Accessible by foot-passenger ferry from Nanaimo, Newcastle Island was once the site of the Hudson’s Bay Company coal mines before being purchased by the Canadian Pacific Railway, who turned it into a pleasure island that included floating hotels, tea houses, a dance pavilion and a soccer field.
Today, the entire Newcastle Island is a nature reserve, and a delightfully adventurous location for a picnic, with sandstone cliffs, forests, gravel beaches, caves, caverns and prehistoric native middens.
Part of the thrill of visiting Newcastle Island is riding the foot-passenger ferry to the island, which gives visitors a feeling for activity in Nanaimo Harbour. As you move away from Nanaimo, the Vancouver Island Mountains come into view as they rise above the town. Once on the island, you find trails leading off in many directions, including a trail to the well-organized picnic ground beside the Pavilion, a grand leftover from the dance-hall era.
Newcastle was the site of much commercial activity before it was turned into a park. Visitors can explore the old limestone quarry where the columns for the US Federal Mint in San Francisco were shaped. An unfinished one remains as an example of the work done here. Just as interesting is the site of a fishsalting plant nearby.
The public ferry to Newcastle runs during summer months only and can be reached from Maffeo-Sutton Park behind the Civic Arena, just north of downtown Nanaimo. Outside of summer months, visitors can catch a ride to Newcastle with one of the private water taxis that whisk travellers around the harbour.
Location: Newcastle Island is located offshore from Nanaimo on the east coast of Vancouver Island. The public ferry to Newcastle Island runs during summer months only and can be reached from Maffeo-Sutton Park behind the Civic Arena, just north of downtown Nanaimo. Outside of summer months, visitors can catch a ride to Newcastle with one of the private water taxis that whisk travellers around the harbour.