Camping near Nanaimo

Camp by the beach, on an island, or along the lakeshore from this Vancouver Island gateway city.

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95% (1146 reviews)

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Camping near Nanaimo guide

Overview

On Vancouver Island’s east coast, Nanaimo is a hub for adventures across the island. Based in this waterfront city set 113 kilometres from British Columbia’s capital of Victoria, you can check out wineries, beaches, and old-growth forests. It’s also the most convenient ferry port for continuing west to Tofino and the Pacific Coast. Surrounding Nanaimo are campgrounds by the ocean or along inland lakes, including Living Forest Oceanside Campground & RV Park, Westwood Lake Campgrounds, RV Resort on the Lake, Brannen Lake RV Park & Campsite, and Jinglepot RV Park & Campgrounds. You can camp at several islands or provincial parks nearby, too.

Saysutshun (Newcastle Island Provincial Park)

A short 15-minute ferry ride from downtown Nanaimo, this island is the traditional territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation and has a small tent camping area with washrooms and showers. You can lounge on one of the pebbly beaches or wander 23 kilometres of walking trails.

Parksville and Qualicum Beach

A 30- to 40-minute drive north of Nanaimo, the coastal communities of Parksville and Qualicum Beach are popular with campers. A number of RV resorts and private campgrounds welcome families, or you can camp in several provincial parks. A favorite is Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park, where the tenting spots and RV sites are near a sandy beach.

Cowichan Valley

South of Nanaimo and between the towns of Duncan and Cobble Hill, Vancouver Island’s wine country offers family-run wineries, cider makers, and distillers. You’ll find several campgrounds in this area, with more camping options to the west along Cowichan Lake.

Victoria and Vicinity

Most of the campgrounds near British Columbia’s waterfront capital are north or west of the city. The forested Malahat Mountain Meadows RV Park is near the summit of Malahat Drive with views over the Gulf Islands. Hike among massive firs and western red cedars in Goldstream Provincial Park, or camp by the water at Island View Regional Park on the Saanich Peninsula.

When to go

The busiest season in Nanaimo and across Vancouver Island is late May through mid-October, particularly during the sunny summer months of July and August and on Canadian holiday long weekends. With a temperate rainforest climate, this coastal region receives very little snow, but you should prepare for rain and chilly temperatures between November and April. While spring can still be rainy, it’s also relatively quiet with flowers in bloom March through May.

Know before you go

  • BC Ferries can take you to Nanaimo from Horseshoe Bay, just outside of Vancouver,. Pedestrians and cyclists can walk onto the ferries, but if you’re taking your car, make a reservation in advance, particularly between late May and mid-October.
  • Many of the campgrounds close to Nanaimo are designed for RVs, with full-service sites catering to big rigs. Tent campers may prefer the provincial parks or more secluded Gulf Island camping areas.
  • Cafes and pubs cluster along the narrow streets of Nanaimo’s historic downtown. Larger groceries and big-box stores line the highways sprawling out from the center.

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