Top 10 Nanaimo Walks

Walking and hiking around Nanaimo is popular among visitors and residents alike, and there are so many great locations to do so.

This article will focus on the more leisurely trails, rather than strenuous hikes (I’ll save that for another post). The following walks are great for a shorter stroll and perfect for taking the kids out on an easy adventure.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 Nanaimo walks!

Helpful Tip: The list is organized from North Nanaimo continuing on and through to South Nanaimo.

Neck Point - a view from one of the Top 10 Nanaimo walks.
A view from Neck Point

Top 10 Nanaimo Walks

#1 – Neck Point Park

Named for a gravel bar connecting the park to a large rock out in the water, Neck Point Park offers stunning ocean views. The rock off the gravel bar is the perfect location to sit and watch sea lions and, if you are lucky, sometimes even orcas as they pass by. The trail that runs through the park is mostly developed and consists of a few boardwalks (with stairs), lookouts, and information boards. The shoreline and rocky bluffs offer many nooks and crannies to explore.

Insider Tip: In the forested section of this walk be sure to keep on the lookout out for the fairy houses scattered among a few of the large trees. (Kid’s love this!).

Location: North Nanaimo – at the end of Morningside Drive (off Hammond Bay Road).

Wheelchair / Stroller Accessible?: Much of the park is wheelchair accessible, however along the shoreline it’s not, and as mentioned above, there are a few stairs leading up to the elevated boardwalks.

Length: Approximately 1.5 km loop.

Dog Friendly?: Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.

Piper's Lagoon - a view from one of the top 10 Nanaimo walks

#2 – Pipers Lagoon Park

Separated from Neck Point Park (mentioned above) by Shack Island, Pipers Lagoon features scenic trails and non-technical rock climbing. From the parking lot walk along the isthmus (dyke) to the rocky headlands. On one side of you will be a lagoon, the other the restless surf with a pebbled beach. Once you reach the headlands, climb the rocks, or follow the narrow trail through Arbutus trees, for spectacular views of the Strait.

Insider Tip: Pipers Lagoon is a great place for bird watching, so don’t forget your camera!

Location: North Nanaimo – Place Road (from Hammond Bay Road turn onto Lagoon Drive and take your first right).

Wheelchair / Stroller Accessible?: – Only a very small portion of the trail is wheelchair and/or stroller friendly.

Length: The park is 8 hectares of trails that lead out to various seaside lookouts.

Dog Friendly?: Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.

Westwood Lake - a view from one of the top 10 Nanaimo walks

#3 – Westwood Lake

Westwood Lake is popular among locals. It offers swimming, boating (electric and non-powered boats only), a playground, an off-leash dog park, and a great walk/run/bike trail. The well-maintained trail is a relatively easy walk, with only one short steep section near the west end of the lake.

Insider Tip: In front of the main beach area of Westwood Lake is Nanaimo’s only life-guarded fresh water swimming spot (June-August).

Location: Mid Nanaimo – Westwood Road (off the south end of Jingle Pot Road).

Wheelchair / Stroller Accessible?: Yes, although there is that steep section I mentioned, the trail is nice and wide.

Length: 5.51 km trail around the lake. There is a shorter loop available near the south end of the lake.

Dog Friendly?: Along the main trail, dogs must be kept on a leash. There is, however, a great off-leash dog area that runs along the hydro lines, which is accessible near the far side of the lake.

Bowen Park - a view from one of the top 10 Nanaimo walks

#4 – Bowen Park

In the heart of Nanaimo lies a jewel of a park that has much to offer! Amenities include a seasonal outdoor swimming pool, disc golf course, skate park, seniors centre, lawn bowling, lacrosse box, curling club, tennis courts, sand volleyball, horseshoe pitches, outdoor amphitheatre, playgrounds, picnic shelters, duck pond, and plenty of walking trails.

Meander through a series of interpretive trails along the Millstone River. Along the way, make sure to see the ducks at the pond, the scenic waterfall, fish ladder, and resting totem poles. And, depending on the time of year you visit, stop to admire the grand rhododendron grove.

Insider Tip: Head into the Administration office (8:30 am – 4:00 pm) and borrow a set of discs for the disc golf for free!

Location: Mid-Nanaimo – 500 Bowen Road.

Wheelchair / Stroller Accessible?: Yes

Length: This one has no particular length, as it is a series of different trails. Spend an hour or an afternoon! There is always something to see and do at Bowen Park.

Dog Friendly?: Dogs must be on a leash at all times.

Buttertubs Marsh - a view from one of the top 10 Nanaimo walks

#5 – Buttertubs Marsh

Buttertubs Marsh is a bird and wildlife sanctuary just minutes from downtown Nanaimo. Spend an hour or so meandering along the flat and easy gravel trail, making sure to stop every once in a while to enjoy the view. There are several observation decks, as well as a tower, for bird watching and viewing the body of water buzzing with activity.

Insider Tip: Keep on the lookout for turtles, frogs, heron, and red-winged blackbirds (plus a variety of other birds I have no names for) that frequent the area.

Location: Mid-Nanaimo – 1780 Jingle Pot Road – the main entrance is on 2nd Street, but there is more parking available off of Buttertubs Drive.

Wheelchair / Stroller Accessible?: Although the trail around the marsh is wide and flat, there are narrow entry gates to prevent motorized vehicles from entering the marsh. These gates might make it difficult to enter and exit with a stroller or wheelchair if it doesn’t fold up small enough.

