The delightful city of Nanaimo, which is about an hour and a half north of Victoria, B.C., hasn’t been the easiest place to visit for Seattle-area travelers. Hours of driving, a border crossing and a lengthy ferry ride have impeded many from a visit to Nanaimo. But Kenmore Air’s recent announcement of its offering of daily flights to Nanaimo is making travelers look north when planning their day or weekend trips. The quick daily flights make it easier to see all beautiful Nanaimo has to offer. The city may be most known for its Nanaimo bars, which are desserts that require no baking and consist of three layers — a crumbly, wafer-like base; a layer of custard icing and finally a thin layer of melted, hardened chocolate. But there’s more to the Nanaimo than its bars (the kind you eat and the kind you drink at, of which Nanaimo has a plethora). Nanaimo is a quirky place — you can see and participate in the Great Nanaimo World Championship Bathtub Race each summer. Or the annual Naked Bungee Jump which happens every spring. The jump raises funds and awareness for mental health. But if quirk isn’t your thing, that’s OK. Nanaimo is full of travel-worthy stops. Here are a few of our favorites.
Attend a whisk(e)y tasting
Vancouver Island’s only official whisky/whiskey bar is located at the Grand Hotel Nanaimo (4898 Rutherford Road, Nanaimo). For the uninitiated, there is a difference between the two spellings. Whisky covers Scotch whisky and Scotch-inspired spirits, and whiskey lends itself to American and Irish liquors. You can find more than 125 (they’ve stopped counting) varieties from around the world, including rare Japanese and Indian varietals. You can order a single taste, or get a flight and compare and savor.
Explore Nanaimo’s pub culture
The city is home to dozens of English-style pubs. The Crow and Gate Pub (2313 Yellow Point Road, Nanaimo) is British Columbia’s first and it’s a must-visit. The vibrant locals telling stories over pints paired with authentic food like Scotch eggs and ploughman platters will make you feel like you’re in merry old England.
Eat your way through the Nanaimo Bar Trail
Cafes, bakeries and restaurants in Nanaimo all make their bars differently (there’s great debate as to whether or not the traditional recipe calls for almonds or walnuts in the bottom layer). There are plenty of varieties, too. Bocca Cafe (427 Fitzwilliam St., Nanaimo) has an original version, peanut butter (think a tastier Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup), cappuccino and a spicy sweet concoction that has chili pepper in it. Nanaimo even has something called the Nanaimo Bar Trail, which is a self-guided tour that will take you to the many different locations in the city that offer this delectable treat. At right is a recipe taken from the Nanaimo Museum, which has its own display about the bar’s history.
Get your fill of local honey at Fredrich’s Honey (fredrichshoney.com). Discover Yellow Point Cranberries and its tasty treats. Grab a quick lunch at Longwood Brewpub and try one of its many craft beers. For more about Nanaimo, visit tourismnanaimo.com. For flight information to Nanaimo and beyond, visit Kenmore Air.
Nanaimo Bar Recipe
Recipe by Joyce Hardcastle
- ½ cup unsalted butter (European-style cultured)
- ¼ cup sugar
- 5 tablespoons cocoa
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup graham
- wafer crumbs
- ½ cup finely
- chopped almonds
- 1 cup coconut
Melt first three ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8-by-8-inch pan.
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cream
- 2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder
- 2 cups icing sugar
Cream butter, cream, custard powder and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.
- 4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
- 2 tablespoons
- unsalted butter
Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. When cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.