Located on the 49th parallel, Ladysmith is a picturesque town built on the hillside overlooking the glistening waters of Ladysmith Harbour. One of the oldest settlements on Vancouver Island, the community known as Oyster Harbour was established in 1899 by James Dunsmuir, son of Vancouver Island’s prosperous coal-mining family. The community was designed as a recreation and dormitory complex for miners, serving as a shipping port for coal from Nanaimo, and Dunsmuir moved many buildings by rail to this peaceful spot he had chosen.
When Dunsmuir received word on March 1, 1900 that the British forces had finally relieved their besieged countrymen in Ladysmith, in the Natal Province of South Africa, he named the new town Ladysmith and many local streets were named after British Generals who served in the Anglo Boer War. Read more on The Siege and Relief of Ladysmith.
Today, the delightful little town of Ladysmith has a charming Edwardian setting; a spirited, picturesque community with many of its original buildings under restoration. Take a leisurely stroll along 1st Avenue and see the results of the revitalization program, which has restored a number of these historic heritage buildings. The buildings and sites evoke memories of a frontier past built on coal mining and forestry.
As you enjoy the variety of shops and boutiques you will note the appropriate plaques describing their history. Be sure to look for the house of ill repute! A unique metal collage stands on Main Street to tell Ladysmith’s story through the use of artifacts welded together representing the various eras in the town’s growth.
Surrounded by beautiful mountainous terrain with streams and lakes, Ladysmith is a convenient departure point for hiking, camping, fishing, and most other outdoor activities.
Location: Ladysmith is located just south of Nanaimo on the east coast of Vancouver Island. The town is serviced by Cassidy Airport, situated 9 km north of Ladysmith, and also by coach lines between operating between Victoria and Nanaimo. A more spectacular route to travel is the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway (VIA Rail), which passes through some of the most beautiful scenery in Canada, providing panoramic views of the BC Gulf Islands on its run between Victoria and Courtenay in the Comox Valley.
Ladysmith was named by “Harrowsmith Country Life Magazine” as one of the 10 Prettiest Towns in Canada in April 2000.
Coal Port: In the early 1900’s Ladysmith served as a shipping port for Nanaimo coal – and as a dormitory and recreation area for miners and their families.
The Holland Creek Trail System winds approximately 4 kilometres along both sides of Holland Creek, offering an attractive walking route through the centre of the municipality of Ladysmith. Hike up to Heart Lake – 6.4km from the head of the Holland Creek Trail bridge.
Stroll along First Avenue for a look at the turn-of-the century buildings – walking tour maps are available at the Visitor Centre.
Transfer Beach, in Ladysmith Harbour, offers warm saltwater swimming to pass the time between bouts of picnicking. Kayak rentals available. Visit the amphitheatre…the biggest open-air amphitheatre on Vancouver Island that holds over 1,000 people. Enjoy the spectacular harbour views.
Boat Launch: The municipal boat launch in the centre of Ladysmith, is the place to begin exploring the 5 mile length of Ladysmith Harbour. Dunsmuir and Woods Islands on the north side on the harbour are good destinations in summer, while the marshy lagoon at the head of the harbour attracts migrating birds in spring and fall.
Harbour Tour: Take a tour of Ladysmith Harbour from The Maritime docks in July and August.
Fish Hatchery: Visit the salmon fish hatchery behind the Cassidy Hotel, just five minutes from Ladysmith. Open year-round to the public 9-12 noon and 1-3 p.m.
Oysters: Indulge in some world-famous fresh Ladysmith oysters. Oyster Harbour Seafood has been an active part of the Ladysmith Harbour since the mid 1940s and is still located at the original oyster house location at 5035 Paton Road. Still fully family owned and operated, they continue to offer the freshest oysters and clams that you can get from the pristine waters of British Columbia.
Annual Events: Ladysmith offers a number of events that reflect the warm and inviting nature of the community. The harbour is host to many events throughout the year including the Vancouver Island Paddlefest & Kayak Conference in June. The Christmas holiday season, is perhaps when this jewel of a community shines most brightly. Each year the Town of Ladysmith is transformed into a fairytale wonderland of lights with the annual Christmas Light-Up and the Christmas Light Harbour Cruise, in December.
Golf: The Ladysmith Golf Course is a 9-hole, par 27 course. Nearby Nanaimo and the areas to the north have seen the proliferation of golf courses with a view. Tee off on any of 20 golf courses within an hour’s drive of Nanaimo. Courses range from family mini-golf to demanding 18-hole courses with beautiful views. Located 3 miles (5 km) north of Nanaimo is the Nanaimo Golf Club, a demanding 18-hole course with beautiful views of the water, and two 9-hole courses; Pryde Vista Golf Club and the Eaglequest Golf Centre. South of Ladysmith is the Mount Brenton Golf Club on Henry Road in Chemainus, a challenging par-71 golf course, with tree-lined fairways and spectacular greens. Vancouver Island Golf Vacations.
Bungy Jumping: For those who prefer falling over walking, Nanaimo claims to be the home of North America’s first and only bridge built specifically for bungee jumpers. Thrill seekers can experience the ultimate high at the Wild Play Element Park. You can watch or jump from this 140-foot (42-m) bridge above the Nanaimo River, located just five minutes north of Ladysmith.
Bungy Jumping in Nanaimo.
North of Ladysmith is Nanaimo, famous for its varied landscapes and more than two dozen parks. The city of Nanaimo boasts one of the prettiest waterfronts in Canada, conveniently located to serve as a home base for exploring Vancouver Island.
South of Ladysmith is Chemainus, the former coastal mill town that transformed itself into the world’s largest outdoor art gallery, capturing and expressing its history, its people and its future on huge heritage murals painted on the sides of buildings, attracting visitors from around the world.
Circle Tours: See the best of BC when you embark upon one of the many circle tours that take in Vancouver Island, the Discovery Coast, and the Sunshine Coast. The coastal tours involve exciting road and ferry trips on BC Ferries, and scenic highways flank the coast, taking you through charming beachside communities, rolling farmlands and majestic mountain ranges. Check out the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island Circle Tour, and other Circle Tours in British Columbia.