The oldest surviving building in Nanaimo is the Nanaimo Bastion , which was built by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1853 to protect the coal miners who worked in the region from conflicts between local First Nations. The three-story wood structure marks the site of the original settlement and is open to the public as a museum. There is also a cannon here that fires blanks every day at noon from May to September and on special occasions.

The Nanaimo Museum, nearby at 100 Museum Way, has a number of exhibits detailing the history of human presence in the area, as presented from European, Chinese, and First Nations perspectives.It also offers a changing schedule of temporary exhibitions. Across the street in Piper’s Park, you will also find a restored miner’s cottage, a 19th-century steam engine used in the coal trade, and reproductions of stone petroglyphs.

The seawall that runs from Cameron Island to the Boat Basin (near the Bastion) and north towards Departure Bay is a scenic stretch of Nanaimo waterfront that is accessible by foot. Small boutiques and restaurants line the path to complete the picturesque atmosphere of the walk.

Two of Nanaimo’s most interesting parks are the Petroglyph Provincial Park , about three kilometres south of Commercial Street, which contains a large collection of ancient stone carvings, and the Newcastle Island Marine Provincial Park.  Take the ferry from Mafeo Sutton Park and spend the day hiking and swimming on the island.