Brechin is the hill on your right when you disembark from the ferries at Departure Bay. The neighbourhood includes some great character homes built to enjoy the amazing views of Departure Bay and Newcastle Island; decks are large, windows are tall, roads are steep, and there's a maritime feeling. Mid priced homes.
You enter Chase River as you travel south from Nanaimo, and it's sometimes it is identified as south Nanaimo. Chase River is semi-rural and is clustered around the old railway beside the Nanaimo River Estuary, about five minutes south of downtown Nanaimo by car. There are a couple of mini-malls with restaurants, a supermarket, video store, gas, supplies, etc. Many homes in Chase River are charming old models, there are also several mobile home parks in the area. Rumour has more retail locations planned.
Along bus routes? Yes.
Bad part of town? Not really.
Nearby parks: Extension Ridge
This is a very pleasant community between Chase River and Extension, about ten minutes south of downtown Nanaimo. Cinnabar Valley is a green place between two ridges, and parts of it are very old and interesting.
Most of the residents of Cinnabar Valley work in Nanaimo, and there are nice family homes in the area. There are a lot of great views of the valley and beyond, because many homes are situated high on the slopes of either ridge.
This is development of large upscale homes on a ridge overlooking Nanaimo and the Georgia Strait, and the mountains on the mainland. College Heights is just across the Nanaimo Parkway from Vancouver Island University. Upper middle class, executive neighbourhood.
Car owners will feel they're right overtop of Nanaimo and loving it, a six minute drive from downtown. Pedestrians and bicyclists will get complimented on their calves. And anyone who likes mornings will feel right at home in College Heights, where the Georgia Straight sunrises are literally some of the finest on Vancouver Island (Vancouver's smog helps).
Along bus routes? Bit of a walk to VIU for more frequent service or Jinglepot Rd for less service.
Bad part of town? No.
Nearby parks: Buttertubs Marsh, Colliery Dams, Morrell Sanctuary, Westwood Lake, Westwood Ridge
The Departure Bay area is a beautiful oceanside neighbourhood, a meeting of two hills above the bay and the beach. There are some great character homes down by the beach, as well as some more modest split-levels behind them, and a lot of semi-luxury to luxury homes perched on the rocky bluffs overlooking all.
Almost anyone who's been to Nanaimo will be familiar with Departure Bay as the large bay where the ferry terminal is. But the ferry terminal is not in the residential area referred to as Departure Bay. (The ferries are at the bottom of Brechin Hill.)
This is a decent family neighbourhood settled mostly in the 1970's and 80's. There are also new subdivisions being built now backing the parkway. There are a lot of mature trees in the older areas, and while many houses are the standard box form, there are also funkier homes around Rosstown Rd. This area's also in the middle of almost everything, and pretty safe.
Divers Lake is neighbourhood is a common favourite for families, because its location is convenient to most things in the city (it's a ten minute drive to downtown even less to the biggest malls). It's also close to Beban Park, a sports complex with the best (or second-best, depending on whom you ask) kids' playground in Nanaimo.
The Dover Bay area is about as far north as you can get in Nanaimo without being in Lantzville. Dover Bay Road heads east from the Woodgrove Mall area, staying high above the ocean and passing through upper-middle class and more upscale residential neighbourhoods.
Homes in the Dover Bay area tend to be more "cookie-cutter" than in the older Hammond Bay / Rutherford area to the southwest. However, many of the home designs are amazing, efficient homes with spectacular ocean views, and the neighbourhoods couldn't be safer. A very sought after area.
Hammond Bay Area
Hammond Bay is a smallish body of water, but the name is often used for a larger area in North Nanaimo, because Hammond Bay Road is the main route along this stretch of hillside overlooking the ocean.
This neighbourhood has properties with stunning views and luxury homes. The hilly terrain accommodates quite a few of these homes, making it appear as a quaint village from the water at night.
Hammond Bay is between Dover Bay and Departure Bay. When people refer to the Hammond Bay area as a neighbourhood, they often refer to homes as far south as the northern shore of Departure Bay itself, near the biological station. Hammond Bay is a desired area for many. But because of topography it is a drive to get anywhere.
Harewood (University District)
A charming and relaxed old suburb of Nanaimo, Harewood occupies the relatively flat space between Malaspina University-College and the hill that drops to Downtown. As an old neighbourhood, Harewood has all kinds of old "character" homes, including miners' cottages and large old farmhouses from when this was Nanaimo's frontier a hundred years ago.
