POPULATION: 8,000 (2011)

MUST DO: See the heritage buildings on Main St.; Summer swim & picnic on Transfer Beach


Founded by James Dunsmuir as a coal shipping port, the town of Ladysmith has evolved into a vibrant community, popular with both young families and retirees.

Sitting on the 49th parallel and named for a town in South Africa, Ladysmith’s hillside geography offers incredible views of Stuart Channel. The coal-loading facilities are long gone and the waterfront has been transformed into the aptly named Transfer Beach, a favorite spot for summer picnics, a game of horseshoes and swimming in the warmest saltwater north of San Francisco.

ladysmith-heritage-buildingWhile the waterfront is Ladysmith’s premier attraction, the restored heritage buildings along First Avenue offer visitors a step into the past. The restoration project was so successful it won the town national honors in the Main Street Canada Competition. As you stroll along First Avenue, look for the large metal collage that tells the town’s history through artifacts and photographs. The Black Nugget Museum also offers an incredible look into the past, as do a number of antique shops.

Being on the water, Ladysmith offers some great fishing, sailing and boating opportunities. Away from the ocean, hiking trails wind through the surrounding mountains. Bring your trout rod, as there is an abundance of lakes and streams.

The people of Ladysmith don’t let the changing seasons stop the fun. In late November, the annual Festival of Lights sets the town aglow in an explosion of Christmas cheer. Busloads of tourists take in the light show and the accompanying events. A number of hotels offer in-town accommodation, while nearby are campgrounds, RV parks and seaside resorts.

If You Go to Ladysmith…

BY ROAD: Traveling from the north, Ladysmith is 23 kilometers – about a 20-minute drive – south of Nanaimo on Hwy. 19. From Victoria, it is a 1 1/2-hour drive north on Hwy. 19.

BY AIR: Scheduled airline connections are out of Vancouver to Nanaimo.