Nanaimo Our History

June 16th, 2016

A Tale of Nanaimo’s Epic Shoreline, 1900

For hundreds of years, the stunning shoreline on the east coast of Vancouver Island has captured the hearts of explorers, tourists, and local residents alike. The Coast Salish people were the first to settle and make Nanaimo their home. Later in 1592, Spaniard Juan de Fuca was the first European explorer to navigate Vancouver Island waters. Nearly 200 years later, Captain James Cooke arrived on the west coast of the island. As Vancouver Island history has shown through the names of various islands and cities, there was a fierce rivalry over territorial claim between the Spanish and the English.

Spanish commander Alejandro Malaspina was one of the first to circumnavigate the sheltered waterways of Nanaimo in 1791. Commander Malaspina had named the bay areas around Nanaimo Boca de Winthuysen or Winthuysen Inlet. This name was used until the British claimed the region in the 1800s.

Today, a variety of vessels share Nanaimo’s waterways, including busy ferries, pleasure crafts, commercial fishing boats, kayaks, and cruise ships. Quite a different image from the days of European exploration! (From the collection fron the Nanaimo Museum)

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