transportation in the nanaimo region


Nanaimo is strategically located on Vancouver Island to provide easy access to global destinations with full connectively via road, air, and marine infrastructure.  Nanaimo has a comprehensive transportation network designed to support and promote the growth of existing businesses and to facilitate the establishment of new operations. The modern and efficient transportation network includes an airport, two ferry terminals, two floatplane terminals, cruise ship terminal, an enhanced highway system, and a public transit system.  Deep-sea shipping facilities and storage and warehousing space is available through the Port of Nanaimo. Businesses have a range of options to access markets, customers and suppliers.

The Transportation and Warehousing Sector provides 2,495 jobs representing 4.8% of Nanaimo’s labour force (2016 Census).  The number of jobs in this sector remained virtually unchanged during the last census.  There are 147 firms in the Transportation and Warehousing sector in Nanaimo.  The Nanaimo Port Authority, Nanaimo Airport, and the City of Nanaimo are working together to establish Nanaimo as the transportation and warehousing hub for all of Vancouver Island.

Nanaimo Airport

Nanaimo Airport is located 15 km (9 miles) south of the city at Cassidy. The airport has a 6,600 ft. runway capable of accommodating 737-700W aircraft. Nanaimo Airport has seen steady growth in the last decade.  In the last few years passenger growth has outpaced projections for 2021 and this is leading to more urgency in continuous upgrades and improvements to the Airport infrastructure.  The airport underwent a $26.6 million runway, terminal and navigations systems expansion between 2006 and 2010. Nanaimo airport will be investing another $100 million in projects to expand the airport terminal, aircraft parking and flight operations areas, passenger vehicle parking lots and road upgrades over the next 25 years.  Local architectural and engineering firms are already working on plans for the airport’s new fire station and terminal building upgrades.  Construction will begin on the terminal boarding lounge and security line in late 2016, followed by rebuilds of the arrivals area and baggage screening areas.  

Nanaimo Airport currently offers:

- Eight round trips daily to Vancouver International Airport, (flight time of 10 minutes) provided by Air Canada Jazz, as well as charter flights to Seattle, USA via private carriers.
- Two flights to Calgary daily by WestJet

-  Island Express provides flights to Abbotsford, Boundary Bay, Victoria and Vancouver daily.
 Charter flights available through several companies.

For additional information, contact the airport at (250) 245-2157.

Nanaimo Seaplane Terminal

The Nanaimo Seaplane Terminal operated by the Nanaimo Port Authority, provides facilities for seaplane flights from downtown Nanaimo.  Regularly scheduled flights to downtown Vancouver and Vancouver International Airport are available through Harbour Air, and Seair Seaplanes. Flight time is 20 minutes. Harbour Air flies to 9 destinations in British Columbia with frequent service between Nanaimo and the lower mainland. Sunshine Coast Air provides flight service between Nanaimo and Sechelt as well as Victoria.

Helijet provides 14 scheduled flights between 7 am and 7 pm weekdays from Nanaimo Cruiseship welcome centre to downtown Vancouver.  Helijet is equipped to operate in daylight, after dark and in most inclement weather. 


Nanaimo Port Authority

Nanaimo is Vancouver Island's largest commercial port, with 4 berths and over 21 ha (88 acres) of paved storage space, covered warehousing space and barge loading facilities.  Located 36 nautical miles west of Vancouver and centrally located on Vancouver Island, the Nanaimo Port Authority is the region's most convenient load centre port.

Harbour operations include multiple facets within port boundaries and include deep sea ship anchorages, port security, environmental protection, debris control, safety and navigation, seaplane operations, terminal Operations plus permitting for Harbour events. The Nanaimo Port Authority works with Federal, Provincial and Municipal agencies and stakeholders to achieve the highest levels of service for its clients. Through its commercial terminals the Port of Nanaimo is a significant economic generator with cargo handling operations.


Cruise Ship Terminal

In May 2011, the Nanaimo Port Authority opened a new $25 million floating cruise ship terminal and welcoming Centre.  Partnership funding was provided by the Province of BC, Island Coast Economic Trust, Government of Canada, and the Nanaimo Port Authority. The cruise berth consisting of a concrete pontoon measuring approximately 350 feet in length by 50 feet wide and having a 7 foot freeboard above the water was constructed in two parts and joined by a complex cabling system before being towed to its permanent mooring position on the northeast corner of the Nanaimo Assembly Terminal.  The pontoon represents approximately 30% of the marine budget for the project, and the berth is designed to handle the largest cruise ships that will operate on the West Coast.  As well as being the largest component of the terminal docking system, the concrete pontoons are the largest of their type ever constructed in Western Canada and concrete was chosen for its reliability, durability and lower maintenance requirements.

The uplands project, houses a Canada Border Service Agency inspection facility, a Welcome Centre and the Port's new corporate offices.  Nanaimo Port Authority is working with the cruise lines to welcome more cruise ships annually to Nanaimo. 

For more information, contact the Nanaimo Port Authority at (250) 753-4146.


BC Ferries

Water transportation services provide a vital link between Vancouver Island and the mainland.  Regularly scheduled ferry service is available between Nanaimo and Vancouver.  There are two primary ferry terminals in Nanaimo, operated by the British Columbia Ferry Services Inc.  The Departure Bay terminal serves the Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay route, while the Duke Point terminal in the city’s south end serves the Nanaimo to Tsawwassen route. Reservations are possible.  Crossing time ranges from 1 hour 35 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the route.  There are 16 scheduled sailings daily.  The ferries are capable of carrying about 360 vehicles (including trucks and commercial vehicles) and over 1,400 passengers. In 2015-16, more than 4.89 million passengers and 1.85 million vehicles travelled between Nanaimo and Vancouver.  (BC Ferries fiscal year runs from April 1 to March 31st of each year.)

In 2008, two brand new vessels, the Coastal Renaissance and Coastal Inspiration were introduced on the Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay and Duke Point to Tsawwassen routes.  The new ships are the largest double-ended ferries in the world, carrying 370 vehicles and 1650 passengers across the Strait of Georgia.