Length?: 2 km loop

Dog Friendly?: No dogs (or bikes) are allowed in this park.

Colliery Dam Park - a view from one of the top 10 Nanaimo walks

#6 – Colliery Dam Park

The Colliery Dams were built in the early 1900’s to secure water to the mines downstream. Today this park is best known for a great place to picnic, trout fish, and swim.  The figure-eight trail system around the lakes offer bridges, views of a waterfall, the shade of mature trees, and an off-leash dog area. There are a few steep parts of the trail, as well as some narrow bridge crossings near the upper dam.

Insider Tip: If you are lucky you might spot beavers swimming or working around their own dams in the lake.

Location: South Nanaimo in the University District – 645 Wakesiah Avenue – parking lots can be found off both Wakesiah Ave., and Nanaimo Lakes Road.

Wheelchair / Stroller Accessible?: Partially

Length: Approximately 2.5 km of trails.

Dog Friendly?: The trail along the upper dam is a designated off-leash dog area from 6:00 am – 10:00 am, and again from 4:00 pm until dusk.

Morrell Sanctuary - a view from one of the top 10 Nanaimo walks

#7 – Morrell Sanctuary

Morrell Sanctuary is a privately owned nature reserve open to the public. This 111 hectares of preserved second-growth forest offers 11 km of walking trails. There are several shorter loops/trails within the Sanctuary. The Rocky Knoll Trail/Beaver Pond loop is always popular among children, as is the Yew loop.

Insider Tip: You might get lucky and spot a few newts or frogs while at the pond, and keep your ears open for hooting owls while walking through the trails.

Location: South Nanaimo in the University District – 787 Nanaimo Lakes Road.

Wheelchair / Stroller Accessible?: The Yew Loop is the only wheelchair or stroller accessible trail at the Sanctuary.

Length: 11 km worth of varying lengths of trails.

Dog Friendly?: As this is a nature reserve, dogs must be on a leash at all times.

Hemer Park - a view from one of the top 10 Nanaimo walks

#8 – Hemer Provincial Park

Hemer Provincial Park has an extensive system of forested trails that surround Holden Lake. There is a marsh area with a viewing platform which is a popular spot for bird watching, as well as many small bridges to cross over while weaving your way around this beautiful park.

Insider Tip: Make sure to keep your eye out for the Trumpeter swans gliding along the lake!

Location: South Nanaimo in Cedar – From Cedar road, turn onto Hemer road and follow until the end. Watch for signs.

Wheelchair / Stroller Accessible?: Yes

Length: 11 km’s worth of varying lengths of trails.

Dog Friendly?: This is a wonderful place to bring your dog(s), but they must be leashed at all times.

A view from one of the top 10 Nanaimo walks

#9 – Jack Point and Biggs Park

For the best views of the Nanaimo River estuary, as well as an amazing place to view the sunset, head to Jack Point and Biggs Park.  The trail meanders through Arbutus and Douglas Fir trees while keeping close to the shoreline. The first 300 meters or so of the trail is paved, but there are also stairs and boardwalks, and the trail turns to chips.

Insider Tip: Jack Point is a great spot to view sea lions, seals, otters, eagles, and sometimes even porpoises (and orca’s, if you are extremely lucky!).

Location: South Nanaimo – near the Duke Point Ferry terminal – 501 Duke Point Highway.  From the Duke Point Highway watch for signs to Jack Point. It will be the last right-hand turn before the terminal, but long before you can see the terminal. Stay right and follow the road (Maughan) to the small parking area beside the highway. Park, and walk through an underpass to the start of the trail.

Wheelchair / Stroller Accessible?: Only the first 300 meters are wheelchair and/or stroller accessible. But, the views in that first 300 meters are spectacular!

Length: The trail from the parking lot to Jack Point is 2.5 km.

Dog Friendly?: Yes, but they must remain on a leash.

Morden Colliery - a view from one of the top 10 Nanaimo walks

# 10 – Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park

At only 4 hectares this small Provincial Park offers a unique glimpse into the world of mining. In 1912 there was a working coal mine at this very spot. What remains today, behind the safety of a fence, is the only coal tipple left on Vancouver Island.  People who are interested in old coal workings will love this walk! The trail winds its way through forested areas, over marsh areas via bridges, and ends at the Nanaimo River.

Insider Tip: If you are into Geocaching, there are quite a few in and around this area.

Location: South Nanaimo – Just south of the Duke Point ferry turn off – access to the parking lot is at the end of Morden Road (off Hwy 1).

Wheelchair / Stroller Accessible?: Yes

Length: 1.2 km

Dog Friendly?: Yes


Here’s another great selection of walks for you!

Did I miss any of your favourite Nanaimo walks? Let us know in the comments below.

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For great walking trails in Nanaimo, BC on Vancouver Island, check out this top 10 list.
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About the Author

on Apr 07, 2016

Comments (9)

  • Birgitte Gjernes

    I think Newcastle Island should be counted as well.

    • Kim

      I totally agree, Birgitte! While I didn’t do an exclusive feature on Newcastle on this particular post, I have mentioned it a few times before.

  • Emma

    blue back beach, i live here!

    • Kim

      Thank you Emma! I will have to make sure I check that one out.

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