occasion to re-acquaint myself with this seaside city and treat the kids to a mini vacation.

Since we were crashing hubby’s hotel room for a few nights, accommodations were already set. The Howard-Johnson hotel even had a heated outdoor pool which the kids were just itching to get into. But besides the pool, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do with the kids during the day while daddy worked that would tire them out enough to go to bed at a decent time at night. A quick email to the wonderfully helpful Tourism Nanaimo solved my dilemma, as they happily suggested a few spots that were sure to appeal to both kids despite the age gap.

Turns out, we had no trouble keeping busy. We even stayed an extra day to fit more in!

What did we do? Well, here are five highlights from our #ExploreNanaimo mini getaway:

1. WildPlay Elements Park

monkeys at WP

 WildPlay Element Parks in Nanaimo is an aerial adventure park with challenging courses and adrenaline pumping activities for kids (5+) and adults alike. The Adventure courses are set in the trees throughout this lushly forested area. From wobbly bridges to zip-lines, tightropes to swinging logs, they are no easy feat to complete. With 3 Monkido Aerial Adventure Courses available, there’s a park for everyone and their abilities (or in my case, fear of heights).

WildPlay Nanaimo staff graciously hosted us for the morning, allowing my own little monkeys to check out the Monkido Kids Course, after they put on their “monkey pants’. After donning their harnesses, there was quick and child friendly safety course on how to use the ‘plate monster’ to hook up and transfer between spots before being set loose. Safety is of the utmost importance when climbing through the courses. And, as we later learned, the knowledgeable staff are equipped and prepared to deal with any emergency that arises.

monkey pants WP

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It was nearly all the way through the rain dampened course, and at about 6ft up in the trees, that the little guy’s fear finally got the best of him, prompting a (somewhat overly) dramatic rescue.  The staff who handled it were all incredibly calming for him, explaining every step in detail as they unhooked him from the course and onto the belay system they set up to lower my (now smiling) little man to the ground. Amid cheers from other kids on the course, there were also requests to be ‘rescued’ as well because it looked like quite a lot of fun.

The highest of the aerial courses, the Monkido Extreme, reaches heights of up to 60ft above ground! But if that isn’t enough to get your adrenaline pumping, there are a variety of other heart pounding activities to choose from as well. There’s the What To Fear Jump from atop a 40ft perch, a  Zipline across the Nanaimo River, the Primal Swing pendulum ride that reaches speeds of up to 140km/hr and my husband’s personal favourite, Bungy Jumping 150ft over the Nanaimo River.

Photos courtesy of WildPlay (left to right: Zipline, Bungy jump, Primal Swing)
Photos courtesy of WildPlay (left to right: Zipline, Bungy jump, Primal Swing)

While I don’t think I’ll get too extreme, I can’t wait to go back and explore more of the park, and funny enough, neither can the boy!

2. Petroglyph Park

This little gem is just off the highway and used to be a place of worship for the Snuneymuxw First Nation people. With a gentle family friendly hike, the park features, as its name would suggest, pre-historic sandstone carvings depicting animals, sea life and mythical spirits. What you see on display outside in the interpretation area are castings of the originals, but there is a gallery further down the trail.





It was at Petroglyph park that we came across a robin’s egg on the ground. This prompted my nature loving littles to engage in a rescue mission of their own as they kept the little egg warm in a cloth and we looked for a sanctuary or SPCA. It was the SPCA that was open and took our little egg in for evaluation, and while we were there I happened to ask about another creature I had seen roaming about…

3. Bunnies!

Ok, this might not be an attraction you will see in the tourism guide, but believe me you will see them. From parks to beside the highway, and even people’s lawns, these adorable little fuzzies are literally everywhere you will find grass! According to the SPCA, it is illegal to trap, hunt, capture or move them in any way, so no, you can’t take one home. But also, Nanaimo is left without options in dealing with the furry critters so their population continues to grow. We spent a few hours capturing bunny photos, romping in the grass and trying to count them all though we lost track.

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4. The Dinghy Dock Pub

We saved this spot for a special Father’s Day dinner, and we were all quite excited. The Dinghy Dock Pub is an experience all in itself, and if you are looking to get through a dinner out without tech for the kids, this place is it. In fact I had a hard time getting them to sit at the table until they had fished up an appetite at the little on-board fishing hole. Located on Protection Island, just a 10 minute boat ride away from Nanaimo, the Dinghy Dock is Canada’s only registered floating pub. It is accessible only by boat, and there is hourly service to and from the Dinghy Dock. They serve up delicious meals like shrimp scampi, fresh mussels, grilled salmon and fish and chips, as well as some non-seafood options, and there is family seating both inside and out. Do yourself a favour though and save room for dessert…the (sex on a) dinghy chocolate dessert is so good! The kids enjoyed both their meal and their dessert, but the star of the evening really was the fishing hole! With a small rod and hook, and with some corn niblets as bait, they were glued to watching the little fishies down below.

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5.  Protection Island

While eating dinner at the Dinghy Dock, another patron and summer resident of Protection Island happened to tell us about the heron nesting site on the island. Now, I had always sort of presumed that herons made nests near the water, and they do, but I didn’t realize that they built their nests up high in the trees. I had figured they would be on the ground, mainly because of their size and where they eat. We stayed an extra day to take a second trip over to Protection Island to see them (they were huge!), and it made for a great little side trip. The entire tiny island is full of little parks and trails with names like Pirates Lane, Smuggler’s Beach, Cutlass Lookout and Captain Morgans Boulevard, with gorgeous views of the water. We made it at low tide and walked the beach looking at oysters, and had time to hit the Dinghy Dock again for dessert before we caught the short ferry ride back.

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**Bonus Activity: The NAC (Nanaimo Aquatic Centre)

The kids love to swim, and so one of our family outings whenever we go to a new place, is to check out their local pool. The city of Nanaimo is pretty fortunate with their pool, affectionately called the NAC. There are three waterslides, two of which our youngest can do himself, a wave pool, diving board and a really awesome pirate ship splash park, as well as a pretty quick and fun lazy river and a glorious hot tub to warm up in.

After all of that, it’s hard to believe I was worried about filling in the time!

Have you and your family been to Nanaimo? Tell us about your favourite thing to do in the comments, I’d love to see more on our next trip!

Never been? Don’t hesitate to contact Tourism Naniamo for helpful suggestions based on your travelling crew and what’s going on!

{Disclosure: A huge thank you to our hosts for this Father’s Day weekend! All opinions are our own, and not influenced at all by sponsors.}

I'm a SAHM of 2 who loves finding new things to do in the Lower Mainland, and sharing my opinions. I thrive on coffee, snuggles and sarcasm.