We have so damned much coastline to explore!
Nevermind those flat, long, sandy beaches you'll find at the resorts. Kayak or canoe the many rocky bluffs, deep coves, and weedy beds of kelp around Nanaimo.
This page lists some of the best areas to explore in a little boat, whether it's a rowboat, inflated dinghy, kayak, canoe, etc.
There are lots of channels and currents, litte grassy "islands", and treasures washed down the river or left by the tides.
Launch from: End of Raines Road (off Cedar Rd) ; Chase River Estuary Park ; Duke Point
This is the most popular place in town for exploring in a small boat. Newcastle Island is historic and very pretty, with lots of different beaches: some are sandy, some pebbly, and some are sandstone shelves with lots of interesting nooks and crannies. There are some very cool formations at the north end of the island, but you have to watch for the huge BC Ferries and their wake.
The island is about 8.5 km around by boat. Read more on our Newcastle Island page.
Launch from: Nanaimo Harbour Marina (downtown) ; Brechin boat ramp ; Maffeo Sutton Park ; Queen Elizabeth Promenade (near the Yacht Club) ; Departure Bay Beach ; Stephenson Point
It's 1.15 km from the marina in downtown Nanaimo, to the floating Dinghy Dock Pub and restaurant on the harbour-side of Protection Island.
Or, you can paddle the 4.5 km around the island. Be sure to stop at Smugglers Park on the west side, and the beaches around Gallows Point at the south end.
Watch the tide tables to make sure you'll be able to get through "the Gap" between the north end of the island and Newcastle Island.
Launch from: Nanaimo Harbour Marina (downtown) ; Maffeo Sutton Park ; Queen Elizabeth Promenade (near the Yacht Club)
This is a big bay with great views all around. But it can be pretty busy with the BC Ferries terminal, and a lot of boats moving to and from the marinas in the Newcastle Island channel. So be careful! Most paddlers prefer to stay in the northern areas of Departure Bay, near Jesse Island and Stephenson Point. From here, it's a quick jump to the Five Fingers Islands (see below).
Launch from: Departure Bay Beach (Kin Beach Park) ; Stephenson Point ; Brechin boat ramp
These are smaller islands out in the open water, but close enough to the shores of Nanaimo that they can be accessed by adventurous paddlers.
Launch from: Nanaimo Harbour (downtown) ; Brechin boat ramp ; Pipers Lagoon ; Departure Bay Beach ; Stephenson Point
There are some rocky nooks to explore around here, as well as the locally famous Shack Island. Pipers Lagoon itself may be a good sheltered place to practise wet exits from your kayak, as long as the tide is high enough.
Neither Pipers Lagoon nor Neck Point offers a long coastline to explore by kayak, so you would probably extend your experience by paddling between them, or to the Five Fingers Islands to the east.
Launch from: End of Lagoon Road (off Hammond Bay Rd) ; Neck Point Park parking lot
The Ballenas-Winchelsea Archipelago includes 19 islands, but we only know about the Winchelsea Islands group, just north of Lantzville and east of Nanoose Bay. South Winchelsea Island is owned by a land conservancy, while the other islands in the group are crown land.
Launch from these Nanoose Bay locations: Brickyard Beach, accessible via Amberwood Lane (off Andover Rd) ; Dolphin Cove (where Blueback Rd meets Tyee Place) ; Schooner Cove Marina