Action-packed from end to end, route 40 VIU Express in the Regional District of Nanaimo provides countless opportunities for a #StayLocal break. So, find your mask and #BusPass – and hop on at VIU exchange!

University Village Shopping Centre is one of the first stops, but before we get any further – are you hungry? Big Wheel Burger, “Canada’s first carbon neutral fast food restaurant”, serves up quality burgers, shakes, sodas and fries made through local, sustainable and environmentally-friendly methods. Good for the planet, good for the appetite, curbside pick-up or delivery… Yes, please!

Back on board, the bus loops the waterfront which is a great place to stop and watch ferries berth, float planes take off or the tide roll in. But, this scenic view is made much better with a warm drink in hand, so getting off a little early at Vault Café is a good call. They’ve got espresso, afternoon snacks and breakfast treats (think banana bread and French toast), and… A newly-opened skate shop! The library’s Harbourfront branch, Nanaimo Art Gallery and many local shops are all within walking distance of the waterfront if you’re keen to explore.

Otherwise, the bus heads back towards VIU and passes another must-see spot: the Old City Quarter. This ‘step back in time’ is chock-full of revitalized heritage buildings with all kinds of shops and services, making it one of Nanaimo’s best #SupportLocal destinations.

If you hop back on board, the next major destination en route is Bowen Park. If it’s nature you seek—trees, green space and the sounds of birds chirping—this is the place to be. The 36-hectare park also boasts a free disc golf course, intersecting trails along Millstone River and an Instagram-worthy waterfall and duck pond. Talk about a great place to get intentionally lost for a while!

Just past this magical park is another excellent spot to refresh with a cup of something wonderful open 7 days a week: The Buzz Coffee House. Aside from making the perfect cappuccino, they serve everything from bagel melts to Tuscan pizzas, and most importantly – Nanaimo’s claim-to-fame bars!

The route continues up to Beban Park, with registered programs running for all ages at the Social Centre (according to COVID safety protocols). Or stay on board awhile longer, and visit Oliver Woods Community Centre for volleyball, basketball, badminton and more (all with COVID-19 protocols as well). Further along the route, keep an eye out for the Longwood Brew Pub & Restaurant. It’s the perfect spot for a little quality time with spectacular views, a cozy fireplace and a mouth-watering menu.

The stop at Uplands and Hammond Bay gets you just a short walk from the library’s North branch, open for browsing, pick-up and limited computer access. The route then takes a left onto Dover Road, up Mary Ellen Drive (hello, shopping!) and finally to Woodgrove Centre with even more shopping if you’ve saved it till the end of the line!

This 20 km route makes more than 120 total trips on weekdays, from southern Nanaimo right through to its northernmost point – quite the epic ride! Besides giving riders access to amazing local shops and services, the route offers multiple options for bubble-friendly, physically-distanced activities outdoors. Next time you’re on board, see for yourself!

Explore Route 40

Erin Kenny