In central Nanaimo there are several casual spots worth knowing about. Tina's Diner, 187 Commercial St. (tel. 205/753-5333; www.tinasdiner.com), is a classic '50s diner with big eggy breakfasts and sandwiches for lunch. McClean's Specialty Foods, 426 Fitzwilliam St. (tel. 250/754-0100; www.mcleansfoods.com), offers over 100 varieties of cheese, including many from Vancouver Island, plus other picnic comestibles. Mon Petit Choux, 101-120 Commercial St. (tel. 250/753-6057; www.monpetitchoux.ca), is a quintessential French bakery with excellent breads and pastries, plus an espresso bar. Light meals are available for breakfast and lunch.
Two Popular Pubs -- In summer, for a pint of ale and a burger in a marvelous location, take the 10-minute Protection Connection ferry ride to the Dinghy Dock Floating Marine Pub, on Protection Island (tel. 250/753-2373). It's exactly what its name says -- a floating pub -- and boasts spectacular sunset views of Nanaimo and the Vancouver Island mountains. The ferry leaves on the hour from the Commercial Inlet boat basin, below Pioneer Waterfront Plaza.
You'll get a wonderful view of the harbor from the Lighthouse Bistro and Pub, off Harbourside Walkway at 50 Anchor Way (tel. 250/754-3212). Open daily from 11am to midnight and until 1am in summer (the restaurant closes earlier), this floating pub is adjacent to the city's floatplane base -- watch these boats take off just beside your table.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.