Aerial view showing Departure Bay Beach and the islands out in the bay.This half-mile beach (800m) is a huge centerpiece for the Departure Bay neighbourhood. It's easily the best, biggest, most sandy beach in Nanaimo.

This is a great place to bring the kids (there is a playground and a grassy field) or a casual date (there are usually other people around, and the seawall pathway is an easy excuse for a stroll). You can get good coffee across the street, and more businesses are coming soon.

At high tide, there is still a good strip of sand and driftwood; at lower tides, the beach gets much bigger and you can explore sandy tidal pools, or the creek that forms shifting patterns through the sand. In the summer, this is a great place to walk through warm shallow water and look for shells and crabs, or swim out to the wooden platform.

Departure Bay History

There is a lot of history to explore here, too. The Snuneymuxw people had a village here - the longhouses were still around when the colonists arrived in the 1850s. But in the 1870s when Robert Dunsmuir developed his famous coal mines up the hill (present day Diver Lake area), Departure Bay had already been taken over by farming interests. Dunsmuir built huge coal wharves on the beach - you can still see the rock "peninsulas" that underlaid the wharves, if you look to your left while standing at the beach (see image below). The railway ran roughly along the path of present-day Departure Bay Road up to Wellington.

Remnants of first Departure Bay coaling wharf, shown with historic context

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