Seeing the Harbour City revealed from the deck of a ferry as you round Gabriola Island is a wonderful way to begin your Nanaimo and Vancouver Island adventure. BC Ferries is the largest ferry service in North America and the second largest in the world, offering many amenities to make your trip across the Strait of Georgia enjoyable. There are two routes from the mainland to Nanaimo. The high season and holiday weekends are very busy, so we recommend making reservations to ensure you arrive when you planned.
Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver to Departure Bay, Nanaimo [1 hour 40 minutes]
Tsawwassen, south of Vancouver to Duke Point, 15 minutes south of Nanaimo [2 hours]
Driving on Vancouver Island is easy and congestion-free with four-lane divided highways connecting most communities. Nanaimo is at the heart of the Island, so you easily reach many of Vancouver Island’s towns, villages, museums, beaches and markets.
Driver’s Licenses & Permits
Make sure you bring along proof of insurance. Just ask your insurance company for a free “Non-resident Inter-Provincial Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card” before you leave, or carry the policy itself. If you’re driving a borrowed car or trailer, bring a letter of permission signed by the owner. If you’re driving a rented car, carry a copy of the rental contract.
American Visitors – Your US driver’s license is valid in Canada.
For all other visitors to Canada, we strongly advise you to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) from the Automobile Association in your country of residence before you leave. This will allow you to drive in Canada and rent a car here. Regulations vary in each Canadian province. For specific information on rules and regulations for driving in British Columbia, visit the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure website.
For information on driving in other provinces in Canada, we suggest you visit the Canadian Tourism Commission‘s website.
Nanaimo Airport (YCD) is just 18 kilometers south of downtown and is home to three air carriers – Air Canada, WestJet & Island Express. There are 7 daily flights to Vancouver, 3 daily non-stop flights to Calgary and twice daily service to Abbotsford, Vancouver South Terminal, Boundary Bay and Victoria. You can connect to the city through airport shuttles and taxis. There are also a number of rental car kiosks in the terminal. Short and long-term parking are available. Air travellers to Nanaimo can make reservations via Flight Network.
One of the most charming ways in and out of Nanaimo is by seaplane. There are regularly scheduled flights to downtown Vancouver and Vancouver International Airport South Terminal via Harbour Air Seaplanes and Sunshine Coast Air. Flight time is approximately 20 minutes. Charter services and flights to Vancouver International Airport South Terminal are also available through Seair Seaplanes.