There was a time in recent memory when people outside of Harewood considered it to be gritty and called it "Scarewood". But it's a much nicer part of town these days, owing in part to the university, an influx of young families and students, and some significant investment, including the renovation of Harewood Mall into University Plaza. It is certainly being revitalized. In fact, you might not hear the name "Harewood" soon except from locals' mouths; the area's being re-billed as the "University District".
Harewood's boundaries may be thought of as running south into Chase River near Tenth St, west to the college, and north to Third St or Bowen Rd, depending on who you're asking. The railway tracks might be thought of as separating Harewood from "South Nanaimo" to the east, toward the water.
There are a few small malls in Harewood, with a supermarket, video stores, drug store, pub, restaurants, Value Village, gas, auto mechanics, and more.
Here's why the Hospital Area is a desirable place to live in Nanaimo: Neighbourhood culture is friendly and down-to-earth, very central location, most properties have decent-sized yards with mature foliage and the properties are affordable .
As the name implies, there is a hospital here, as well as other care-related faciltities. The Hospital Area is a good entry point for people who want to try living in Nanaimo. It's not pretentious, nor very poor; it's pretty, and convenient, and the location is about midway between downtown and the north end of Nanaimo (downtown is slightly closer).
Jingle Pot Area
The Jingle Pot Road area of Nanaimo is remarkably rural, especially when one considers its proximity to both downtown and the big-box convenience of the north end of town. It's a pretty valley under the mountain, but it's also a neighbourhood of Nanaimo.
Before the Parkway was built in the late 1990's, Jinglepot was much more remote, the one long loop curving from Harewood to the base of the mountain, and out toward Diver Lake. Now, two major intersections on the Parkway access Jingle Pot Rd. However, most traffic turns away from that direction, so you might say that the Jinglepot area is quiet AND convenient.
Homes in the Jinglepot area come in a variety of shapes and styles, with old farmhouses and new ones, funky getaways, and new homes on subdivisions. When searching homes on the MLS there is North and South Jinglepot. North Jinglepot sports more upscale neighbourhoods, it’s got a lot of new construction.
People use "North Nanaimo" to describe a relatively large part of the city—sometimes encompassing multiple neighbourhoods—Dover, Uplands etc. It's a useful nomenclature because, compared to the other half of Nanaimo, the North End is homogeneous. Generally, development north of Northfield Rd and Departure Bay is no older than 30 years.
The North End is definitely the cleanest part of Nanaimo in terms of low property crime and young neighbourhoods. It's a beautiful and well-kept place to settle down. There isn't exactly a nightlife, but there are some good restaurants and some nice trails and beaches, if you know how to find them.
People who live in the North End but work downtown don't have a long commute. It takes about 12 minutes to drive across town with no traffic, and about 20 during rush hour.
Many people criticize North Nanaimo's subdivisions for their "cookie-cutter" appearance; homes usually look similar to their neighbours, and the effect isn't helped by the small lot sizes and, in most cases, yards lacking in mature foliage.
The University District (Harewood)
Not to be confused with College Heights, the "University District" (aka college area) is a new name for the parts of Harewood closest to Vancouver Island University There are some efforts to give this name to all of Harewood, but this may never come to fruition entirely. Most people would say that the University District encompasses most of Harewood, down the hill from VIU until Bruce Avenue, south to 7th St perhaps, and north to 2nd St or Comox Ave.
Homes in the University District mostly come from every era: There are old character homes, many of them wonderfully maintained; there are also newer homes, and everything in between.
Along bus routes? Yes.
Bad part of town? Some parts could be a little better.
Uplands Drive is a major two-lane residential road that begins at the higher part of Departure Bay Rd (behind Country Club Centre), and curves its way northwest past Nanaimo North Town Center (formerly Rutherford Mall), running somewhat parallel with the highway (but out of sight of it). Uplands continues past Rutherford Mall, but the northern part of Uplands is not what is referred to when someone mentions "the Uplands area".
This is a nice area, with neighbourhoods developed from the 1970's-90's for upper-middle-class professionals with families. It is now a solid friendly middle class area with excellent schools.
Properties in Uplands often perch on rocky hillsides, or they occupy the dark spaces at the bottoms of small ravines. It's an exciting area to look at homes in. The uneven topography makes for some large lot sizes, and many of the homes in Uplands are Nanaimo's best view homes, overlooking Long Lake, Mount Benson, or even the ocean.