Duncan & Nanaimo

Station Street Common Foodcourt in Duncan, British Columbia.
Station Street Common Foodcourt in Duncan, British Columbia.

June 5 & June 13 -14, 2022.

Today we are rolling the clock back to June to tell you more about our trip around Vancouver Island. In previous posts, I wrote about visiting British Columbia’s amazing capital city, Victoria, and the handful of provincial parks that we visited on the island. Today I’m going to take you to a couple of island towns, Duncan and Nanaimo, for a few city hikes and an urban kayaking trip!


I think Duncan got on my radar when we were crossing on the ferry from Washington State to Vancouver Island. While on the boat I flipped through a travel magazine that mentioned that Duncan has one of the largest collections of outdoor totem poles in the world. I so love public art! And we love learning about the people who traveled the Americas long before Europeans came along. But honestly, although I was totally aware that Native Americans/First Nations people were carvers of totem poles, I found myself realizing that I had never seen one. Perhaps this is because they are mainly found in northwestern North America which I’ve never been to until this year.

Duncan is a small town with a population of just over 5000. The day we visited it was very quiet. Maybe it was a Sunday. There weren’t many people out and about. I found this handy map of the poles online. But we just ended up following the footsteps on the sidewalk that led us through town and past most of the 44 totems.


Nanaimo is a beautiful city (a bit larger than Duncan at almost 100,000 people) full of culture, art, and history. But that’s not why we originally ended up there. I was looking at a map as I often do and noticed that there was a small island seriously close to the coast of Nanaimo. Immediately I started searching online about whether it was possible to kayak to this island. I learned the island’s name, Saysutshun (Newcastle Island) Marine Provincial Park, and that, yes, it was possible to visit by kayak. I found a blog post that gave a good rundown of everything we needed to know to get there including suggesting different launch locations, each with pluses and minuses as far as parking and length of travel from parking to the water.

So on our first day in Nanaimo, loosely using the blog post as a guide, we scouted out locations to put in our kayak, Pirogue Bleue. We parked at Maffeo Sutton Park where they have a Nanaimo sign with giant letters not unlike what we have seen in many Mexican Cities. After getting our picture made with the sign we strolled along the waterfront looking for good launch locations with convenient parking. Along the harbor front walkway, we found art and wildlife. We looked across a low tide marsh and could see our destination, Saysutshun Park but didn’t see any way to launch the kayak without toting it a long way from the parking lot. We saw street parking but nowhere to launch. Finally, we found the Waterfront Suites & Marina about a mile from where we started. There was a spot nearby to put the kayak in and although the parking wasn’t free, it wasn’t too expensive and we could be parked there all day. Success! We had a plan!

We then turned around and headed back towards the city center to see what else Nanaimo had to offer. We found a walking tour posted on a small billboard and tried to follow it. We encountered more art, great views, and a lovely business distric.

Saysutshun (Newcastle Island) Marine Provincial Park

The next day we headed out for our kayak adventure to the marine park. If one doesn’t have their own boat, there is a ferry that runs every half hour from Maffeo Sutton Park to Saysutshun. On the island, one can enjoy camping, hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, tide pooling, bird watching, and interpretive programs. It’s a whole day’s adventure so we packed up Pirogue Bleue accordingly. Plus after our day of boating and wandering around we planned to stop at the Dinghy Dock Pub on the way back to the mainland.

If you ever go to Nanaimo, I guarantee you someone will ask you if you visited the Dinghy Dock Pub. Like Saysutshun, the only way to get there is by boat. And as the name suggests it is literally floating on a dinghy dock.

6 thoughts on “Duncan & Nanaimo

  1. Hi Duwan and Greg,
    Just loved your post. We camped at Nanaimo many years ago with the 5th wheel on the way to Alaska and loved it. We also did an urban kayak. Looks like you had glorious weather there. Hope you both are well and all going well. Love, Meredith and Ed

    1. Hey Meridith and Ed! Yes we had good weather in Nanaimo and loved the city. Hope you guys are doing well. We always love hearing from you.

  2. Two wonderful towns. I don’t remember if we ever visited Duncan. I think so, because I remember loads of totem poles somewhere on VI. 🙂

    That’s so great you got to kayak to the island. I have a blogging friend who lives in Nanaimo, but unfortunately not yet while we were on the island. The dinghy dock bar looks really cool. I don’t think we stopped in town while we were there. It’s nice you could take your time on Vancouver Island.

    1. You probably visited Duncan if you remember loads of totem poles. Although every city seems to havevat least a few, Duncan has tons.

      Wish we has had more time on the island. There was lots of things we missed. But so glad we got to go to these two towns and especially that we got to kayak.

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