If you’re looking for one of the best Nanaimo camping spots, Living Forest Campground is hard to beat. Whether you need a convenient base for visiting central Nanaimo or want somewhere that takes you away from the bustle of town each evening, Living Forest Campground has got you covered.
Located on Vancouver Island’s east coast, Nanaimo is a stunning city that boasts impressive views, unique attractions, and a wide range of water-based activities. Regardless of whether you’re visiting the area to cruise around the harbour or would rather spend your time exploring the area’s many nature trails, you’ll be surrounded by beauty at every turn.
This is our preferred campground (with full hookups!) to break up the trip from Kelowna to Tofino. We boot it across the ferry, set up here for a night, and then onto Tofino the next morning. We leave 4-7 days on the backside of this trip back at the Living Forest Campground to enjoy the amazing things to do in Nanaimo like take in some forest bathing at Englishman River Falls.
Welcome to Living Forest Campground
Arguably one of Living Forest Campground’s finest features is its waterfront location. Offering water on all 3 sides of the campground, you’re practically guaranteed an incredible view from any of the 320 campsites. What’s more, the large 53-acre site never feels stifling or overcrowded, making it ideal for larger families with kids.
There are 3 camping areas here that offer plenty of shading from the summer sun. These are accurately named the riverview, riverside, and forested sites. The riverside sites (and the riverview) tend to be snapped up quickly as they provide superior views of the river. So, we suggest calling ahead if you’d like to camp directly on the waterfront.
If you’re travelling as part of a group, there’s a dedicated group RV site here that offers shelter, a large fire pit, and a bocce court. On a sunny day, you’ll often see groups of older guests playing bocce. If you ask nicely, some groups will even let you join in!
While you’re here, check out the wonderful walking trails that pass along the Nanaimo River. Shaded by towering forestry and crossing several ocean viewpoints, the local trail that runs in and around the park is an ideal way to get your steps in. Most of the trails here are pup-friendly but need to be leashed. People tend to walk dogs off-leash on a dedicated trail that runs along the river. This is conveniently located right outside the park.
If you prefer biking, you’ll be pleased to know that all the main roads here are paved. This gives parents and kiddos up to 3km of smooth and stable road surface for a gentle ride. Whether they’re still on training wheels or are slowly building up the courage to ride a two-wheeler, these roads might minimize falls and nasty scrapes.
When you find yourself tuckered out from the trails and local roads, why not cool off in the water? There are excellent sheltered kayaking and canoeing opportunities on-site, and you can either rent equipment from the site itself or launch your own!
Amenities at Living Forest Campground
As well as being close to local trails and activities, Living Forest Campground has several amenities that we were totally thankful for during our visit!
The site itself is immaculately groomed, and features 30 and 50-amp sites as well as the 3 tenting areas that we mentioned previously. Guests arriving in large RVs will also be pleased to know that there are several large pull-thru sites at Living Forest that offer panoramas over the lakeside.
During your visit, you can gaze out over the pristine Nanaimo Lakes before stopping by the Living Forest Café for a gourmet coffee, latte, breakfast sandwich, or ice cream. You can certainly grab grub to go, but we recommend sticking around on the cafe’s deck to enjoy the incredible waterfront views from the viewing deck.
If you’re running low on power (or don’t feel like paying for WiFi during your visit!), you can take advantage of the cafe’s free Wi-Fi and laptop recharging stations. It’s not as convenient as paying to stay connected site-wide, but it’s an excellent alternative to paying for WiFi packages.
If you’d prefer to splash out on the site-wide WiFi, it’s generally reliable. The signal strength depends on how many people are trying to connect to a transmitter at once, but it actually worked wonders for us while we were sending fairly big image files to each other. We did have some periods of slow speed, it’s camping wifi, not hotel. 🙂
Those needing to fully stock their RV (or have run out of bug spray or sunscreen!), can head to the grocery store just down the road from the campground. If you’re just looking for ice, a few treats, and dry firewood, the on-site office will have you sorted in no time.
If the on-site amenities just aren’t doing it for you, the campground is a mere 0.5km from the nearest mall. Inside, you’ll find a selection of shops, a drug store, a fitness centre, a liquor store, a bank, and even a medical office that will be happy to assist with any awkward accidents that may have occurred on the trails.
The bathrooms here are quite comfortable, and feature flushed toilets, tiling, and heating for those chilly, early morning trips. You’ll also have access to token-operated showers on-site that cost $1 for 5 minutes, have handicap features, and are cleaned daily.
When you are on the road as much as we are, showers are a key part of our experience. These showers suffice, they are not amazing but they are comfortable enough.
The time you’re allocated should be enough for a basic shower, but for post-trail or post-river showers, you may want to keep an extra token on hand! The heat and pressure felt sufficient, although Steve mentioned it took a bit to heat up.
When it comes to laundry, it’s not cheap. However, we’d say that it’s more affordable than the prices offered at competing sites. There are 6 washers and 4 commercial dryers here, and it costs $2.50 for a wash load and $0.25 for a 5-minute drying cycle.
We found that one dryer cycle was enough for quite a big load. It does get quite hot though, so if you have items you are nervous about shrinking, maybe hang those to dry.
The site is family-run and designed for both adults and children. They even have a Kids Game Room (reopening in the summer) or Adventure Playground to blow off some steam before hitting the hay!
If you’re an adult wanting to enjoy some downtime, hit the Adults Room which boasts an impressive library, card tables, a kitchenette (for casual chats and socializing!), and a large adjoining lounge area with a TV.
Fancy winding down with something slightly more active? Simply head down to the full-size concrete basketball court. Not only is it suitable for full games with several players, but it comes with hockey goals and balls to borrow if you don’t have the right gear with you.
Living Forest Campground is pet-friendly, and you’ll need to keep animals on a leash at all times to be respectful of your community while you are there. As we mentioned though, there is a trail where many dogs run free nearby – and it’s important to remember dog trail etiquette. Brandy is still learning at 7 months old, we do a lot of sprinting as mentioned in the article.
While we were at Living Forest Campground, we couldn’t help thinking “what doesn’t this place have?!”. In all honesty, the amenities at this site are truly impressive, and you should have no trouble making yourself feel at home during an extended visit to Nanaimo.
To reach this scenic campground from Nanaimo, you can either travel along the Trans-Canada Highway from Milton Street, or take a slightly longer route through Pine Street, Seventh Street, and Old Victoria Road. There’s not much difference in time or distance, so choose whichever route feels right!
Regardless of whether you’re in the Nanaimo area for its restaurants, excellent hikes, or immense natural beauty, Living Forest Campground is one of the best camping spots in the area.
You can learn more about it or book a coveted spot by visiting LivingForest.com.
Don’t forget to read our story on the 30 Best Things To Do in Nanaimo while you are here!