Nanaimo was first settled thousands of years ago by the Coast Salish Peoples who named the area “Sne-ney-mous” which means “a meeting or gathering place”. The Coast Salish traveled from villages along the Nanaimo River and False Narrows to build longhouses at Departure Bay. The Snuneymuxw First Nation is one of the largest Nations in B.C. with a population of over 1,700 people. Snuneymuxw territory encompasses one of the most productive and resource rich areas at the heart of the Salish Sea. Change began with Imperial Spain’s explorers charting these coastal waters in 1791. Control over the area passed to the British Empire in the early 19th century and the first settlers arrived in the early 1800’s and set up a trading post, which established Nanaimo as an important hub of commerce. A fort was erected by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1853 and is now a restored landmark. From 1852 until 1952, Nanaimo was primarily a coal town. Originally, coal-burning ships refueled here and coal was exported in large quantities from numerous mines in the area. The City of Nanaimo was incorporated as a municipality in 1874. By the middle of the 20th century, increased demand for lumber and a declining need for coal brought the area’s thriving forests to the forefront. Nanaimo’s fishery also maintained a high profile as an economic driver during this time. Around the turn of the millennium, economic conditions were changing dramatically and resource industries started to lose their position as the driving forces of business and employment in the region. Nanaimo has since risen in prominence as a centre for education, health care, government services, tech innovation & development, communications, tourism and as a transportation centre. This changing economic landscape will shape Nanaimo’s future and its changing demographics. Meanwhile, Nanaimo continues to develop as a centre for the meeting and movement of products and people – a gathering place, as always.
Nanaimo boasts one of the mildest and sunniest climates in Canada, experiencing close to 1850 hours of sunshine annually. The city is protected from Pacific weather systems by a range of mountains which run the length of Vancouver Island. Nanaimo’s climate is also moderated by the Strait of Georgia. The region’s range of moderate precipitation makes it the ideal place for year-round recreational pursuits. You can truly golf, sail, surf and ski all on the same day for many months of the year!