Nanaimo is an outdoor lover’s paradise. If you’re like me, museums, history and culture are a big draw – I even like a stroll through quaint antique shops and local shopping districts. But what turns me on the most is getting out into a region’s natural sights and wonders: getting active, and maybe even working up a sweat while having a great time!
Okay, call me an adrenaline junky or a nature lover. But who doesn’t want to get out on the water for a boat ride, or take a kayak out for a little self-styled exploration? What about an introductory – or self-guided, if you’re already an expert – scuba dive? I’ve always wanted to do that. And while we’re on the topic of things I’d love to try, how about bungee jumping? You’d never catch my wife doing that, but it’s right up my alley. Mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing – you name it and I’m game! And as it turned out, much to my delight, Nanaimo is a mecca for all these pursuits!
Okay. I’m not timid. But bungee jumping appeals to a very particular set of thrill seekers. So yes, I’ll admit to a certain degree of hesitation on the subject. Yet at the same time… why not? I mean, I’ve voluntarily jumped out of a working airplane, so… why not?
WildPlay Element Parks caters to the weekend and perennial thrill seeker alike. It’s extreme fun, made easy.
This is the site of the first bridge in North America built and dedicated solely to bungee jumping! So, yes, this is the spot! The bridge spans the Nanaimo River Canyon, offering those daring enough a harrowing drop straight down toward the river below, an adrenaline rush to rival most anything they’ve tried before and all the exhilaration and bragging rights that go along with the experience. For the more timid of us – who nevertheless don’t want to be left out – WildPlay even offers tandem jumps with an experienced jumper.
“Swinging is back – for big kids!” proclaims the park’s advertisement. WildPlay’s King Swing makes good on that promise, sending harnessed guests on a dizzying glide over a 150-foot abyss, either alone or as a pair.
The park also offers multiple ziplines across almost the entire breadth of the park’s beautiful scenery – and is more family friendly, with a minimum age of 7 years. Soaring through the trees in the shadow of Couger Mountain’s grandeur and over Whistler Valley and the Nanaimo River Canyon, it’s the closest thing to a bird’s eye view of nature.
And for those looking for a little more exertion and challenge there’s an almost never-ending host of aerial obstacle courses which climb, swing, sway, drop and hover through the forest’s canopy. You’ll find swinging logs, rope bridges, cargo nets, tree ladders and more, as you struggle to navigate WildPlay’s fun courses – all at between six and sixty feet above the ground!
The park makes a point of being family friendly, even offering birthday party packages. And in almost all cases, 12 years and up qualifies one to partake in the vancouver island’s park’s thrills.
Land of Extreme Pursuits
If extreme cycling is just your speed, you’ll find it around Nanaimo too. Nearby Newcastle Island is a favorite mountain bikers’ destination, with 15 km (9 mi.) of bicycle trails, winding through coastal and forest scenery. And closer to Nanaimo there’s The Abyss, a bike path with a natural earthquake fissure beginning at Extension Ridge, site of a 19th century mining operation; as well as Dumont Trails, which will challenge medium to expert riders with trails like Monkeys in the Mist and Yellow Gate.
If, on the other hand, you’re seeking after a few meditative hours or a day of rock climbing, you’ll find it along the Nanaimo River. The Upper Deck, also called the Boar’s Hole, features over a dozen bolted routes which scale up to 14 m (46 ft.) rising along the river’s canyon walls; and the Lower Deck offers a climb with a nice overhang above the river itself.
For those with no aversion to walking, Nanaimo pays off big, in dividends of rewarding views and idyllic hiking trails, with everything from mild to strenuous depending on your desires.
You can view birdlife with a pleasant hike through Buttertubs Marsh Bird Sanctuary, which even features a wheelchair accessible viewing platform. Or tackle Mount Benson, a 1 km (0.6 mi.) high peak overshadowing Nanaimo, which yields lush canyon hikes, a trail to Ammonite Falls, and spectacular views to Duncan along the southern coast and the snow-daubed peak of Mt. Baker in the east. The list of hiking goes on and on.
Also, don’t miss out on the old-growth rainforest to be found in Cathedral Grove or Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and in exploring the caves of Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park. And if spelunking (cave exploring) is your passion, you’ll find more than 1,000 caves on Vancouver Island, a caving environment that’s been described as Canada’s best.
All the water sports in and around Nanaimo could fill a hundred articles, and still leave much more to write about. Suffice it to say, if you want something to do in the water, there is scuba diving in abundance right off Nanaimo, as well as kayaking. And if you’re interested in more low-impact, relaxing fun, you can book passage on one of the city’s boat tours or catch a day excursion for some whale watching.
Fun For The Solo Adventurer, or His/Her Family
Nanaimo’s the perfect holiday spot for me – fulfilling both my inner daredevil and my outdoors family bent. I love thrills, nature’s wonder and serenity; but if I’m taking my family along, I also want activities they’ll be able to participate in. Nanaimo delivers on all fronts.
Let’s face it, if you’re a parent like me you could take your kids to a movie for the day – or you could take them outdoors and give them some real fun they’ll remember for years! And that doesn’t just apply to the kids! Let me know how your adventure in Nanaimo goes!
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