Where Are the Best Nanaimo Bars in Nanaimo?

Where is Nanaimo and What are Nanaimo Bars?

Graham Thurgood
6 min readSep 19, 2021

Nanaimo is a little town in British Columbia, Canada, where the famous dessert, called a Nanaimo Bar, was invented. We went to explore the area and, of course, find the best Nanaimo Bar in Nanaimo.

For those who are uninitiated to the mouthwatering deliciousness of a Nanaimo Bar, here are the basic building blocks of what they consist:

A bottom crust of chocolate and graham cracker or cookie crumbs.

A middle layer of vanilla custard.

A top layer of chocolate glaze.

Here’s a recipe from Allrecipes.

Nanaimo Bars have three distinct layers: chocolate, custard, and a chocolate/graham cracker crust.

Depending on where you are from, they may have a different name, but out here on the west coast, these are called Nanaimo Bars, and we love them out here.

For those who are inexperienced with the town of Nanaimo, it is a city and ferry port on Vancouver Island, about a 2-hour ferry ride from the central city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Nanaimo is a vibrant urban center situated on the ocean with a rich mining and indigenous history. Today, it boasts many cultural and recreational sites and numerous cafes and restaurants, many of which carry the dessert bearing the town’s namesake.

Nanaimo is a lovely little seaside town that my girlfriend and I went to explore for our second anniversary — and stuff our faces with all the delicious foods and desserts we could find. We spent about four days on the island, taking the 10 am ferry across the Strait of Georgia on a Monday and catching the early 5:15 am ferry on the way back. In between, we made our home base on the bottom floor of a large house we found on Airbnb. We took day trips all over the city and area around Nanaimo for most of the week, seeing all the beauty and nature.

Since we found ourselves in and around Nanaimo anyway, we thought it might be fun to indulge in as many of the delicious bars named for the area as we could and select the best one.

So here we go. Here are the nominees for best Nanaimo Bar in Nanaimo, in order of the places we went on our trip.

The first one we had was at Drip Coffee. Drip is located at 2835 Departure Bay Road, right across from the ocean. We had settled into our AirBnB and drove a few minutes down the hill to the public beach and walkway. There we saw Drip Coffee and bought a large coffee and our first Nanaimo Bar. The coffee was delicious, and so was the Nanaimo Bar. It had dark chocolate on top — darker than most other bars — with caramel flavoured filling and a chewy crust. Pretty tasty.

Marcia and I with the Drip Coffee Nanaimo Bar.

Next up was a different take on the Nanaimo Bar because it was in gelato form. We initially hit Waterfront Confections to get some candy but then were pleasantly side-tracked to find delicious gelato. The Nanaimo Bar gelato was excellent. It had coconut, chocolate, almonds, and graham cracker flavours we expect from the Nanaimo Bar but whipped into a beautiful ice cream treat. Waterfront Confections is located on the walkway at 6–90 Front Street and is an excellent stop along the boardwalk.

The Waterfront Confections Nanaimo Bar Gelato.

A few more steps down the boardwalk is a cool little coffee shop with a catchy name: Javawocky Coffee House. The address is 8–90 Front Street and has indoor and outdoor seating, right on the water. This place had an excellent Nanaimo Bar with what I believe was puffed wheat and nuts in the crust. Original and delicious.

The two of us are about to devour a Nanaimo Bar from Javawocky.

Next, we went on a quick road trip about twenty minutes down the road to a small town called Ladysmith. Ladysmith is a homey place with one main street where most of the shops are located. In the middle of the street and usually with a line out the door is a bakery called Old Town Bakery with a fantastic Nanaimo Bar. Most places make the traditional Nanaimo Bar with their subtle twist, but the Old Town Bakery takes the cake, er, bar. They have a raspberry Nanaimo Bar with a soft and chewy crust, raspberry cream filling, and vanilla cream on top. They also have a “regular” Nanaimo bar, but this one was just too pretty to pass up! Not to mention scrumptious! Also, we picked up a Maple Walnut Cinnamon Bun and Double Chocolate Cookie, both of which were fantastic.

This is the beautiful, raspberry Nanaimo Bar from the Old Town Bakery in nearby Ladysmith.

The following day we headed back to downtown Nanaimo in the arts district, where we grabbed Nanaimo Bars from Red’s Bakery and Mon Petit Choux, the final two entries and whose shops are practically right across the street from each other. Red’s Bakery’s bar had a thick piece of milk chocolate on top with rum-cream in the middle and a nutty crust. Mon Petit Choux’s entry went the opposite way, featuring a thicker cream in the middle, more coconut in the crust and a thinner layer of chocolate on top.

Marcia and Red’s Bakery’s Nanaimo Bar.

Both were decadent, rich, and delicious. The Arts District, where these bakeries and many other shops are, is a lovely area to walk around and window shop. There are also a few more bakeries to get Nanaimo Bars in, but we didn’t have the time (or the hunger!) to get to them all. Please, be my guest and let me know how they are!

The lovely Mon Petit Choux Nanaimo Bar in the Arts District in Nanaimo.

Now, here is the moment you have all been waiting for: the winner of the best Nanaimo Bar in Nanaimo is…

The raspberry Nanaino Bar creation from the Ole Town Bakery in Ladysmith! Congratulations!

However, since that Nanaimo Bar was not technically made in Nanaimo and is also a different variety of bar than is traditional, we will have to give an additional prize to the folks at Javawocky for their Nanaimo Bar. Congratulations!

We had a great time on our little trip to Nanaimo. If you are in the Vancouver area, you could do a lot worse than head out to Nanaimo for a few days and sample some of the many Nanaimo Bars for which the site is now famous. Please, go and enjoy the sites and sounds and bars (the dessert kind, of course!) of the Nanaimo area. It is a wonderful place for nature hikes, whale watching, restaurants, and desserts.


Final Thoughts

Unfortunately for you readers, you won’t be able to taste the REAL best Nanaimo Bar in the world: Marcia’s!

Oh well, more for me!

Marcia’s Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars are the best, and all for me!

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Please stay safe and travel when it’s safe to do so.

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Graham Thurgood

I write about what interests me, what’s worked for me, and how I can help others. Specifically, travel, moving to a new country, business, and SEO.