Pros and Cons of Living in Nanaimo, British Columbia

Nanaimo is a popular location for retirees, students, and families to settle.

The city has been recognized as one of the best places to live on national and even international lists. Over the past four years, Nanaimo has experienced strong growth at 8%.

These numbers are quite higher than the national average growth of 5% and even the growth in BC of 5.3%. No doubt the word is out about Nanaimo.

The city of Nanaimo is on the east coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.

Approximately 90,504 people lived there, according to the 2016 census. The city is known as “The Harbour City”.

Historically, the city was known as the “Hub City” owing to its original layout, which consisted of streets radiating out from the shoreline and its relatively centralized location on Vancouver Island.

It is also the provincial capital of the Nanaimo Regional District.

If you have considered living in Nanaimo, let me highlight some of the significant benefits and downsides you need to consider before finalizing your decision.

Pros and Cons of Living in Nanaimo


1. Housing Affordability

Nanaimo’s most recent residents have mostly come from British Columbia’s Lower mainland, followed by Albertans. Many people choose Nanaimo as it is affordable – especially when compared to larger urban centers.

Families looking to grow and need more space, and retirees seeking to live comfortably need options in Nanaimo.

It is now easier to buy a dream home in Nanaimo because the market is expanding every year, so your home will be a solid investment for many years to come!

2. Central Location

Being centrally located on Vancouver Island, Nanaimo is perfect for getting around the Island and to the mainland.

You can ski or snowboard on Mt. Washington (1.5 hours drive) or surf in Tofino (2 hours drive) if you’re heading north of Nanaimo.

You can visit 20 wineries in the Cowichan Valley (40 minutes away) or take a day trip to Victoria (1.5 hours away) in the South.

It is also easy to get off the Island. If you commute to Vancouver via BC Ferries, it can take about 1 hour and 40 minutes on the ferry and 30 minutes driving.

If you prefer to travel by floatplane, you can reach downtown Vancouver within 20 minutes.

3. Enjoyable Lifestyle

The vast majority of residents moving to Nanaimo do so in search of a better quality of life. It is easy to enjoy leisure and recreation on an island.

Nanaimo has lots to offer tourists, but locals enjoy the outdoors and enjoy taking advantage of their environment.

Another thing you’ll notice about the Nanaimo lifestyle is that it doesn’t come at a rapid pace like other larger cities. And that’s what makes it perfect for islanders.

4. Vibrant Community

It is not surprising that Nanaimo boasts such a diverse range of community activities – from sports to arts to entertainment to politics and education – there are a significant number of choices. Still, none would be possible without the support of the community.

The people of Nanaimo are an active bunch. They enjoy exploring and experiencing new things, which creates a vibrant, supportive community.

When you move to Nanaimo, you’ll find it relatively easy to become a part of the community – not only will you find plenty of places to “fit in”, but you’ll also find that the people are nice and friendly.

Attractive Employment

According to the latest statistics, Nanaimo residents average $55,000 a year.

There are numerous opportunities for retail managers, accountants, and operation managers in Nanaimo; these jobs typically pay between $36,000 and $95,000 annually.

In addition to Western Forest Products Inc,  Hub International Inc, and Real Estate Webmasters three top employers are listed here.

Nanaimo’s average hourly charge is approximately $20.35. Companies such as Vancouver Island Health Authority, The Country Grocer, The Home Depot Inc, Inn on Long Lake, and Western Forest Products Inc pay their employees anywhere from $14 to $38 per hour, based on the job description.


Here are a few downsides you should note.

1. Not the most friendly place to be

We don’t mean the residents of Nanaimo are unfriendly. The city is well known for being highly racially and LGBTQ+ tolerant.

However, due to its Islandic construct, there are minimal activities you can partake in. So, if you are used to activity-filled cities, you might have to adjust a little.

2. It’s not so scenic

Nanaimo does not have much to offer in terms of tourism. It is indeed a hub for the North Island because of the ferry terminals, and it has all the big-box shopping.

Unfortunately, it is also not very attractive. In my opinion, it is suitable for an overnight stay, but Parksville and Qualicum offer more scenic views.

3. Once Ranked Most Dangerous Place to Live

In 2017, the city of Nanaimo ranked third in Maclean’s magazine’s list of the most dangerous places to live. According to the nation’s news magazine, among 229 major cities with a population of 10,000 or more, Nanaimo ranks 37th in Canada, with an index of 121 for crime severity.

The compilation of Maclean’s statistics was published on Nov. 23, 2017. These rankings are based on public information released by Statistics Canada in July.

In Nanaimo, break-ins were precisely double the Canadian average, with 877 incidents per 100,000 population. At the same time, impaired driving offences were 32% higher than the national average, youth criminal justice laws were 32% higher, assaults were 27% higher, and fraud was 33% higher.

However, we believe that the local authorities have been placing the right strategies in place to make your stay in Nanaimo a seamless one.

For instance, recent stats reveal that the number of sexual assaults in Nanaimo was 19 percent lower than the national average, the number of firearms offenses 23 percent lower, and the number of cannabis trafficking and production 89 percent lower than Canada as a whole.

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