Nanaimo’s Ever-Changing Shoreline

December 15th, 2017

Known for its pristine scenery and access to the gorgeous waters of the Salish Sea, Nanaimo’s shoreline is home to some of the most prime pieces of real estate in the area.

A stroll on Nanaimo’s shoreline today and you might find lively boardwalks, scenic coastal landscapes or luxury homes, all nestled along the water’s edge. But it wasn’t always this way. While the shoreline has always played an important part in the city’s development, it has undergone many significant transformations throughout history.

It began ages ago, as the area’s Indigenous peoples first settled along the shoreline, amongst the edges of the lush forests rising off its banks. Ample fishing provided a year-round source of food and access to neighbouring communities was made possible thanks to wooden canoes. Flash-forward hundreds of years, these same waters provided a natural transportation route that played an integral role in Nanaimo’s economic boom.

From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, the only viable transportation method on land was by train. But the waters of the Strait of Georgia and the deep and sheltered harbours surrounding the city were capable of anchoring deeply-laden vessels. This meant that people and goods could easily come and go across the waters to major hubs like Vancouver, Victoria and beyond. But most importantly, these waters served as the perfect way to export products from local industries like mining, fishing, logging, lumber milling and sandstone quarrying.

As such, these industries played a significant role in shaping Nanaimo’s shoreline and harbour. Besides the large coal wharves of the local mining companies like Vancouver Coal Co., there were also many other wharves and piers. Railyards and loading docks also dotted the shoreline, used to load and unload shipments of lumber, coal, bricks and countless other items.

Whether for function or aesthetic beauty, Nanaimo’s shoreline has transformed the city into the “hub” of Vancouver Island and shaped its landscape into what it is today.

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