By Susan Juby

Which beach? That’s the question we ask on summer days in Nanaimo. 

The sweet, small cove near the parking lot at Neck Point is perfect at daybreak. Sure, the morning might be cold and the water dark, but once you get in your skin will turn fiery with nerve endings. Soon the slanting rays of the rising sun will let you see the coloured pebbles and starfish on the ocean floor, and you’ll know you have already aced the day.  

Around noon, it’s time to hit Departure Bay Beach, where you can tread choppy water while you watch the ferries nose in and out of the terminal. If you like a little show-off with your cool-down, you can swim to the little dock and demo your glorious belly flops. When you’re done, hit one of the food trucks that line the road above you. Hot tip: get the mini sliders. 

Piper's LagoonPiper's Lagoon

On a hot afternoon at low tide, head to Invermere Beach at the base of the Blueback Stairs, all two hundred of them. You’ll have earned every second of bliss when the water comes in over the great expanse of warm sand, leaving you feeling like you’re paddling around in the Mediterranean. Teenagers skimboard in long shallow pools and little kids totter about in their best sun protection finery and you can’t quite believe it’s all real. 

Evenings are for Pipers Lagoon, where the water and the south-facing evening sky turn the exact same shade of grey-blue. People are nestled all up and down the beach but there’s plenty of room for everyone. Kids splash just one more somersault before bed and when you look at the driftwood line behind you, you’ll probably spot people kissing in the electric pink glow of the setting sun.

MORE STAYCATIONS: 21 Hidden Places to Hike, Bike, Paddle and Chill in Your Own Backyard