Departure Bay, Vancouver Island

While visiting Nanaimo, British Columbia this week I spent a morning at Departure Bay. The bay and the neighbourhood surrounding it were incorporated into the city of Nanaimo in the 1970s. The Trans-Canada Highway on Vancouver Island terminates at Departure Bay where the BC Ferry Terminal is located. The ferry connects the island to the mainland and is itself a component of the highway.

The earliest people in the region were the First Nations group known as Snuneymuxw. They and the city of Nanaimo worked together to create The Portal to show the significance of the site. The two eagles represent strength and wisdom and they are protectors of the land. They are also there to welcome visitors to Snuneymuxw traditional territory. The two whales that are on the crosspiece of the poles represent good luck and they also protect and guide canoes from shore to shore.


  1. Departure Bay ferry goes to Horseshoe Bay, north shore Vancouver. Duke Point joins with Tsawwassen. south end of Vancouver. You take the ferry depending where you want to go, into either city or around them.

    These spellings – Snuneymuxw and Tsawwassen are but two examples – are what happens when an area is populated by those who do not have a written language. It’s phonetic. The first is pronounced Nanaimo and the second T’wassen. Enquiring minds want to know!

    BTW, Nanaimo really is the home of the Nanaimo bar, once cooked by Dutch wives for their coal mining husbands and sons. The bar could last quite a while without melting or goin bad and chalk full of calories. Good stuff.

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